Note: The video link at the end of this article is well worth watching. The informative TEDTalk presentation is a much watch for all !

Yes. Unfortunately disappointment was my initial reaction to the presentation given by the traffic expert hired by our City to conduct a traffic study at the problematical intersection of NE/SE 5th Avenue and East Palmetto Park Road. Based on the reaction of those around me and those I spoke with as I left, I was not alone in that assessment. Many in attendance felt the slide show and speaker comments were lacking on several levels. For one, the structure of the meeting allowed for questions to be taken at will. This was a huge mistake as a better format would have held questions until the end to create a better flow of information. It would be easy to nit-pick other aspects, both technical and stylistic, but that would take away from the major miss or flaw of the presentation.

Amateur Hour

So let’s get into “where the rubber meets the road”. The traffic study prepared by Calvin, Giordano & Associates, displayed various slides with the beginning slides providing data on traffic counts and other background information setting the stage for what was to come. So far, so good. The subsequent slides then made a “left turn” with each slide focusing on a specific issue at the intersection with a suggested solution that attempted to account for vehicle, bicycle and pedestrian movement and safety. It was here that the meeting got caught up in “stop and go traffic” as hands were raised with questions. By the way, better labeling of the slides to show physical orientation may have eliminated a handful of those questions. As the slideshow progressed, it became apparent that the hired consultant had not combined the various solutions into one or two cohesive recommendations as best case remedies. It was here that the meeting “hit the brakes.” It was here that Municipal Services Director, Dan Grippo took to the mic in an attempt to clarify what was required in the study. Nonetheless, attendees were not satisfied with what they felt was an inconclusive presentation.

Who Determined the Scope of the RFP?

How is it that we allow our City to spend tens of thousands of dollars to hire a traffic consultant and the consultant doesn’t effectively consult? Was it the City that was too limiting in its request for the task at hand? Or, was it the consultant that didn’t fulfill the task requested. The answer is out there somewhere but you would not be able to derive the answer from Wednesday’s meeting. Granted, there is no simple solution to fixing the intersection. In fact, there is no solution at all. Short of eminent domain for the former Maxwell Chop House parcel on the northeast corner, only slight improvements are going to be the answer.

Why Make Matters Worse?

It is apparent that City Council is hell-bent on placing a Hillstone restaurant on the Wildflower property that will only exacerbate safety and traffic  problems at the intersection. This has been telegraphed by various members of council in private and semi-public conversations. They claim that the public wants a restaurant on the Wildflower site without offering any empirical evidence to support that claim. Meanwhile, residents who have no “dog in the fight”, other than quality of life issues, have presented valid, empirical evidence supporting the public’s desire for an urban green space on the property.

A “driving” force pushing the Council to go against the wishes of the residents are the executives at the Chamber of Commerce who would like to have an additional lunch spot and happy hour location for their benefit. A restaurant on this location will certainly benefit the few while an urban green space will benefit the many and offer a worthwhile long-lasting legacy to smart urban planning.

Please view this eighteen minutes of the must watch video to see what open space and green space means to a community. I promise it will be enlightening.  How Public Spaces Make Cities Work

Please contact the City Council and let your voice be heard.

Mayor Susan Haynie –

Deputy Mayor Robert Weinroth –

Councilman Mike Mullaugh –

CRA Chair,Councilman Scott Singer –

Jeremy Rodgers –