Tuesday, December 27, 2011

2011 - Looking Back

2011 will probably be remembered as a pivotal year in North Bay Village. The big news of course was the resignation of the mayor. After months of relentless pounding over a tax matter that she herself had brought to the county tax appraiser, the mayor quit.

The end result of it of course is that we have a new mayor who was not elected, either to the commission or to her current position. In a particularly sneaky move, the new North Bay Island commissioner is the president of the group founded by Connie Kreps which led the recall effort, an unlicensed "MD" as an unelected commissioner. Kind of perfect North Bay Village symetry.

The commission could easily have held an election for the positions but these are not people who believe in elections and so they didn't.

Let's look at what else they didn't do in 2011, some good, some bad.

Good Thing - The attempt to outsource the sanitation services to Waste Management Systems failed. That was a good thing. It would have ended side yard pickup for the single family homeowners, lowered property values and was based on a lie that it would save $500,000 per year.

Bad Thing - As we continue to have one of the highest rates of foreclosures in the county, the city has not formed a foreclosure registry to accurately account for and maintain foreclosed properties. They continue to rot visibly in our city and drive property values further down.

Good Thing - In spite of their best efforts, the commission was unable to raise taxes again this year.

Bad Thing - No serious improvements were made to our spending and the budget was only balanced by the creative use of DEA Federal money. Expect a big bump in tax rates for FY 2013.

And what we are going into 2012 knowing:

  • Dr. Paul Vogel and his wife stole over a $1000 in phone services yet continue to sit on the commission.
  • The strip club looms ominously over the city, with inept city planning doing everything possible to ensure its passage.
  • The city's largest tax debtor and Eddie Lim's biggest campaign donor, the strip club developer himself Scott Greenwald, continues to sit on the Budget Oversight Board deciding how the money those of us who pay our taxes should be spent.
  • The legal bills for routine personnel management issues in the police department are running near a half million dollars and there is no end in sight.

We're really close to not being able to function at all. I'm not optimistic but the best we can hope for is that in November of 2012, when four seats on the commission are open, that we can elect people whose investment in the city is the city itself. That's something.

Happy New Year.

Kevin Vericker
December 27, 2011

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Holiday Break

Taking a break from blogging this week. Just wanted to wish all of you a Happy Holidays, whatever you're celebrating.

I'll be back with my year end wrap up next week.


Kevin Vericker
December 23, 2011

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Rest of The Meeting

Other than the strip club, there was really only one other significant item on the agenda. It was an ordinance to create a "Re Occupancy" certificate. In a nutshell, it would require a $250 city inspection when a property is sold to certify that the property meets code.

Connie Leon-Kreps was against it, strongly, and the acting city manager withdrew the item.

This was the right thing to do. A Re-Occupancy certificate is a good idea that could quickly fall into bad company and become a major obstacle to home sales.

In North Bay Village, most of the single family homes were built in the 1950's and many of the condos were built in the 1980's. Code has changed dramatically and simple observation shows that many modifications have been made. Establishing whether these changes were to code at the time is difficult in most places and could be impossible in North Bay Village. Many of our city records were destroyed in 2005 following Hurricane Wilma and anyone who has lived here a while knows that Coding has been an erratic function.

The challenge facing the new city manager is going to be put together a full coding revision including an inspection program, an "amnesty" of some sort to establish a baseline, professionalize the city planning, educate the public, and then, if it is still a good idea, consider a time of sale re-occupancy certificate. But right now, it would just add one more obstacle in a seriously depressed real estate market.

Eddie Lim and Richard Chervony spoke in favor of the ordinance, Lim mentioning that it raises money for the city and Chervony that it would only hurt people who had something to fear, which he seemed to think was the purpose. These two have an odd philosophy of governance.

In a related situation, Al Coletta spoke about how the city planning department created so many obstacles on a clearly zoned marina that it drove out a small business. This is the same city planning department that could not find anything wrong with the strip club plans. Something is not right.

Kevin Vericker
December 15, 2011

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Upscale Gentlemen's Club

The proposed Gentlemen's Club at 1415 JFK Causeway was not on the agenda at last night's city commission meeting but was clearly on the minds of all the attendees.

During Good & Welfare, Penelope Friedland of North Bay Island read a letter about the issues with the lackadaisical city planning recommendation to approve the plans even though the measurements are suspect, the city planner did not know about the school across the street nor the religious congregation, had not reviewed the traffic study, never requested an economic impact study nor a public safety study and took at face value that less than half the zoned retail, club and restaurant will be available to the public so minimal parking is needed.

Others, including me, spoke against the real threat that the commission could try to pull the same trick they did last year when they tried to ram through the plans at a special commission meeting called with 72 hours notice.

In the meantime, there are over 1000 signatures on the petitions.

The commission needs to take this seriously. NBV cannot keep paying for the city planner to treat this as though it were just any old building. And even if it were, the things left out of the application would be disastrous for any development this size. Part of our slump is poor city planning and if our current contracted city planner cannot do the job, we need a new one. It's too risky.

Did anyone else see the Herald story on the kidnapping from Diamond's Gentlemen's Club, a five star rated (on Yelp) club known for its exclusivity and classy ambience. Check it out by clicking here. Yeah, just what we need.

More tomorrow about the other subjects at the commission meeting.

Kevin Vericker
December 14, 2011

Monday, December 12, 2011

1,141 Signatures as Dec 12

That's pretty darn good considering the short notice and the time of year. In fact, it's good for any time of year and I am very grateful to all the people who have turned out to support this effort.

The bad news is that the commission will not hear the item on the strip club and has refused a special presentation of the petition at tomorrow night's meeting. So I have digitized these and will hold back the originals until such time as the commission sees fit to accept the petition. In fairness to the commissioners, I will provide them the digitized copies.

Tomorrow night though, at Good & Welfare, early in the meeting, residents are free to speak for 3 minutes on any topic of their choosing.

I expect there will be at least one person talking about how the city planner recommended the strip club plans for approval three times without verifying the measurements, didn't know there was a school across the street, had not reviewed the traffic studies, never requested a public safety study, and did not request an economic impact study.

The commissioners tell us how they are serious about the strip club. Tomorrow is their chance to get it right by ensuring that our city planner does not treat this loosely, for when it does come up.

I know I'll be talking about the need to hear the strip club proposal with full notice. You see, last year the commission tried to pass it at a "special" meeting, a function reserved for emergencies, with 3 days notice. The commission needs to be accountable to the people and not try this again.

If you have not spoken before, it's easy. Around 8:30 (best to be there at 7:30), the section known as Good & Welfare is opened to all residents who want to speak, on any subject pertaining to the city. for three minutes. You raise your hand, go to the microphone and state your name and address. Generally, the commissioners do not respond during the session, although they may. Obscenities are prohibited. I'd urge you to be there.

In a completely unrelated matter, there is an item on the agenda to institute a "Re-Occupancy" Certificate, which would charge home sellers $250 for a code inspection upon sale of their house. While not a bad idea, it is not part of an overall code review or amnesty program, which means that the sale could be blocked if you can't prove that work done on your house was to code. If you are thinking of selling your house, you may want to stick around for this part.

Again, thanks to all who have worked so hard. We need to keep vigilant. We are up against a well funded developer and a commission that has a history of trying to approve this club.

Hope to see you tomorrow.

Kevin Vericker

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Current Status about the Strip Club

The petitions are being put together now. We've well over a thousand signatures. Now the question becomes when to give them to the commission. Let's talk about that.

On October 30 of 2010, after Planning & Zoning had rejected the plans for the "building" on the grounds that they were deficient, then commissioners Rey Trujillo and George Kane called a special meeting to approve the plans for the building. Greenwald had been very clear that the building was being considered for all "legal use" including a strip club.

Then the motion was tabled on the grounds that the plans were incomplete.

The important thing about this meeting is that it was called and advertised with 72 hours notice. It was not on the regular schedule and the two commissioners invoked it as an "emergency" measure.

It was clearly designed to attract a minimum of publicity.

In December, 2010, at the regular commission meeting, with a new commission on the dais, it was brought forth again. Again the city established that the plans were incomplete and should not have been recommended for approval. Eddie Lim was the sole vote in favor of the club.

We need to make sure on Tuesday, December 13, 2011, that the city hears loudly and clearly that while their respect for Mr. Greenwald's rights may be important, that we as residents have the right to competent and proactive city planning reviews and legal representatives. We pay these people, a lot, and they should know the law and understand the sensitivities of the residents.

It's appalling that our city planner would have recommended these entirely incomplete plans for approval. Our city attorney should know the one ordinance inside out.

The commission will not hear the petition on December 13. They are taking the cautious view that they don't want to expose the city to lawsuits. But we need to be loud and clear during Good & Welfare that we expect our city services to step up and worry about our rights.

This year, the club was brought in with the exact same incomplete plans. Let me list them:

  1. The measurements to the child care center show 501 feet apart. The law requires 500 feet. The margin of error is .01% and this measurement is .002% of the total. Neither the City Attorney nor the City Planner knew if the measurements portion meant door to door or building to parcel line.

    Without independent verification of the measurement, it is highly suspect to believe these surveys. It wouldn't be the first time a sex oriented business lied about 12 inches.

  2. The parking spaces called for only 307. that means that less than half the entire retail, club and restaurant space would be used for customers. This seems unlikely for any such construction.

  3. The studies required in the code governing adult entertainment to show impact on public safety and on nearby houses were not done.

  4. The traffic impact study was submitted but not evaluated.

  5. The environmental studies were incomplete or not done.

The City Planner should never have recommended the plans for approval.

Tuesday, December 13, make sure the city hears you loud and clear. No tricks, no incomplete plans, n0 "special" meetings, no voting on "the box".

Kevin Vericker

December 13, 2011

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Tomorrow Night on Channel 41 (17 Atlantic Broadband)

Diana Montano, a reporter for Channel 41 WJAN - Atlantic Broadband Channel 17, will be doing a report on the proposed strip club at 10:00 PM on Friday, Dec. 9. It will be in Spanish.

Kevin Vericker
December 8, 2011

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Strip Club Petition Denied by the City

I received confirmation today that the commission is refusing to hear the Petition Presentation at the Commission Meeting on December 13.

Their explanation is that hearing the concerns of the citizens could jeopardize the rights of the strip club developer, Scott Greenwald. Below is a quote from the city attorney's response to Commissioner Rodriguez' request for the petition to be heard.

All evidence and testimony for the City Commission to consider must take place at the actual hearing on the application when the item comes before the City Commission. Placing a special citizen presentation on the agenda for this item expressing opinion on the application would be outside of the hearing. The appropriate time to take any oral testimony would be during that hearing

The right of the people to address their government is firmly established as a guiding principle of American democracy and the citizens have a right to bring any issue they choose to their government.

I propose that we each show up and talk about this issue during Good & Welfare. The commission may try to shut us down but we have to make sure our voices are heard.

The strip club may be playing a legal game now. They have deliberately not requested to be on the agenda on December 13. The last time they did this, in October 2010, the commission called an "emergency" meeting with 72 hours notice to pass the proposal and it was a huge amount of work to get enough people there to let them know that we didn't want this club. I hope they are not planning to do this again. We need to insist that if the item is to come before, it be at a regular commission meeting with 10 days notice.

This battle is not over.

Kevin Vericker
December 6, 2011

Friday, December 2, 2011

An Open Letter to Commissioner Lim

Below is the text of an email I sent to Commissioner Lim. I will let you know if he replies.

Dear Commissioner Eddie Lim,

On Tuesday of this week, as part of your speech where you expressed your hope that now the city politics would be more civil with the appointment of Richard Chervony, you also expressed your exasperation regarding what you refer to as half truths and innuendo by "other" candidates. You did not mention what these supposed "half truths and innuendo" are, which is in itself disingenuous but I believe you are referring to my application.

In my application to be considered for the commission seat, I wrote "there is grave concern over apparent ties on the commission to the developer of the proposed adult entertainment complex. It is critical to the citizens to see that an appointed interim commissioner does not carry the history, real or perceived, of financial ties to one or another side in the current controversy." I don't see either the half truth or the innuendo.

The facts are that you voted "Yes" three times for the strip club. October 7, 2010 and October 30, 2010 as a member of Planning & Zoning, then voted again in favor of the strip club as a commissioner on December 7, 2010.

That combined with your accepting the maximum legal contribution from Scott Greenwald on September 23, 2010, has led to the grave concern of which I spoke.

So, Mr. Lim, if I am wrong and these facts are untrue or if there is some evidence that you have not continually supported the strip club, say so. I will publish your response on the blog and should I have my facts wrong, will read a retraction at the next commission meeting.

Awaiting your response,

Kevin Vericker
December 2, 2011