Light-up McIntosh December 15
Light-up McIntosh will begin at the Civic Center at 6:30 p.m. The event will host Santa Clause and an area choir from six local churches will sing.
01.31.07 -- REPORT: LPA advises council to repeal of historic ordinance, rezone of ag land for potential development
Wednesday, January 31, 2007
By CHER PHILLIPS
The McIntosh Land Planning Agency voted unanimously to recommend the Town Council rescind -- in effect, repeal -- Historic Ordinance 151.
LPA board member Jim Walkup questioned the ordinance due to its length compared to the old land development code. He also questioned the parts of the ordinance dictating what types of trucks can be parked in the historic district, saying this was targeting people who used them to make a living.
Board members critiqued the ordinance for restrictions involving the roof color, as well as the stipulation in the new ordinance that businesses had to have the approval of the Historic Preservation Board before they would be issued a McIntosh business license.
Board member Randy Brown pointed out that he had some concerns with the LPA address the historic ordinance because he said he understanding of the LPA is that it should deal with land use only. He said roof color is not a land use.
Regardless of his concerns, Brown conceded that parts of the 151 ventured into controlling land use, and he voted with the other board members to repeal the ordinance.
Story continued below...
Listen to the Jan. 29, 2007 LPA meeting from Tuesday night by clicking on the black player-triangle: (Internet Explorer users may need to click the start arrow twice.)
Jim Walkup motions again 151: 9:44
Bill Glass defends 151: 22:18
Rezoning Ag land: 26:00
50-foot road setback: 44:04
Board member removal codes: 1:24:00
If you are having problems viewing the player, you may need up download or update Flash on your computer. You can do this free at: Flash Player
The LPA voted to recommend the council rezone about 80 acres of agricultural land to R1, which is residential.
In the past, the council was stalled on rezoning this land until design standards were in place. However, the ordinances offered by the LPA concerning design were found contentious by residents last summer. One of the ordinances would allow town officials to inspect homes. Some residents felt the ordinances were designed to keep trailers out of McIntosh.
This time around, the LPA and council skipped redoing the comp plan where the criteria for R1 is concerned.
Only one resident at Tuesday's meeting, Council President Frank Ciotti, spoke about the impact of opening up agriculture land as residential -- saying this rezone could open up the area to the development of as many as 80 new homes.
"I think there's potential for an awful lot of growth we didn't really anticipate," Ciotti said.
LPA chairwoman Charlsie Stott said they were not talking about that much development.
Three land owners will be effected, Council Vice President Howard Walkup, Mayor Marsha Strange and Bill and June Glass.
Strange said because homes would have to have road frontage, her land might accommodate three homes.
Walkup said the maximum he could have was 10 homes, but he didn't intend to do that.
Other agriculture land owners are Danaya Wright and Chris Rath.
LPA board members said Rath did not want to do anything with her land. Glass urged the LPA to consider doing something while they still had control of it.
Glass said Wright was putting her land in a conservation easement. An e-mail to Wright has been sent to confirm this.
Brown, who worked on the original land comprehensive plan, said that he thought in the past that the LPA had considered rezoning the agriculture land to residential was in line with the plan. But he said, in the past, the land was used for agriculture at the time.
The LPA also volleyed several other issues the council asked them to look at back to the council.
One issue sent back to the council involved the 50-foot sight line around the street corners in town that became an issue during the Code Enforcement Board case again the Smith-Henderson's involving the Great Wall of McIntosh. The LPA also bounced back to the council the request to define the codes dealing with removal of citizen board members.
01.27.07 -- ADVANCE: Barn Dance tonight
Saturday, January 27, 2007
BARN DANCE TONIGHT:
Judy Barnett and her band will be hosting a Barn Dance tonight at Harvest Village just north of town at 8 p.m. The cover price for admission is $5.00.
I would love it if someone going would write me a couple paragraphs about the dance, like a review. I'll post it and pictures anyone would like to submit. Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
01.18.07 -- EDITORIAL: Between a rock and an historic ordinance
Thursday, January 18, 2007
By CHER PHILLIPS
I realized that I have been watching the public meetings in McIntosh closely for almost a year now. I don't live in the historic district. I've heard in meetings that some people think that this excludes me from a right to having my comments heard. I disagree.
I've thought about what's appropriate for me to say about the Historic Ordinance, as someone who wears both a reporting and an editorial hat in this blog. I've come up with this. It's always appropriate for a journalist to inform and to ask questions.
From all those meetings I've gone to, I've got say that I have a few questions based on what I've seen take place over the last year as the council discusses repealing the Historic Ordinance 151.
I don't agree or disagree with the DelRussos. The emotional point of view about how residents feel about the idea and meaning of the historic district is important. I also feel it falls short in answering some of the pragmatic concerns in the community. One thing is universal, most people want an ordinance of some kind. Where everything breaks down is which ordinance should we have. Council Vice President Howard Walkup wants the old one. Some other residents want the new one.
Either way, these are my questions:
My first and foremost concern about Historic Ordinance 2006-151 is that no one on the council can tell me if this is the corrected version of the ordinance that was passed by the council last year, or not. Even at the last meeting, when asked, councilmen said they "thought" the copy of 151 they had was the ordinance the council passed, but they couldn't be sure. The version they were considering in December was incorrect in that it did not reflect changes the council wanted made to 151 in June when they passed it.
What does this mean?
Well, it implies that the concerns people had with ordinance might not have made it into the ordinance -- that is, if those concerns even made it to a council member's attention.
I question the manner in which this ordinance was passed.
Last February, Randy Brown applied for a metal roof. It was approved by the Historic Preservation Board to the great protest of Susan Phillips. Very soon after that meeting, this approval was brought up at a workshop meeting last February by former Councilman Joe Phillips, who said that the board was way out of line approving Brown's roof. Then, it was decided at that meeting that the citizen boards would write their own policies.
Last May, the new ordinance was brought to the council, and they approved it without reading it. Mayor Marsha Strange even asked them if they weren't sure they didn't want to read the 27-page ordinance first. Council members said the approval was for the purposes of discussion. However, a thorough discussion of the ordinance never came to bear at that meeting. It was passed at the next one.
At the next monthly meeting, Historic Ordinance 151 was approved before a packed Civic Center, including many upset residents. Some of them walked out of the room, calling back over their shoulders that the council did not listen to them.
Given that the current copy of the ordinance may or may not include the changes that the June 2006 council members deemed necessary, and that the ordinance passed with lightening speed, what would be wrong with considering some revisions to 151?
Maybe offering the sticky points of the ordinance to the town's residents for discussion at public workshops would finally put to rest some of the loudest objections to the finer points of 151 like what color people can or can't paint their homes.
One of the criticisms of the Land Development Code is that it is outdated. This code hadn't been updated since 1994. But should it really be updated without making sure that it's done in a democratic manner?
My other observation involves motivation.
The town itself is stuck in the middle between motivations. Some people say Walkup is trying to "get even" by asking for a repeal of this ordinance. From what I observed, this ordinance was born in a desire to "get even" for what some considered an unpopular board decision regarding Randy Brown's roof. The more I dig and listen to people, the "getting even" goes way back in this community.
People begin the lawmaking process for a wide variety of reasons and I am sure that "getting even" was not created in McIntosh.
But I have to question the councils -- past and present -- if they are being good stewards of their community by not making sure a democratic process is followed as they shape their community's laws.
01.16.07 -- LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Preserving the historic ordinance
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
The following e-mail was written to Councilman Lee Deaderick and sent to the editor with a request that it be posted on the blog. This letter is printed verbatim. I have removed some of the HTML formatting because it was not legible in blogger after a straight cut and paste. The blog welcomes letters to the editor. The content of this or any opinion posted on the site does not necessarily reflect those of the editor.
From Fred DelRusso:
My wife wrote this for Lee for the good of showing him why we believe in fixing the historic paperwork and not abolishing all that hard work those ladies have done.
I wrote the paper below out of love for McIntosh.
I hope it will give you some understanding of the value we place on preserving the Historic District.
We realize that not everyone sees the town this way, but everyone we have ever introduced to McIntosh has fallen in love with it and its old time look and ways.
A Historic Trust
I believe we are blessed with a loving duty. I believe we have been entrusted to preserve a way of life for our children.
History is our children’s Heritage, their inheritance. It is what we leave behind and how we will be remembered. Our story, who we are and what we care about, is the only real treasure we leave our children. How will anyone remember our story if there is nothing left to reflect it?
Sadly, so many believe that history is dead, the past is done, gone and no longer relevant. But, History, our children’s heritage, provides examples, over and over of people who through their hard work and their dedication for a better way of life changed the world. Many were Pioneers who left comforts of one life to make new lives of a very different kind in a new place.
We in McIntosh are fortunate to live in a very small place that still lives on the edge of that history. We still have the good fortune to be surrounded daily by evidence of those who came before. Many of their children still live among us and have embraced the trust to preserve their heritage. What of US that follow them? Will we be less faithful? Are we to discard our children’s heritage?
Trust involves faith and caring. The dictionary says it is “firm reliance on honesty, dependability, strength, or character of someone or something.”
The “someone” in this case is US. Our children trust US to love them and in our love, to provide for them, to educate them and to provide good examples of “honesty, dependability, strength, and character”.
The “something” is McIntosh, its trees, its people, its houses. I believe this one small town embodies all the good we wish for our children. We can rely on its dependability, strength and character to provide a good example.
Can we be relied upon to provide the same?
The face of McIntosh is shaded by trees that lived and watched as pioneers broke ground and tamed a small piece of this tropical land. They provide beauty that is envied by every visitor to our small town. So much of our state has been raped and pillaged, scraped clean to make room for more and more houses, more and more people. We, in McIntosh, enjoy a luxury few can afford.
Will our children be fortunate enough to have what we have? Our trees, how can we not care for them? When you speak with the people of McIntosh, what do you see? Every person in this town lends it character.
By our actions and by our non-actions we show our character and how that character supports the trust we have been given. I believe the elders of our town displayed examples of “honesty, dependability, strength, or character” by preserving a way of life. Shall we do less?
When you see our old houses, what do you see?
Do you see their beauty? Do you want the children to have beauty in their lives?
Do you see the ingenuity of their builders? These houses were made to take advantage of natural airflow and light, and they are an engineer’s delight. They are designed to provide comfort in a world without air conditioning and electricity. They have large rooms, high ceilings, big windows and porches. Yet, in outside communities, people discard this for small rooms with windows that do not open, walls that must be insulated to preserve the air conditioning that consumes yet more electricity. They subject their families to prison-like conditions in the name of progress. They cannot appreciate the beauty of the environment because they cannot see it, feel it or smell it. They cannot know their neighbors because they are shut away from them. Is this to be our children’s heritage?
Do you see the strength of the old houses? They have persevered for over a hundred years. What new house built today will last that long? Ask anyone who has worked on one of these houses and you will hear that it is a labor of love. It is also a labor of discovery, because so few today know or understand why they were made the way they are made. The strength and resiliency of the materials used is no longer even available. We can only try to duplicate and preserve. Do we have the character and determination to do this or shall we simply stand aside and let it slip away?
Do you see the character of the old houses? Bits of decoration and workmanship abound in the columns, porch rails, fish scale, and other decorative brackets and hardware. The heart pine, practically petrified, was hand worked and cut for beams, rafters, floors, stairs and exterior siding. It was attached with nails stronger than anything you can buy today. These houses were made to last for generation to come. Their builders built for their children and for those to come after them. What are we building for our children?
I moved my family here to enjoy a life anchored a little bit in the past. We wanted to know our neighbors. We wanted to live in a small town with tree-lined streets. We wanted to build a future for our children and our children’s children. We love the beauty of the houses, enjoying those that have been renovated and those we hope to see renovated. We understand that not everyone wants to live in an old house, but for us, the charm of the old home is irresistible. It is almost a physical pain to see old homes neglected. We understood coming in, that we were buying a part of history and that we would be caretakers of that history. We are in the historic district and we believe in the rules that preserve these homes.
If we had not wanted a historic home, we had all of Florida to choose from to live in.
We chose McIntosh. Please help us preserve the beauty and wonder that is Historic McIntosh in a world that is changing so quickly.
Our Children have so little to hold onto that is held fast with a firm reliance on honesty, dependability, strength, and character. We can teach our children the importance of taking care of the old.
Like us, our houses each have a story to tell. If we do not preserve these stories, who will remember? How will our children remember us? Strong? Caring? Faithful? Full of Character? Dependable? Will we be able to rely on them? Have we done our duty to teach them honesty, dependability, strength and character?
Please help us preserve a bit of our children’s heritage by supporting McIntosh’s Historic District Designation.
Susan DelRusso (with Fred, Chris and Cody)
01.14.07 -- Editorial: Grounds are only a public records request away
Sunday, January 14, 2007
By CHER PHILLIPS
The McIntosh Town Council found its hands tied when it tried to boot Harris Fellman from the Code Enforcement Board last week.
And why not?
Because according to Attorney Scott Walker, they had no grounds for removing him from his post. Council Vice President Howard Walkup barely had the motion to remove Fellman on the floor before Fellman rang out with, "You can't do that."
The McIntosh Town Charter states that citizen boards serve at the pleasure of the council. The Land Development Code states that code enforcement board members can only be removed with cause.
Walker interpreted cause to be conviction of a crime or felony, drinking while serving on the board, absences, malfeasance or misfeasance.
The end result is that the Land Planning Agency, which defines and rewrites the town's code, will take up doing just that to the rules governing the code enforcement board.
Now, in my opinion, it is way past high time for the code enforcement board to be reworked because some of the Code Enforcement Board meetings I observed over the past six months reminded me of scenes from "To Kill a Mocking Bird."
As much as I think that Lee Deaderick's intention is in the right place, putting a budget on the code enforcement board as a means of reigning in Fellman sets up the town's people to pay hefty fines. Residents could conceiveably be brought up against two attorneys, a code enforcement officer and a secretary. Since Bill Glass resigned from the board after the meeting where he made obscene comments, the majority rule of the board has been rather fair and has not ruled that residents face fines.
But how long can that last when the board is chaired by Fellman, who turns a deaf ear to residents' concerns that he is biased against them while he makes the same accusation against council members trying to remove him?
The majority of the council wanted him out during the last meeting. Yet, Fellman told them point-blank they could not get rid of him. If someone is that adamant about continuing to serve on a board, can that person be trusted to NOT to fine residents in order to keep that board going?
If there is any pressure on the code enforcement board to fine residents, what chance does anyone have of not paying a fine when a three-hour meeting could cost between $1,200 -$1,500 for two lawyers, a code enforcement officer and a secretary.
Fellman claims that he likes to follow the letter of the law.
This is true. His observance of code is so strenuous that the town will have to change the letter of the law to pry him from this board.
Personally, I think there's another way. The council needs grounds. I have an idea how residents can help provide grounds.
I looked up misfeasance on www.nolo.com.
Misfeasance is defined as: "Performing a legal action in an improper way. This term is frequently used when a professional or public official does his job in a way that is not technically illegal, but is nevertheless mistaken or wrong. Here are some examples of misfeasance in a professional context: a lawyer who is mistaken about a deadline and files an important legal document too late, an accountant who makes unintentional errors on a client's tax return or a doctor who writes a prescription and accidentally includes the wrong dosage."
For months, Fellman has refused to provide minutes for the code enforcement meetings because he says that he does not believe that it is his job as the chairman of this board to provide them.
Fellman wants the luxury of trying McIntosh residents but he doesn't want the work that goes with it.
However, the other citizen boards in town provide their own minutes. Florida's Sunshine Law states that minutes must be provided for public meetings.
As the chairman of this board, it is reasonable that he should have provided minutes as far back as last June instead of excuses as to why he shouldn't have to provide them
If you want to see a little misfeasance, drop by the town office and make a public record's request for the minutes from the meetings of McIntosh Code Enforcement board for the last six months. Copies cost 15 per page and by law the town has to cough them up within 24 hours or explain why. Here's a form if you need one.
The council wanted grounds. Well, grounds are only a public records request away.
By CHER PHILLIPS
Click here to the McIntosh Town Council meeting, Jan. 11, 2007:
McIntosh residents agreed on one point and little else last Thursday night. The Lord’s Prayer will remain a part of the town’s monthly meetings.
The Historic Ordinance 151 will stay up in the air for at least another month. Motions made to remove Harris Fellman from the Code Enforcement board failed, because the land development code didn’t allow his removal. The council charged the LPA with rewriting the town’s codes where this board is concerned, as well as rezoning the town’s agricultural land to residential estate.
Keeping the Lord’s Prayer
Town Attorney Scott Walker advised the council based on U.S. Supreme Court case law to consider no longer giving the Lord’s Prayer at council meetings, suggesting that the council initiate a non-denominational prayer than the Lord’s Prayer, which can be found in the Bible.
On Jan. 3, a watchdog group called the Freedom from Religion Foundation wrote a letter Council President Frank Ciotti asking him and the council to respond on two matters. The first was that the council recited the Lord’s Prayer before their town government meetings. The second matter involved comments Council Vice President Howard Walkup made during the interview process saying he did not want to hire an atheist as the town clerk.
Walker barely finished his suggestion, when Mayor Marsha Strange disagreed with the point.
“I disagree with Scott, I suggest we continue as we have in the past,” Strange said.
Several other members from the audience also chimed in.
“I do too,” said Susan Phillips, a resident.
“I agree,” said June Glass, chairman of the Historic Preservation board.
“I’m sorry, but I like the Lord’s Prayer,” said Casey Girardin, Sportsman’s Cove owner. She asked what the town would have to do to be in compliance.
“How can an organization half-way across the United States complain with the local citizenry supporting it?” Walkup said. “Don’t they have to reveal who those people are?”
In fact, the foundation’s co-president, Annie Laurie Gaylor, said last weekend in a phone interview that the group’s policy is not to reveal locals who complain to their organization. She declined to say who in McIntosh complained about the Lord’s Prayer or Walkup’s comments during the town clerk search last fall.
Council President Frank Ciotti read a statement into the record.
“I make the motion that the opening of the McIntosh Town Council meeting that the Lord’s Prayer is deeply embedded in the history of this town and part of the fabric of the town of McIntosh,” Coitti said. “To invoke divine guidance on our town councilmen, councilwomen and mayor, who are entrusted in guiding the town, is simply an acknowledgement of the beliefs widely held by the people of this town.”
Ciotti’s statement met round of applause. Though, no one seconded the motion, the council voted 4-0 to keep the Lord’s Prayer as part of the custom in McIntosh.
Neither Walker nor Ciotti address the second matter in the letter from the foundation. After the meeting, Ciotti said it looked to him like direct quotes from Walkup, but he said the council already addressed Walkup during the interviewed process. He said he does not plan on responding to the foundation’s letter.
Ongoing historic ordinance struggle
In December, Walkup motioned to repeal Historic Ordinance 151. Questions arose whether or not the copy of the ordinance the council members were debating was the correct version.
Issues that had been discussed by the council before the ordinance was passed in June were not changed on the copy of the ordinance the council was looking at in December. For instance, the council had wanted “Benjamin Moore” removed from the kind of paint colors that could be used. It was determined in December that the council did not even have a correct copy of the ordinance and the motion for repeal was tabled.
While the council believes that it has a correct version of the ordinance, Casey Girardin questioned this last night. She said that she remembered there being an argument over chain link fencing that was in the ordinance. When asked, Ciotti said he thought the council was working from the correct version.
That motion was tabled again last night.
Councilman Lee Deaderick said he still does not have enough information to vote for or against tabling the ordinance. In fact, he would like residents to e-mail him. (email@example.com) before the February meeting to let him know their thoughts, for and against the ordinance.
“If forced to vote on this with my bend toward personal freedom, I’d repeal it right this minute,” Deaderick said. “I’m not well-informed so I’m going to plead that the people who desire to keep it inform me before the next meeting, and those who have a reason to get rid of it to inform me.”
“I’m very indecisive on this issue, and I need more information to make an informed decision,” Deaderick said. “I’d like to hear from both sides.”
Residents who were present last night were divided on the issue.
Glass and Phillips were in favor of keeping the ordinance, citing it came from federal guidelines.
DelRusso said that the ordinance wasn’t perfect but that repealing it would be moving backwards.
Debbie Miller, town clerk, has a home in the historic district, said she didn’t like the ordinance telling her what she could or couldn’t do with her home and her money.
”I purchased my home with my money and I don’t want people telling me what to do with my property,” Miller said. “I think it causes a lot of anguish when you know you’ve got this 27-page document, from my own perspective.”
“I don’t like people telling me what to do with my house,” she said. “It’s my house, it’s my money. I don’t like the government telling me what I can do.”
Miller said she did not know her home was in the historic district when she bought it.
Glass said most people know before they buy into the historic district. She argued that the old ordinance wasn’t enforceable and that she didn’t see what the “big deal” was with Ordinance 151. She said it prevented people from doing things like painting their homes “pink with orange polka dots.”
Glass said to Miller, “you may have good taste but everyone else may not.”
“The old statement that people should get to do whatever they want with their property is a bunch of hogwash because people live with rules and regulations when they drive a car, when they register to vote, whatever we do, people are told what to do and we live with the confines of what the government tells us to do,” Harris Fellman said.
He said that McIntosh is an historic town and said that Walkup had animosity toward the historic district and that Deaderick called the historic district an “hysterical district.”
“I think it’s high time that they back off and stop this foolishness,” Fellman said.
Deaderick sounded off on two issues. First, he said that he doesn’t agree with the purpose of the historic ordinance.
One purpose listed in the ordinance is that residents should protect their property values. Deaderick said he thought it was presumptuous. He said when he pays off his house, he doesn’t want his taxes to spike because his property values rise. He also said that he thinks the ordinance presumes that people wouldn’t naturally take care of their homes on their own.
The question that remains tabled is whether the council will repeal the Historic Ordinance and send it back to the LPA.
Council’s hands tied over Code Enforcement
Another matter that the council voted to send to the LPA dealt with the wording in the Land Development Code for the removal of Code Enforcement board members.
Walkup had barely made the motion to remove Fellman from the Code Enforcement board when Fellman countered him, out of order, saying that the council could not remove him from his post.
“You can’t do that,” Fellman said.
While the McIntosh Town Charter states that the citizen boards serve at the pleasure of the council, the Land Development Code details the removal process.
Members can be removed from the Code Enforcement Board for cause. Walker said the council would have to remove Fellman for one of five reasons: convicted of a crime or felony, drinking, absences, malfeasance and misfeasance.
At one point in the discussion, Deaderick quietly asked Ciotti to call Fellman out of order and remove him from the meeting if he didn’t stop addressing the council when Fellman did not have the floor.
Ironically, during the Code Enforcement meeting last week, Fellman would not allow Deaderick to make any comments. This point came up.
Fellman claimed that some council members had a personal grudge against him.
Another point of irony over the last six months has been that short of one person, every resident who has come before the code enforcement board has leveled that same accusation against Fellman only to have it fall on deaf ears. Last week, Melissa Henderson said on the record even after the board’s final decision had been made that she said she thought Fellman had something personal against her.
Walkup objected that the meeting was not properly posted. Fellman said he was not to blame for that, that it was the prosecutor’s job, not the board chairman’s to post meeting agendas.
“Another time, there were code enforcement meetings scheduled and then canceled without notification to the parties involved, and as far as your service on the board, Harris, your so adamant in your position that it’s unreasonable. That’s evidenced by the last two code enforcement meetings, that you were out voted 4-1 when you had a full board and you were out-voted 3-1 the other night,” Walkup said. “You’re the one out-of-step and not the others.”
The motion to remove Fellman failed with a 2-2 vote. Deaderick said he wouldn’t vote to remove Fellman without a cause supported by the town’s code. Walkup and Councilwoman Eunice Smith voted to remove Fellman, and Ciotti and Deaderick voted not to remove him.
But immediately following the failed vote to remove Fellman, Deaderick made two motions.
His first motion passed, which will send the section of the Land Development Code spelling out the organization of the Code Enforcement Board to the LPA for revision. The council members discussed concern that the powers of the Code Enforcement Board were too broad and were originally slapped together when they were established in the 1980’s.
The implication of the motion is clear: the LPA is charged with finding the council a manner of removing Fellman from the board.
Deaderick’s second concern was the amount of money spent by the code enforcement board.
He motioned to impose a budget on all of the citizen boards as a means of limiting their powers. Deaderick initially threw out a $1,000 budget for the code enforcement board.
Fellman balked at Deaderick’s proposal.
“To accuse me of wasting town money is heinous, is truly heinous,” Fellman said.
The Code enforcement board employs two attorneys and a code enforcement officer. Town records show that Gifford made $560 for one meeting last fall and $525 for another. Add to that the $30 per hour for the code enforcement board and the town attorney’s $160 per hour rate, one three-hour code enforcement meeting could feasibly cost the town more than $1,200.
In addition to that, Fellman said at Thursday night’s meeting he would like the town to pay for transcribing the meeting’s minutes. The code enforcement board minutes have not been made available since last summer because Fellman does not believe he is responsible for transcribing the tapes of the meetings he chairs. Florida’s Sunshine Law requires that public boards, even quasi-judicial boards like the code enforcement board keep minutes.
McIntosh’s other citizen boards keep track of their own minutes.
-- The town will be looking for bids for the services of a civil engineer. Walker reported that he met with Lee Mills to access ongoing problems involving water drainage on the west side of town.
In November, the council voted to help Steve Race take measures to divert town water that was draining onto his land and eroding his yard. But the town never followed through with this. Race pointed out that if he built up his yard, the water would erode…
Water drainage has been a problem on the west side of town. Walker advised the council not to attempt to pay for individual person’s drainage problems because fixes could easily run up a bill that could cost the town more than $100,000. Deaderick did not agree with Walker.
-- The town is opening up to bids for a new town office in response to a rent hike from their landlords Murray Musselman and his wife, Julie, the town’s retired town clerk. In December, the Musselman’s brought a lease to the council that would raise the town’s rent from $250 to $700 per month. Musselman justified this hike saying that the proposed rates were the less than other commercial rents in the area. In addition, the Musselman’s had to do work on the septic system.
The town is considering purchasing commercial space, as well as renting a different office.
-- The town will work with McIntosh Area School to rework its 25-year lease agreement so they can move forward with loan applications to build a new school.
-- The Town Council agreed not to pay a $23,834 for the MSTU covering Emergency Medical Services and Fire Rescue Services. Last year, the town agreed to pay this bill but agreed that future fees should go on individual’s tax bills.
This did not happen and the town has been charged again for EMT and Fire services to the area.
Walker suggested that the town negotiate an hourly rate county for the calls with to the town.
--The McIntosh Town Council agreed the LPA will start over with rezoning the agricultural land in McIntosh into residential parcels. During the last two years, the town has struggled with how to rezone the agricultural land in town and what design standards should be imposed on that zoning.
Rezoning could open doors to future development in McIntosh, which could mean a strain on existing structures like the water system and roads.
01.08.07 -- Bulletin Board Post: Update on stolen DelRusso airboat
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
Note from the editor:
Some in town might have heard, there was a second airboat in the area stolen from McIntosh in December. This boat, like Fred DelRusso's, was recovered later in one of the neighboring communities.
DelRusso has posted an update on the progress of the investigation into his airboat on the bulletin board.
01.08.07 -- PUBLIC NOTICE: Agenda for Town Council Jan. 11 meeting
Monday, January 08, 2007
Town Council Meeting
January 11, 2007
Civic Center 7:00 P.M.
Anyone wishing to place a subject on the agenda may do so up to 72 hours before the meeting by notifying the town office.
I) Call to Order, Lord’s Prayer, and Pledge to the American Flag
II) Roll Call
III) Minutes of the Town Council Meeting of December 14, 2006
IV) Financial Report for January 2007
A) Shirley Lane, Principal, and Stephanie Hodges,
Area Specialist US Department of Agriculture – School Lease
VI) Citizen Board Committee Updates:
A) Tree Preservation Committee Ordinance No.: 06-155
B) Historic Ordinance No.: 06-151
VII) Message from the Clerk:
A) Muni-Code compilation
VIII) Message from the Mayor:
IX) Message from the Attorney:
A) Town Office lease/bids
B) Town committee terms and appointments
C) Lee Mills, Town Engineer, update on water drainage issues
X) Old Business:
A) Payment Request – Marion County Interlocal Agreement
B) Agricultural Land density
C) Committee Term Appointments and Citizen Board Functions
XI) New Business:
XII) Message from the Council:
XIII) Citizen’s Comments:
***Notice to Board Meeting Attendees: As a courtesy to others, please ensure pager and cell phones are turned off during meeting***
Welcome to the Town of McIntosh Town Council meeting. All persons wishing to address the Town Council will be asked to limit their comments to the specific subject being addressed. However, in order to foster mutual respect between the Town Council and the public, it is requested that comments are directed at specific issues rather than personal comments directed toward Board members or staff.
Please note that if a person desires to appeal any decision made to any matter considered at the above meeting, that person may need to ensure that a verbatim record of the proceeding be made, which record includes the testimony and evidence which the appeal is to be based.
01.07.07 -- REPORT: Watchdog group seeks to end prayer at McIntosh town meetings
Sunday, January 07, 2007
By CHER PHILLIPS
Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Freedom from Religion Foundation in Madison, Wis, confirmed today that she sent a letter to the McIntosh Town Council on Jan. 3 on behalf of the foundation and anonymous complainants.
The same letter showed up on the community forum of this blog yesterday, though Gaylor did not post it.
Gaylor said she sent a copy to the complainants, who she refuses to name. She also declined to say the number of local complainants who might be involved. She said her foundation doesn't divulge names because the people who complain fear hate mail, reprisals and being ostracized in the community.
She said the results the foundation is hoping for is to raise consciousness about the Civil Rights law with the town council. The other goal is that the council stop reciting the Lord's Prayer before their meetings. She said that practice was "something that was on the way out."
Her other concern was that the council had imposed "a religious test" during an interview process. She said she hoped the council would respond to the letter after the town has had time to process it.
During a workshop meeting planning the hiring process for the next town clerk, McIntosh Town Council Vice President Howard Walkup said he didn't want to hire an atheist. Other council members informed Walkup what he was allowed to ask during an interview process and what he wasn't. Councilwoman Eva Jo Callahan drafted the questions that were directed to the final candidates.
The Freedom from Religion Foundation, a national watchdog organization, states on their Website that they litigate. Gaylor said that the foundation does not have any plans for McIntosh currently other than to ask the council for a response to her letter and cease reciting the Lord's Prayer.
"I am not threatening to sue the town," she said. "We do take lawsuits but we don't idly threaten lawsuits."
Gaylor said the foundation's current priority in Florida involve finding a plaintiff to join in a lawsuit against Dixie County for the Ten Commandment monument in front of the county courthouse. She said that case was "totally unreasonable" and said they were ready to sue when they found someone to join them.
01.06.07 -- COMMENT POLL: Lord's Prayer, what do you think?
Saturday, January 06, 2007
It seems an outside organization has targeted the McIntosh Town Council meetings over the Lord's Prayer, at the request of some local residents.
What do you think? What do you think about the town meetings being prefaced with the Lord's Prayer? What do you think of an outside watchdog group based in Wisconsin asking the town council to stop reciting the Lord's Prayer before local government meetings?
I'd like to try something different and have a comment poll. Click below and in your own words, check in and let it be known what you think about the Lord's Prayer being recited before the meetings.
By CHER PHILLIPS
It seems a national organization is targeting McIntosh's town meetings due to the recitation of the Lord's Prayer before the town's monthly meetings.
A post made to the McIntosh Mirror (click here) indicates a communication has been directed to the town council regarding the Lord's Prayer said before the town meetings. The communication also mentions a statement Council Vice President Howard Walkup made during the search for a town clerk that he did not want to hire an atheist. According to the letter posted on this blog, McIntosh residents have complained to the Freedom from Religion Foundation.
A message was left with Annie Laurie Gaylor, with the Freedom from Religion Foundation in Madison, Wis. Calls have not been returned at the time of this posting.
Council President Frank Ciotti was not even aware of the letter or e-mail. He said he has not heard anything about it. When read some of the text of the letter, he said the council had a discussion in November 2005, that they would move the Lord's Prayer to the beginning of the meeting, outside the official meetings.
In regards to the comment made by Walkup during the interview process, Ciotti said the council did follow the Civil Rights law during the search for the town clerk.
"I do a lot of Civil Rights training and I am always very cognizant of everyone's rights," Ciotti said, who always works for the state of Florida.
During the search, questions were drafted by Eva Jo Callahan and handed out to all council members. The same questions were asked of each applicant. When the council made its final selection though, all of the final applicants but the local applicant, Debbie Miller, had withdrawn their applications. Audio recordings of these meetings are available on this blog.
Ciotti pointed out that the Marion County Commission also prefaces their meetings with the Lord's Prayer. In fact, video on the Marion County Website shows that the county commissioners begin their meetings with an invocation, which in the Dec. 19, 2006 was in fact a prayer.
For a town not a mile wide, McIntosh has between four and six churches, depending on where the draw the township lines. The hub of the town's social character is based in its religious community.
Late last year, a monument with the Ten Commandments was placed in front of the Dixie County Courthouse. The group who has addressed this letter to the McIntosh Town Council was looking for Dixie County residents to join in a lawsuit to have this monument removed, according to the group's Website. (http://ffrf.org/news/2006/dixie.php)
The Dixie County case drew national attention to the argument on the separation between church and state.
Since the local complaintants are not known, Walkup said he had no comment.
"I'm not gonna even comment on it unless I know who's complaining," he said.
The following is the post left on the McIntosh Mirror Website forum:
January 3, 2007
Mr. Frank Ciotti, Council President McIntosh Town Counsel McIntosh City Hall McIntosh FL 32664 Dear Mr. Ciotti and Members of the Town Counsel:
Our national organization, which works to keep state and church separate, has been contacted by taxpayers and residents of McIntosh over several matters relating to the separation of church and state. We have been informed that the Town Counsel opens its official civic meetings with the Lord’s Prayer. We ask that you drop such denominational prayers from official city functions, or substitute a moment of silence, as enlightened government boards have done around the nation. Prayers are unnecessary, inappropriate, and divisive. Calling upon council members and citizens to rise and pray (even silently) is coercive, embarrassing and beyond the scope of secular city government. Town Counsel members are free to pray privately or to worship on their own time in their own way. They do not need to worship on taxpayers’ time. The city is lending its power and prestige to religion, amounting to a governmental endorsement that excludes the 14% of your population that is nonreligious (Religious Identification Survey 2001). In choosing a biblical prayer, the Counsel compounds the violation by endorsing a particular religion and particular holy book. Citizens of all religions or no religion are compelled to come before you on civic, secular matters: variances, sewers, building permits, restaurant licenses, sidewalk repair, etc. They should not be subjected to a religious show or test, or be expected to demonstrate religious obeisance at a city function. (We fail to see why divine guidance is needed over such earthly matters, anyway.) Christians who know their bible are familiar with the biblical injunction of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, condemning as hypocrisy public prayer. “Enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut the door, pray to thy Father which is in secret” (Matt. 6:5-13). Observing a strict separation of church and state offends nobody, and honors not only the First Amendment, but the very tenets being professed during counsel prayers. We have also been told that at the Oct. 17, 2006 meeting, a recording of which is online, Mr. Howard Walkup, a member of the Town Counsel, stated that he wished to do a background check before hiring a new town clerk: “I want to know if they are an atheist . . . I want to find out because I don’t have to hire one . . . there are some other categories I don’t want to hire. . . I am going to find out.” Someone then replies, “You can’t ask that . . . we will cross that bridge when we get to it.” While it is reassuring that someone at the meeting understands the Civil Rights Act—that non-church employees, especially government employees, cannot discriminate in hiring or firing based on protected categories such as race, color or religion—this allegation, if true, is shocking. The U.S. Constitution, which Mr. Walkup presumably took an oath to uphold, explicitly forbids a religious test for public office. Given the mantle of endorsement to religion which the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer confers, it is perhaps not surprising that such openly unlawful views would be expressed freely at a government meeting! I and the complainants wish to be reassured that the McIntosh Town Counsel will take proactive steps not to violate the Civil Rights Act or to impose an illegal religious test on employees. May we hear from you about these matters at your earliest convenience?
Annie Laurie Gaylor
Co-President Freedom From Religion Foundation
PO Box 750
Madison WI 53701
01.04.07 -- REPORT: Great Wall of McIntosh, Fellman staying on in 2007
Thursday, January 04, 2007
By CHER PHILLLIPS
The McIntosh Code Enforcement board met tonight to hear two cases and determine their board leadership for the next year.
With two board members, Spencer Clark and Chris Rath not present, the board nominated and elected that Harris Fellman would continue to serve as the chairman for the next year. Fellman served as the board's chairman for 2006, as well.
The Code Enforcement Board's second order of business moved through procedural advice given to them by their attorney Eric Gifford.
Though the board did not actually vote on these changes, they ended up adopting Gifford's suggestions through the practice in the meeting He advised them that they might eliminate some of the back and forth argument that's come up so often in the past year by adopting more formal periods of the meeting. In addition, audience members testimony and comments would no longer be heard. If someone wanted to make a comment about a case, he would have to be sworn in and could be cross-examined by either the attorney representing the town or the respondent defending a code complaint.
It didn't take long for this to prove a problem for Town Councilman Lee Deaderick.
Deaderick wasn't able to make the organizational meeting after getting off of work but was present for the case presentation of code violations written against Melinda Smith and Doug Henderson. The Smith-Henderson's own the house with the Great Wall of McIntosh on U.S. 441 that has been a matter of contention between the town and the couple since last May.
Deaderick raised his hand twice, attempting to be called on for comment. The second time he asked Fellman if he could make a comment, Fellman said the code enforcement board had decided before the meeting they were taking no comments. Deaderick stood up and left.
Outside the Civic Center, Deaderick said that everyone in the center should be fired.
"I just watched them spend $1,000 of the town's money and didn't help a single person," Deaderick said.
The respondents in the two cases heard did not pay fines, nor were they asked to compensate the town for damages and attorney's fees. Looking back at cases heard since the code enforcement board hired Gifford, no case has justified the respondent in paying the town back for the fees incurred by the two lawyers and the code enforcement officer.
Last February, the town council brainstormed ways to increase funding for the town. One method was proactive code enforcement. The cases coming before the board now are cases that were filed last spring by former Code Enforcement officer Art Davis, who was removed from office by the council later that summer after the mayor testified he treated her badly.
Other residents complained, too. The Smith-Henderson's were among them at meetings. Last May, Smith informed the board that Davis' behavior was "crusty" and publicly said to the council he was difficult to deal with during a site approval process.
Davis, acting as in proactive code enforcement, filed complaints on May 1 of last year that the Smith-Henderson's fence was on the town's right of way, that their septic system was too close to the swale, the block fence was not up to code, and that their garage door was not approved and had no permit. Smith said that Davis also put a stop order on their property halting all construction and improvements.
But at tonight's meeting, the complaints still held against the Smith-Henderson's were that their garage was on the town's right of way and that their wall violated the town's land development code.
Code Enforcement Officer Phil Howell testified that he researched all of the complaints and violations. Records show that the Smith-Henderson's applied for a certificate of appropriateness for their wall in Feb. 10, 2005. It was granted. A permit was given to them on Nov. 14, 2005.
Then, six months later, after their wall was nearly completed, Davis stopped work on it.
As it turned out, the wall was not on the town's right of way.
Howell said he contacted the Department of Transportation and by their guidelines, the wall created no public safety issue. Howell said the DOT's guidelines were based on traffic engineering. But he said the wall does violate the town's 50-foot rule, which states that someone should be able to see 50 feet around corners in McIntosh. He also said he could not determine on what they town's code's were based.
The code enforcement officer said that trick, for him, was figuring out whether or not the wall should be considered existing or not. Since a permit had been issued, he said the wall could be considered non-conforming and remain.
He and Fellman differed over whether the town was in violation of the code. Smith agreed that this was the town's fault for allowing her to build the wall, and then writing code violations against her for building the wall. She said that safety was foremost in their minds, and if that had been the issue, they would have taken it down.
Henderson said it was ironic that safety was an issue. He said they built the wall for exactly that reason. He recounted a story from when he and Smith purchased the house. He said Mrs. Walkup told him that a drunk driver had lost control on U.S. 441 and ended up in what was his new front yard. Henderson said he was concerned an the 18-wheeler barreling down the highway would lose control and run into his property. Their home is on the southern part of McIntosh, at a place where the highway jogs to one side at the base of a hill.
The Smith-Henderson's other issue was that their garage, which had been there for some time, was on the town's right of way.
Ironically, as the wall they recently built was deemed a non-conforming, existing entity, an old garage was found to be in violation of the code. As with the Great Wall of McIntosh, the Smith-Henderson's had been dealing with the garage issue for some time. They sent former Council President Danaya Wright a letter July 12, 2006 requesting an agreement with the town that they would be responsible and carry insurance on that land.
The board voted to close that part of their case The couple will be able to keep their wall, too.
Board members Georgia Farmer and Jim Winters voted to allow the wall to stay without violations and close the complaint against their garage as long as the encroachment contract the Smith-Henderson's e-mailed to the town's attorney last August was signed within this month. One board member opposed the vote --Fellman.
Initially, Fellman was asked, as he has been in previous meetings, to recuse himself from the proceedings because the Smith-Henderson's had publicly filed a code complaint against him and his wife. Fellman refused and insisted he had nothing against the couple.
Even after the proceedings, Smith, who's paid about $1,200 in legal fees to ligate her wall, remained unsure about that matter.
She also said that she and Henderson plan to sell the property in the future, citing that there was just so much anger in McIntosh. She said both she and Henderson have other properties and they bought the place in McIntosh to visit and spend time looking at the horses in the county.
"I don't understand what happened in the last year," she said.
She said the council in 2005 was not perfect, but they had at least tried to work with people. It seemed to her that all of that changed, and she said that she didn't understand some of the ill will she'd experienced in town. Smith said she's not been to recent meetings since three council members have resigned and new members have stepped in.
Henderson said that he's lived in Reddick 32 years and always wanted a place in McIntosh. He lamented that he'd cleared all the overgrowth and done so much work on their place on U.S. 441.
"It's a beautiful piece of land. It's a beautiful wall," Henderson said.
Debby Olliver's case involving a septic tank which has a drain field that may or may not be on the town property. Olliver, who lives in Sarasota, drove hours to get to McIntosh for the meeting.
Olliver's case was held over until she can provide a survey of her land. The property lines are vague making it impossible to tell if the septic system and drain field she had installed per the property appraiser's maps was installed on her land or the town's. Almost 30 years ago, the previous owners of Olliver's property struck a handshake bargain with the town -- a land swap.
Since the swap happened so long ago, Gifford and Fellman pushed to have the agreement formalized.
Walkup, who was allowed to address the board -- unlike his fellow councilman Deaderick, said he thought the original agreement should be honored.
"We just can't state that we want to be good guys, we have to be good to the code," Fellman said. "That's the law."
Happy New Year, McIntosh!
I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday. I know I had a great break. I graduated in December from UF with a Bachelor of Science degree in Journalism. Most of my degree, I held down a full-time job and extra journalism projects like this blog, an internship at the Sun and a section editor for a couple semesters at the Alligator. Through that I found time to get to class and actually study. I graduated magna cum laude.
So, I found some more time over break and took a little bit of an Internet vacation. But now we're into 2007. I had my first orientation session for grad school. I'm now a masters student at UF's Journalism school.
As school starts back up, so does the machine that is McIntosh's municipal government. Tonight will be the Code Enforcement meeting.
The organizational meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. It's a short notice, I know. But this is an important meeting. Code Enforcement proved a hardship in 2006 for this town. I'll put my editorial hat on and ask if maybe it's not perhaps time for a change in leadership on that board?
I've got some e-mails asking about the December meeting. I'm going to get a break-down up before next week's meeting, as well as the audio file.
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
About This Blog
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.