March 23, 1999, was Mel Martinez's first big stand against developers, the day he overruled the Development Review Committee and quashed a proposed addition to Knight's Krossing, the 2,700-student apartment complex across from the University of Central Florida.
After hearing from the complex's angry neighbors, Martinez declared that a 700-student addition would be a public-safety threat. Since then, appellate courts have ruled that Martinez didn't have enough "competent, substantial evidence" to make that decision, and sent the matter back to the commission.
Next Tuesday the evidence gets scrutinized. And this County Commission meeting will doubtless again feature homeowners complaining of noise and crime, and the developer asserting his private-property rights. Now, all eyes are on Martinez's successor, Rich Crotty.
"Mr. Crotty is not known to us," says Linda Dorian, the homeowner leading the fight. Her perception, she says, is that county leaders want her to strike a deal with the developer. If the county again turns down the development, another round of litigation is nearly certain.
Dorian hopes commissioners won't succumb to threats of more litigation.
They may succumb to county staff, however, who support the project, as in 1999. Public-safety director Tom Hurlburt sees kids just having fun, not rampant crime. "Do I think it's ever gonna improve?" he asks. "Yeah, maybe if they turn it into a retirement center."
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