South Dade Matters

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

Tag: Recall Palmetto Bay

PB: COW Meeting Tomorrow Night – Following Flinn

It’s always interesting to watch a politician trail in the wake of another, trying desperately to live up to the leader that went before her. Americans become tired quickly of cheap imitations, which is why Vice Presidents who attempt to follow popular Presidents never seem equal to the challenge.

Palmetto Bay has its own version of this succession problem as Mayor Stanczyk flails desperately to appear to be a leader cut from the same bolt of cloth as that which gave us former Mayor Eugene Flinn. Now, don’t get SDM wrong here, Mr. Flinn made many mistakes during his tenure. He voted along with Stanczyk to punish Palmer Trinity. He often ran his meetings with an imperiousness – or at least the appearance of same – such that residents walked away thinking him pompous.

Even given those negative, however, it is undeniable that on balance Flinn’s tenure was a success. The village was stable financially. It worked through innumerable disputes with the county as it became an independent government. Village leaders rallied to Mr. Flinn to invest in parks and many other projects that will benefit the community for years to come. Flinn didn’t do it on his own – folks like Neidhart, Feller, Robinson, Breder and others tweaked the ideas and added their own. But they did so as a relatively unified group.

The Stanczyk example is blatantly opposite. In a pathetic attempt to follow the leader, Stanczyk will hold a COW meeting tomorrow night in an attempt to justify her term in office…measured against the standard Mr. Flinn continues to set. Let SDM explain.

In Mr. Flinn’s post-election blog post titled A holiday wish list for the new Palmetto Bay council, he laid out his wish list – really an agenda for action for the next council. Following are some of the key points he raised:

1.  The status of two fire stations that the original Palmetto Bay village council worked with Federal, State and Local (County Commission and Fire Department) officials.

2.  The status of the implementation of the new permit fee schedule and other recommendations of the Palmetto Bay Building and Permitting Advisory Committee Final Committee Report.

3.  Should Palmetto Bay purchase bayfront land that is currently available?

4.  It is time again for a village-wide strategy session. Goals need to be set. … Pinecrest recently completed a major update to its strategic plan. It is time for Palmetto Bay to do the same.

5.  A public meeting needs to be held on the Franjo Triangle and US1 Island zoning district area.

6.  The future of committees needs to be discussed.

7.  Greater transparency on appointment to village boards and committees.

Now, let’s compare the first COW agenda with Flinn’s agenda:

1.  Status on hiring of new employees including parks, and police, special events programming, and impact with the upcoming hiring of new special events person (Mayor Stanczyk)

2.  Coral Reef Playground equipment (Mayor Stanczyk)

3.  Coral Reef Park Concession stand and concessionaire information including income,hours, and status of contract (Mayor Stanczyk)

4.  Health fair updates (Mayor Stanczyk)

5.  Accountant’s response to financial criticisms and Town Hall Meeting (Mayor Stanczyk)

6.  Sound ordinance regarding Palmetto Bay Village Center (Mayor Stanczyk)

7.  Zoning of parks (Mayor Stanczyk)

8.  Review of zoning designations that affect rebuilding of homes, such as at Paradise Point (legally non-conforming) (Mayor Stanczyk)

9.  Disc golf (Mayor Stanczyk)

10.  Review of possible changes, recommendations to FT & I district and update process (Mayor Stanczyk)

11.  Implementation of the recommendations of the Permitting and Building Committee (Mayor Stanczyk)

12.  Meditation Garden (Mayor Stanczyk)

13.  Fire stations (Mayor Stanczyk)

That’s pretty good, three of thirteen items directly taken from Flinn’s blog. Items 3 and 5 were raised during the campaign by Recall Palmetto Bay and the candidates.

Stanzcyk’s item 1 appears to SDM to be a discussion of the un-requested police officer and another hidden attempt to turn Thalatta Estate into a full-time wedding venue.

Item 2 is a perpetual problem that village residents have been complaining about at every meeting, or at least so it seems to SDM. The issue is that the village installed new equipment at Coral Reef Park tailored for small children and all the toys for older kids have been removed. Village staff blamed the situation partially on the ill-advised moratorium. What goes around comes around.

Item 6 looks like the beginnings of a new controversy to assuage CCOCI and the SOPs. Perhaps Stanczyk wants to make the Palmetto Bay Village Center less attractive for weddings so that she can hold them at Thalatta.

Item 8 will be very interesting given the public hearing that SDM covered in the blog post: Palmetto Bay – Paradise (Point) Lost. The NPO has forced the issue of what to do with nonconforming uses into prominence.

Item 12 came directly from an appeal to the council by former Councilwoman Linda Robinson who was concerned that this lovely little garden in Coral Reef Park has been deteriorating. The garden is in memory of Robinson’s late husband Ken, a village founder.

So, if you’re counting, Mayor Stanczyk has essentially entertaining 75% of the agenda of Flinn, the opposing camp, and other former council members.

SDM Says: Mme. Mayor is either wisely stealing the agenda of the opposition or coming late to the notion that Flinn’s method of hearing all sides really works. SDM will withhold final judgment on whether Stanczyk’s COW agenda is just another cynical ploy or the beginning of a political turn.

The Stanczyk items contain some topics worthy of discussion. What is the issue with “zoning of parks”? Is the village going to attempt to exempt its own properties from the constraints it applies to our property? Perhaps they don’t want to conform to the fencing requirements, or the noise limitations? The king always prefers to make rules for others while not applying them to himself.

And what’s this about disc golf? SDM understands that a disc golf course was installed at Palmetto Bay Village Center. Can Palmetto Bay be trying to eliminate disc golf, too? SDM can’t wait to find out.

PB: Palmer’s Latest News – Positive & Perplexing

SDM sometimes wakes up wondering how the universe functions, especially after reading this momentous article in the Miami Herald:

Court rules Palmetto Bay is not on the hook for Palmer Trinity’s legal fees

By Howard Cohen
The Miami Herald

The Miami-Dade Circuit Court has ruled in favor of Palmetto Bay, which argued it does not have to pay the legal fees connected with its longstanding battle over Palmer Trinity School’s expansion.On Nov. 5 the court denied the school’s request that the village pay its attorney’s fees and costs, which could have totaled more than $300,000.

In July, the school won the right to expand to 1,150 students and, with that victory, filed a motion to collect legal fees.

In August, Palmetto Bay petitioned the Third District Court of Appeal to reconsider its July order that the village pay the school’s attorney’s fees. In September, the appeals court reversed its earlier ruling that the village pay the school’s legal fees. The case went back to the Circuit Court, which ruled in favor of the village.

“It’s over. The appeal is over and hopefully everyone can get back to doing what we do,’’ says Palmetto Bay Village Attorney Eve Boutsis. “The city continues to be a city and Palmer Trinity already has its development order and will do what it has to do and hopefully everyone can move on,” Boutsis said Tuesday afternoon. “This was a great result for the village and it ends this cleanly.” (Emphasis added by SDM.)

[SDM Question: Does this mean the transcripts of the shade sessions will be released now?]

Stan Price, the attorney for Palmer Trinity, commented on Wednesday. “We’re extremely disappointed. We don’t know what you have to do to prove bad faith on behalf of government entities before you can get fees, but we’ll continue with the litigation and hopefully, at the end of the day, we’ll be totally vindicated.”

The village still faces a civil suit filed by the school, which contends it’s owed more than $12 million in lost tuition and other revenue as a result of the suits. The village is fighting those charges.

Palmetto Bay Mayor Shelley Stanczyk has faced criticism from some residents who formed a political action committee to have her recalled next year along with Council Member Joan Lindsay for their decisions to fight the school. The Recall Palmetto Bay group has also worked against re-electing Vice Mayor Brian Pariser, who faces a runoff on Nov. 20.

The group is upset because the three council members continued to lead the fight against Palmer, after the court ruled against the village. The village has spent more than $600,000 in legal fees since the dispute began in 2006.

The recall group used the Third District Court of Appeal’s strongly worded language against the village as ammunition. The appeals court ruled that Palmetto Bay acted with “willful disobedience” regarding previous judicial instructions. The court had also noted the village’s appeals were “an exercise in superfluousness and futility.”

Village supporters strongly disagreed with the unusually harsh language. The battle has divided the village during the recent Nov. 6th elections. Pariser finished a close second and faces challenger John DuBois in the runoff. Council member Howard Tendrich, who disagreed with Pariser, Stanczyk and Lindsay, lost his bid for reelection. His challengers, Tim Schaffer and Jim Araiza, will be in the runoff.

On Tuesday, Stanczyk expressed satisfaction with the latest court decision. The court did not elaborate on its decision, saying only the motion was denied.

“This ruling continues the statement that the village has not acted with willful disobedience and that our actions were not frivolous,” she said.

First off, SDM wants to say bravo to the village’s legal team for protecting the taxpayers from this cost. Having to pay $300,000 to Palmer would have been a blow to the village, though a manageable one. Palmetto Bay’s lawyers lost the case, but won a critical skirmish over fees and costs and Ms. Boutsis deserves praise for achieving this result.

But the result also sparks questions in SDM’s tiny mind. For example, why are Palmer’s legal fees and costs half the amount the village has incurred in defending the lawsuit? If the village’s financial exposure was $300,000, why didn’t someone try to settle the matter before we incurred more than half-a-million in legal fees and costs on our end?

Perhaps more importantly, did it make sense for the village to spend tax dollars and to drag Palmer through all of this torment over a net difference of 250 children spread over more than 50 acres of land? Earlier posts noted that village staff believed Palmer could have added some 2,000 students based on the code.  (Staff essentially talked them down to their 1,150 recommendation.) Was this result worth all the time and money spent by the village on this lawsuit?

SDM also wonders why the village elders and legal counsel never discussed the dimensions of the village’s financial exposure with residents. With all due respect, the calls for settlement that have emanated from SDM and the Palmetto Bay News for at least 18 months appear well-founded. While the village attorney deserves kudos for this victory, her obsession with keeping the rest of us in the dark looks to have extended this lawsuit. Inevitably SDM must ask: who benefits when a lawsuit drags on?

Finally, SDM wonders how the Mayor can be so clueless. Seriously, does she not understand that the village lost the lawsuit? That the court said specifically that the village’s behavior in the Palmer litigation amounted to “willful disobedience of the court’s instructions”? [Read more at Palmer Litigation: An Exercise in Superfluousness and Futility.] Frankly, SDM cannot figure out why the village lets her speak to reporters.

SDM Wonders: How does Ms. Boutsis conclude that “[t]his was a great result for the village and it ends this cleanly” given the following:

  • The village lost the underlying suit and spent a small fortune defending its position.
  • Palmetto Bay was slapped with a humiliating and harshly worded order questioning the village’s motives. (Judges are human, too, they talk about cases to one another. SDM cannot see how this case was good for Palmetto Bay’s reputation.)
  • One of the village’s most important institutions (and one of its largest employers, too) has been unable to expand for a minimum of four years. (How many kids missed out on a Palmer education, Mme. “Education” Mayor?)
  • Palmer still has a lawsuit pending on damages.
  • A once tranquil village finds itself divided.

SDM Says: This not so great and not so clean “victory” rings a little hollow. Do the candidates for Vice Mayor and District 2 agree with Ms. Boutsis?

PB: November 5th Agenda Quick Bites

Conflict of Interest Alert

Palmetto Bay is so concerned about conflicts-of-interest that it is proposing an ordinance to regulate sponsorships at village events. Here is the language that will be applied to future sponsors if the ordinance on the November 5th agenda passes:

In determining the appropriateness of a potential sponsorship relationship, the Village shall consider whether the relationship may undermine public confidence in the Village’s impartiality in the transaction and/or whether it may interfere with the efficient delivery of Village services or operations, including, but not limited to current or potential conflicts of interest between the sponsor and the Village and/or the sponsor and any of the Village’s employees, officials or affiliates. Item 12A. (Emphasis added by SDM.)

Too bad this provision wasn’t in place before the Village’s ten-year anniversary celebration. One “supporter” of Mayor Stanczyk’s mini-prom was a company called Kimley-Horn and Associates, an engineering firm that has received multiple contracts from the village over the years. Coincidentally – or maybe not – only a little over a month after the big shindig, Kimley-Horn is being recommended for a contract worth almost $80,000!

SDM Wonders: Does the contract have built-in fluff to cover the cost of the tickets to the Mayor’s coming-out party? Who solicited Kimley-Horn? Was Kimley-Horn threatened that it  would not get the contract unless it sponsored the event?

$44,000/month for legal fees? Mystery solved

If you ever sat around wondering why the Village’s legal fees are so high, SDM found your answer in Agenda Item 7A, the Village Attorney’s report. Witness some of the silly and dangerous matters occupying your lawyers’ time:

An ordinance amending section 2-49 of the Village’s Code of Ordinances, relating to Village Council meeting procedures – requiring the silencing of all electronic devices during council meetings by audience, staff, and council; and providing for the Police Commander to act as “Sergeant at Arms”… (Sponsored by Mayor Shelley Stanczyk).

[The Village needs an ordinance for this? Once upon a time, strong managers controlled their chambers. Apparently, Palmetto Bay's Manager needs an ordinance to manage cell phones.]

An ordinance relating to RLUIPA [Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act - federal statute], review procedures to require an administrative review process of any allegation of violation of RLUIPA, through a quasi-judicial hearing process, prior to file of a lawsuit relating to same. Proposed for a future first reading

[Just when SDM thought the litigation pipeline might be emptying a little, Palmetto Bay wants to open up the spigot. So the first level of challenge under RLUIPA will be whether the Village can graft an administrative procedure onto a federal statute? Why not? Palmetto Bay loves being on the cutting edge of municipal litigation so long as we fools pay for it.]

Shores at Palmetto Bay LLC v. Village of Palmetto Bay. Appellate action (certiorari petition filed) after denial of application by the Village Council on December 12, 2012. … The Village filed its answer brief on February 27, 2012. The reply brief has been filed. Parties awaiting order of court as to Oral Argument.

[As a taxpayer, SDM hopes the Village wins this lawsuit. If they don't, however, voters must hold Mayor Stanczyk and her cronies accountable.]

Recall Palmetto Bay PAC v. Village of Palmetto Bay, Case no.: 12-33876 CA 02. … No advertising allowed in Village event or publications. However, the site, Palmetto Bay Village Center, with consent of property owner, could provide a “booth” for Recall group, consistent with First Amendment law, including Parkland Republican Club v. City of Parkland, 268 F. Supp. 2d 1349 (S.D. Fla. 2003). Village filed a motion to dismiss on the remaining count on September 17, 2012. (Emphasis added by SDM.)

[Again, SDM hopes Palmetto Bay prevails but SDM can't help but wonder why we were given the impression that the Recall lawsuit was resolved. It sure sounds like this lawsuit is still alive.]

SDM Wonders: How can a Village like Palmetto Bay continue to afford legal bills of this magnitude month after month? What will the candidates do to stop the bleeding?

PB: Rebutting Sycophancy – Act II

Sunday’s Miami Herald contained another Soapbox letter attempting to defend the Three Amigos by casting aspersions on those who challenge them. Because this particular letter came from a man whose opinions deserve respect – a founding member of the incorporation movement – SDM feels the need to rebut his error-filled letter.

The Recall Palmetto Bay gang of three continues to spew flyers, robo-calls and emails via every avenue available. They are relying on gross exaggerations and misrepresentations to scare residents into believing the village is headed to financial Armageddon. Their motives are largely directed to getting their candidates, John Dubois and Jim Araiza, elected. But their claims do not withstand scrutiny.

[Funny thing this particular jibe. SDM recalls – no pun intended – that Dubois and Araiza were running long before Recall Palmetto Bay came into existence.]

They claim the village has up to $13 million in possible damages for lost revenue and civil rights litigation with no insurance coverage on Palmer Trinity’s lawsuit. The truth is the village is being represented by the Florida League of Cities and has $5 million in insurance coverage.

[How is the $13 million claim untrue? That’s the face value of the claim. Perhaps Mr. Latshaw is clairvoyant and knows how the court will rule. As to the League of Cities insurance policy, the entire document is posted on Recall Palmetto Bay’s website so anyone can read it at her leisure. SDM perused it for a bit this morning and it clearly doesn’t cover damages from a civil rights claim like Palmer’s.]

They claim the village has wasted almost $1 million in legal fees on frivolous litigation. The actual amount is about $600,000 and is spread over 6 years (0.5 percent of the village budget, or $4 per resident per year).

[This is incorrect. According to the village attorney’s letter to the State Attorney General, the litigation started in 2008, which SDM calculates to be four years ago. Thus the annualized cost of the Palmer litigation so far has been about $150,000 per year. SDM understands that the two new police officers Palmetto Bay added for this budget cycle cost about $150,000 per year. So, maybe the question Mr. Latshaw should ask is whether village residents would prefer two more cops or to pay for endless litigation expenses.]

The village has requested dismissal of the charges four times and each time Palmer has delayed a hearing and decision by amending their suit. A Miami-Dade circuit judge recently dismissed four of the 12 counts, and Palmer is trying to amend again.

[While SDM appreciates Mr. Latshaw’s report to the public on the status of the litigation, SDM would really like to hear from a person in authority regarding whether Mr. Latshaw’s claims are correct. SDM Wonders: Why does a village with a full-time PR flack use Soapbox letters to communicate with residents?]

In the last court action, Palmer Trinity’s attorney fee claim of about $300,000 was denied. Yet the Recall gang thinks it frivolous for the village to defend itself in court. Perhaps they advocate writing the school a check for $13 million of our tax money, or maybe just a negotiated amount of $6 million.

[SDM has explained the attorney fee issue already in PB: Understanding Palmetto Bay’s Win. It remains to be seen whether the village is off-the-hook for those fees. SDM can’t speak for the Recall Palmetto Bay, but from SDM’s perspective the litigation is frivolous even if it doesn’t meet the strict legal test for being so. What the village should have done was to permit a reasonable number of students to attend Palmer when they had the chance. Instead, Mayor Stanczyk moved to limit the school to a ridiculous 900 new students on a 35-acre site and Vice Mayor Pariser seconded it. (Councilman Howard Tendrich voted against the disastrous motion.) The new NPO on p. 17 would permit Palmer around 2,345 students – 67 per acre – if SDM is reading that table correctly. So given all of that, yes the lawsuit is and was frivolous. And if were your money Mr. Latshaw, you would have settled the matter long ago.]

On the deficit spending scare, the truth is the village has an $8.6 million reserve fund. This is 40 percent more than what is regarded as a desirable municipal reserve, and the village has an exceptional AA bond rating. Coral Gables’ reserve is only $2.5 million.

[See PB: SDM’s first guest post – David Singer asks some good questions for a rebuttal of the $8.6 million figure. The real reserve is probably closer to $5.4 million. Assuming Mr. Latshaw is right on Coral Gables, why would Palmetto Bay want to be compared to that kind of disaster?]

With revenues from franchise fees and property taxes down, the village could have raised the property-tax rate to cover capital and operating expenses, or use some of the reserve money while property assessments rise back to more normal levels. Did you want your taxes raised while we have an overfunded reserve?

[This is the kind of straw man argument that irritates SDM. The village had another alternative Mr. Latshaw: it could have reduced its costs of operation. Why is that concept never part of the equation for government? Look, taking some money from the reserve to balance things out is okay by SDM, but draining the reserve by 20 – 30 percent in the middle of a recession was a terrible mistake.]

SDM Says: Back in the days before incorporation, Mr. Latshaw and SDM imagined a responsible village government. Today, only Mr. Latshaw’s imagination is that fertile.

PB: Stanczyk calls a resident a liar; Lindsay’s disgrace

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.]

38:15

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.

PB: Tonight’s the night

Tonight’s village council meeting marks a moment in time to be memorialized and recalled as a black day in Palmetto Bay’s history.

Tonight, the village council will insert into the village code a series of unnecessary ordinances designed to target a problem that long ago resolved itself. Palmetto Bay and its precursor was a place that welcomed private schools, churches, day care centers and other similar enterprises.

After tonight, Palmetto Bay will become an unwelcoming, intolerant place where such places become impossible to build and impossible to rebuild after a catastrophe. Sure, Councilwoman Lindsay will claim that everything in these ordinances amounts to apple pie and motherhood: she is a partisan who is trying to settle a score. No facts to the contrary will move her.

If she is presented with the fact that these ordinances contain provisions that were not discussed at two public workshops, she will say these ordinances follow the charter. No  further notice is necessary.

If she is asked to defer consideration of these ordinances so that property owners have sufficient time to understand them, she will say that she held two workshops and she is “protecting neighborhoods.” She will say that there is misinformation out there and everyone should trust her.

When opponents rise to speak, they will be jeered by the cave dwellers in the back of the chamber. They’re comments will be followed by a parade of residents – the usual suspects – who will praise the Three Amigos while knowing nothing about how radical these proposals truly are.

Contemplating all of this dark news caused SDM to think of something to brighten the day – to see the silver lining as it were. With apologies to the great Rod Stewart:

Stay away from my setbacks.
Stay away from my buffer, too.
End the lawsuit with Palmer school,
Vote out Brian and we’ll be cool.

Recall Lindsay and Stanczyk, too.
Once they’re gone, who can they screw?
After their votes, why should we wait?
Oh Brian, we won’t hesitate cause

Tonight’s the night
It’s gonna be alright
The election’s near.
Ain’t no SOP is gonna stop us now.

PB: Deadline Missed; Recall Palmetto Bay reined in; NPOs released – schools, churches, day care facilities screwed

NPOs violate the seven-day rule

Today is Tuesday, September 25, 2012 and the meeting on these ordinances will be held on October 1, 2012. The only way these documents were published seven-days before the hearing is if today is counted.

Yet, the ordinances were not posted on the website until nearly close of business today. (SDM checked the metadata and the documents were created on 9/25/12 at 3:43:58 pm.) The hearing will be held at approximately 7:00 p.m. on October 1, 2012. That means these documents were published - at the earliest – just over six days and three hours before the meeting.

The seven-day states the following:

If a councilmember asserts a violation of the seven-day rule, then the item may not be voted upon until the next regularly scheduled meeting or at a special meeting of the council. Sec. 2-47(c), VPB Code of Ordinances.

SDM Says: Councilman Fiore should assert a violation of the seven-day rule because the NPOs clearly were not posted timely. Doing so keeps them from being adopted before the election. Time for some hardball.

Village to Recall Palmetto Bay: You Can’t Advertise Here!

Palmetto Bay will take up on first reading an ordinance establishing a policy on permissible advertising at village events. SDM thinks the Three Amigos should name the ordinance the “No Way Recall Palmetto Bay” ordinance.

For those who may not know the story, Recall Palmetto Bay attempted to purchase a sponsorship of the Mayor’s elitist ten-year anniversary celebration.

(The Mayor limited attendance to the first 250 suckers who would dress up in monkey suits and pay $50 to enjoy her company for a long, long evening. SDM hears the village only sold about 190 tickets.)

Well, when the village’s mouthpiece – SDM calls him Captain Kreepy – got wind of this affront, he barred Recall Palmetto Bay from purchasing the sponsorship. Recall Palmetto Bay went to court, landed on the front page of the Miami Herald Local Section, and eventually settled in exchange for the right to set up a table outside the Mayor’s event.

To avoid such unpleasantness in the future, Palmetto Bay shall now preclude sponsorships by religious or political organizations outright.

SDM Wonders: How can the village attorney permit this policy to go onto the agenda without pointing out its lack of content neutrality? Have you been cowed into silence Mme. Attorney?

SDM Says: The Three Amigos will surely characterize this new policy as a way to protect the village from those pesky, constitutionally protected churches and political organizations – whatever those are. Meanwhile, Recall Palmetto Bay just gets more free advertising. Are you listening JB Harris?

NPOs released – existing churches, schools and day care centers are in trouble

Councilwoman Lindsay’s EIGHT “neighborhood protection” ordinances were finally, at long last published today! SDM can barely manage self-control given all the new targets.

Unfortunately, SDM has bad news for existing non-residential uses (e.g., churches, schools and day care centers) located in residential areas: your properties do not appear to have been grandfathered, meaning you will be required to meet the new standards if your property is destroyed by a hurricane or fire.

SDM suggests you go out and hire a lawyer to confirm SDM’s reading and then show up in force at the meeting. This is no joke.

Also still alive in the NPOs are the ridiculous buffers and landscaping requirements. One puzzling example: one of the proposed ordinances states that “no motorized vehicles” are permitted in the buffer.

SDM Wonders: Does this mean a property owner can’t cut the grass using a riding mower?

There appears to be some new stuff in the ordinances, too. For example, Councilwoman Lindsay places severe limits on the number of students that may be served on any given site. The village is even seeking to regulate temporary child care in shopping centers. Don’t ask SDM who is being targeted here.

SDM will give these ordinances a closer review as we get closer to the meeting. But given their potential to damage so many properties, let’s all hope Councilman Fiore slows down this runaway train.

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