Council Watch 

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

This week at the public-policy 
nursing home, the mayor nearly coughed himself to the ground while issuing a declaration honoring the teal-wearing old people responsible for 40 years of Fiesta in the Park, while Commissioner Robert Stuart looked on, his face beet red like the dermatology-treatment faces peculiar to Floridian men of a certain age. At the bitter end of a year full of so many ups and downs, clearly it 
was naptime.

But not yet! Commissioner Sam Ings had yet to scare the bejeezus out of everybody by demanding that there be a stronger police presence at elementary and middle schools because the times they are a changin’ (kids today!). And Commissioner Patty Sheehan still had to consciously lower her voice to discuss the severity of the disappearing-swan situation at Lake Eola, and, oh, thank God that’s all over with.

“Bruno is very happy to be back at Lake Eola Park and making babies,” she whispered. 
Pass the pills.

Item: The city approves the lease of 301 and 333 W. Church St. to The 301 at 333 West Church Street Station LLC for the operation and management of a restaurant and lounge.

Translation: All of those sad-sack stories about blighted businesses lining West Church Street – you know, the dusty tears of merchants apocalyptically engulfed in the stirred up debris cloud of Amway Center progress, tonight at 11 – have reached their hobo curtain calls. In their place comes the expected social engineering of trickle-down municipal economics: more living, working and playing for those mysterious creatures who can afford to spend thousands of dollars on basketball tickets and parking. A nondescript (yet somehow very descriptively named) company, The 301 at 333 West Church Street Station, has big plans for an arena-adjacent restaurant spot that previously housed the heretofore unknown Big Apple Café, a hallway and another restaurant space. Those plans rather necessarily include the term “upscale” and are scented with Drakkar Noir, right? Actually, the new place is going to be a bar and grill called Drafts, which is drunk basketball wordplay fun. Slam drunk! In a clever bit of incentive shuffling, the city will hold off on charging the company rent for the first eight months of its five-year lease (a $118,525 loss) and will reimburse the company $155,000 for bringing the air conditioning and electrical systems up to code. Meanwhile, the company has agreed to $300,000 in improvements and a monthly rent of $4,456.25 that will increase 5 percent a year. Nothing could possibly go wrong.

Item: The city approves an amendment to the general policies, procedures and standards for temporary Amway Center parking that were originally approved by the City Council on Aug. 30, 2010, by amending the Amway Center special-event parking district 
boundary map.

Translation: Well, that was quick. Just one month into Amway Center’s reign over all downtown commerce and the city’s ballyhooed sharing of parking revenues with surrounding lot owners, and the plan hit a snag. Turns out the owners of a small chunk of the nearby land parcels probably shouldn’t be allowed to coerce bargain-hunting event-goers into their makeshift parking lots according to some “further review” by the city. Why? “Staff believes that this amendment will further protect the residential character of these parts of Parramore and ensure that the tranquility of these areas is not diminished,” the item reads. Did “tranquility” factor into the equation at all when the city plopped a giant glowing noise box right down in “these parts?”

Item: The city authorizes deferred enforcement of Ordinance 2010-19 relating to secondary-metals recyclers.

Translation: Emotions ran hotter than melted copper in late August when the city decided to take a proactive stance against air-conditioning unit enthusiasts with a taste for sweet brown wiring. A gaggle of scrap-heap hucksters took issue with the city’s symptom-not-disease treatment of the issue and basically accused the city of shutting down their businesses. Toothless customers could easily hop counties to get cool cash for their ill-gotten gains, they argued. In order to soothe these concerns – and to allow Orange County to catch up with a matching ordinance that might cushion the blow – the city allowed a 60-day delay on enforcing the new law. That 60 days came up last Friday, though, and the county ordinance is nowhere close to being a done deal. The city will now continue to not enforce its law until the county passes its part – a hearing is scheduled for Dec. 7 or Jan. 3, whichever comes first. There’s still time for Christmas!

Item: The city approves the termination of a railroad-reimbursement agreement for grade-crossing traffic control devices at the Virginia Drive railroad crossing, and the termination of the corresponding city resolution.

Translation: And you thought trains were slow. The city entered into a $248,000 reimbursement agreement with the Florida Department of Transportation and CSX to upgrade the railroad crossing on Virginia Drive to something safe more than four years ago; to date, nothing has been accomplished. However, in the ensuing years the city managed to take the reins of the SunRail project – a rattling commuter carriage to nowhere slated to cross Virginia Drive – and within that agreement is an improvement clause for that very intersection. No need to improve it now. Wait. Train!

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