South Dade Matters

Looking at the World South of Miami: Palmetto Bay, Cutler Bay, Pinecrest, South Miami and Miami-Dade County.

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David Singer Guest Post on Barking Dogs

Mayor declares war on Palmetto Bay Dog Owners

Our reviled and loathed Mayor Shelley Stanczyk has once again proven just how out of touch she is with reality. Could November’s Mayoral election get here any quicker? Apparently, tired of attacking schools and churches she has now turned her attention to attacking her constituent’s pets, dogs in particular.

She has sponsored an Ordinance scheduled to be read at Monday’s Village Council meeting which will effectively fine every resident of Village of Palmetto Bay if their dogs barks more than five times in an hour.

I affectionately call it the “Five Bark Penalty”. If it wasn’t so incredibly offensive it might actually be humorous.

It’s too bad this ordinance hasn’t been in effect during Council meetings over the last three and a half years while she’s been Mayor.

Enough of my commentary, here’s some bits and pieces of the Ordinance.
• Barking dog shall mean a dog that barks, bays, cries, howls or makes any other noise continuously and/or incessantly for a period of twenty minutes or barks intermittently for one hour or more to disturb any person, day or night.
• Barks intermittently shall mean a noise disturbance caused by a barking dog which occurs 5 times within an hour. (Would that be 5 short barks or 5 long barks and who decides when the barking begins and stops? I didn’t realize Village Manager Ron Williams has employed Dr. Doolittle on Village staff.)
• Public nuisance animal shall mean any animal or combination of animals that makes excessive noises, including, but not limited to, continued or repeated howling, barking, whining (you get the point) which substantially interferes with and /or disturbs a Village resident’s enjoyment of life and/or property.
• Enforcement responsibility; The Village will now hire a Noise Control Officer (great another Village Employee) who will have primary enforcement responsibility after an affidavit is filed by the complainant to the Village of Palmetto Bay. The Noise Control Officer will then investigate on a “complaint only” basis (don’t really understand what a “complaint only” basis is, but then I don’t understand 99% of what the Village enacts for their personal amusement).
• After an affidavit is filed by a resident, a notice of Civil Infraction is issued by the Village Noise Control Officer with a 30 days correction period (this basically gives you 30 days to visit your Vet and have your dog surgically debarked). If the barking continues you are then penalized, fined and quartered.
• The fine for a barking dog for a first offense is $250.00 (that works out to be $50.00 per bark) with subsequent fines for repeated violations costing $500.00.

If you don’t believe anyone in their right mind would sponsor this type of Ordinance please visit the Village of Palmetto Bay website.

I would assume by reading this Ordinance that Mayor Stanczyk and the Village Planning and Zoning Director Darby Delsalle, hate animals or at the minimum are cat lovers.

Is this nonsense and intellectual ineptitude really what we expect from our elected officials and Village Staff? ? I hope the Councilmembers who vote for this Ordinance realize it guarantees their ouster during the November election.

You always have the option of voicing your displeasure with this Ordinance prior to Monday’s meeting by emailing the Mayor and Councilmembers or calling the Village.

David Singer

Quick Bites

Please Step Out of the Sunshine

The beginning of the February 19th village council meeting to interview attorney candidates shows precisely why people from around this county think Palmetto Bay is run by a fool.

dresiarczyk-162-OBRAZKY.PL

Mayor Stanczyk noted as she opened the meeting that they were live-streaming the interviews, meaning anyone can watch the session live on the internet.

Then she asked each of the firms who were in the queue to testify to wait in the lobby so that whichever firm was being interviewed would have “some privacy.”

We swear, we are not making this up. Watch it for yourself here. (Just a few minutes of your precious time, scout’s honor.)

Of course, several stunned folks on the dais and in the audience explained to her cluelessness that not only was this a public sunshine meeting, there are televisions in the lobby where anyone can listen in on the interviews.

SDM Says: Is this the best we can do, Palmetto Bay? C’mon man.

Garcia Ignores Campaign Contributor’s Honoring of Hugo Chavez

The Miami Herald reported that former Massachusetts Congressman William Delahunt contributed $2,500 to Congressman Joe Garcia’s re-election campaign.

The contribution raised hackles in Miami’s Venezuelan diaspora when Delahunt was found to have attended former Dictatory Hugo Chavez’s funeral. (SDM wonders how Mr. Garcia would react to a lobbyist attending Fidel Castro’s funeral.)

SDM Says: Mr. Delahunt has a right to cultivate his clientele and Mr. Garcia’s constituents have a right to ask why the congressman would do business with a guy who represents a police state that has forced so many of its citizens to flee.

South Dade Commissioner gets it Partially Right

You may have missed South Dade Commissioner Dennis Moss’s forceful repudiation of Commissioner Javier Souto at a recent county commission meeting.

Mr. Souto, who is reaching the terminus of a long and undistinguished legislative career, issued a veiled threat to fellow commissioners for daring to consider doing business with a global firm that did/does business with Cuba.

Mr. Souto implied that doing business with a firm with business ties to Cuba is like doing business with a firm who does business with the former apartheid regime in South Africa. (For the youngsters out there, this was a big deal back before cell phones.)

Mr. Souto is right in one sense when he draws this analogy, though many of us in the United States are tiring of what has looked for a decade or more to be a failed foreign policy.

Where Mr. Souto went way wrong and drew Moss’s ire was when he repeated another tired old saw, namely that “Cubans built Miami.” One doesn’t need to investigate very deeply to determine how absurd this contention is historically.

But, for argument’s sake, let’s say Mr. Souto is right. SDM Wonders: Why would anyone want to take credit for everything that makes up Miami? SDM loves this community, but it ain’t perfect by a long shot.

Our government institutions are borderline functional and often outright corrupt. Our economy is perilously perched on a very limited base and lacks significant industrial components. Even SDM who recognizes the need for rational development recognizes that our public infrastructure and environmental planning are both abysmal. (Where do you think all that stuff you put into your septic system eventually end up?)

SDM Says: If you demand credit for “building this community” (and that means you, too, Mr. Moss when you said “black folks built this town”), then you better be ready to accept the blame as well.

SDM Knows Now That We’re Getting Old…

SDM found this story in Slate.com and it convinced us we are now completely out of touch with the next generation.

We aren’t big users of Facebook because we think they are reading our minds, not literally of course but by inference based on data. So we hadn’t seen the gender identity drop-down button that offers 58 options (!!) to describe one’s gender.

We are feeling really old here at SDM now. Back when we were coming up, you didn’t choose your gender, you were your gender. Now, however, kids get to choose from this list:

  • Agender
  • Androgyne
  • Androgynous
  • Bigender
  • Cis [According to Wikipedia: Cisgender and cissexual (often abbreviated to simply cis) describe related types of gender identity where an individual's experience of their own gender matches their bodies. This includes people who were once transgender but physically transitioned so their gender identity matches their physical sex. Glad we cleared that up.]
  • Cisgender
  • Cis Female
  • Cis Male
  • Cis Man
  • Cis Woman
  • Cisgender Female
  • Cisgender Male
  • Cisgender Man
  • Cisgender Woman
  • Female to Male
  • FTM [Female to Male]
  • Gender Fluid
  • Gender Nonconforming
  • Gender Questioning
  • Gender Variant
  • Genderqueer
  • Intersex
  • Male to Female
  • MTF [Male to Female]
  • Neither
  • Neutrois
  • Non-binary
  • Other [This list doesn't cover it?!?!]
  • Pangender
  • Trans
  • Trans*
  • Trans Female
  • Trans* Female
  • Trans Male
  • Trans* Male
  • Trans Man
  • Trans* Man
  • Trans Person
  • Trans* Person
  • Trans Woman
  • Trans* Woman
  • Transfeminine
  • Transgender
  • Transgender Female
  • Transgender Male
  • Transgender Man
  • Transgender Person
  • Transgender Woman
  • Transmasculine
  • Transsexual
  • Transsexual Female
  • Transsexual Male
  • Transsexual Man
  • Transsexual Person
  • Transsexual Woman
  • Two-Spirit

SDM Says: Please don’t ask your grandchildren if they are confused about their identities. You don’t want to know the answer.

PB Guest Post by David Singer: Ten Bank Accounts? Who knew!

And Then There Were Ten.

Village of Palmetto Bay website states…..

MONTHLY CHECK REGISTER – PART OF “TRANSPARENT” VILLAGE

“We invite the public to take a look through the Village books on a regular basis. Palmetto Bay provides a monthly Village Check Register, online, in an ongoing effort to be a more transparent government.”

If that were only true! Would it surprise anyone in the Village or the State of Florida, for that matter, that there are TEN checking and saving accounts that the Village of Palmetto Bay operates but only ONE which is disclosed on their website?

I’m sure everyone has better things to do with their time than review the hundred or so checks that are written out of various accounts. I’ve flipped through all TEN November Bank statements and I have to tell you there is certainly a better use of my time.

The issue here isn’t the TEN checking accounts, it’s once again about deception. Mayor Stanczyk and Village Manager Ron Williams play a game of wanting everyone to believe that they are running a transparent Village when in fact they are not.

The balance of cash in the NINE remaining checking accounts at the end of November 2013 was approximately 16 million dollars not accounting for any checks that might be outstanding. Some of the accounts had activity and some of them didn’t. You would think that the Village of Palmetto Bay, with their rhetoric about transparency, would want the Citizens to have access to all accounts or at a bare minimum those with activity.

16 million dollars is nothing to sneeze at. From what I can decipher there are seven money market/saving accounts and three checking accounts. Disturbingly, a few of these bank accounts have over 1 million dollar balances but are only insured by the FDIC to a maximum of $250,000. This puts public funds – our money – at risk if their bank goes under.

I also question, why I had to spend personal funds on a public records search to see supposedly transparent public accounts.

But the larger issue is that nondisclosure of the checking accounts is a microcosm of the issues the Village will be facing with the proposed expenses on Downtown Redevelopment. Does anyone really think we as residents will get full and honest disclosure from either Village Manager Ron Williams or Mayor Stanczyk? After all, a quarter of a million dollars is budgeted to be spent on a traffic and market absorption study. Unfortunately, Ron Williams and Mayor Stanczyk have proven time and time again that they are far from either honest or transparent and it’s worrisome that they again will be playing with big money.

Our long-term solution is that we must evaluate candidates and staff on character and their ability to share facts about how the Village is run. Transparency must be a core value, not lip service. Late this year when we have our next election I urge you to examine character regardless of where you stand on issues. If we can get the Village to operate the way it should – by honorable people with honest debate referencing available facts for all to consider – we will be back to a proper representative government. I have faith that this goal will be realized.

David Singer

David Singer Guest Post: Expanding the Agenda

The Clock has offically started ticking.

Ever since South Dade Matters blog of November 18th regarding potential candidates for the Palmetto Bay November 2014 election, I have been inundated with inquires as too who I will support. In all honestly, I really hadn’t thought about it until last weekend.

There are five areas of concern which should be of uttermost importance to every Citizen of Palmetto Bay. Yes, I know the election is in November 2014, but, if the election was held today I would ask each candidate their stance on the following issues that I feel the Village is presently facing :

Area of Concern #1: The need to terminate Village Manager Ron Williams – Ron Williams is as responsible as Mayor Shelley Stanczyk for the difficulties occurring in Palmetto Bay. Williams is an obstructionist and a micromanager who refuses access to public records guaranteed by law to every citizen of Palmetto Bay. It is next to impossible for either residents or the council to get financial information from his finance department. He has ballooned the Village’s budgets and employee count over the past four years and is spending this Village into Real Estate Tax increases. Ron Willam’s has no prior job experience as a Municipal Manager and is still learning on the job. Unfortunately his grade so far is an F and Williams needs to be expelled. Any candidate who supports removing Williams gets my support.

Area of Concern #2: The Neighborhood Protection Ordinance. We need to roll back NPO requirements. The Citizens of Palmetto Bay voted for and passed the Neighborhood Protection Ordinance under false pretenses. Whether you agree or disagree with the NPO it’s restrictions should be followed by everyone subject to the law. This includes business, schools and, yes, the Village government itself. Except that the hypocrites at the Village seem to think that they should be exempt from the NPO. This was apparent on October 31 at Coral Reef Park when they broke their own Sound Ordinance. I can envision further Palmetto Bay and Village sponsored events at Coral Reef Park or Thalatta Park where this will reoccur over and over. This is the same sound Ordinance was sponsored by Joan Lindsey less than a year ago. It’s the typical mindset of “do what I say, not what I do.” If Palmetto Bay can’t follow the same requirements placed upon businesses and schools then the ordinance should be amended. Any candidate who supports amending the NPO to make it fair to businesses and schools gets my support.

Area of Concern #3: Village Spending Reduction. There needs to be a Hiring Freeze/Reduction of Expenses to maintain the fiscal health of the Village. While the incompetent Village Manager and math-challenged Village Finance Director are relying on the development of the Business District for economic growth, we can’t rely on a 10 year growth plan for our fiscal health and stability. Palmetto Bay’s continued budget deficits have the likelihood to result in increased Real Estate taxes. High profile complex development projects can take a dozen years from inception until the first shovel strikes dirt. To fiscally overextend our Village and spend us into the dirt relying on uncertain revenue projection from the Downtown District is unwise and foolish. The time to put the brakes on spending is now. Any candidate who supports freezing Village hiring and reducing Village expenditures gets my support.

Area of Concern #4: Operating Losses at the Parks. There needs to be accountability for Operating Losses associated with Coral Reef Tennis Courts and Thalatta Park. Does anyone really know how much the Tennis Courts or Thalatta Park lose every year? I’ve looked at the financials for the past four years and I couldn’t tell you whether the tennis courts were losing $100,000 or a $1,000,000. The Village has already spent a Million Dollar on a hot dog stand which is sitting at Coral Reef Park. So that’s a big loss right there, but why is it so hard to be able to evaluate the rest of the programs the residents are paying taxes for? I’m a CPA and I can’t make my way through the obfuscated numbers. At one time the Village actually made money (though that should not necessarily be a requirement) with the tennis courts at Coral Reef Park, but not anymore. There needs to be a proper accounting and transparent financials for all programs and entities the Village runs to be able to evaluate their viability. Any candidate who supports parks and programs accountability and financial transparency of parks and programs gets my support.

Area of Concern #5: Business District Planning. There is a need for a Measured and Compressive Analysis of funding for the Business District of Palmetto Bay. I’m all for the redevelopment of the area located next to and across from Village Hall. I think that area is blight on the Village and redevelopment is sorely needed. At the same time, I am a fiscal conservative and don’t agree with wasting taxpayer’s dollars. The professionals involved at planning the redevelopment district have done a good job, but I think before one cent is spent a firm should be hired for analysis with an ability to measure the results we anticipate achieving. This is not the Kevin Costner’s Field of Dreams where we risk spending millions of dollars with a prayer that “if you build it they will come.” Any candidate who supports a Measured and Compressive Analysis of funding for the Business District gets my support.

No one should be elected to the council based on their ability to glad hand or kiss babies. It has been observed over the past four years those qualities don’t make good Village leaders. Who am I going to support? Definitely not Shelly Stanczyk or Joan Lindsay – they have done more damage to this Village than seems possible. I will support candidates based on the issues outlined above for the long term well-being of the Village. I have no political allegiances and make no bargains. Nor do I offer support based on relationships. Anyone who has called me for support has gotten the same answer – support is issue-based and I reserve the right to blast anyone for bad policy. I suggest voters do the same.

David Singer

Homestead Election Fallout

According to Political Cortadito, two names have surfaced as potential challengers to Miami-Dade County Commissioner Lynda Bell:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFormer State Rep. Ana Rivas-Logan

One of them is former State Rep. Ana Rivas-Logan, who lost a bitter and ugly Republican primary last year for a redrawn house seat that threw her in with State Rep. Jose Felix Diaz. She confirmed that to Ladra Wednesday morning that she was being pursued for the county seat.

“I am being strongly encouraged to consider running,” Rivas-Logan told me. And you can tell she is aching to go back to public office, but not at the state level. “I do better in non-partisan races. I’m too moderate for a partisan race.”

PC also claims the Dade Democratic party is actively recruiting a candidate for the nonpartisan race.

PB: Guest Post by David Singer – A Year in Review

It’s been a little over year ago that I started to place a real interest in the political shenanigans occurring in the Village of Palmetto Bay and I can say with certainty it hasn’t been boring. During the past year my house has been egged, I’ve received death threats, I’ve been lied about on fraudulent websites and been lied to by our local politicians. All in all it’s been a very interesting year.

I’ve learned over the past year that the residents don’t fully comprehend what was really occurring in the Village because the individuals running the city are so adept at lying. The real truth, about this Village, is written by an anonymous source that goes by the name South Dade Matters and, at times, articles written by Former Mayor Gene Flinn and Grant Miller.

People who don’t follow Palmetto Bay politics don’t understand our Village has serious issues that are not going away anytime soon. The real test of this Village will come next November when two new Councilmembers are elected along with what will hopefully be the replacement of Mayor Shelly Stanczyk and Councilwoman Joan Lindsay.

My original objective, after educating myself on the Palmer Litigation issue, was the recall of Mayor Shelly Stanczyk and Councilwoman Joan Lindsay. In addition, I felt it was appropriate to replace Councilman Brian Pariser with anyone who could actually think for themselves.

After last November’s election of Tim Schaffer and John Dubois, it was requested of me, even though the Recall documents had been prepared and they were ready for the collection of signatures, to delay the Recall in hopes that the new council would gain some resemblance of decorum and professionalism and come together for the benefit of the community. It hasn’t necessarily moved as fast and far in the direction I believe we Citizens deserve.

Various Councilmembers, specifically Mayor Shelly Stanczyk and Councilwoman Joan Lindsay, are still being manipulated and controlled by a small and extremist faction of the community called CCOCI (Concerned Citizens of Old Cutler, Inc.) This group is a danger for all residents who want to live in a Village where you’re neighbor doesn’t have the right to look over your fence and tell you it’s time to mow your grass or your kids can’t ride their bikes down the street earlier than 8 am on a Sunday morning. They are the crowd that live by the motto “Do as I say, not as I do.”

The CCOCI is being extremely successful in keeping the Shade Sessions regarding Palmer and Charter School litigation secret. They helped in passing the NPO (Neighborhood Protection Ordinance) which can be more accurately referred to as THE PROPERTY RIGHTS REVOCATION ACT. These are bad people with small minds who are trying to tell the residents of Palmetto Bay how they should live, worship and educate their children.

The point of writing this blog is to ask for help. Over the next year you, as a resident, are going to have the opportunity to talk to fellow residents and discuss what has been occurring in the Village in the past 4 to 6 years with regards to wasted money on litigation, finances and less than normal behavior by our Council. I would hope that each one of you would spread the word prior to the next election about your local government and the eventual negative impact on our lives that our elected officials will have on all of us if changes to the Council are not made.

A vote in support of candidates running against Mayor Stanczyk and Councilwoman Lindsay is a vote for the good of the Village. Removing Stanczyk and Lindsay will diminish the toxic effect of the CCOCI and the negative way in which they’ve diminished the quiet enjoyment of our Palmetto Bay. Vote against special interests, vote against divisiveness and vote against small mindedness.

David Singer

PB: Lawsuit Exhaustion

The Miami Herald Neighbors ran an interesting article titled “Nine months after the election, lawsuits linger in Palmetto Bay.” It’s a good read and is covering a serious topic for the community, though most SDM readers are familiar with the subject matter by now.

What struck SDM was the following section of the article:

Frustrated residents

Like many Palmetto Bay residents, Andy Newman traces the division in the village back to a series of legal disputes between the village and Palmer Trinity School. Residents and council members have been divided over the size of the school’s planned expansion, its effect on neighbors, and the costs of litigation.

Newman, who lives near the school, said he will be affected by the expansion, including the increase of traffic. But, he added, at this point he wishes the council would move on from Palmer-related contention and function as a unit.

“It has been a hot potato for quite some time,” he said. “But it’s time to just come together and resolve the situation.”

Florida International University law professor George Knox said the contention in Palmetto Bay could be alleviated if elected officials as well as constituents have an informal conversation together – not at a council meeting or through community blogs.

“The idea is to have a heartfelt conversation, face-to-face. What is it that you are fighting against and why?” said Knox, a former Miami city attorney who teaches negotiation and mediation.

“People have taken sides in the political process and that has impaired the ability to cooperate, to work out solutions to community problems,” said Knox. “And if the citizens resort to the courts to resolve political issues, that seems to say that they don’t have confidence in their political system, and they’ve lost their will to fix it.”

(Emphasis added by SDM.)

As a history lesson, this blog ran its first post on July 25, 2011. The topic? A critique of the village council’s behavior toward Palmer Trinity School. Following is the entire text of that initial post (SDM has become much more long-winded since then. :) ) :

At its July 19 meeting, the Palmetto Bay Village Council voted unanimously to send their dispute with Palmer back to the courts for a resolution.  Councilman Patrick Fiore raised a critical question when he noted that the Village had spent nearly $500,000 to defend its position.  Palmetto Bay tax payers need to ask how much more can they afford to spend?

The truth is that the Palmer issue had already created serious divisions in this community before this blog launched. Mr. Newman’s neighbors created a non-profit corporation called Concerned Citizens of Old Cutler, Inc. (CCOCI). Current City Councilwoman Joan Lindsay was a leader of this organization.

CCOCI began a political campaign against Palmer and urged the village council to adopt an extraordinarily hostile posture towards the school – there is no other charitable way to put it. At some point, before Lindsay joined the council, she convinced Mayor Stanczyk to offer a poison pill amendment to the Palmer development approval, which is the now-notorious 900 student limitation that the court found to be so objectionable. (Village staff had recommended a maximum student population of 1,150.)

Apparently, CCOCI figured that the rest of the community would lie down and let them spend the village into poor house over a differential of 150 students spread over 30+ acres of property. Thus began the division in the community between the anti-Palmer faction and those of us who wanted the council to cease and desist.

Now, after years of litigation, the Palmer saga looks to be coming to an end. (It might have ended sooner had the council adopted Mr. Knox’s idea of having a heartfelt conversation face-to-face, but we will never know now.) We still don’t know what the cost in dollars will be to Palmetto Bay, but SDM can’t agree more that “people have taken sides in the political process,” as Mr. Knox said.

Where we disagree is with the notion that communicating through blogs is somehow not part of the natural political process. Would the opponents of CCOCI’s take-no-prisoners attitude know what was going on inside village hall – what’s really going on – without this blog and others acting as a resource? SDM thinks not.

Certainly there are those inside village hall that wake up every morning praying that SDM has retired. With all humility, SDM is sure that they prefer the pre-SDM world to today’s. Pre-SDM, village insiders did whatever they wanted and virtually none of the Village People knew what the CCOci’s puppets were up to. Now, at least some of us are a little better informed.

SDM Says: Sometimes the courts and public speech are the only way to rein-in a government run amok. We’ll shut up and bow out of the conversation when there’s nothing left to report – or when we retire.

SDM Aside to Mr. Knox: Your idea of a community dialogue outside village chambers, with elected officials present, strikes SDM as a violation of the sunshine law as well as an attempt to escape the webcam. Might want to rethink that one…

PB: CCOCI Transcript Reveals Dissension in the Ranks

SDM’s super secret source deep within the bowels of CCOCI has released another transcript from that infamous star chamber’s last super secret meeting held at a super secret local watering hole:

Gary:  Since Shelley is late, I suggest we get started. Jerry, order us another pitcher.

Jerry:  Got it. Is this going on the CCOCI account…you know under “community outreach”?

Gary:  Just like always… Ok, we need to get to the agenda. First up is our newest convert Patrick Fiore. Now that Fiore is on the team, we need to start moving our items along.

Joan:  Yes, now is the time to strike while Fiore is with us. It’s too bad we lost Schaffer to the Dark Side.

Jerry:  Joan’s right…as usual, sugar. Schaffer seems to be his own man. We missed on him. Here’s the thing: if Fiore’s with us, then why didn’t he shake my hand after the vote to keep the transcripts secret?

Warren:  Maybe he doesn’t like you. I mean, you did flip him off at the last meeting.

Jerry:  That’s a lie propounded by that scurrilous website. I was only scratching my head.

Warren:  With your middle finger?

Jerry:  Yes. I always scratch the back of my head with that digit…it has an unusually long fingernail. The whole episode is just a big misunderstanding. Why would I shoot the bird at my wife? Makes no sense…

Gary:  Jerry, fill up my glass and get us another pitcher. The “finger” controversy will die off on its own. The big question is: how are we going to silence all of these conspiratorial Palmer people and that blog. I call the author Some Dumb Motherf@#$er.

Shelley:  Hellooooo everyone! Sorry I’m late. Bev and I were visiting at Starbucks and lost track of the time.

Bev:  Geez, you guys are already through 3 pitchers? Our budget is going to take a hit this month.

Gary:  Look, this is a stressful time for me. Palmer’s secret society is out to get me. They forced Dubois to sue me. I’m sure my phone is tapped and David Singer — God only knows what he’s up to. Top that off for me, Jerry. Thanks pal.

Bev:  Singer’s just a shill for Palmer…just like all of them…all of them…

Jerry:  Easy Bev, it’s not paranoia if they’re really out to get you.

Shelley:  Sooooo, here’s what I’m thinking. I need to get people to stop thinking about what’s going in the village and start worrying about bigger things. You know, like when the President goes on a trip to Greece instead of dealing with Congress?

Joan:  I’m listening. Hope nobody else is! (Nervous laughter all around.)

Shelley:  Ed Feller used to get everyone hyped up about property insurance. I’m going to steal his idea and start holding a bunch of pointless meetings on the subject. The beauty is that I can’t do anything about it! I’ll just blame those Republican legislators when they fail to fix the problem. It’s perfect!

Bev: Those Republicans…they’re all working for Palmer.

Gary:  Yep. I saw a Republican at a Palmer meeting once. Jerry, this mug isn’t going to fill itself.

Warren:  I like Republicans as long as they don’t try to build schools, parks, apartment buildings, office complexes or anything else within 100 miles of my house.

Shelley:  Let’s get back on topic, here. I’m going to hold this meeting and I need all of our CCOCI members to attend and complain about their property insurance rates. I’ll need all 10 of you.

Joan:  Two of us are on the council, Shelley. So the best you can get is eight.

Shelley: Ok, all eight need to show up. And, nobody talks about the village. The budget is off limits. I have several things stuck in there that I don’t want that David Singer to find out about. He is such a pain in the butt. I mean, did you see that he posted all the screen shots from my website palmettobaycheckstherecord.org? Anyone can look at what I wrote about “my friends.”

Joan:  No kidding. And he got the shade session transcripts that show all of your work to keep that Palmer lawsuit going – against my better judgment. Those transcripts tell the whole story and they are not going to help your re-election campaign, that’s for sure.

Shelley: Excuse me? “Against your better judgment”? You pushed that lawsuit like it was a a personal grudge.

Jerry:  Not true. Clearly, Joan was against the Palmer lawsuit from the beginning. You just have to read between the lines.

Gary: That’s the way I read those transcripts.

Bev: Me too.

Warren: Clear as day.

Shelley:  So that’s how it’s going to be? Throw Shelley from the train? You’ll never get away with it Joan. And Jerry? I’m not afraid of you. Nobody will vote for Mr. Middle Finger, so you can forget about trying to hang this on me.

Jerry:  I scratched an itch…that’s all. What I didn’t do is make that stupid motion that started the whole Palmer fiasco. That’s all you baby.

Gary:  Hold up Jerry, just hold up a second. Where did my beer go? Oh, there we go. Listen, we know Shelley screwed the pooch on Palmer. Can’t put that genie back in the bottle… Now, what was I going to say?

Bev:  Shelley, I guess I’m going to have to be the bearer of bad tidings. We had a little meeting on the phone and the vote was 9-0 to dump you as Mayor. Jerry’s going to run instead. His slogan will be, “Jerry for Mayor salutes you Palmetto Bay!” We already ordered those foam #1 fingers, slightly modified.

Shelley:  You’ll never get away with it. You don’t want Shelley Stanczyk as an opponent, Jerry. After my insurance meeting, everyone will love me again. (Storms out.)

Gary:  I’ve always suspected her as a front for Palmer. Get me a frosty mug while you’re up Jerry. Anybody want some wings?

PB Bonus: Gary Pastorella Should Be Banned from Council Meetings

Decorum in Palmetto Bay? Not for GP

In a despicable personal attack on Palmetto Bay’s Vice Mayor, resident Gary Pastorella slurred the following (2:50:34):

I think this has to do…this is bought and paid for…this is special interest at its best, when you spend over a hundred thousand dollars on a campaign to be elected Vice Mayor, this is the end result. This is to get the neighborhood propection…protection provision overturned in such a way that special interests of Palmetto Bay can come forward…we have Palmer Trinity sitting in..in..in the here, right now…umm, we have Palmer Trinity having spent thousands upon thousands of dollars in John Dubois’s campaign…and I go back to the concern that I had several months ago in that John, Mr. Dubois and his lawsuits against the residents of Palmetto Bay – I being one – and the question at issue in his legal action against me and others was his state of mind…and I claim today as I did then that I question, and it’s my opinion that the state of mind of John Dubois is in question. He stated in a sworn affidavit that he suffers mental and emotional pain and suffering and as such, my concern is that and..is…that…one indicator of that someone, someone is suffers from mental health is that they begin to have a slovenly appearance and as such I say that Mr. Dubois’s slovenly appearance may be as a result of his mental illness.

Aside: SDM’s first reaction to Pastorella’s statement is, now we understand why Mr. Dubois is suing you!

Despite immediate reactions from the audience to an obvious violation of the sometimes-applied decorum statement, Mayor Shelley Stanczyk failed even to chastise Pastorella for attacking her colleague. But that wasn’t the only attack. Another resident appeared to be calling the Vice Mayor a fascist and went directly at both the Vice Mayor and Councilman Fiore. Absolutely outrageous.

SDM Says: The decorum statement that allegedly governs in Palmetto Bay is bad joke, just like the Mayor who is tasked with enforcing it.

PB: On Variances

Councilman Patrick Fiore placed an item on the Monday council agenda to discuss the village’s variance procedure. SDM has discussed the village’s very strict variance process several times and appreciates Mr. Fiore’s efforts at finding a middle ground on the issue. After watching the discussion, SDM did a little research, which you may find interesting or put you into a coma.

A variance is required whenever a property owner’s plans would not conform to the code. Examples of residential variances were discussed recently in our post titled PB: Crushing Dreams Since 2002. Variances are also requested by commercial property owners when their development plans do not comport with the code. Sometimes these variances are minor – someone wants to place a pool inside a setback. Sometimes they are major – a business wants to provide fewer parking spaces with the result that cars park all over the public right of way.

The problem for any code writer is trying to anticipate all the variations the human mind can conceive and then incorporating the acceptable options into a written, prescriptive code. Newly formed municipalities and the pols that lead them often want to be “tough on developers,” so they adopt both a very strict code and a very strict variance procedure. Pinecrest and Palmetto Bay both fell into this trap.

The inevitable result is bad lawmaking and inflexibility to address what are often neighborhood-level issues. So, how does a local government deal with the conundrum of wanting to be objective yet humane?

One approach is what Palmetto Bay has taken. Lay out the code and tell anyone who wants a minor variation to go pound sand. An alternative approach can be found in Palmetto Bay’s neighbor to the south, Cutler Bay, which adopted the following variance approval standard:

Owners of lands or structures may apply to the Town Council for a variance from the requirements or restrictions of the Land Development Regulations; except that no variance for use or density issues shall be considered. Variances shall be submitted in writing through the Department, stating the specific variance(s) requested. Each variance of a code requirement necessitates a separate variance application and process. The Town Council, after a public hearing, may approve, approve with conditions or deny the application.

A. Application. An application for a variance shall include a written statement by the applicant with supporting explanation and evidence regarding the following requirements:

1. The particular provision of the Code which prevents the proposed construction on, or use of the property.

2. The existing zoning of the property, including any previously approved conditions, or modifications.

3. The special circumstances, conditions or characteristics of the land, building or structure that prevent the use of the land in compliance with the terms of this ordinance.

4. The particular hardship that would result if the specified provisions of the ordinance were to be applied to the subject property.

5. The extent to which it would be necessary to vary the provisions of this ordinance in order to permit the proposed construction on, or use of, the property.

6. A disclosure statement by the parties with at least 5 percent interest in the project shall be signed by the applicant and notarized.

B. Approval Standards. The applicant shall have the burden of proof and provide a written statement describing the manner and degree of compliance with the following standards:

1. The variance will result in conditions that maintain and are consistent in all material respects with the intent and purpose of these Regulations, and that the general welfare, stability and appearance of the community will be protected and maintained.

2. The variance will be compatible with the surrounding land uses, and otherwise consistent with these Regulations and the Comprehensive Plan, and will not be detrimental to the community.

3. That the request for a variance is not based on an economic disadvantage to the owner or occupant of the property upon which the variance is sought.

Compare that reasonable standard to Palmetto Bay’s heartless version:

Village council action and criteria for approval. After the public hearing, the village council shall adopt a written resolution granting, granting with conditions, or denying the variance. In order to authorize any variance from the terms of this division, the village council must determine whether the following criteria have been met:

(1) That the variance is in fact a variance allowed in this division and is within the province of village council.

(2) Existence of special conditions or circumstances. That special conditions and circumstances exist which are peculiar to the land, structure, or building involved and which are not applicable to other lands, structures, or buildings in the same zoning district.

(3) That the special conditions and circumstances do not result from the actions of the applicant.

(4) That granting the variance requested will not confer on the applicant any special privilege that is denied by Chapter 30 to other lands, buildings, or structures in the same zoning district.

(5) Financial difficulties or economic hardship shall not be a factor for determining whether a variance should be granted.

(6) That literal interpretation of the provisions of Chapter 30 would deprive the applicant of rights commonly enjoyed by other properties in the same zoning district under the terms of Chapter 30 and would work unnecessary and undue hardship on the applicant. The purchase of property which has an illegal nonconformity with Chapter 30 shall not be considered a hardship for the granting of a variance, nor shall conditions peculiar to the property owner be considered.

(7) That the variance granted is the minimum variance that will make possible the reasonable use of the land, building, or structure.

(8) That the grant of the variance will be in harmony with the general intent and purpose of the comprehensive plan and Chapter 30, and that the variance will not be injurious to the area involved or otherwise detrimental to the public welfare.

(9) In granting any variance, village council may prescribe appropriate conditions to mitigate the proposed variance and to ensure safeguards in conformity with the comprehensive plan and Chapter 30 or any other duly enacted ordinance. Violation of conditions and safeguards, when made a part of the terms under which the variance is granted, shall be deemed a violation of this chapter and shall nullify the variance development approval.

There procedures are similar in many respects, but SDM has tried to highlight a subtle difference and a monster difference. Cutler Bay’s A.3. requires special circumstances, but focuses on the individual property as opposed to every property in the same zoning district as Palmetto Bay does. This difference allows the Town of Cutler Bay to look at a variance request in the context of a neighborhood where Palmetto Bay’s council must look at every property with that zoning code, which can include neighborhoods literally on the other side of town.

The monster, killer difference – almost like a flying, vampire fish – is the requirement that the owner not create the condition that the variance is to cure. Cutler Bay residents intentionally granted to their council the discretion to assist a homeowner who may have inadvertently purchased the property with a nonconformity or who may have hired a less-than-diligent contractor who left them with a nonconforming structure or use.

The discretion is limited by Section B, which does not permit economic hardship to be a factor or allow uses that would be detrimental to the neighborhood.

SDM Says: There is no need to reinvent the wheel when the words we need to import into the village code have been carefully constructed by others. We elect our officials to facilitate our lifestyles and to protect our property values. Instead of hiding behind a “strict hardship” standard, it’s time the village council take the responsibility we vested in them and make sound decisions that benefit property owners, their neighbors and the village as a whole. Turning away our neighbors just because their improvements violate some hypothetical aesthetic cannot continue.

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