Homestead City Council held its longest meeting of the year on Wednesday November 17, adjourning after six and a half hours just before 1 AM.

Two developers interested in the old City Hall site gave amended presentations for what a mixed-use project would look like on that site (SEE related story).

Two and a half hours into the presentation, Council voted 5 to 2 to defer any decision for a month to give Councilmember Julio Guzman time to review the record.

Council was again asked to consider a proposed neighborhood on 42 acres west of Farm Life School Road, between Mowry Drive and North Canal Drive. Parker Pointe by D.R. Horton of 97 single-family homes and 280 Townhouses first came to Council in May 2021 but its application was delayed due to plan amendments.

The project required seven variances, a special exception, approval of the site plan, and tentative plat plus a transportation mitigation agreement for traffic impact.

To fit all the homes on the site, initial requests for variance required minimum lot sizes of 5,000 square feet (SF) instead of 7500; a front set-backs for some residences of 14 feet 7 inches instead of 25 feet; lot widths of fifty feet instead of sixty feet; townhome patios of 26, 35, and 115 SF instead of the required 150 feet; house widths of 22 feet instead of 25 feet; waiver of the exterior-accessible storage unit of 40 SF for townhomes, and a special exception to permit R1 (single family homes) in an R3 district.

Parker Pointe’s attorney said the new design didn’t require any front set-back variance as the single story residence would no longer be offered. He reasoned the waiver of townhome storage space was unnecessary because each unit would have a garage. Reviewing community amenities, the applicant offered not just a clubhouse gym but also a kiddie splash pad.

The presenter said all buildings would now include impact-glass windows and cement tile roofs as standard features. Also, under City rules, the project was entitled to 398 residential units but only 377 were planned.

After the developers’ presentation, Councilmember Patricia Fairclough-Staggers said, “This is very cookie-cutter with run-of-the-mill amenities. It’s important that we push back and advocate for first-class projects and this just isn’t it.”

“I echo those sentiments,” said Councilmember Sean Fletcher. “I give this project a D minus in its current state.”

Councilmember Erica Avila said “I have a different perspective. This project is an upgrade for the area, so I support it.”

“I agree standards could be higher,” said Councilmember Jenifer Bailey. “The money to the County for road improvements is astronomical. The County should consider making Farm Life School Road into a four-lane road.”

Mayor Steve Losner termed the development a “subpar product with an uninspiring appearance.”

Councilmember Larry Roth addressed traffic on Farm Life School Road. “I’m dumfounded by the $2.7 million impact fees to the County to improve all of Farm Life from Campbell to North Canal would be approximately $4 million, including canal work. Those developer fees would go a long way to improving traffic on one of the main arteries of our City.”

Staff said road impact fees are regionally spent and cities don’t see a project list from the County. “The monies go into a district fund for the area,” city staff said. “This is not a County road, it’s a city road.” Staff did say an approved traffic light at Mowry and Farm Life School is scheduled for installation in 2022.

The developer was on a tight time line with closing on part of the parcel scheduled for December 15, the same day as the next Council meeting. After huddling with his client, developer’s attorney announced raising its transportation mitigation fee to $300,000 from County-required $184,000, allowing the City to hold the difference. The attorney proposed eliminating six townhomes north of the clubhouse adding that almost half an acre land to the community recreational space.

The Mayor suggested offering privatized garbage collection service to help the City maintain its current standards for existing communities.

Councilman Fletcher said, “Maybe we should hang Mr. Arza upside down and get all the change out of his pockets. This is unbelievable negotiating here over costs; I think we’ve lost our way.”

The Mayor offered a special call meeting in early December to accommodate the applicant’s contractual obligations. Councilmember Roth moved to defer all items with changes to December 7, date of the next COW meeting.

Council voted five to two to revisit the application on December 7 with the announced changes; Losner and Fletcher voting no.

On another item, Council unanimously agreed to a final plat for sixteen new homes in the upscale Tropical Villas on the east side of Farm Life School Road. The development has quarter-acre home lots and polished design elements on its existing houses that it intends to keep and extend the community by one internal street.

Council turned its attention to the application for a new Publix store of 40,000 SF with a 1400 SF package store next door. The store would be

located on Tennessee Road (SW 167 Avenue) south of Palm Drive (344th Street).

Publix ceded a right-of-way for a turn lane into the property. The site in Valencia Gardens required a waiver for the package store because its site is near a school.

Certificates for liquor and wine sales for consumption off-premises were approved.

All items on the Publix application were approved unanimously.

The Losner Park renovations require a County fee of 1.5% of construction costs ($5 million) for art, or $75,000. After a Call to Artists, C.R. Gray was one of two responders, proposing to carve a climbable alligator and snapping turtle out of granite to position on the playground.

An extra agenda item raise the limit on items requiring competitive bidding from $25,000/$35,000 to $50,000/$60,000. The change was due to

product delivery issues with goods and commodities. The City manager made clear the existing $25,000 limit remains on professional services without required bids.

Council agreed to hire a firm for $49,500 to perform a market study of the city’s compensation and benefits to remain competitive.

Council approved a $55,000 grant to study automotive injuries through the use of seatbelts.

A $168,502 grant from the state Attorney General’s office to hire three victim advocates within the police department was also approved.

A proposal to purchase three Toyota pick-ups for the Parks Department was set aside because of concerns with gas mileage, buying American products, and new tools and training to maintain this brand of trucks as the first in the City.

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