At its regular monthly meeting on Wednesday August 21, Homestead City Council voted unanimously to review the City Charter for potential amendments.
Vice Mayor and Councilmember Jon Burgess listed the agenda item, calling it two years overdue.
“Our charter required (a review) in 2017,” he said. “It’s a long six or eight month process, set to piggyback with the August 2020 election next year.”
Mayor Stephen Shelley chaired the last charter review process.
“There were specific questions looked at,” he said. “We tried to do it in three months, ending up meeting once a week for about six months. There was debate, discussion, and recommendations submitted to the public for a vote.”
“The last review was rushed and it only had three questions,” said Councilmember Burgess. “It was a quick turn-around.”
“This review should be done right,” continued Mayor Shelley.
“The committee should make recommendations to Council, there should be community workshops on the issues, the feedback should come back to Council to consider and then decide before there’s a vote.”
“Based on Council suggestions, I can select five people to sit on the committee, but every Councilmember does not get to name someone to the committee,” said Mayor Shelley.
Councilmember Larry Roth asked who initiates the process. “The public should also be able to make recommendations to improve the Charter,” he said.
The City Attorney said that the Charter review committee makes recommendations that are sent to Council after legal review. Council ultimately approves the ballot questions, he said.
“There are things in the Charter that don’t keep up with modern times,” said Councilmember Burgess. “It’s time to start the process so it’s not rushed.”
Councilmember Julio Guzman asked how long a full review of the entire Charter would take. Mayor Shelley estimated it would take several months at a minimum. Councilmember Guzman spoke in favor of starting the review and putting a deadline on the process.
Mayor Shelley said, “The County has a time period when ballot questions have to be submitted for the August election, so you count backward from there and that gives you your deadline.”
The Mayor directed Councilmembers to submit names of citizens for the committee, with the Council liaison/chairperson to be selected after the November election.
The measure passed unanimously by voice vote.
Councilmember Burgess also raised the issue of review of the design guidelines governing the City’s development services office. “If we gave our development services team the ability to hold developers to certain guidelines, it would help the City,” said Burgess.
Mayor Shelley asked staff if other cities had specific design guidelines demanding quality products. Staff said there are many such architectural guidelines and regulations could be tailored after examining other cities’ rules.
“It depends on how much micro-managing you’re willing to do,” said the Mayor. “You want to make it easy for business to settle here, but not so easy we get a bad product.”
City Manager George Gretsas cautioned that there would be complaints from both ends of the spectrum. “The more regulations you institute, the more complaints you’ll get,” said Gretsas. “Holding people to a higher standard does get a better result.”
“That’s exactly it!” said Councilmember Patricia Fairclough. “Everything is about setting that standard. When 7-Eleven brought its square box design to us, it was unacceptable. But by setting a standard for applications, we get a product we can be proud of.”
The direction was for Development Services staff to bring proposed standards back to Council while continuing to communicate on Council’s appetite for new options.
Another Council agenda item was approval of two roof replacements due to Hurricane Irma. The City contracted for a new roof at the YMCA at a cost of $566,809 and for a new roof at the Seminole Theatre for $231.624. In addition, the contractor is to seal the vertical wall between the Seminole and its adjoining classroom building for $33,890. Council was told that FEMA will reimburse the City for these repairs.
The City was offered at $34,017 matching grant for the Seminole Theatre by the Florida Department of State. The grant commissions three concerts at the theater next year at a cost of $8,504 each. Council accepted the terms of the grant.
Council discussed a new ordinance permitting restaurants to operate sidewalk cafes along the historic Krome Avenue corridor in the Arts & Entertainment District. The regulation deals with rules for trash containers, furniture removal after hours, and sidewalk passageways.
Councilmember Guzman asked if the parking spaces along the curb could be incorporated into available space. Mayor Shelley responded that that would be a conflict with the recently passed parking valet services ordinance.
Council approved the open air cafe rule unanimously on first reading.
Homestead has used vacant land along SW 162nd Avenue as a hurricane debris staging area for many years. DERM now requires an “after-the-fact” permit for that plus for continued use that the City desires for potential electrical substation expansion. Staff recommended the purchase of mitigation credits from the National Park Foundation for 6.98 acres in the Everglades Hole-in-the-Donut area. Council agreed to this proposal to allow future City use of the land.
Marriott Town Place Suites hotel contracted with a private artist for a statue for the front of its property, as allowed under the City’s Art in Public Places law. That program requires 1/2 of 1% of development costs to be spent on art of $30,320 in this case. The approved artist is no longer available, so Marriott plans to spend $38,947 to replace the artist and place a similar statue on the property. City Council approved the swap.