Palmetto Bay voters may be scratching their heads when they notice the charter amendment on their ballots. What, pray tell is the origin of this question?
Referendum Regarding Expansion of Private Schools: The proposed Charter Amendment changes the requirement that 75% of the electors living within a 2,000 foot radius of a private school seeking to expand student enrollment approve of such expansion in a referendum to a requirement that a majority of such electors approve of such expansion in the referendum. Shall the above described amendment be adopted?
SDM wrote a blog on May 2, 2013 explaining the history of the amendment. (Hint: You may enjoy the Monty Python reference.) Later in that year, the village held a referendum asking whether the Alexander Montessori School should be allowed to add students. Here is what we wrote in the aftermath of that vote:
In what SDM sees as a very sad story, a Palmetto Bay’s Alexander Montessori School failed to garner enough votes to add a paltry 59 seats to its enormous 270 student body. As SDM blogged about in PB: Ready for Another Lawsuit?, the Alexander school needed to convince 75% of its neighbors to vote for the school’s expansion.
This crazy requirement comes from a Councilwoman Joan Lindsay sponsored charter amendment, which foolish Palmetto Bay voters adopted after Ms. Lindsay lost her battle against the Palmer Trinity expansion. Ironically, Ms. Lindsay asked the Alexander School’s neighbors to vote for the expansion, though SDM doubts Ms. Lindsay would have given Palmer a positive vote if it were up to her.
One of the school’s owners told the Miami Herald that they may ask the voters to consider their plan again. SDM has to give the guy credit for being an optimist. The tragedy is that instead of investing his hard earned money in improving his school, the owner is forced to pay for another referendum that he might lose again. Of course, a referendum might be less expensive than a long and protracted lawsuit, especially given the village council’s history of intransigence.
SDM Says: Councilwoman Lindsay often strikes a tone of reasonableness now that her re-election is on the near term horizon. But this referendum requirement that she mothered into existence will eventually be challenged in court on basic fairness principles. In the meantime, children and property owners in this village are suffering. When voters evaluate her record, Councilwoman Lindsay must not be permitted to escape her legacy of litigation.
The charter amendment rids the village of the dangerous, arbitrary and totally unfair 75% requirement and grants a majority of neighbors a veto of a privates school’s expansion plan.
SDM Says: We will vote yes because the amendment is an improvement over the status quo, but we still think the requirement violates the school’s due process rights.