First Quarter-Million to Downtown or Down the Drain?

by SDM

And so it begins…

The Palmetto Bay village council will hold a special call meeting on Thursday, January 23rd at 7 p.m. to take up four proposed expenditures totaling more than a quarter-million dollars:

  • A “market absorption study” for $34,100 and $120,000 to prepare “land development code provisions and an amended zoning map reflective of the downtown redevelopment task force recommendations.” Both jobs will be done by Bermello Ajamil & Partners, a politically connected “multidisciplinary design firm” located in Coral Gables. [SDM Wonders: We are not aware that the council has changed the zoning downtown, yet. Wouldn’t it make more sense to hire the firm after the council reviews and adopts the changes? Or, have we outsourced zoning code amendments to the DRTF? If the council fails to adopt the DRTF proposals, will the village be wasting $120,000?]
  • $60,000 for “a concurrency review and capacity study, and to prepare any amendments necessary to the village’s comprehensive plan elements and future land use map consistent with that study and any other studies.” This work will be done by another politically connected firm, Kimley Horn. [SDM Wonders: Why do we need two firms working on connected projects? The village is going to have BAP look at market absorption and zoning changes and then have Kimley Horn work on the CDMP and concurrency. Why not have one vendor do the entire project since they are linked? And, for that matter, why not have the village staff do the work? This is starting to look like a consultants’ relief act.]
  • $39,725 to Marlin Engineering for the notorious traffic study. [SDM Wonders: The Vice Mayor asked a very good question when he wondered about how useful a traffic study would be given that so much change is expected down the road. The Manager says this study will establish the baseline. Is a baseline worth almost forty grand?]

In the blink of an eye, three local consulting firms snatch up $253,825 of the village’s ebbing reserves. All of this work is probably necessary if one buys into the DRTF’s vague master plan. One has to ask whether putting this project on such a fast track makes sense since the council has really been left in the dark.

SDM Says: The village council – and especially Vice Mayor Dubois – should tell us at this meeting that they feel comfortable with the DRTF’s work so far and that they have bought-in to the DRTF’s plan. We point especially to the Vice Mayor because he has been the most vocal in his questioning of the DRTF. SDM has heard a rumor that this meeting was scheduled without the Vice Mayor’s approval and that he may not be in attendance. If so, this will look more like a railroading than a deliberative discussion.

Public Works Building Highlighted in the Miami Herald – and Not in a Good Way

Did you catch the story on page 20A of the Miami Herald on Sunday? SDM has been frantically searching the interwebs for a copy to no avail…you might want to rummage through your trash, assuming you still get a hard copy of the Herald delivered.

The story lays out the village’s decision to accept some federal money that it will use to pave over most of the green space in its Public Works building. You say you didn’t even know Palmetto Bay had a public works building? Neither did SDM, who think of ourselves as paying very close attention.

Apparently, early on in the village’s life, the council purchased a private residence that it converted to office space for the Public Works Department. [SDM Wonders: Did the village hold a zoning meeting for that little change?]

It also appears that over the years the department has been parking all kinds of trucks and equipment at its HQ, which SDM is also sure is totally legal from a zoning standpoint. [Sarcasm. Imagine if a particular private school had done the same thing on its property!]

Then, some federal grant money became available and the village decided to invest the money in the Public Works HQ. At least a portion of the funds will be used to pave the HQ parking lot. [SDM says “parking lot,” but our imagination tells us what we are really talking about is paving the front or rear yards, or both. Will the site still have sufficient on-site drainage and pervious area? Or is the village exempting itself from these life-safety-health requirements?]

The upshot of the story – and please forgive us if our summary so far is either incomplete or incorrect in the minor details, we are working from memory – the upshot is that the village was required by federal law to reach out to their neighbors before proceeding with this project. A Herald reporter contacted the neighbors and found – surprise, surprise – they knew nothing of their good neighbor’s plans!

SDM would like to chastise the Village Manager Ron Williams on his failure to follow the law, but his ignorance of the outreach and other requirements of the grant seems part of a larger problem with this federal stream of money. Other local municipalities have been running around spending this money without following federal law either. It’s a conspiracy of dunces, one might say while mangling the title of a wonderfully funny  novel. [If you’ve never read Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces, you owe it to yourself to do so.]

Where SDM feels entitled to chastise Mr. Williams is that he didn’t reach out to his neighbors of his own volition. Wouldn’t you want to know what the village had planned for a facility near your home, out of common courtesy if not political behind-covering?

SDM doesn’t know precisely what is going to be done to the Public Works building, but we know this for sure: Mr. Williams and his staff owe the village an explanation and toot sweet. In the meantime, he ought to visit with his neighbors…and bring some flowers as peace offering on behalf of the rest of us.

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