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03.13.07 -- REPORT: LPA passes planning reports, questions surround rezoning process

By CHER PHILLIPS

Listen to the March 13 LPA Public hearing:
(Internet Explorer users may need to click the start arrow twice)

Planner Bruce Day 0:05:18
Danaya Wright addresses Walkup's request 0:09:40
Frank Ciotti questions applications 0:13:46
Marsha Strange: we're paying R1 taxes already 0:16:23
Randy Brown: comments on no paperwork showing need 0:17:55
Vote to approve Howard Walkup's application 0:31:22
No urban sprawl
0:42:50
Danaya Wright: comp plan requires buffer 0:43:40
Stranges' application approved 4-0 0:51:30












The Land Planning Agency approved two applications for zoning plans tonight, passing them next to the council for approval and future public hearings.

The rezoning applications involved two parcels of land along the southern border of McIntosh. The first, belonging to Town Council Vice President Howard Walkup, is 9.2 acres of agricultural land that he would like to see changed to residential, R1. The second parcel, belonging to James and Marsha Strange, is for 10.29 acres that they are asking to be rezoned to residential, as well.



Agriculture land is zoned for one house per 10 acres of land. As residential, R1, these parcels would be zoned for two houses per acre of land. According to planning reports presented at tonight's meeting by a Planning Director Bruce Day, with the Withlachoochee Regional Planning Council, as many as 36 homes could be built on the two parcels if the zoning for both parcels is approved.

About 13 residents attended the public hearing, including three council members, Councilwoman Eunice Smith, Council Vice President Walkup and Council President Frank Ciotti. Among neighboring land owners, Danaya Wright, and her father John Wright, were present. The Wrights own a large parcel of agricultural land that borders Walkup and Strange's land.

Read the planning reports as originally drafted. Stranges' Planning report
Walkup's Planning report

Day presented the planning reports he'd prepared, and the LPA passed them with two minor amendments. The first was that the final recommendation for the zoning stand from the LPA upon approval. The second change dealt with the question of need.

Defining the public need:

Danaya Wright first addressed a concern during public comments about the need for rezoning.

Wright is a former council member and former council president. She resigned last summer after a recall petition was circulated in McIntosh against her. Walkup was among the residents on the recall committee who circulated petitions. In the past, these parcels of land have come before two councils that Wright served on as a council member. She was opposed to rezoning these land parcels, wanting a different zoning classification in place other than R1. Wright works for the University of Florida as a law professor specializing in property law.

She cited the McIntosh Land Development code, stating that there was not a clear need established for the rezoning.

The McIntosh LDC spells out the purposes and reasons land zoning serves and conditions under which that zoning can be changed. (Land Development Code, page 2-5)
The first purpose for agricultural land is to protect that land for agricultural use from other incompatible uses. The second purpose is to serve as a holding classification when proper future development of the land is uncertain.

The LDC goes on to explain the conditions that should be met when land is in a holding class. One of the reasons, which Wright referenced was: "it is the intention of this Code that such lands not be rezoned for more intensive uses without assurances that a clear public need exists for such rezoning."

While neither applicant said tonight what they intended to use their land for after it was rezoned, LPA members discussed the need for the applicants to be able to move their families close to them.

Wright said she would like to see the LPA approve two or three acres as opposed to a such a large amount of land.

Board member John Sapp interpreted the need for rezoning to be that Walkup's family live within walking distance of his home.

Yet, none of the board members hashed out what "a clear public need" was or was not.

Day had not interpreted need in his findings before the meeting. So, after discussion, the planning reports were amended to state that rezoning was "necessary based on the land owner's stated need."

Board member Randy Brown said when he looked over the paperwork, he did not see a need statement.

Following the money:

Another concern voiced by Wright was that the two residents seeking approval were elected officials and the town is footing the bill for the rezoning process.

In fact, nailing down who exactly is footing the bill for this rezoning is more convoluted that it seems.

During the Feb. 8 council meeting, the council discussed paying for the rezoning process with the Stranges, Walkups and the Glasses together. Then, at the continuation meeting on Feb. 12, (Feb. 12 audio file, 1:51 - 1:55) Mayor Strange told the council members she did not think it was right for the town to pay for the rezoning of any individual's parcel of land.

"Bill and I talked it over and we don't think it's fair for the town to pay for an individual's rezoning, and that includes Howard," June Glass said. She added that she didn't see a problem with everyone going together and paying their share.

At the time of this discussion during the Feb. 12 council meeting, council members decided they didn't need to take action on who would pay for rezoning.

But by the March town council meeting, Day had already been commissioned by the town to research and write planning reports for Strange's and Walkup's rezoning applications. When asked before tonight's meeting who was paying him for his work on these reports, Day said the town of McIntosh was and that he was working at the town's direction.

Ciotti confirmed this after the meeting.

In fact, on Feb. 9, the town council voted 4-0 specifically to table the whole zoning issue and to take it up at a special meeting or at another meeting. (Feb. 9, audio file, 00:01:25)

Councilman Lee Deaderick said that this was a big issue and that people needed to know about. He even invited land owners to speak with him following the meeting, saying he would call a special meeting if needed.

But by the March 8 council meeting, applications from two elected officials who were both present during the tabling vote on Feb. 9 had been submitted and Day had already completed planning reports.

Several questions remain.

If the town has hired Day and is paying him, who made that decision? If was not determined by council vote during the February meeting, when did that vote take place if it didn't take place at the February council meeting?

The next question is just as unsettling. Even if the individuals are paying for their own newspaper announcements of public hearings and for notifying neighboring land owners of public hearings, who is paying for Day's time?

To convolute the manner even further, John Wright asked the LPA tonight if the Wrights could join in the petition for rezoning. Their land sits directly between Walkup's and Stranges'. LPA Chairwoman Charlsie Stott said they could not. If they wanted to rezone their land, they would have to start on their own. Stott said that when the council decided that each individual pay for his own rezoning cases, the Glasses dropped out.

Yet, the question still remains unanswered, why were the Glasses included to begin with and the Wrights were not?

Conflicts of interest:

Before the public hearing tonight, board member Jim Walkup read a statement into the record, citing Florida statutes. He would not be voting on his brother Howard's rezoning petition, because this would be a conflict of interest under Florida law, (Florida Statutes chapter 112.3134.)

Yet, when the process began in January, both Walkup brothers voted on the boards they serve as either elected or appointed town officials to begin the process of rezoning three parcels of land, including Howard Walkup's.

In January, this issue appeared on the town council agenda under old business. During discussion, Debbie Miller, the town clerk, told council members the agenda item was added by Walkup.

The town council, in turn, voted to send the three parcels -- the Glasses, the Stranges and Howard Walkups' -- to the LPA. The vote was 4-0. (Jan. 11, audio file 2:11:38 to 2:16:00) Callahan was not present. Howard Walkup voted.

Then, on Jan. 29, the LPA voted unanimously to recommend that the council begin the process of rezoning those three specific parcels of land. (Jan. 29 LPA meeting, 26:00 - 44:00) There were no dissenting or abstaining votes. Jim Walkup voted.

The LPA will hold another public hearing March 27 regarding the repeal of the Historic Ordinance, passing the new Tree Ordinance and an ordinance regarding removal for citizen board members.

Labels: , , ,

posted by Cher @ 11:07 PM,

29 Comments:

At   March 14, 2007 3:56 PM     ,    Anonymous Anonymous    said...

Any Property Owner can file for re zoning at anytime without the council approval to file. After filing then the Council can approve or deny after proper steps are followed.

 
At   March 14, 2007 4:00 PM     ,    Anonymous Anonymous    said...

Cher a lot of people in Town are calling you a trouble maker instead of news reporter. You keep stiring the pot with your knit picking everthing just to cause trouble. Maybe this is the way you get your joy causing trouble.Sad!! SAD!!

 
At   March 14, 2007 4:44 PM     ,    Anonymous Anonymous    said...

Ya cher, I agree...just let some on this go...people are getting sick of your reporting. it was nice in the beginning but now its getting annoying.....why dont you go report on something else?

 
At   March 14, 2007 5:42 PM     ,    Anonymous Anonymous    said...

eCher,
I have taken up for you and your
reporting in the past, but I view
what you are doing now uncalled for. Why can you not look for some
good in our town to report on
rather than all of this that is
negative. Please consider this as a
constructive suggestion. We all can improve and I feel strongly
that the blog could have a possitive impact on our town instead of the negative point of
views you are portraying now.

 
At   March 14, 2007 5:47 PM     ,    Blogger Cher    said...

I'll speak to the issue first.

Yes, any property owner can file for rezoning.

However, the story questions that the council voted to table this, then less than a month later, the process was already started. A public hearing had been called. Reports had been completed. Listen to the audio file: I mark the places in the audio files for a reason.

In February, you can hear Deaderick say he would schedule a meeting if the land owners wanted one. You can also hear him say this is an important issue and people will have opinions about it. The council was open to hearing this rezoning issue. They voted to table it by design so that everyone can be involved in the process who wants to be.

Further, the two applicants were elected officials who witnessed that vote, then apparently ignored it.

Not to mention, there is still a question of the town investing money in this process -- a process previous councils have voted down in the past. Someone has to pay the planner, folks. The town is paying for some part of this process while other land owners, like the Wrights, are told they have to go it alone when it's still not clear who is paying for exactly what for a councilman and for the mayor...

That's newsworthy. I stand by the reporting and the label news reporter, even if it's not popular.

Frankly, I'd like to know what the rush is.

I betcha other people in town do, too.

 
At   March 14, 2007 6:04 PM     ,    Blogger Cher    said...

As for the second comment...

You know, I stood up in front of council last summer to some of these exact charges. Stirring the pot... troublemaker...

OK, Nit-picking is a new one for me.

But it's complimentary just the same -- for a news reporter. As I told Joe Phillips in last July's council meeting, if you are going to this length to shut me up, I must have done something right.

I also told Phillips in that same meeting, I'm reflecting your government and your community. It's cliche but if you don't like the message, don't blame the messenger. I felt strongly enough about that statement to rename the blog The McIntosh Mirror.

Notice that I'm not changing the name of the blog.

Ask yourself this: Are you angry that a councilman voted for a process that would mean rezoning his own land? Or are you angry that a council vote was ignored by elected officials (in this instance) and skipped over by a citizen committee (LPA leaving the historic board out)?

Or are you just angry that my reporting pointed it out?

 
At   March 14, 2007 7:50 PM     ,    Anonymous Anonymous    said...

The LPA didn't leave the historic board out, they didn't come to the workshop. And no, I am not angry about anything that you have brought up, but yes you are just stirring the pot. And yes, I think that you are keeping things in this town stirred up to further your education. Isn't this blog part of your school work? Will you really stay here reporting on McIntosh after you graduate? Is it paying well?

 
At   March 14, 2007 8:39 PM     ,    Blogger Cher    said...

I disagree with you on the joint LPA-Historic Board meeting based on two reasons. First, the wording on the agenda posting was obscure. But I've already gone into that at length. Second, the council voted for a joint meeting with a very specific request -- that the LPA and the Historic Board meet and discuss hot to change points the council brought up in the ordinance. This was never explained to the LPA during that meeting. Instead, they repealed the ordinance. Go back and listen. It's all there. I stand by my reporting.

I was going to get a Master's degree, with or without McIntosh.

Nope. I'm not getting a grade for this. I do study online media, but that study came out of my work here. It's too soon to tell where it's going.

You ask if this is paying well:

As far as what I make on this blog.... I have never made a dime.

My expenses for the blog in the last year(roughly):

Equipment:
-recorder - $100
-batteries - $30
-camera - $100
-mic and tripod - $30
-Sunshine Manual - $10
-server space - $200
-software (adobe audition ed) - $150
-public records - $350 (includes town's monthly public record charges from town and other costs from acquiring public records that have been made available on this site to the public.)
-occupational license - $5.25

So, total, I spent about $975 covering McIntosh town council and making public records available to residents. There are probably some gas charges in that there have been times when I have come back specifically for a meeting.

We're not even talking about my time here. But let's look -- since you've brought it up. A newspaper reporter earning about $30K a year, earns about $14 per hour. That's fair. I have training in online media and a BS degree from one of the top six journalism schools in the U.S. Saying I spend 5 hours on an average a week going to meetings, writing copy, editing sound files, etc.,... that would cost about $3,640 bringing the bare bones value of the blog and my contribution to the McIntosh community to $4,430 for this year.

You tell me: Is it paying well?

As for after I graduate, I can't say what I'm going to do.

Reporters ask questions. It's what we do. It only stirs up trouble when there's trouble to be stirred up.

 
At   March 14, 2007 10:29 PM     ,    Anonymous Anonymous    said...

Cher,
Why don't you use your talents to
unite our town instead of dividing
it?

 
At   March 14, 2007 11:12 PM     ,    Blogger Cher    said...

Y'all need to choose screen names if you're not going to sign your names.

To the last comment about my talents... I thought I answered this question above. You are blaming the messenger and overlooking the issue.

Last summer, when I reported the same type of coverage, only of different officials, people told me I was bringing the town together.

Just an observation.

 
At   March 15, 2007 2:16 AM     ,    Anonymous Anonymous    said...

Some of you seem to be missing a point: If Cher is pointing out problems with the way things are done in McIntosh, shouldn't we be UNITING behind that and helping make things right? Regardless of her motives, her reporting DOES seem good when you listen to the audio. Everything she says is true. It's too bad that it's true, but don't blame Cher for that.

 
At   March 15, 2007 9:33 AM     ,    Anonymous Anonymous    said...

Cher you are doing a great job the truth is the truth. These people who are telling you otherwise should be a shamed of themselves, right Debbie and Charlsie. You both have no right talking bad at Cher for telling the truth! Maybe this needs to be looked at a little more.

 
At   March 15, 2007 11:27 AM     ,    Blogger Cher    said...

I appreciate the comments about the truth. Thank you.

I have to point out that we can't assume Debbie and Charlsie are among the anonymous commenters here.

That's the double-edged sword of anonymity. You've got the freedom to get stuff off your chests, but there's the risk that what you say as an anonymous poster will have less credibility or just be seen as politically motivated.

 
At   March 15, 2007 12:39 PM     ,    Anonymous Anonymous    said...

We do support you and always will even if we are the wrong one at fault. That is the right thing to do. Keep up the excelent work Cher.

 
At   March 15, 2007 12:57 PM     ,    Anonymous Anonymous    said...

It does seem like the town clerk is in here. Debbie here is some much needed advice -- Don't choose sides you are supposed to be our town clerk not town sneak for Howard the Mayor and Charlsie! You can get in serious trouble if caught doing wrong in that office. Just because it is quiet does not mean that people are not watching every move.

 
At   March 15, 2007 1:04 PM     ,    Blogger Cher    said...

Thank you. I appreciate your support.

I want to say that I do hear another message here that it would be nice to see a variety of work in the blog. Public affairs reporting tends to be controversial and negative, because there is a great deal of politics involved. Sadly, "Council approves monthly financial statement" is not headline material.

Frankly, I'd like nothing more for the blog to encompass other parts of town.

When the council repealed the historic ordinance, Lee Deaderick pointed out that the town's government was not the civic hub of the town. He's right. There are other groups in McIntosh that would that would generate softer news headline and be fun for people to read about.

As we've established here, this isn't my full-time job and I don't get paid for this work, even though I remain committed to it. So, my challenge to my critics, if you want more positive stories, write a story about the other events and news that's going on in town, sign your names and send it to me. I'll publish them in the blog.

Someone was just telling me the other day about how fabulous it was that the Friends had been able to throw a surprise at a meeting for a long-time member. You know what? I bet a lot of people would have enjoyed a first person account of that event.

 
At   March 15, 2007 1:21 PM     ,    Anonymous Anonymous    said...

THE MCINTOSH MIRROR HAS SOME CRACKS AND VERY DARK SPOTS. I THINKS EVERYONE NEEDS TO TAKE THE COTTON OUT OF THEIR EARS IF THINK EVERYTHING IS JUST THE WAY IT IS PRINTED.

 
At   March 15, 2007 1:24 PM     ,    Blogger Cher    said...

Please keep personal criticisms (against people other than me, obviously) to yourself, unless you are willing to sign your name and can go on the record supporting your statements.

Even then, when you want or need to make statements about the town clerk's work performance, the best place to voice them is to a council member, rather than a public forum. The town clerk is a hired employee and not an elected official.

That's only fair.

 
At   March 15, 2007 1:38 PM     ,    Blogger Cher    said...

Since y'all aren't choosing screen names, I'm going to quote to avoid confusion:

"Anonymous said...

THE MCINTOSH MIRROR HAS SOME CRACKS AND VERY DARK SPOTS. I THINKS EVERYONE NEEDS TO TAKE THE COTTON OUT OF THEIR EARS IF THINK EVERYTHING IS JUST THE WAY IT IS PRINTED.

Thursday, March 15, 2007 1:21:00 PM"


I agree: If you don't like my reports and editorials, take the cotton out of your ears and listen for yourself.

That's why I post audio files and spent the money for programs to convert and the server space to host them as streaming MP3s for people with dial-up to listen to at home.

 
At   March 15, 2007 3:23 PM     ,    Anonymous Anonymous    said...

better yet, if you have a problem with cher's reporting, have the guts to give examples of mistakes she made. writing mystereous "things are not what they seem" words tells us nothing. if you know something is wrong, you have to actually tell us!

 
At   March 16, 2007 9:48 AM     ,    Anonymous Anonymous    said...

I think that there are not alot of people in town that even have a clue on the cost this is to cher. I look at it as this is how much she cares and wish some how some way she could make a buck on it or even have our town stop charging her for copies and simple things like that as a donation for putting that much time,work and money into helping our town.
We do care Cher :)

 
At   March 16, 2007 12:28 PM     ,    Anonymous Anonymous    said...

Cher: You need not worry about printing the truth. If there are those that are offended by it, well, they just have a problem.

 
At   March 16, 2007 6:28 PM     ,    Anonymous Blogster    said...

I agree. I think what Cher is doing is providing a service. If it wasn't for the blog many of us would be less informed of the goings on around town. "Trouble maker", I think not.

 
At   March 18, 2007 5:32 PM     ,    Anonymous Anonymous    said...

Your reporting is great Cher, there are a lot of questions unanswered and may be we ( the majority of citizens that are not in the fight with the Hatfeilds & McCoys) can get these finally answered. A majority of the citizens like the Town of McIntosh small, thats why we moved here. I think maybe the town council should ask the citizens how do we want the future of McIntosh to look & grow.

 
At   March 19, 2007 6:19 PM     ,    Anonymous Anonymous    said...

And just why are some people fearful of the information being out there? That is what the blog does, gets the info out for all.

 
At   March 19, 2007 10:26 PM     ,    Anonymous Anonymous    said...

tisk, tisk, tisk. me thinks it will take more than knit picking to straigten out the mess. I think that at least one piece of the yarn is going to break under the strain.

 
At   March 21, 2007 11:32 AM     ,    Anonymous Anonymous    said...

I feel that the town council should put the rezoning issues at a town vote the and only then you will see how many people are concerned about the growth potential.

 
At   March 21, 2007 9:17 PM     ,    Anonymous Anonymous    said...

Hi, Patricia Clark here. I have been living here for 23 years now and I find this appalling. Anyone can sign anonymous. If you really believe in what you say take ownership in it.

 
At   April 09, 2007 10:55 PM     ,    Anonymous Anonymous    said...

seems, cher is finding some of the truths about mcintosh.. gross mismanagement,unfair dealings with city property, funds not used properly and selective enforcemnt of town ordinances..you get this in china, or cuba...but, lets let the walkups, and strange have what they want, maybe they will resign, and an honest council will be elected, like the one we had before.

 

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Editor

Editor and Publisher:

I'm Cher From McIntosh, FL I'm a graduate student at the University of Florida working on a master's degree in Mass Communication. While I was finishing my undergrad degree in journalism last year, I reported on McIntosh, Fla. for an in-depth reporting class. I figured that the reporting and the public record files should go somewhere people can access them. Reporters don't report to keep the information they find to themselves. Some of that reporting is included here in a forum that allows response. McIntosh suffers because with no news coverage, the local government and the rumor mill have too much potential to run rampant over residents. I moved to McIntosh in the fall of 1999. My profile

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The primary purpose of this blog is to accurately reflect what happens in town public meetings and dispel rumors. I record the meetings and make them available for download. One of the goals of this blog is to offer residents a place to voice opinions. The comments, views and opinions expressed there are not necessarily those of the editor.

 
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"A Popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives." - James Madison, 1822

"Personal journalism is also not a new invention. People have been stirring the pot since before the nation’s founding; one of the most prominent in America’s early history was Ben Franklin, whose Pennsylvania Gazette was civic-minded and occasionally controversial." - Dan Gillmor, 2004, We the Media

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