Council Watch 

Billy Manes paying attention to local government so you don't have to

It was a hotbox of horrors at this week’s council cauldron, beginning with an Orange County Health Department presentation on its anti-smoking “all in” program and a little tidbit about cigarette butts in public parks. “What if the little child picks it up and eats it?” health department director Dr. Kevin Sherin asked. Now that is a good question! Also, gross. The fire meme carried through to several other tragic situations – one of which involved a burning human – but that’s enough terrible imagery for now.

Speaking of terrible imagery, this was also the week of the city’s historic-district calendar unveiling, meaning that in addition to a very long black-and-white slideshow of musty old houses, the audience was treated to the meta-tastic photographing of photographers holding calendars with their photos in them. Cheese.

Item: The city adopts an ordinance changing the zoning designation from AC-3/SP to O-1/SP on certain real property generally located north of the Tangelo Park neighborhood, south of the Festival Bay Mall, east of the International Drive corridor and west of Crownpointe Commerce Park and the Florida Turnpike.

Translation: Sometimes it seems like stories are created out of thin air to pit residential concerns with business ambitions, because somebody wants to gripe on the evening news and clutch at her pearls. In the case of Orlando Thrill Park – the tragically named death trap with extreme tendencies that are just one safety level up from the fairground attractions designed to assist in the indigestion of funnel cake – the zoning roller coaster has been a yearlong house of crazy mirrors. Suffice to say, the thing was never really going to happen, because we all know the taste levels of I-Drive and Tangelo Park would never sink to the level of an upside-down gondola water-torture ride. I-Drive Investors LLC pitched it back in April, but the development company was quickly shot down. Then, in June – following a futile appeal – the company came to an agreement with the city to go for the more tasteful option of a low-density office complex; that deal was adopted in October. Now, just to be sure that nobody will be vomiting anywhere near Tangelo Park ever, the remaining up-in-the-air 6.78-acre southwest portion of the 78-acre property will be officially zoned into business boredom. The thrill has gone.

Item: The city approves the lease purchase of three Nissan Leaf electric automobiles from Nissan Motor Acceptance Corp.

Translation: The future is now-ish! Last year, the city and the county (plus a couple of utilities, natch) went in together on a program they called Get Ready Central Florida. The idea was to bring the plug-and-play glory of the all-electric Nissan Leaf into the region’s greened up idea of environmentalism. This week, the city will purchase three green Leafs with 89,244 green pieces of financial paper. But wait! There’s more! Though the cars would normally run the city $35,350.25 each, all of that viridian virtue that they hold earns the city $7,500 back in tax credits per car; also, this is a lease-to-own venture meaning that after just two years of bulk payments amounting to $44,622, the city will have the opportunity to purchase the cars for $1 apiece! So, if you skip the two years part, it really sounds like a great deal.

Item: The city approves a grant of temporary license with the Orlando Utilities Commission for installation of electric vehicle charging stations.


Speaking of! What are you going to do with a bunch of do-gooder dead batteries after the joy of driving 73 miles without gas wears off? There’s another named initiative for that. The ChargePoint America Program – a joint venture between the U.S. Department of Energy and Coulomb Technologies – picked nine cities (including Orlando) to experiment with electro-car infrastructure. That means the city will be allowing OUC to install battery chargers in a bunch of city-owned parking garages; that also means that OUC will be billing you directly for how much juice you suck.

Item: The city approves specific action items from the Oct. 26, 2011, Downtown Development Board meeting – Development Review Committee.

Translation:DDB items are typically just a roundup of who is getting new shingles and who is not getting a new door – that is, when they don’t include giant new developments intended to completely change the complexion of downtown. Like, for example, that hotel development slated for the old OUC building (it’s a big OUC week!), which the city allowed a developer to purchase for just $2.8 million back in August? Well, it’s going to be called – wait for it – the A-Loft Hotel! Hilarious. The DDB also unanimously approved the vague notion of what exactly the Creative Village is going to be, or at least how it’s going to be built. This preliminary approval of the planned development master plan is a hot boilerplate of obvious laced with things like a master art plan (must be tasteful and excellent), street furniture (in “furniture zones!”) and bike racks. In essence, we’re still pretending that, because there’s a PowerPoint presentation about it, this hipster utopia is really happening. We doubt it.

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