PB: The NPO Must Go
Back in April and in several follow-up posts, this blog has raised a series of objections to Councilwoman Joan Lindsay’s Neighborhood Preservation and Compatibility proposal, also known as the “Neighborhood Protection” Ordinance (“NPO”). The following is a look at the issue at 40,000 feet:
Palmetto Bay Should Not Be Anti-Church and Anti-Private-School
The Village of Palmetto Bay is a community that was known long before incorporation as a family oriented place. In addition to some of the best public schools in the county, Palmetto Bay enjoyed then – and still enjoys today – some of the county’s best private schools.
Palmetto Bay is also home to many, many churches and other houses of worship that cater to the soul and heart of the community’s diverse residents.
The NPO is overkill and is totally unnecessary at best. At worst, it is an attempt to target one property: Christ Fellowship Church. The deniers will say that Christ Fellowship is not the target, but when one looks at the open land available in Palmetto Bay, Christ Fellowship is – in a practical sense – the only property that will suffer under it.
Palmetto Bay was not founded on a platform of being anti-church or anti-school. SDM remembers the debate and the topic of reining in schools and churches never came up. If it had, this village would remain unincorporated.
The NPO is a Time Bomb
As SDM pointed out in an earlier post, this conceptual ordinance is like a time bomb in the code waiting to explode if certain triggers are set off.
SDM and the village attorney agree that if a property is damaged in a hurricane or fire such that a new site plan must be submitted, then the property will have to meet the NPO’s ridiculously stringent requirements. SDM understands also that the South Florida Building Code might force a property into this morass under certain circumstances.
Should they need to, St. Richard’s Catholic Church or Old Cutler Presbyterian – to cite just a couple of examples – could not rebuild on their sites if the NPO passes. Put simply, such a result would not be fair, equitable or good public policy.
Neither is it fair, equitable or good public policy to maintain two sets of zoning codes in perpetuity, which staff says may be required if the council attempts to “grandfather” existing non-residential uses. The more complexity the council imports into the code, the weaker it becomes. Weak codes cause bad feelings and worse: unnecessary litigation.
At the very least, the council owes it to the community to fully investigate the ramifications of abandoning the near-universal principle that nonconforming uses must meet the new code.
Stop Letting the Tail Wag the Dog
SDM understands that some residents near Palmer have been whipped into a lather by some self-serving politicians. (Think: The Three Amigos.) They’ve been told that Palmer is going to disrupt their enjoyment of their property.
The fact is that the right to enjoy one’s property is not exclusive to residential homeowners. When you buy property, you buy into the neighborhood. SDM looked at many of the homes near Palmer and Westminster and found that most if not all of the owners moved in after those schools were already well-established.
Does that mean that Palmer and Westminster can do whatever they please on their property? No, because prior councils enacted strict noise and pollution standards that limit those schools today. The NPO takes this mostly-wise regulatory framework and converts it into a regime that is literally impossible to enforce.
The Palmer case is a sensitive subject for both sides, admittedly. Some like to claim that Palmer stated at a long-ago public hearing that it had no intent to grow. However, as the Palmer zoning resolution states, Palmer’s self-imposed limitation was only in regard to the campus it had at the time:
And we are not attempting to achieve any more development than the 600 students, at the maximum that we have now, on this campus. That is our mission. We have spent two years developing that mission. We have no intention of altering that mission. (Emphasis added by SDM.)
Palmer said it would not expand on its existing campus, but never said it would never expand to a new campus.
Palmer may or may not have known that it would acquire an additional 35 acres of adjacent land. But residents nearby had no reasonable expectation that the only development of that property would be single-family residences because the code permitted much more. If Palmer had not sought to build a school there, someone else would have every right to request a much larger one – up to 2000 students in fact.
The rest of Palmetto Bay’s residents must not be dragged into adopting an onerous, over-burdensome and perhaps illegal regulatory scheme because a couple dozen property owners were misled about Palmer by the “Save Our Palmetto Bay” (SOPs) organization and its ringleader Joan Lindsay.
Candidates: Time to Stand Up and Be Counted
According to the village clerk, six people signed up to run in the November 6th election for Palmetto Bay’s village council:
John Edward DuBois
Brian W. Pariser
Council – Seat 2:
Howard J. Tendrich
SDM understands that the incumbents are split on the NPO: Pariser for and Tendrich against.
SDM Wonders: Where do the others stand on the most contentious issue facing the village?
SDM Says: Come to the meeting tonight and tell the people where you stand. If you don’t care enough to tell us where you stand when the fire is raging, then don’t expect us to listen to you when the village is a pile of smoldering embers.