Part of the responsibility of being an elected official is to solve problems. Sometimes, when a council member begins the long process of amending a complex law, such as a land development code, she doesn’t really know what to expect. SDM would compare the process to renovating an old house; until you tear off the drywall, you never really know the extent of the repair.
And so it went with the NPO. Recall Palmetto Bay’s David Singer began looking carefully at the key NPO, just as SDM did. Singer spent the weekend applying the NPO’s setbacks to a theoretical site and later to two real properties. What he found was that the setbacks in Palmetto Bay’s current code, which were copied verbatim into the NPO, would prohibit the two real properties from rebuilding after a hurricane. At least that’s what his layperson’s eye saw.
As a good citizen, Mr. Singer brought forth his concerns to the council. What followed should make Councilwoman Lindsay and Mayor Stanczyk feel deeply ashamed and the Village People feel outraged. [SDM snarky and/or informational comments follow in brackets.]
Singer: You guys made me work this weekend, which I really don’t appreciate but… In regards to the setbacks that are under the new ordinance, what I did was I took a two and a half acre piece of land and I took 75 foot setbacks on residential, two-sides, and I took 35 (I didn’t know that it was 25) [foot setbacks] on roadways and I did a calculation on how much land would be available to be used for parking lots and buildings.
[The NPO as published had a 35 foot setback, which turned out to be an error in drafting.]
And you would be very surprised that only 44% of two and a half acres would be able to be used for buildings and parking lots. So, you have 56% of two and a half acres is going to be used for green area with no motorized cars, no parking, apparently no path way and what’s going to happen is if somebody decides to build a church or a school, they’re going to be paying debt service on 56% of the land that they cannot use.
Now, I took that same formula and it took two parcels of land within the Village of Palmetto Bay: Alexander School and Old Cutler Presbyterian Church.
Lindsay: Mr. Singer, could I interrupt you for a just a minute please? With all due respect, this council as our Mayor has said did not change any setbacks. The setbacks that you are referring to are in the county code. They are in our code. We have not changed a single setback. Madame Attorney, would you address that please?
Boutsis: That’s true.
[Unfortunately, it's not exactly true Ms. Boutsis. NPO Item 11D moved the following provision with respect to parking setbacks into Sec. 30-110.7:
...no parking lot or special parking area is closer than 25 feet from any residential property and shall comply with the parking requirements found at Division 30-70 of this Code. New VPB Sec. 30-110.7(7)(g) at p. 24 of Item 11D
Now, let's look at the county code:
...no parking lot or special parking area is closer than twenty-five (25) feet to any property under different ownership which is zoned RU or EU unless the parking area is separated from such lot by a wall or hedge approved by the Director. (Emphasis added.) M-DC Code, Sec. 33-17(7).
So, while it is true that Councilwoman Lindsay's Item 11D does not change the village code, it is also true that it does not mirror the county code. The county code permits parking closer to the property line if a wall is installed. Palmetto Bay requires the wall and still keeps the 25 foot parking setback.]
Singer: OK, so…
Stanczyk interrupts (40:30): So the reality is that nothing has changed.
Singer: Apparently it is because you guys were discussing new setback rules about two months ago during a COW meeting. OK?
Stanczyk: That doesn’t mean it changed. That means we discussed it.
Singer: That means you could have lowered it, then.
Stanczyk: No, we discussed it and we told you as you read today, it is a quote from the code.
[Well, yes, you could have changed it if you wanted to do so. Please try to follow the discussion Mme. Mayor.]
Singer: OK, but you could have gone from 75 to 50 [feet] in setbacks, right?
Stanczyk: We discussed it. I didn’t say we could. I said we discussed it and if you’re trying to manipulate what I say to use against us because you’re knack with veracity and truth has been stretched in the past and we all know that and accept that…
[SDM is interrupting here. The Mayor just called Singer a liar in her own convoluted way.
SDM Wonders: Who enforces decorum when the Mayor calls a speaker a liar?
Now, back to the pointless rambling...]
…and you have your right to say…you know, freedom of information, freedom of speech is there, but what I am explaining to you is, when we go to a COW, it is a workshop and you attended three of them. We discussed…
Singer, interrupts: Two, but that’s OK.
Stanczyk: Well, you didn’t show up for the last one. You must have been busy. When we discuss them, if you’d been here for the third, in all seriousness you would have seen and heard more information. And during those times we discuss a lot of things and we took a lot of input. We took hours of input and we judged and balanced that and by judging it I said, ok, you told us and you shared a lot of information and I think that was internalized and used. So I think standing here tonight with a chart as hard as you worked on it, I think it’s saying…well, maybe somebody else worked on it…
[SDM feels dumber after listening to this last bit. Is it contagious?]
Singer: I worked on it, thank you.
Stanczyk: I think saying that you know we were going to do that, we could have done that… We discussed different ideas. The end result is here. It’s very hard to take a stretch because someone suggests something or discusses it. We discuss many things here. They don’t all become law. They don’t all become a reality. This is the reality today. That’s what you have to judge on. This is what the truth is. Nothing else is.
[Perhaps SDM should start an audio museum of Stanczyk inanities.]
Singer: OK, can I finish my…what I was going to say? So anyway, I took – and I’ve taken that to heart – but I took Alexander School and Old Cutler Presbyterian Church and if something happens to those two complexes – a hurricane, a fire – and there is over 51% damage to either one of those, they’re going to lose because of the setbacks – whether they were in effect or not in effect – around 25% of their property, and it’s on the flier that I passed out, because of the way the setbacks are now. Alexander School would not be able to – by the way it opened up in 1973 – would not be able to rebuild because of the setback requirements. Old Cutler Presbyterian Church would be able to be rebuilt, but it would be a lot smaller. Now, I also went to other schools…
Stanczyk interrupts again: Excuse me, let me break in here. You’re saying they would not. Nothing has changed. Mme. Attorney, has anything changed that under the conditions for which they were built, would any of this change? Because he’s leaving the information out there as if we’ve changed their ability to rebuild. That we’ve changed it. Their ability to rebuild at 51% damage or whatever – by catastrophe – has not changed or been altered by this council today.
Boutsis: If you look at the NPO memorandum back at item 11-B and the last few pages of the draft memorandum, which was what? Twenty-five pages long…
Stanczyk: I am sorry but I cannot leave false information…
Singer: I have pictures of both of them being built with no setbacks. Both the church and the school have no setbacks plus numerous other churches in this city have no setbacks. There’s no setbacks for the building. There’s no setbacks for the parking lot.
Stanczyk: I understand that but we all know in the discussion that we held about Christ Fellowship with Mr. England that he was built with a variance and the result is the variance stays with the land.
Singer: It does not stay with the land if there’s over 51% destruction to the property. I’ve talked to a zoning attorney and there’s no grandfathering [provision in the Palmetto Bay code]…
Boutsis: I’m sorry, he’s correct in the sense that you have to look at the resolution that was passed and you do have a rule relating to non-conforming uses and basically – if you want to call it the 51% rule, which has not been changed – we took it basically from Dade County – it continued to exist and its 30-10.4. I can’t speak to the two sites. I don’t know if they have resolutions with zoning variances or anything else. I can’t speak to that. Mr. Delsalle, did you want to add anything? (Emphasis added.)
Delsalle: The position that you put forward can be proved or disproved at this particular time if you contemplate what the attorney just said. Unless you could open up what exactly the code stated in 1971, you would not know whether they could build or not.
The presumption, if let’s say they were built under an approved site plan in 1971 or whatever the date was that you cited and that code had not changed and we have the non-conforming code and they were knocked down, they’re still governed by that original development order of the site plan and they’d be able to rebuild.
If, however, subsequent to their original development, let’s say the following day the code changed and had a greater setback standard, then they would fall into the non-conforming code. If that premise were true, then what you are stating would be true. This ordinance does not contemplate changing any of that existing language…so there was no modification made to it. This is the rule today and proposed for tomorrow as well. (Emphasis added.)
[Mr. Singer gives a good layperson's explanation of what Mr. Delsale is saying below. The important thing is that both the village attorney and the development director agree that if the code has changed, even if a variance is present, a structure damaged by more than 50% must build to the new code. The fact that the county code also causes the same result is not relevant in Palmetto Bay anymore. It is our churches, schools, day care centers and other buildings of public assemblage that are now obviously at-risk. What are we going to do about it?]
Singer: OK, for the layman, let me tell everybody what you just said. If there is over 51% damage to any of these structures, they have to build under the new code. So Alexander Montessori School could not rebuild their building. OK because when they built it under the old code, they had zero setback variance. OK so that’s what you just said. I know that because I confirmed that because I talked to my zoning attorney, OK. So, even though the code has not changed, as you say, if there is a fire or a hurricane, which is very likely because we live in Dade County, none of these churches or schools will be able to rebuild because of the 75 foot setbacks and the new criteria.
Stanczyk: There is no other criteria…there’s no new criteria.
[Uh, sorry...this is not true either. Item 11D also amends Sec. 30-110.6 of the code. The net effect is that where a 15,000 sq. ft. property (approximately one-third of an acre) used to be limited to 37-38 K-6 children, now SDM calculates that the same lot would be permitted a maximum of between 20-21 children, which is about 45% fewer pupils. See p. 17 at Sec. 30-110.6(2)(a)(1).]
Singer: Ok, the same criteria. You’re not permitting them to rebuild what they had originally.
Stanczyk: No, we’re not. But you’re saying we’re changing and we’re not permitting…that’s not true.
Singer: It would be like you paying rent on your store and only getting to use 40% of it for display area. [Stanczyk and Singer go back and forth about the Mayor’s store.] One quote before I leave. By Thomas Jefferson: My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government. [Sits down.]
[Stanczyk makes a WTF face. See it at 48:19. Maybe she never heard of Thomas Jefferson before.]
Lindsay: I’d like to make it very clear for the record that Mr. Singer is going on and on and on about something that is not covered in this ordinance.
[Yeah? So what? Regardless of whether this particular ordinance causes a harm, if the council discovers a harm then why don't they take action immediately to address it? Are they so busy with their agendas that they can't even acknowledge that some of the village's most important institutions might not be able to rebuild after a hurricane?]
The language that he refers to is identical to the Miami-Dade County code and exists in our code today. We have exactly the same code as the Miami-Dade code in terms of setbacks for buildings of public assemblage and other requirements for those buildings. So, while Mr. Singer has come forward to rattle his sword once again, I assure you that his political agenda will not be addressed at this time.
[SDM didn't hear Mr. Singer threaten anyone, which is what it means to rattle a sword, Ms. Lindsay. For crying out loud, you are considering an ordinance on first reading. You are allowed everywhere but in Palmetto Bay to amend ordinances on first reading, especially when a constituent identifies a problem. Yet no one on the council says a peep. Who really has the political agenda here?]
We’re here tonight to look at an ordinance. …The village attorney has told you that she and the planning director have consolidated the language from 30-60.15, which is the village ordinance on buildings of public assemblage into section 30-110. All they did was move it from one page to another page. The setbacks are identical.
[Thank you Councilwoman Lindsay for making the point SDM has been making over and over and over again. This ordinance is cosmetic and unnecessary. You didn't need a moratorium to move a bunch of paragraphs around.]
And for clarification purposes let me reiterate what Director Delsalle has said. If anyone builds a building, a structure, and has a variance to do that, if the code has not changed since the time that building was erected the variance stands and they can rebuild even if they have damage that exceeds 50%. Mr. Delsalle, Mme Attorney, is that correct? (Emphasis added.)
[Very fancy lawyering Ms. Lindsay. The code has changed since Alexander School and Old Cutler Presbyterian Church were built, and is changing again now. You know Mr. Singer is raising an important issue, but you are so focused on passing this unimportant ordinance that you are missing a critically important issue to resolve. What a waste of your intellect. Aren't you the least bit curious as to which institutions in Palmetto Bay are at-risk? Pride goes first before a fall.]
Delsalle: That is correct.
Lindsay: Thank you. (50:28) So, Mr. Singer I do not appreciate your behavior here tonight. You have come forward to talk about something that does not have any place in the discussion of this particular ordinance. So, stick to the topic sir.
[Who the hell do you think you are to lecture a resident about his behavior? Mr. Singer was perfectly behaved and sounded eminently reasonable to SDM. You really have some nerve. The fact is that the issue Mr. Singer raised - one that SDM may also humbly lay claim to raising - is a serious problem that fits directly into your discussion if you would only open your mind a little.]
SDM Says: First, the Mayor calls Mr. Singer, her constituent, a liar. Then, Ms. Lindsay unleashes a vitriolic and unwarranted ad hominem outburst on Mr. Singer. What a disgrace to the Village of Palmetto Bay. To compound the disgrace, none of their colleagues on the village council called either of them to task, which speaks volumes about them, too.