Commission Meeting Overview July 13 2010

Sometimes the most important comments to a neighborhood are made in the Comments at the end of the meeting. 

It was announced at the end of last night’s meeting that the proposed “G Resort” for the Yawt Property on the east side of town, just over the tracks from Five Points has been withdrawn.  This means that the resort will not be built, the plans have been canceled.  For the owners of the Yawt Property, the liens on the property due to non compliance of code will continue to apply and interest will continue to be charged at a rate of 8 percent. 

Unfortunately for Wilton Manors and the neighbors on the East Side, the Yawt property will continue to be a wart on our city until someone comes in and cleans up that land.   It does not look like the owners will do so.  The intent of the City will be to watch over the plot for additional code violations and to prosecute them fully when they have a chance.   Old violations have been “settled” and can not be expanded, but new ones will be applied.  I would be surprised if Code Enforcement has not already been over there having a look around.

The Planning and Zoning Board (PnZ) has approved an amendment to the specification of the sidewalks for new construction in the city.  It is the intent of the Mayor, the Commission, and City Government to have Wilton Manors become an “New Urbanist” oasis of safely walkable shaded streets and the new PnZ amendment will be a great help to achieving our goals.

Wilton Manors has granted the permit to Wilton Manors Main Street to proceed with the street closing for “Wicked Manors” on Saturday October 30 and into Sunday Morning October 31.  The party has been a Halloween success for our city for the last couple of years, and this year will be no different.  Come in costume or not, you can enjoy our city.  The hours will be announced later.  Alcohol will be served until Midnight when Music will stop, at 1AM the street will be cleared and 6AM on Sunday the Drive will be open for traffic.

The status of Old City Hall is that a workshop was to be held to define what will happen.  The City Staff is instructed to make a plan to be presented to the Commission prior to any action.  The recommendation from the Commission is that any buildings on the corner where old City Hall stands is to have ground floor commercial space.  For now, Commissioner Green is suggesting a temporary paved lot that will be built to last 2 to 3 years that would be up to the minimum of city code.  Mayor Resnick instructed that Lanier be consulted on this matter.  The idea is to place a lot there to hold the space until we can get construction going on any other permanent expansion on that plot.

On top of Old City Hall there is a Fire Siren that was well loved by the residents that were here when we had a Volunteer Fire Department.  If the Siren on top of City Hall went off, it would be so loud that it would stop business in City Hall, including the Commission Chambers until it was done.  This gave us some of that quirky Small Town Charm that a larger city would lack.  There was a discussion of it being given to Fort Lauderdale for their Fire Museum and Commissioner Scott Newton has said that there was no reason why we should give it to Fort Lauderdale.   As the President of the Wilton Manors Historical Society, Diane Cline said, “we have given too much of our history away and lost too much to Fort Lauderdale” in the past to want to lose this.  With Commissioner Newton’s insistence, we will find a home for our siren.

There was a long discussion of our park system here in Wilton Manors.  The plan had been presented and the information was well received by the Commission.  There is a list of ten items that should be followed so that the residents will get the most out of the park budget dollars.  In a tight budgetary era, it will be difficult to implement any changes, but now the Commission knows what the people here would want first if they are to improve the park system.

Tying together with the long discussion of the park system, there was another detailed discussion of the Two Lane Initiative and how it fits with the Old City Hall site.   If all the pieces fall together with grants, the majority of the Two Lane Initiative can be done without local taxpayer funding.   There are some grants that the city can apply for that will allow some significant work to happen if we get matching money together.   The minimum amount that we can apply for would be 10 million dollars, and that would require that the city have a matching fund of 2 million dollars.  The Commission has instructed the City to work toward applying for these grants and to do so with the help of Wilton Manors Main Street since there is not enough manpower on the part of the City government to achieve this goal without Main Street’s help.

That being a summary of what happened, there are a lot of pieces that got glossed over. I will endeavour to complete these and your knowledge of them over the next few days.  It all ties together nicely.

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Why question a needed Stop for Safer Neighborhoods?

Thanks to the Commission and the Mayor of the City of Wilton Manors, we had gotten our stop sign back at the intersection of NE 7th Ave and NE 22nd Drive. 

It had gotten taken down and the reason we got was because there were some traffic studies done that determined that it wasn’t needed.  Too little traffic, too many speed humps and the lot.

Rubbish.

I can sit in my rocking recliner in the front room of my house and get a clean view of the intersection.  I watch people go through there every time I use that particular chair, it can be entertaining actually.  It points out a few problems with these So Called Experts.

First and most important, they never parked a warm body at that intersection and watched how this intersection and the surrounding streets are used.  This neighborhood is used as a thoroughfare by many people going from the Shoppes of Wilton Manors to the adjacent neighborhoods just over the line in Ft Lauderdale.

ON FOOT.

Modern technology can read the car traffic but there is no way that you will get to count the number of people who walk through there ON FOOT.  Many hours there are more pedestrians that walk through that intersection than cross it with a car.   

Go ahead re-read that last sentence.  

The 800 pound Gorilla of the Wilton Manors Economy is that shopping center.   It has two LARGE bars, a very popular coffee house, some clothes stores.   A significant number of people Walk Home.  Many of them are not exactly sober when they walk through there, and others just aren’t paying attention.   This being Florida, there are inadequate sidewalks so people walk in the street.  It is an accepted fact of life here.  If you make it more difficult to go to these shops and bars, you are going to lower the taxable income of the city, and also harm the economic viability of this town.

Yes, all because of one measly stop sign that takes a mere seconds to blow through on your way to your semi gated community of Kensington Street on Townhouse Isle.

I wonder what George and Jackson of Georgies’ Alibi would think if it were put to them that way?

Second, if you don’t like the patrons of those bars and shops, consider the residents.  There are actually significant numbers of children in this neighborhood.  It is a RESIDENTIAL neighborhood despite how close it is to a dangerous four lane highway and all the COMMERCIAL activity that goes on there.  I am happy to see that my neighbor’s children are playing on my little street.   They use it to ride bikes, skate, run Remote Controlled Cars, play ball and do things that are normal in our society for children to do.  These children often have to worry about the high amount of traffic through what should be a quiet residential street, break from what they’re doing, dodge traffic that blows through that intersection and zooms up the street to where ever they are going.  The Stop Sign slows them down.  They actually do stop there.  It is having an impact, people are slowing down on NE 7th Avenue and NE 22nd Drive.  It is obvious to the neighbors who live there and overwhelmingly appreciate the fact the stop sign is there.

Furthermore, the intersection is a logical place for a stop sign.  Seeing the intersection without the sign, there was a chance to observe the normal pattern there.   People still stopped.   People then would get into an accident because they were getting rammed from behind by someone who didn’t want to stop because there was no sign there.   This behavior continued until the sign was replaced.  Having the sign there actually lowered accidents because it was respected.   It wasn’t universally respected, but people did see it and at least slow down for it while considering whether to risk getting caught breaking the law and running it.

So why question the stop sign?

Turns out that someone in the semi-gated community is bothered by it.  He now can no longer drive the three blocks down NE 7th Avenue comfortably without having to touch his break pedal.  The only way in and out of that development is to come out at the South end of NE 7th Avenue at NE 20th Street and hit the four way stop there. The street that serves that condo community is still shown as being connected.  That is because it was connected and someone in the community at the time didn’t like the fact that Those People From Outside walked through their neighborhood and sometimes caused crime. 

You know who Those People are don’t you?  Coded Language?  Seems so…

So they put up a giant and ugly Berlin Wall at the end of the condo community and cut off the few houses that are on the street that are not within the condo’s Home Owner’s Association and turned their back on the City.  They’re sticking their head in the sand and saying we can live here without interacting with the rest of the city while dictating what the rest of the city does with the traffic flow and threaten the children of the neighborhood just outside and the patrons of the shops of Wilton Drive.

It isn’t like we don’t have enough to worry about these days with the economy being wobbly and everyone wondering whether the burst housing bubble won’t pull the country from Recession to Depression.

Hopefully this will be the end of the whole Stop Sign question.   If you support it I look forward to seeing you at the Commission Meeting on Tuesday.  Oh and there’s going to be a little discussion about parking there. 

More on that parking thing later… I just needed to get this rant off my chest.

Thoughts on Wilton Manors Up Coming Parking Meters and Ordinance

In the interest of full disclosure, I have to say that I am one of those people who will drive miles out of my way to avoid parking at a meter or paying for parking.  It just seems like a money generating boondoggle to me and whether that is the intent or not, it has always struck me that if you want someone to come to your shops, towns, or events, you have to make it easy for them.  I’d sooner drive to a mall than drop a quarter into a meter.

Don’t even get me started on Valet Parking!

I wrote the body of this text below while sitting in the Commission Chambers listening to the Commissioners and the Mayor of the City of Wilton Manors do their best to hammer out the fairest regulations to draw people to our city and make it easy on the residents who watch the tide of Humanity flood in to enjoy our bars, parks, public spaces and events on a weekly basis.   They did seem to come quite close but there were some things that I think just may have been missed…

The new parking ordinance as proposed places a limit of 2 hours,
modified to 4 hours.  As it stands, that means that it will be illegal
to park and then pay in the city, then get in your car and move to
another spot that is metered in the A&E district.

The problem with that is that if you go to a bar or restaurant and
truly want to stay, there will be no legal way to remain a patron of
the A&E district.

In short the Ordinance tells the patrons that after 4 hours, you have
had enough and to go home.

I know that I personally have spent more than 4 hours in one specific
bar.  That kind of limitation will make me reconsider coming back,
despite the fact that I find paying for parking to visit a venue
offensive.

For the parks and city hall the commission thinks that it is
reasonable to expect a resident to pick up a parking pass for every
six to twelve months to have access.  Of course you will have to pay a
‘nominal’ fee for this pass after you have paid access fees to be able
to drive there in this Not-Very-Pedestrian-Friendly city.

That is needlessly complex.  I have seen other cities put a bag over
the meter in order to designate it as being free and not in service.
If the intent is to ‘free up’ adequate spaces for the gym, simply bag
the needed meters and now you have free spots!

If you want to set aside parking for the Commission Meetings and the Tennis Courts and the other amenities that Hagen and Richardson Parks have, you can either bag the meter, or since the parking lots adjacent to Richardson Park and City Hall are computerized multimeters, set the thing not to charge until after the park closes or in the case of the Commission Meetings after 1030PM.   Personally I have never seen a Commission Meeting go quite that late and I have missed only three of them since I have moved to this wonderfully quirky City.  The Multimeters in Downtown Fort Lauderdale have given me “free hours” when I went and dropped a quarter in the dreaded meter.  I went downtown for an interview that started at 2pm and put a quarter in the meter.  The time that the meter told me that I had until ended up being 730.   I paid for the half hour between 7PM and 730PM.  I arrived at that particular lot just after 130PM.   If Fort Lauderdale can pull this sort of programming together, I am sure that we can too.   If we can’t do it, then we have a Prospective Parking Contractor that certainly can help.

There you go, two tweaks Free Of Charge, unlike parking at a meter.   If you use them, be sure to credit where you got the idea!  😉