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City Council Agrees To Planning and Zoning Board Change

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Posted: Friday, October 12, 2018 9:14 am

The issue of Homestead’s Planning and Zoning Board not being able to hold a meeting in over five months due to a lack of quorums was a focus of the Committee of the Whole (COW) Tuesday October 9, 2018. The issue was raised in the August 22d City Council meeting to significant discussion and closed with Councilman Shelley, who was presiding over the meeting saying, “I’d like to see this on the next COW agenda and have a full discussion of the larger issues and base our decisions on that.”

In direction from Council, the staff presented five options to consider:

1. Provide monetary compensation for meeting participation. Prior to 2009, members had received $50 compensation. That was practiced was discontinued.

2. Schedule meetings for 9:30 a.m. rather than at 5:30 p.m. The morning time had been a previous practice and was changed to evening in 2015.

3. Process a Code Amendment to allow for the appointment and assignment of alternate representatives. Some municipalities appoint alternatives to their Planning and Zoning board in the event that an alternate may step up if a member cannot attend.

4. Amend application types presented to the Planning and Zoning board. Pinecrest was cited as an example of a municipality that only presents variances, comprehensive plan changes, etc., to the Planning and Zoning Board.

5. Eliminate the Planning and Zoning Board and appoint the City Council as the Local Planning Agency (LPA). This is the practice in Doral and Palmetto Bay.

6. In the event that quorum is not met for two consecutive months in a row, items may proceed directly to the City Council for their consideration and review, with the exception of this items that are required to be heard by the LPA pursuant to Florida Statues (i.e Comprehensive Plan Amendments)

Councilman Jon Burgess, Councilwoman Patricia Fairclough, Councilman Larry Roth, and Mayor Porter engaged in discussion of the options as Michelle Lopez of Development Services, George Gretsas, the City Manager, and the City Attorney responded to questions posed. One of the questions about alternates was if they would only be called in once it was known a member could not attend, or if the alternates would be allowed/expected to attend all meetings. Councilwoman said the practice on her Education Committee was to allow alternates to attend, but they would only vote if needed for the quorum.

Councilman Burgess stated he was open to any of the options, but did want a fix in order to move forward. Mayor Porter said the appointment of one new member was being finalized which would resolve the immediate issue of having a full board of seven members.

Lopez mentioned there was a meeting scheduled for October 10, 2018 and all members had been contacted and the importance of attendance stressed. The Mayor suggested he also attend to add his emphasis.

Approval was given to move forward with the option of appointing alternates as the initial step. The other options could be further explored if this did not resolve the issue. Councilman Burgess expressed his appreciation to Hugo Arza, of Holland & Knight LLP, who was present, for having originally brought the matter to his attention.

Arza was with Principal Alina Lopez of Somerset Academy in the matter of Soho School Development LLC seeking to permit expansion to existing non-conforming schools in the City’s commercial districts by special exception approval.

Ordinance No. 2015-06-05 was adopted to allow schools in commercial districts that had been approved via Special Exception between 2008 and 2015 to continue to operate as a non-conforming use, pursuant to Chapter 30, Article V, of the City Code. In 2016, Somerset sought to expand, but were unable to do so. A proposed Ordinance was submitted by the Soho School Development’s legal counsel for consideration to the May 2018 Education Committee. This issue was subsequently discussed at City Council, and at the August COW.

In the series of exchanges with Mayor Porter, Councilman Jon Burgess, Councilwoman Bailey, Councilman Larry Roth, City Manager George Gretsas, the City Attorney and other city staff, multiple facets were covered.

Early in the discussion Mayor Porter said, “The intent of the original ordinance was to keep non-taxable entities (non-revenue producing) from encroaching on potential taxable entities (revenue-producing).”

A strong point was the lack of at least renderings to show what degree of expansion the school anticipated. Councilwoman Patricia Fairclough reiterated the expectation of the Council had been to see something that would show the scope which could allow them to better address associated issues such as setting the precedent, traffic congestion, aesthetics of the property, and grounds maintenance.

Arza contended his client should not move forward with that degree of specificity until the matter of whether the Ordinance could be changed was resolved. Principal Lopez provided verbal details of plans outlined by their staff during the summer months. The City Manager stated concerns about the issues associated with potential expansion had been previously addressed to the school.

Arza agreed they would provide a new presentation to the Education Committee in the near future.

In matters requiring little or no discussion, Council approved a request for a presenting sponsorship for the Rotary Club’s 2d Annual Homestead Stone Crab and Seafood Festival from the City of Homestead through the use of the City’s logo in promotion. The event will be at Homestead Sports Complex Jan 26-27, 2019.

Also approved was adding Florida Green Energy Finance Authority, the Florida Resiliency and Energy District to the current agreement with Ygrene for the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs.

$32,820 was approved for work on the largest generator-engine set at the Gordon Ivey Power Plant.

The award of $434,400 to DIS-TRAN Packaged Substations, LLC for work at the Renaissance Substation in the Park of Commerce was approved. This included the requested 10% ($44,000) to cover materiel swings in order to avoid potential delays with small change needs once the work begins.

The non-profit The Farmworker Association of Florida requested Waiver of Usage Fees for $340 for Harris Field Pavilon for February 17, 2019 information event for community members. Council determined they could cover that fee from other sources rather than have the waiver.

Council approved acceptance and execution of a contract within Florida Department and Transportation (FDOT) to annually reimburse $25,988 for landscape maintenance for Krome Ave, US 1, and Campbell Drive.

Also approved was acceptance of Children’s Trust contract to provide college preparation programming for 60 youths through the Homestead Police Athletic League.

Council authorized the City Manager to enter into agreement with Disaster Programs & Operations, Int, for Disaster Recovery Management Consulting Services. They also approved entering an agreement with Sunbelt Waste, Inc for the lease/purchase at $5,500 per month of a 2011 side loader trash truck.

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