I now have two community meetings to report on and what to me were some excellent ideas.
It was suggested that a way to balance staffing in the Police Department between the summer and winter months would be to hire new police officers to 9 month duty with a mandatory furlough three months out of the year (similar to school teachers.) As fulltime policemen retire those “junior” officers could be promoted to fulltime duties. A problem with these union contracts is that union employees typically reach the top of the pay scale in ten years and work at the maximum for most of their tenure. If new hires are held out of the steps until they reach fulltime employment it would take longer to climb to their salary peak. Those measures would save taxpayer dollars without adversely impacting public safety.
Another suggestion was to assess an impact fee on any new development. Here it is the taxpayer that is on the hook for upgrades to the sewer system and the more frequent street repaving that is required as a result of ever increasing development. Florida imposed an impact fee that is a percentage of the selling price of new construction. The collected fee is then available to offset the costs of the increasing the capacity of the sewer system and to repave streets that have been torn up by road cuts. These associated costs of development should be absorbed as a business expense of the developer and not be a burden to the taxpayer.
Once again it was suggested that the City identify an advocate to help walk property owners thru the steps required to rebuild their homes, and to offer assistance with and clarification of zoning and building regulations. It’s too overwhelming for the layman to do alone. Simply stated, people need to know what it is they’re required to do and how to go about it.
We also heard from a resident living in a mixed use zone. Building residential on top of commercial seemed like a good idea but it hasn’t worked out in practice. It was stated that much of the commercial space on the ground floor sits vacant. Now there’s even a bigger problem. Since commercial is built at ground level it may be impossible to obtain flood insurance. The resident also stated that people are living on the first (commercial) floor of those buildings and that there doesn’t seem to be much enforcement. Allowing storage on the ground floor didn’t go over so well “are you kidding me?” “The City needs to address the situation.”
Finally it was stated by a member of the Planning Board that flooding and drainage needs to be addressed in the Master Plan with an updated Storm Water Management Plan. That the one we now have is obsolete and all but worthless. It was also stated that the area West of West Avenue will be subject to flooding no matter what you do. That being the case it makes sense to me to limit development in that area of town. But alas the opposite is true. The first application of Coastal Cottage is going in along Haven in a section of town that regularly floods. Whereas in the past one or two commercial buildings might have been affected, now 18 residences are at risk. And it kind of makes you wonder ... is that why Haven and Simpson were originally zoned for commercial?
This is a short write up but I tried to hit the major points. What these community meetings have come to show is that if you reach out to the public you’ll find that there’s a wealth of insight and ideas you can tap into. Councilman Guinosso gets four stars for attending every meeting so far. Mayoral candidate Ed Price attended this last one.
It’s likely I’ll change the venue for the next meeting. Stay tuned.