Friday, September 28, 2018

Setting Course In Record time - Tuesday Night

There were two meetings of our lame duck commission this week, both of them on Tuesday night.   

The first one, at 6:30 PM was to approve the budget for 2018-2019.  As this is the commission's most important job, and we are at a critical time where we have an interim village manager without the experience of municipal budgeting*, you could have easily expected the meeting to last until midnight as it often has in the past.  

*In fairness to Lewis Velken, he has been clear about this.

You would be wrong.  

The meeting was done in a record breaking forty  one minutes.
The commission simply doesn't have questions and with their new policy of not listening to advisory boards and ignoring public comment, it was a highly streamlined process which none of them understood.  

Mayor Connie Crazy-Eyes and Mayor Candidate Laura Cattabriga desperately tried to get Bert Wrains to find a property, any property, in North Bay Village that would not be facing a tax increase for next year but Wrains, who is a finance guy, not a magician, could not produce the unicorn.   

Still, they congratulated themselves on cutting taxes (they didn't) and Cattabriga sent out an email claiming she had.  

They took a break and then moved on to their next meeting, at either 8 PM if you get your information from the Village website or 8:30 PM if you get your information from the LED signs around town.   It was just a small matter - a complete rewrite of our code regarding construction on the causeway.   Highlights include:
  • Allowances up to 400 feet (~40 stories) for new buildings
  • Less parking
  • Decreased setbacks so buildings can be closer to the Causeway
  • Loosening the restrictions on how money collected from developers can be spent
  • Decreasing the size of units
  • Allowing mechanical parking
  • Swimming pool sizes
And a laundry list of other changes including dock sizes and pavers on the sidewalk.   

This wholesale change was deemed so important that the commission spent a cool 1 hour and 15 minutes.  And they even had some questions.  

Now why this is all important is that developers feel that they cannot profitably flip their parcels without a loosening of standards.   

We've been through this before of course.  The building of the Lexi, the Fortress 360, the Bridgewater and other condos were all going to bring great tax revenues, large impact fees that would surely develop a baywalk and parks, and allow us to fix our sewers without raising taxes.  But they didn't.  

Tuesday night they simply wrapped virtually everything the developers have wanted into one ordinance, called a special meeting and passed the first reading.  

There will be a second reading, sometime in the future, October 9 maybe?, where they will consider if it needs fine tuning.  Shuckers has already told them that Shuckers won't participate in the Bay Walk project so they can be expected to put that in but the simple suggestion made by two North Bay Island residents was ignored.  The suggestion was that since the commission were dealing with a variety of separate issues - public spaces, buildings, finance, traffic, parking, docks, sidewalk colors - the commission might want to consider breaking them up into separate ordinances.  The members stared blankly and wondered whether to have them removed but finally decided to ignore them.   

After passing it 4 in favor and 1 against:  Commissioner Jose Alvarez, on whom I have been very hard, voting against.  (I may need to rethink it.) 

Mayor Kreps took time to praise that it's a "New Day in North Bay Village" and sadly I think she believes it.  

Mayoral candidate Laura Cattabriga wasted no time sending an email touting her view that this the smart development that North Bay Village needs.  I bet she spent more time typing the message than she did at the meeting.  

Unmentioned Tuesday night was that Laura Cattabriga's campaign manager, just like her political mentor, Kreps, is being run by the same lobbyist who represents almost all of the developers who want to do flip properties in North Bay Village.  She made it easier for them.  

Kevin Vericker
September 29, 2018

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