PB: NPO Impressions

by SDM

SDM watched about three hours of the Palmetto Bay council meeting last night, basically the first part that covered Councilwoman Lindsay’s “neighborhood protection” ordinances. Palmetto Bay requires a public hearing when it sits as the land planning agency and again when it sits as the village council. So the meeting went on forever and SDM had seen enough.

Lindsay melts down

SDM can’t say for sure why Councilwoman Lindsay was so on the edge last night, but any rational observer had to conclude after her rant at David Singer that she is stressed out.

Singer spent his weekend applying Palmetto Bay’s setbacks – as they appear in the NPO – to two village properties. His message was that the setbacks would make it very difficult for two village non-residential properties to rebuild after a catastrophe. SDM doesn’t know if Mr. Singer is correct in his analysis, but the mere mention of someone else fact-checking set Lindsay off.

Councilwoman Lindsay unleashed a vicious volley of accusations at Singer. She proclaimed he was misleading the public because the council was not in fact altering required setbacks. The setbacks in the NPO, according to Lindsay, derived from the existing village code and the once-reviled, now-sacrosanct county code.

Singer replied that her answer might be true but it did not change the facts. These properties could not be rebuilt under the 50% rule. Singer argued that regardless of how the setbacks were established, they have the potential to be harmful.

(SDM must wait for the video to be released before making a final judgment on exactly where these properties stand. The explanation given last night may be correct, but SDM feels the need to verify.)

The outburst from Councilwoman Lindsay struck SDM as outside her normal temperament, which got SDM to thinking about why she was so agitated. Perhaps a review of where we are now with this “neighborhood protection” nonsense will offer a clue.

NPOs ain’t what they used to be

If you recall back to April, Councilwoman Lindsay said that a key reason for the NPOs was that “[c]urrently we have ordinances that define the criteria for development in both commercial and residential areas but we do not have adequate criteria for development of non-residential within residential areas.”

So what are these fancy new criteria that were so necessary that the entire village political system had to be upset?

Well, it seems these criteria do not include gigantic, wasteful buffers. The Rosemary Woods missing video tape from the last NPO public workshop apparently covered a discussion by the council to abandon the buffer idea, which is good news. It was SDM that advocated months ago for dropping the idea.

But as a political matter, if the buffers were crucial to protect the neighborhoods – they weren’t, of course – but if they were, then didn’t Lindsay fail politically? SDM’s not trying to rub salt in an obvious wound, but rather is wondering aloud whether Lindsay’s promise to the SOPs was intentionally or unintentionally  impracticable in the first place? Hmmm…

Let’s look at the NPOs from another perspective: What did the “neighborhoods” get? As far as SDM can see, not much.

They got six-foot walls and reduced decibel levels in the noise ordinance. The got fewer children allowed in day care centers. And, the village’s code has been re-ordered.

(SDM will wait and see if the stylistic changes really make the document more comprehensible to the non-professional reader.)

But clearly, the NPOs are a shadow of the vast revisions Councilwoman Lindsay imagined. SDM argues this is so because she misjudged how difficult writing a land use code is. Her miscalculation cost the village many, many hours of staff time and divided the community.

SDM Wonders: In the end, was it worth it?

Aside to Councilwoman Lindsay: You can fulminate all you want, but you started this crusade and it is you and your cohorts that divided this village. SDM comments on the words you say and, when they are finally published, the words you write. It is you who sets the agenda and starts the arguments, not us.

Is Stanczyk still chairing the meetings?

Among the odd moments during last night’s meeting was the spectacle of the village attorney running the meeting. Ms. Boutsis kept saying, “do we have a second?” She asked about whether the titles were read and if the Mayor wanted to call the question.

There was one point where Mayor Stanczyk was just letting the attorney run things until it appeared she awakened from a slumber as the attorney prodded her to take an action.

Zisman off the reservation again

Perhaps the Mayor’s distractedness can be explained by the unusual and outrageous broadsides leveled at her by a Mr. Zisman of Recall Palmetto Bay fame. Zisman got up and instead of commenting on the ordinance on the table spent his three minutes blasting the Mayor over the location of her shed, which he claims is illegal.

The shed ordinance is another bad piece of legislation passed by a council that spends far too much time thinking up new ways to interfere with residents’ lives. The fact that the Mayor got caught up in the shed ordinance thicket makes her just like hundreds of other similarly situated Village People.

SDM Says: If your plan, Mr. Zisman, was to make the Mayor look bad, SDM thinks you failed. SDM felt sorry for the Mayor instead.

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