First Step Assistance

The First Step Center is the City of Gainesville’s permit and development assistance center. The center provides a convenient, one-stop location where business owners, developers, and other interested persons receive development and permitting information from several city departments at one time. There is no fee for a First Step appointment. By meeting with the First Step staff, you can find out about the regulations that apply to your development, issues of concern you should address, and whether your development is consistent with the City’s comprehensive plan.

Upon contacting the First Step Center you will be asked for information about your property and proposed project. If your property is properly zoned and the use you propose is allowed on your parcel, a First Step appointment will be scheduled.

If it is determined that your property is not properly zoned, you will be referred to the City’s Planning Division to discuss appropriate land use, zoning categories and locations. The Current Planning Division can be reached at (352) 334-5023.

What should I bring to a First Step meeting?

To get the most out of your First Step meeting, bring as much information as possible about your project, such as a survey, set of plans of the existing site or a sketch of your proposed development.

What information is provided?

During your First Step meeting, City staff from the Building Inspection Department, Planning Division, Public Works Department, Gainesville Regional Utilities and Fire Protection will provide you preliminary information to help you get your project started.

During the meeting, you can learn about building permits, the availability of utilities at your site, how to submit development plans for review, sign regulations, parking requirements, transportation issues, comprehensive plan issues, fire safety requirements, zoning regulations such as setbacks and allowable activities within zoning districts, storm water management, and environmental protection requirements. By meeting with all the applicable city representatives at one time the petitioner saves time and avoids having duplicate meetings with various individuals.

Does First Step replace the site plan review process?

Your First Step meeting is not intended to replace the formal development review process required for most construction projects.

After attending First Step, you still have to submit your completed site and development plans and work with City staff and the appropriate review board to address issues of concern and obtain approval for your project. However, property owners have found First Step beneficial in determining site constraints and zoning requirements prior to making costly expenditures in real estate and professional services for projects that may not be feasible.

How do I obtain final approval of my project?

Homeowners who are building, remodeling, or expanding a home or duplex do not need to go through the normal site plan review process. Rather, homeowners can submit their completed building plans to the Building Inspection Department and apply for the necessary permits directly. The Building Inspections Department conducts a basic review for compliance with zoning development standards.

All other projects require a formal development plan review. The amount of review required is based on the type and intensity of the proposed development. The review of the development plan will fall into one of the following development review categories: 

Rapid Review: This includes new construction of single-family dwellings or duplexes, new construction or expansions of non-residential development up to 1,000 square feet, resurfacing or restriping parking areas, new parking areas that include less than 8 parking spaces, and other impervious areas up to 1,000 square feet. This review is handled in conjunction with the building permit review and approval process.

Minor Development Review: This includes new residential construction of 3 to 10 multiple-family units, new construction or expansions of non-residential development between 1,000 and 10,000 square feet, new parking areas that include 8-40 parking spaces, and other impervious areas between 1,000 and 20,000 square feet. Review is administrative only and requires one to two months. A final development order is issued by staff once all code requirements are met.

Intermediate Development Review: This includes new residential construction of 11 to 99 multiple-family units, new construction or expansions of non-residential development between 10,000 and 50,000 square feet, new parking areas that include 41-100 parking spaces, and other impervious areas between 20,000 and 50,000 square feet.

Preliminary review requires two months and a preliminary development order is issued by the Development Review Board or City Plan Board at a public hearing. Final development orders are then issued by staff, following receipt of development plans that meet the conditions approved by the board.

Major Development Review: This includes new residential construction of 100 or more multiple-family units, new construction or expansions of non-residential development over 50,000 square feet, new parking areas that include more than 100 parking spaces, and other impervious areas greater than 50,000 square feet.

Preliminary review requires two months and a preliminary development order is issued by the Development Review Board or City Plan Board at a public hearing. Final development orders are then issued by staff, following receipt of development plans that meet the conditions approved by the board.

Examples of the information required for each type of review can be found by searching for Development Board applications (application numbers starting with DB) in the project section of the Public Access portal, which can be accessed at http://egov.cityofgainesville.org/citizenaccess/.

How do I make a First Step appointment?

To request a First Step appointment, please fill out our First Step request form online, call 352-334-5055 during normal business hours, or contact Forrest Eddleton by e-mail and he will contact you regarding available meeting dates. Meetings are held weekday mornings in Gainesville’s Thomas Center, Building B, 306 NE 6th Avenue in Gainesville.