Monday, November 3, 2014

COUNCIL WATCH: Liveblogging your city government at work

Posted By on Mon, Nov 3, 2014 at 1:52 PM

Ah the sweet, chilly breezes of autumn are upon us, and with them come a nail biter of an election face-off that's bound to change how it is that you consider you very life in this quickly fading I-4 Corridor reality. Except none of that matters in City Hall; any politics there (at least of the election sort) have already been sussed back in the spring. That's how we got the lovely and talented District 5 Commissioner Regina Hill and the recurring Hallelujah chorus of "yes" to everything Mayor Buddy Dyer wants! Speaking of, though there is very little of note on this week's agenda (minus the awards for this year's calendar of historic districts in the city!), you can bet that there will be a load of chatter about this week's ribbon cutting on the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. How do we know? Well, for one, the city and its benefactors and the county have loaded some $515 million into the project; for two, this is Dyer's chance to say, "I told you so"; for three, there is an item on the agenda relating to concessions and drinking at DPAC, so it makes the perfect segue (as if one were needed); and for four-through-seven, there is a HEAVY MEDIA PRESENCE CURRENTLY HYPING THE CENTER. Though two weeks ago, the center was over budget and over schedule, according to the Sentinel, this weekend in a double-handed maneuver (!), the paper of record published two puff pieces (here and here)  on the center's impact with very little reference to its troubled history. And let's not even mention that Orlando Magazine has pulled out all of the puffy stops with a 10-part series telling you why you're going to LOVE this place. You can't buy this kind of publicity. Oh, wait? At any rate, bully for all involved. We have phase one of our center and stop your grousing! We'll be back at 2 p.m. to keep you posted on this artful dance.

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2:08 p.m.: We just endured the invocation and the Pledge of Allegiance which are both equally vague: Discuss.

2:09 p.m.: ACK, Commissioner Hill's father is undergoing open heart surgery after an incident over the weekend. SAD. She is not here today, but with her family.

2:10 p.m.: And now for the longest, most yawn-inducing presentation of each and every year: the calendar competition. So, lots of black and whites of local landmarks like the downtown post office building. GRAB THE POPCORN. Choke.

2:12 p.m.: OK, January was the post office; February is the Plaza Live building. John Wayne has something to do with it. As do rocking chair seats. IT WAS DESIGNED BY THE GUY WHO DID THE UNDERWATER MERMAID THING AT WEEKI WACHEE.

2:13 p.m.: March is the Kress Building. ART DECO. POLYCHROME GLAZED TERRA COTTA, ETC.

2:14 p.m.: Marks Street School/Senior Center is April.


2:15 p.m.: The Atlantic Coastline Station, June.

2:16 p.m.: Some church for July, a bridge at Dickson Azalea Park is August.

2:17 p.m.: September is Kaley Street Elementary School, or Kaley Elementary. Aren't they talking about closing that school? (AGAIN).

2:19 p.m.: Kerouac House is October. He wrote The Dharma Bums there.

2:20 p.m.: Ebenezer Methodist Church? Never heard of it. It's a "boomtime church," apparently.

2:20 p.m.: "Peckham" mansion is December; Dr. Phillips (the guy) bought it once, and also supported the arts and culture.

2:21 p.m.: All the photographers are being photographed. META.

2:23 p.m.: RECORD TIME ON CALENDARS THIS YEAR! Now we're on to EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT ACCREDITATION, OR EMAPS. The word "data" is being thrown around, as is "coronation training." This is only going to be awesome if someone says "Ebola."

2:27 p.m.: Not hearing the word "Ebola" yet.

2:30 p.m.: "It's not if the next disaster occurs; it's always when." Yikes.

2:32 p.m.: Hot Mic! Someone just said "Well, this is a motley crew."

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2:35 p.m.: YOU GUYS, IT'S THE WEEK OF THE FAMILY!!!! That means just about as much as you think it does. Kids write essays on "why they love thier families." All the winners of the essay contest were girls, EVEN THOUGH IT WAS A DOUBLE-BLIND STUDY. Funny, that. AND, there's also a "grandparent of the year" thing, etc.

2:39 p.m.: The mayor's update is happening now. Nov. 6 is Commissioner Gray's birthday, so they built him a performing arts center, the mayor jokes. NOW EVERYONE IS SINGING HAPPY BIRTHDAY.



2:42 p.m.: Jesse Jackson prefers Christmas to Election Day, but he's going to talk deeply about Florida's voting history anyway. I'm not sure his face is actually moving. He wants the process to be transparent, he says. Now referencing the "new south" and suffrage issues. "We democratized democracy and changed the faith of the south," he says. Also, "The civil rights movement made the Super Bowl possible." This is a treat. The argument is that blacks couldn't have sat, much less played, with whites. THE COTTON CURTAIN, he just said. "We've been surviving apart, and we learned to live together." ramble, ramble, ramble...

2:46 p.m.: MEDICAID EXPANSION! Dr. King: "Give us the ballot and we'll redeem the soul of America."

2:47 p.m.: "We want an even playing field," (more sports references about the Jacksonville Jaguars, no less). Jesse Jackson watched a lot of football yesterday.

2:50 p.m.: Some UCF kids had to follow that oration by simply standing up for applause. Oh, also, Dyer reminds you to VOTE TOMORROW right after Jackson's speech.

2:52 p.m.: New anti-bullying initiative, Stand-up Orlando, is being launched along with Zebra Coalition.

2:53 p.m.: ON TO DPAC! Sheryl Crow is one of Dyer's favorites, apparently. We're not posting another one of Crow's songs, however.

2:53 p.m.: should let you know where no parking is around the arts center brouhaha.

2:55 p.m.: ROBERT FRANKLIN STEWART is the first to speak on consent agenda issues, and he's talking about a neighbor who was 106 who just died.


2:57 p.m.: No fun when the dais makes inside jokes about high school football. What is a football? OH, BUT NOW WE'RE TALKING COYOTES!!!! AND DRAINAGE ON BUMBY (MAJOR PROJECT THAT WILL TAKE A LONG TIME... GREAT. NOT ENOUGH OF THAT).

3 p.m.: Patty Sheehan is up. She's talking about some incentives she supports, about missing Regina, and about that damn calendar. Also, EMAPs. She went to the Pet Alliance "Fur Ball" and it has made her want to encourage us to spay and neuter our pets. SHE JUST ADOPTED A NEW RESCUE DOG! Nothing about DPAC!!!! Hmmmm.

3:01 p.m.: Oh, Sam Ings. Here we go. PEE BREAK!

3:05 p.m.: Ings says "Rev. Jesse Jackson really loves Orlando," because Ings used to serve security details for Jackson.

3:08 p.m.: Jim Gray yielded his time because he says the agenda is long (it isn't? But there is a crowd in house to speak about something). Tony Ortiz says "be there or be square" about the new dog park opening later this month.

3:11 p.m.: OH, EVERYONE'S HERE (AGAIN) TO TALK ABOUT THAT PRINCETON DEVELOPMENT IN COLLEGE PARK. This will be the third meeting on this subject. We're not sure how long we're going to sit around for this.

3:12 p.m.: Oh, the dulcet baritone of CRA chatter by tall drink of development Thomas Chatmon.

3:16 p.m.: The reason we're going dark here for a minute is that Chatmon has been talking about an "evergreen community fund" called StarterCorps, which is supposed to fund the "tech core." We've tired of this kind of talk. EQUITY POSITIONS, etc.

3:29 p.m.: And here comes the Princeton at College Park shitshow. The big issue is that this building thing is likely to clog traffic and make people's eyes sore. There are two ordinances required to rezone this few acres, and they have to be read out loud in all of their "scrivener's" glory. That took awhile.

3:32 p.m.: Now we have to sit through planning presentation and a legal presentation (that will suggest amendments, apparently). Thankfully, planner Dean Grandin isn't going to go on forever, because he already did that once on Sept. 15.

3:34 p.m.: All the mixed use you can cram into 3.4 acres, basically; three- and five-story buildings. There used to be four-story ones in there as well, but it seems that the four-stories didn't quite meet requirements in the city's overlay plan, or something. GOD, WE'VE ALREADY DONE THIS. DON'T BORE US, GET TO THE CHORUS.

3:37 p.m.: More than 50 people have already spoken on this over the past six weeks. Nothing against public input, but this could go really long. We may just update after the vote, unless all of the millions reading this right now protest.

3:39 p.m.: A city attorney is presenting all three of the concessions the city is making to the population of College Park. AND NOW there are more amendments being offered, so that this thing can finally pass and swallow Edgewater Drive. Reduce number of units from 226 to 206 multifamily units; make the Planned Development designation limited to two years (hello, Mills Park); renovate surrounding buildings, etc. Nothing too big here. Certainly not enough to change the minds of those here to speak out against the project.

3:50 p.m.: City attorney is still talking about how the city will not get in legal trouble for how it has handled any of this. So, is somebody suing?

3:51 p.m.: So, basically, it's a done deal, but we have to wait for the public to talk about it for hours first. Also, if the DEVELOPER sued, the city could be in trouble. There are no cracks in this penthouse pavement, legally speaking. Somebody from the public would have to basically be a rich attorney in order to change the inevitable. "Kyle, basically what you're saying is that this council has no power... I find that ridiculous," says Sheehan. The crowd applauds. "I'm not playing for applause."

3:54 p.m.: Sheehan is still "deeply distressed" by this. Our hands are tied? Who says? Sheehan says it's never been quite this bad before. Counsel says there hasn't been an alternative articulated that would hold up in court. The developer has likely intimated that he would sue if declined; that's my read. There is no reason for public comment when the developer is lawyered up.

4 p.m.: The guy representing the developer doesn't want to rehash this stuff. He's already won. He's reading a statement justifying himself.

4:03 p.m.: Developer only used 3.5 minutes, wants more time at the end to correct public assertions. This is theater. WAIT, DID SOMEONE JUST SAY "VICKI VARGO?" She just forfeited her time to speak on the issue.

4:06 p.m.: Re-think the Princeton is saying that even acting on second read right now is illegal if not unseemly. Representing College Park residents is an actual attorney who is going PowerPoint all of this, all of the contradictions held within the plan.

4:08 p.m.: Calling out the "logical transition" required by the Planned Development. "This development is so far out of whack... that it violates this subarea policy." Also, "Development is supposed to include better streetscaping," and there hasn't been enough transparency about ANY streetscape. "If this seems a little all over the place, it's because there are multiple problems with this development." The Edgewater Vision Plan "is the law of the city of Orlando," she says. This isn't even mixed use, she says, but apartments. THERE IS GOING TO BE A PSYCHOLOGIST TESTIFYING.

4:11 p.m.: The development will leave the "less than attractive" single-story commercial properties without really incorporating them.

4:13 p.m.: City code already lays out what's compatible with the area. City code "discourages" buildings that make strong individual statements in architecture. This will be a "sore thumb," says attorney.

4:16 p.m.: "We're hoping you go for the gold and get a better project."

4:17 p.m.: Commissioner Ortiz just got beamed in by phone because he has to catch a flight. Meanwhile, opponent counsel is arguing that this is a loose interpretation of Planned Developments, which get special treatment for being special projects. "You wouldn't have a sea of people" here to speak out against it if people thought it deserved special treatment. From code on PDs: "more compatible," "stable character." "I'm beating a dead horse," she says out of frustration. "The development doesn't even comply with its own subarea policy." The development is not contiguous with the street front retail it abuts. "The community is here to voice their opinion that this development, a mass of apartments in the midst of traditonal homes and street front businesses..." she reads from her PowerPoint. She's reserving two minutes for later, too.

4:21 p.m.: Four community experts are about to speak out against the development later. Some of the community people seem to have left. "Well that's going quicker than I thought," says Dyer.

4:23 p.m.: Dr. Mary Travis, who works with human and organizational development, is speaking. She has (mostly) lived in College Park forever. She has followed all procedures to voice her opposition, she says. Most people in the area weren't aware of the apartments; the ones who did thought resistance was futile. As a psychologist, she's saying this is building resentment in the community. It's dividing the community. "When a community fractures, you get a lack of caring..." she says. This isn't a NIMBY thing, though. They want appropriate development, not no development.

4:29 p.m.: Resident says she doesn't like outsiders telling her what's "going to be good for us" in terms of development. "There's not the roads; there's not the disbursement of traffic," she laments. Smarmy developer is sitting behind her smugly smiling and shaking his head at her criticisms of his developments lack of real amenities beyond a swimming pool.

4:43 p.m.: Some really strong arguments about how the developer is glomming onto existing retail to get special treatment. Developer doesn't look very happy.

4:44 p.m.: But now the guy who owns the CVS shopping center (I think? They don't all identify themselves) is praising the developer's modifications to the plan; he will work "jointly" in developing.

4:49 p.m.: The city is going to look really bad if it votes in favor of this. Mark my words. (But, then again, how many development stories involving city approval have inspired any remorse, even after lawsuits and jailings).

4:59 p.m.: Architect is calling out an ad from the developer bragging about "smart growth" in the Sentinel. "We are heading for a project that pushes the limits..." while citing the developer's bogus claims that he made the footprint smaller. "He just made the apartments bigger."

5:01 p.m.: Shoulda put the pool on the top floor, thus reducing project footprint. Also, more greenspace.

5:03 p.m.: Oh, snap! Dyer and Stuart live in College Park. They should probably rethink what they're doing to their own hood, he says (sorta).

5:10 p.m.: Transportation engineer is saying that the traffic study was cherry picked on two hours on Thursday, April 10. Also, didn't include bad Vassar intersection that Stuart and Dyer know damn well about. Projected counts for Wellesley's The Hangar and ACE Hardware movements, but these traffic situations were ignored. If they were included, the project would have received an "F" grade.

5:14 p.m.: Guy (architect) who lives in the affected area is totally for it. Of course he has put his house on contract before. Also, why you gotta hate on renters, he asks? Oh, dear.

5:18 p.m.: DAVE VAN GELDER IS BACK. If you don't know that is, you are not living in 2006 and reading the Weekly.

5:21 p.m.: Public testimony is winding down. BUT WE HAVE ANOTHER ARCHITECT. He thinks we should talk about the "historic architecture" of the area, and new urbanism is of course being discussed.

5:27 p.m.: Ooooh, residents were advised by somebody and that somebody gave them a wrong date on how long they had to appeal?! The plot thickens.

5:30 p.m.: Developer's traffic engineer says that she thinks that College Park/Edgewater Drive is NOT CONGESTED ENOUGH, which means it's not for pedestrians. More development will slow people down. She says, she says.


5:34 p.m.: SO, NOW THE DEVELOPER SAYS THE AVERAGE RENTER WILL BE MAKING $100K A YEAR, so there goes that "renter" argument. He's fixing the douchey sunglasses hanging down on his neck. Gah, no need to demonize the developer, I guess. But seriously, the whole community is against you. THE WHOLE COMMUNITY. The first floor units will have outdoor spaces which will bring "connectivity" like single-family homes. This has to end soon.

5:38 p.m.: OK, so that part is over. There's a motion to amend the zoning ordinance. Then go back to the two ordinances today?

5:40 p.m.: Sheehan is the one voice of dissent so far. She's bringing up the example of SODO and how they forced it back to make it mixed use. She voted for the 2009 Edgewater Vision Plan... "I don't see this as mixed use. It's using an existing retail parcel..." She's skeptical about the redevelopment of the commercial spaces, and pissed that this amendment changing everything came in today. "I don't want to be told that I can't make decisions," etc. She is full on Norma-Rae-ing right now. She has never seen this kind of public opposition; "These are all reasonable concerns." It's not anti-growth; just anti the shittiness of this project. She just referenced a "rush to push this through" at the expense of "throwing away the concerns of residents in this community."

5:52 p.m.: Following rambling statements from Jim Gray and Tony Ortiz, Dyer is now saying that, even though he lives near the designated site, that he really trusts the city's planning department sooooo much that it looks like he'll vote for it. He's sympathizing with the rules the city already made and how they effect the developer. "We need to adhere to what's on the books."

5:55 p.m.: Robert Stuart just stared down Sheehan and said that HE HAD HEARD from people who voted on the vision plan and that, though they aren't present at the meeting, they are totally on board for this behemoth luxury apartment.

5:56 p.m.: "I believe that we can agree on occasion to disagree," he says. He gets stopped at church and at Publix, and once he sales-pitches it to people, their opinions are "softened." "I think I've been portrayed in error in this issue," he says. "I don't appreciate that."

5:58 p.m.: He's reminiscing about all the conflict in College Park over the years, like when he used to hang out at Burger King in high school. Jokes about gas prices changing follow.

6 p.m.: As a side note, THESE ORDINANCES ALLOWING THE BUILDING ARE TOTALLY HAPPENING. Sheehan is virtually the only opposition.

6:01 p.m.: Sometimes Robert Stuart's tone sounds like that of Kermit the Frog.

6:04 p.m.: Stuart is bringing up the issue of people hating renters; they would love condos. He totally supports this development.

6:07 p.m.: Stuart is so scared of blowback right now. "The property owner also has a right," he says. Uh-oh.

6:10 p.m.: "I don't get the luxury to vote on this project based on whether I like it or not," he says. Does he think it could be better? "Maybe?" Uh, OK. So it's a systemic error and not a judgment thing we're dealing with. Which will bring us back to "dough."

6:12 p.m.: OMG, YOU GUYS, IT PASSED. YOUR FAKE GOVERNMENT IS REALLY WORKING. "It is important to our democracy," says Dyer. Uh-huh. Sure. GOOD NIGHT WORLD.















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