I urge everyone to reread Mike Liss’ recent article in BocaWatch titled “Back To The Future”. His observation and obvious frustration is based on a very strait forward and core issue which can be easily fixed – Citizens must have a meaningful seat at the development table.
Look at issues faced in recent memory regarding our city, the hard issues, they all involve development. What would have happened if developers and property owners were required to seek input from those affected by their projects? What would the downtown look like if citizens had more participation – Mr. Liss’ ask.
The City is required by law to post signs regarding rezoning, giving citizens a chance to respond. Why shouldn’t developers be required to notify residents by running an ad in local publications seeking positive or negative input on their projects? Maybe the City should post an application immediately upon a projects first submission on MyBoca.US.
The way it works now, a developer’s lobbyists and attorneys meet with City Staff to lay the groundwork for their project behind closed doors sometimes years in advance of it becoming public knowledge. Then they spring it on the community like Midtown was in December of 2016. The developer guys cry “We have worked on this for years and are getting nowhere. The City is so unfair to us, holding us back. We might have to sue!” Really, you plan for years and leave residents out of the know, out of the mix? Such projects are having a hard time because resident tax payers, the real owners of the City, say “Wait just a G. D. Minute, you want to do what?” Jack McWalter would say “That’s Outrageous!!” It is outrageous and ignorant leaving citizens out when we are the ones most affected on so many levels.
Here are some valuable pluses for developer consideration if they include the public early on: You sure as heck will find out what residents don’t like. You might discover issues that could cost you money and time if you don’t consider resident perspectives. You might eliminate the need for suits costing you, the City or residents millions regardless who prevails. But, most important, you may discover working with residents could make a project even better. Development should not be done in a vacuum. Residents, if offered the opportunity, may have some creative ideas on how to improve upon a design or a project’s scope. After all, it’s the public that are going to use it – aren’t they your customer?
Remember, the City belongs to everyone, developers and residents alike, we are all “Stakeholders”. Get the issues on the table, in the light of day.
Isn’t that what a COMMUNITY is supposed to do? Give it a try and see how it works.