Alachua Post

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A Ring Side Seat
At Monday`s Commission Meeting

C.L. Heuss

The March 17, 2003 meeting got underway with Vice Mayor Robbins asking to have the minutes reflect Commissioners that are not present at the beginning of the meeting. She asked to have a notation made of when they joined the meeting.

Sheriff Steve Oelrich
Sheriff Oelrich

Alachua County Sheriff Steve Oelrich updated the Commission on the various departments within the Sheriff's department that is available to the City of Alachua for support or assistance. Oelrich said Alachua County 911 unit received over half a million (544,000) calls and dispatched over 288,000 calls throughout the county. ASO has assisted the APD (Alachua Police Department) with road patrol, drug related investigations and arrests, special teams such as K-9 units, aviation, narcotic,  hostage and crowd management teams.  In addition ASO will assist any group with establishing a neighborhood watch program. The Sheriff's office also provides cleanup details that are available to work on public property on weekend programs. ASO maintains an inmate population of 880 inmates and handles about 30,000 bookings per year. School Resource Officers are located in all schools and are focused on early intervention to deter juvenile crime.

During the first citizens comments period Eileen McCoy came forward and asked when the audit would be completed and why the lines being laid to Turkey Creek seemed to be duplicate labor. She said last year a trench was dug and lines run and wanted to know why engineering was not done to eliminate duplicate labor on the project.

Mayor Burgess directed Mrs. McCoy to put her questions in writing to City Manager Watson and said Watson would respond in writing.

The next citizen, Lee Forman, took issue with the application form for advisory boards not having a deadline for submission on them. He wanted assurance that a deadline date would be included on all future application forms. 

 The first item on the agenda approved the addition of a non-voting School Board Member to the Planning & Zoning board. That board member will be Tina Turner. Commissioner Robbins moved to approve the addition and Commissioner Rothseiden seconded the motion and the resulting vote was 5/0 in favor of motion.

watching Bush deliver 48 hour speech

At 7:50 the meeting recessed. Arrangements had been made to bring a TV into the Commission chambers for the audience to watch President George W. Bush address the nation on the latest decisions regarding the possibility of declaring war on Iraq.

 

The meeting reconvened at 8:15 as a Quasi Judicial hearing on Ordinance O-03-05 regarding Heritage Oaks PUD.

At the March 3rd Commission Meeting the Commission directed City Manager Watson to have Suwannee River Water Management District come and discuss the permitting and sinkhole problems at the Alachua Gateway Center. Planning and Development Director told the Commission Suwannee River Water Management could not come to discuss this because they are taking action on that particular sinkhole. She said they would come at a time after the matter is resolved.

John Curtis Jr
John Curtis, Jr.

John Curtis, Jr. as an agent for Billie Cavaceppi and American Construction & Development Company came before the Commission to ask for approval of an amendment to the Official Zoning Atlas from Agriculture to Residential Planned Unit Development (PUD) on approximately 38 acres of land near Santa Fe High.  

Commissioner Robbins expressed concern that this PUD would contribute runoff to the basin that has been sinkhole prone. 

Mr. Curtis and Planner Dedenbach stated that any development runoff would have to be contained on the property and that multiple basins are designed to contain any runoff.

Mr. Curtis stated a plan is in place to deal with repair and maintenance of the sinkhole. Curtis also told the Commission the sinkhole was on a separate piece of property and he was concerned that they were trying to impose controls beyond the scope of his reach. He said he did have an interest in the property but the situation needed to be looked at as if he did not have involvement with both the Gateway Center and Heritage Oaks. He questioned the Commission on how they were trying to make approval of the PUD contingent on a favorable report from SRWMD before receiving approval because before they could apply for permitting on this project it must be approved as a PUD.

Bob Bieniek came forward to say "You are voting on amending the zoning atlas, not a subdivision, let's not waste time on this, that is their problem, let's move on."

Commissioner Robbins asked Planner Dedenbach to address that comment and Dedenbach said this was a conditional zoning, a map for the master plan for the PUD so there is much more detail to consider and it was the time to question and discuss issues regarding this or other concerns the Commission or citizens may have.

After a lengthy discussion on the two properties the Commission came to the conclusion that  a condition or contingency regarding another piece of property could not be part of approving or denying this request. Commissioner James Lewis moved to approve the Heritage Oaks PUD, saying that it had been underway for two years. Commissioner Hills seconded the motion and it passed 5/0.

Next on the agenda was  the final plat review for lots 1 through 35 of a 71 lot single family residential subdivision on approximately 29 acres of property in the Turkey Creek Development of Regional Impact Planned Unit Development and a Developer's Agreement outlining the terms and conditions under which the project will be constructed.

Commissioner James Lewis moved to approve the final plat and the Developers Agreement with the stipulation that language be added to allow an increase in  rates for hook up fees based on Capital Improvement Plan needs that are forthcoming. This added language was requested by Commissioner Robbins. Commissioner Robbins seconded the motion and it passed 5/0.

Planner Marci  Monchek came before the commission to ask for passage of a Resolution R-03-12 urging the Florida Legislature to maintain the State Local Government Housing Trust Fund.  Monchek said this is where funding for the SHIP (State Housing Initiatives Partnership) is allocated from and the impact would be impact Alachua greatly. 

Mayor Burgess asked, "Could you give us a road map to what is affordable housing? Is it apartments, single family, or ....what constitutes?" 

Planner Monchek said many factors enter into determining affordable housing and the she thought it was considered to be a cost burden if housing was more than 30% of a family's income

Commissioner Robbins said, "I share the Mayor's concern for making affordable housing for all price ranges available and would like to see the issue addressed in the Comp Plan."

Commissioner Robbins moved to pass Resolution R-03-12 and Commissioner Rothseiden seconded, with a 5/0 vote.

Developer Phil Hawley addressed the Commission saying, "You can't speak from both sides of your mouth. You can't keep cost down while impacting costs by making rules that drive the prices up." He urged the Commission to look at abandoned homes, enforce clean-up of the homes or condemn them and make them available as affordable homes. He said he believed creative options could be implemented to solve the affordable housing issue and other problems in the city if efforts were made. He ended by saying, "There is a lot we can do here."

Next on the agenda was the appointment of volunteers to various boards. 

City Beautification Board

Each commissioner appointed one person to serve on the board. Only five applications were submitted and all five were appointed.

The committee has staggered terms of three years. For the first year, only two of the committee members will have three-year terms.

Gib Coerper – 3 year term
Jennifer Davidson – 3 year term
Mervin Freeney - 2 year term
Thelma Hammon – 2 year term
Iris Strickland – 1 year term

Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee

The committee consists of five technical members and five citizen members. The technical members were chosen by ballot with each commissioner voting for five members. The applicants with the highest number of votes were appointed.

Seven applications were submitted for the Technical Members: John Curtis, Jr. Robert Hartley, Duane Helle, Dexter O’Steen, Jim Shaw, James Stephens, and John Strickland.

Eight applications were submitted for the Citizen Members: Darryl Tompkins, David Pope, Sandra Burgess, Jean Calderwood, Todd Louis, Wayne Bell, Robert Perez, and Michael Spencer (withdrew.)

The committee will sunset upon the adoption of the Comprehensive Plan update by the City Commission.

CPAC Technical Members:
John Curtis, Jr.
Robert Hartley
Duane Helle
Dexter O’Steen
Jim Shaw

CPAC Citizen Members:
David Pope - appointed by James Lewis
Jean Calderwood – appointed by Orien Hills
Todd Louis – appointed by Bonnie Burgess
Wayne Bell – appointed by Dianna Kosman-Rothseiden
Robert Perez – appointed by Tamara Robbins

Land Development Regulations Advisory Committee

The committee is structured the same as the Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee. 

Twelve applications were submitted for the Technical Committee: Bob Bieniek, Rory Causseaux, John Curtis, Jr., Kiera Fitzgerald, Pattie Glenn, Robert Hartley, Kristi Hawley-Taylor, Dana McClain, Dexter O’Steen, James Schmidt, Jim Shaw, and James Stephens. 

Nine citizens applied: Darryl Tompkins, Mervin Freeney, Hugh Calderwood, Marvin Bingham, Wally Morse, Marty Eskridge, Randolph Nix, Wayne Bell, and Michael Spencer. Three applicants, Robert Hartley, Jim Shaw, and Dexter O’ Steen, who were appointed to the Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee, removed their names from the pool of applicants. Michael Spencer also removed his name.

The committee will sunset upon the adoption of the Land Development Regulations update by the City Commission.

LDRAC Technical Members:
Kristi Hawley-Taylor
Rory Causseaux
Pattie Glenn
Dana McClain
James Schmidt

LDRAC Citizen Members:
Hugh Calderwood – appointed by Orien Hills
Marty Eskeridge – appointed by Tamara Robbins
Randolph Nix – appointed by Dianna Kosman-Rothseiden
Darryl Tompkins – appointed by James Lewis
Marvin Bingham – Bonnie Burgess

Economic Development Advisory Committee

Each commissioner appointed one person to serve on the board. Six applications were submitted: Sandra Burgess, Sonya Counce, Mervin Freeney, Thelma Hammon, David Jakupko, Patricia Lee.

The committee will sunset upon the adoption of the Economic Element by the City Commission.

EDAC Committee Members:
Sandra Burgess – appointed by Dianna Kosman-Rothseiden
Sonya Counce – appointed by Tamara Robbins
Thelma Hammon – appointed by James Lewis
David Jakupko – appointed by Bonnie Burgess
Patricia Lee – appointed by Orien Hills

In addition to the above appointees het committee will consist of standing agency positions. The agencies include: the North Central Florida Regional Planning Council, Alachua County, Gainesville Chamber/Council for Economic Outreach, University of Florida, Santa Fe Community College, the Alachua Chamber of Commerce and, the Alachua Business League. Agencies will be contacted and invited to participate. They will be asked to designate a member and an alternate.

The last item on the agenda was discussion of Planning and Zoning board member Busy Shires. Commissioner James Lewis began by saying, "I think Busy Shires has violated our Charter, article 9. I also do not believe she could serve unbiased considering her allegiance with the ALA (Alachua Leadership Alliance) since the ALA has filed suit against the city."

Commissioner Robbins asked, "Did it say the members have to serve without bias? Did the language say that? All serve with some bias. I think you have some."

Attorney Rush said Florida Statutes require written charges to be entered, a determination of findings and a majority of the board must vote to remove a member. In addition Rush said if any member must disqualify his/herself from voting on an issue that would result in personal interest or gain. She added that this language may not pertain to an organization. Rush also said a large variety of case law exists on what constitutes a conflict of interest and when personal recusal is required. "Each conflict is determined on a case by case basis."

Commissioner Robbins said there are other members on boards that have had personal interests and while Mr. Lewis may not like it that a lawsuit had been filed she would like to have a definition of financial gain. Robbins than asked if Commissioner Lewis had made written or verbal request to place discussion of removing Ms. Shires from P & Z.  City Manager Watson said the request was verbal. City Manager Watson said that he had been asked by each of the Commissioners at some point to put items on the agenda and had followed their request.

Commissioner Rothseiden  said the lawsuit would not result in any personal gain to Ms. Shires and that she did not see a lawsuit as anything out of the ordinary. She cited Sheriff Oelrich's suit against the County. She said she thought the issue boiled down to a freedom of speech issue.  Rothseiden said she believed Ms. Shires and the ALA were following the process that was available to any citizen or group under the law.

Commissioner Robbins wanted to know what was considered formal charges. Robbins said "Why are we even discussing this if there is no formal charges, why is it even being discussed?"

City Manager Watson said, "This is up for discussion. The City has not received, been served formally with the suit. The next step would be to bring formal written charges forward, follow the procedure of a public hearing and would require a 3/2 vote.

Commissioner Rothseiden said she thought the matter was more of an ethics committee issue.

Mayor Burgess said, "A year ago there was a conflict with our Assistant City Manager when she was a member of the Chamber of Commerce. I want to make sure we don't show favoritism, not accusing anybody. What we did a year ago we all understand the significance of what is happening here if the Commission wanted it on the agenda then..."

Paul Rothseiden came forward and said, "Mr. Lewis at one point there was an ethics charge. Your attorney went to take care of it. You weren't there. Your attorney was the City Attorney, Mr. Malphurs. And Mr. Lewis it was recommended because of that you should be removed."

Commissioner Lewis responded saying, "He is telling a lie. Never has the board (ethics committee) sent anything back to the board asking I be removed.  What he said is a lie that they sent word back to suspend me that is a lie. If he can prove that I'll pay him $1,000."

Rothseiden said, "I think that should be brought back to the board, what you did Mr. Lewis. I think that he, can we still get him on that on what he did and remove him now? I think this is McCarthyism. McCarthyism in a little city. This woman has the right to think what she wants to think. This is America. It's about, this is what we are going to war for."

Commissioner Lewis asked, "Are you going to fight?"

Rothseiden said, "If that's it, I'll meet you out back if you want."

When the room settled down Carol Thomas came forward to say she was appalled by the exchange and the attack of Ms. Shires. She said the issue of charging that Shires could not serve with an unbiased mind was a first amendment issue. She said, "The city didn't follow it's rules and procedures. She (Shires) has no potential for financial and will not have a gain form this (lawsuit). Mr. Lewis you are a business man and you serve with a very biased mind."

Jean Calderwood said, "At the June 17, 2002 meeting I went on record because of her known interest she could not carry out the charter. When you accept a position you are charged with looking out for the citizens. The Charter clearly spells out what, whether she can carry out that. I'd like to remind you that when you agree to serve you take an oath that says 'I will support, protect and defend' and the Charter says that Planning and Zoning has certain duties."

Commissioner Robbins said, "I heard your comment 'we are obligated to look out for the citizens' for the community. We have a right to vote however we want. Just because you don't agree... She may be looking out for economic development that is more sustainable. It is what we are going to war about, to have opinions that differ we have an opportunity by having a diverse group of people. We are fighting for the rights we believe."

Commissioner Robbins said she believed much of what was directed at Ms. Shires was pure politics. "She has a right to her opinion. She has rights. We have a right to be treated civility and a right to my opinion. These rights are protected." 

Commissioner Robbins went on to say she did not think it was right for Alachua Today to conduct a smear campaign to destroy peoples lives. "It's unfair what they write about me and to try to trash people and destroy them. Well.. a newspaper like yours will not do it."

Thelma Hammon came forward and said if she had the authority she would relieve Ms. Shires, Ms. Robbins and Ms. Rothseiden. "It's not right to smear no one career or reputation. What this is, all I been hearing, I don't think its right to divide this city up. We don't need two governments. You have been smearing a lot of citizens. This is not what we want this kind of leadership. We want fair and right. It grieves my heart you would try to divide us up."

Busy Shires addressed the Commission. "I'm a member of the P & Z board and also a member of the ALA, I serve as Vice President of the organization. I am a volunteer on both. I serve without monetary compensation. I have no conflict. I will not gain personally. The majority of the lawsuit deals with the WACO contract and the Wal-Mart Memo of Understanding and they didn't come before the P & Z board.  There are specific rules we make our decisions on. Those are the guidelines that I follow. The fact that I am an outspoken citizen, Calderwood has a problem with that. She doesn't like it."

Shires went on to say, "I am not anti-growth. I support not extending water and sewer to sprawl. I don't believe you should make citizens pay. I'm concerned that this is a political issue. I don't think you have any basis for this. I am doing my duty. There is no conflict of interest."

Commissioner Hills asked, "Would you testify against the city if that came up?"

"I am not a plaintiff."

Commissioner Robbins asked, "As you served on P & Z have you approved or voted in favor of any developments?"

Shires said she had voted on and approved development and would support development she believed beneficial.

Commissioner Lewis asked, "Did you say you want this to be a hay stack community?"

Shires responded saying the article Ms. Calderwood had cited form 3/10/99 contained that partial statement and that was before her term on P & Z. She said, "I don't know if you read poetry or novels Mr. Lewis but that was a quote. I said "I don't want to live in a community of smoke stacks, I wanted to live in a hay stack community. I was talking about how beautiful that area out where Dollar General is. Its farms, rolling hills, horses, I grew up in that community and would like for it to stay that way. I did say that and I have no problem with stating that."

Ms. Shires said she had a letter she wanted to submit for the record. (read it here)

Michael Canney came forward and said he couldn't believe what had happened in the meeting without there being any actual charges. "This whole thing...that people can bring up someone's association with an organization. I've been here to see what they have been trying to do. They have found the missing water and other positive things. If that constitutes cause for removal...if someone having a perspective on things differs you have a lot of thinning out to do. Her association with the ALA seems to be the only point and a letter to the editor four years a go. You need to have put this in writing before this (discussion). She does not even know what she is charged with. This is campaign season so take this with a grain of salt."

James Stephens was next. "I am really appalled at this witch hunt.  The fact that he (Mr. Lewis)  does not agree with it (the lawsuit). As the City Manager said, the city has not been served with a suit. This is, has been all based on rumor. The next thing is the City Attorney should do is have a grievance complaint on your Attorney. She just heard you appoint two other ALA members to two boards. So this is just to Mr. Lewis. Have you no shame? Have you no shame?"

Commissioner Lewis said, "I think a judge has been appointed. So it's not just they are thinking about it. It already has been filed." (The lawsuit was filed March 5, 2003 - as of 3/17/03 the suit had not been formally received.)

Commissioner Robbins asked Mr. Lewis if others had sued the city and gave Mr. Hope as an example. "Isn't he (Mr Hope suing, hasn't he filed a suit against the City? Filing a lawsuit is not illegal. It is the people exercising their rights but trying to strip rights is not ok."

Robert Hartley addressed the commission and said, "We don't expect everyone to vote the same. When you voted 3/2 for the moratorium we had to go with it. What is bothering me here is someone on the board is saying you are not going to vote my way so I'll sue you."

Commissioner Robbins said. "When we were in that public hearing developers were saying they would sue us if a moratorium was passed. That if we didn't vote the way they wanted they would bring their lawyer."  

No action was taken as a result of the discussion regarding Shires' position as a member of the P & Z board.

The meeting adjourned just after midnight.