The neighborhood leaders said the proposal was not reviewed by staff (there was no time for this), it was rushed to the hearing (literally introduced to the commissioners only 2-3 hours before the hearing), it was not complete (formal agreements with Habitat had not been approved by their board nor had any agreement been signed) and the process violated required city procedures.
Mayor Atkins opened the public comment portion of the evening session by waving the 10 yellow speaker request slips and saying in a stern voice "Your answer is no! But you can speak anyway."
This behavior exactly typifies what has the community so alienated and upset with the current commission.
From Bob Ardren’s article in this weeks Pelican Press:
Kate Lowman, president of the Laurel Park Neighborhood Association, said she was trying to help her neighbors in Alta Vista. Lowman asked the commission to "respect the Duany Plan" and reverse their earlier vote on the project.
Likewise, Suzanne Atwell, a Bird Key resident and former commission candidate, asked for reconsideration. "You’ve disenfranchised a neighborhood," Atwell said, "and undermined city staff. This decision was governance at its worst," Atwell continued. "It’s time to take a look at who’s running the show here."
"Process is what keeps us from being a mob," attorney Susan Chapman told commissioners. The decision "shows a disregard for the planning board and the planning staff," Chapman said. "Without process, personalities and public relations rule. I wonder what happened to disconnect this commission from the public?"
And long-time civic activist Dick Sheldon put it simply: "I won’t be coming down here [to the commission table] anymore," he said. "That neighborhood got a bad shake and just like the name of the sculpture outside City Hall, we can only conclude, ‘Nobody Is Listening.’"
All together, more than a dozen members of the Alta Vista neighborhood and its neighbors appeared asking for reconsideration at Monday’s city commission meeting. No reconsideration was even considered. After many months of meetings, changes and compromises with the Alta Vista neighborhood over the impact of his proposed 450-unit condominium project to be located on the old Scotty’s lumberyard property facing Payne Park, developer Ron Burks appeared at the public hearing on the project two weeks ago with a largely brand new plan and with new partners.
A motion by Commissioner Lou Ann Palmer to send the new proposal to the city planning board for review – "This is not fair to anyone," Palmer said – was defeated three to two with only Commissioner Mary Anne Servian joining Palmer.
Mayor Fredd Atkins, Vice Mayor Danny Bilyeu and Commissioner Ken Shelin voted to support sending the needed comprehensive plan amendment to Tallahassee for approval.
It is time that these commissioners be held accountable for their actions.