Sunday, December 2, 2007

Upcoming Commission Meeting - 12/04/07

There are some interesting items coming up on next Tuesday City Commission agenda. I will be attending the Lake Worth Democratic Club Holiday Gala at the Lake Worth Golf Course and the time conflict will prevent me from attending. If you happen to go, there are some issues to keep in mind. I put clouds around the items in the agenda that I have singled out for special mention.

The first one is a presentation from Sun Recycling on their activity at the land fill. This is an issue where the company had asked for permission to stage some debris there after hurricanes and the like. It was thought to be only on an emergency basis, but apparently more activity has been going on there. I am sure the Commission will have many questions, or at least they should.

Another item is one that appears on the consent agenda. This one would almost double the deposit required to open an account and begin utility service. The back-up material says that an adjustment hasn't been made in 21 years. Late fees would also increase and be based upon 1.5% of the outstanding balance. It is a pretty exhaustive series of changes and I don't think it should be on the consent agenda. What is disappointing is that if the item is not pulled, then public comment is not possible and then the Commission goes ahead - making an important decision(s) without the benefit of the public. This has to be changed!


I am sure one item that will get a lot of undeserved attention will be the amendment to the Development Agreement with Greater Bay Group, LLC to accommodate changes in the scheduling and work program for the pool refurbishment. I might have time to do more analysis on the item and make a separate post prior to the meeting, but from what I have seen the changes are fairly perfunctory.

Also, in the nothing new category, for the third time the density allowed by the Gateway Zoning District will be up before the Commission. The Planning Board has recommended no less than three times that the maximum density be 30 units to an acre and the Community Redevelopment Agency concurs with that recommendation. The entire zoning district is designed to discourage the use of cars and be pedestrian /transit friendly. It is what the Mayor of Vancouver, B.C. terms "eco-density". Instead of the density of the zoning district being in question, it has ended up being a density issue on the Commission - if you know what I mean. This change will allow up to 30 units an acre for affordable housing and provide more of an economic stimulus for the redevelopment of the corridor. Or, we can choose the status quo and think we are doing the world a big favor - which we wouldn't be.

And, finally and coincidently, there is another item on the agenda that relates to parking and allowable redevelopment in the downtown area. That is the change of the parking space fee to those who are not providing parking on their property (a good thing) to one half of what the City is charging now. I was on the committee that is described in the letter as working on the issue back in 2004 (seems longer ago than that). Then Commissioner Egly is the one that put forward the motion to increase the fee $5,000 per space higher than the Committee, or the CRA or the Planning Board's recommendation. It has been pegged at $15,000 per space since then. If anyone wants to move into a vacant storefront, they can do so without paying the fee, as long as their required parking is not 10% higher than what was there before. If it is higher, they need to pay the $15,000 per space they are not providing.

There are a couple of concerns here that merit discussion. The City does need to create a sizable parking fund for future parking facilities in the downtown. The thought is that the current $15,000 fee is a disincentive for anyone wanting to intensify the existing uses downtown. There have already been some businesses (Rotelli's, for example) that have paid the full fee. Is it fair to them now that they are in to lower the fee? Do they deserve a rebate? By decreasing the fee, we are making it easier to intensify existing uses in the downtown - is that something we want to do? We need to discuss this. I personally worry that the former Lake Theater (most recently the contemporary art museum) would be vulnerable to conversion to a nightclub, or similar use. Is the current fee an obstacle to that? If so, we should probably continue it or have two categories of fees - one that would encourage businesses we do want in the downtown and one for businesses we want to discourage.

I happened to be downtown last night around 8:30 p.m. and had to drive around a lot to find a space (about 15 minutes). There was the valet parking stand on South J Street - I understand they are using public spaces. Didn't they work out an arrangement with the First Baptist Church for parking? I will put together an e-mail to the Mayor and Commissioners about my concerns since I can't attend.

The back-up on the parking item appears below. Remember to click the image for more detail.





Some Holiday Cheer...

Singer is Don Mclean - famous for "American Pie".