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Cocoa Beach: Be “Reasonable.”

Man Arrested For Not Wearing Sunscreen

COCOA BEACH – A man was arrested today in Cocoa Beach for failing to wear sunscreen. The man, who is not being identified, was told by Cocoa Beach Rangers that he needed to wear sunscreen as a failure to do so would likely cause sunburn and skin damage.

“We have a legal responsibility to keep the public safe and healthy when visiting our beaches,” a City official said. “When the Beach Rangers made a reasonable request to the man to put on sunscreen, he refused. We were forced by his non-compliance to remove the man from the beach and ban him from returning to the beach for two years.”

Luckily, that story hasn’t happened – yet.

But it could.

Tonight the City Commission of the City of Cocoa Beach will meet at 7:00 PM to discuss a variety of issues, including Ordinance 1605, which expands the authority of the Beach Rangers and other City employees to require people to follow what is described as “reasonable” commands from designated City employees.

Cocoa Beach: CRA And Commission Meeting Tonight.

The City of Cocoa Beach will host a CRA meeting and a regular Commission meeting tonight. The CRA meeting starts at 6:00 PM and the Commission meeting follows at 7:00 PM. The agendas for both meetings can be found here.

As of this writing, the CRA meeting is perfunctory and only has the approval of the minutes from the last meeting.

The Commission meeting has a couple of interesting things as far as we can tell.

First, there is a agenda item to approve an agreement accepting $200,000 for the demolishing of the Glass Bank Building. We have no opinion on the proposal at all, but once again, it seems sad to us that Cocoa Beach’s iconic building is gone.

Secondly, there is a proposal to allow the City Manager to designate City Workers to issue citations. This seems to be addressing a hole in the City Code where Beach Rangers cannot issue actual citations but can only issue demands of compliance.

We find this rather interesting.

Beach Rangers are code enforcement agents. They are not law enforcement agents.

The difference is that if a law enforcement officer asks for ID based upon reasonable cause, the person should supply ID. That is not the case with Beach Rangers. So a person can either opt not to tell the Rangers their name, provide ID, or even lie to the Rangers when being asked for ID. Rangers do not have the power to detain anyone so they can’t even say “wait here while I request a police officer.” (A police officer cannot do that on a traffic stop either. You do not have to wait for a officer to call for a back up or a K-9 unit. That’s the law.)

Perhaps this is a case where the City is looking to make the process the punishment. We don’t know.

But in our opinion, this makes situations worse, not better.

Finally, we were surfing the ‘net and came upon some instances of black and white photos that had been colorized.

While many of the photos are interesting and well done, given the controversy over dogs on the beach, we found rather, well…..”insightful.”

Cocoa Beach: Workshops!

The City of Cocoa Beach will host two workshops tonight. The first workshop is scheduled to run from 6:00 PM to 7:00 PM and will deal with the Land Management. The overall presentation can be seen here.

Frankly, one of the things that we found rather interesting was the request on page 15 to “fund / plan alternative muck for alternative / innovative muck management options…”

Unless we are reading this wrong, the City staff is looking for funding to do the same exact work that Brevard County is doing in their efforts to rid or lessen the muck in the lagoon. The County has made looking for muck removal, abatement and other processes a priority. Can someone please explain why the City Staff is now asking for funding to do the same thing the City Commission supported last year? Is there a trust factor where the City thinks it can do the job better than the County?

The second workshop is from 7:10 PM to 9 PM and is on “Form Based Code.”

It is our opinion that the code, like so many codes, is an attempt to take private design considerations away from property owners and put them under the finger of a governmental flunky who, most of the time, is not elected.

From the Form Code Manual itself:

Simply put, this manual encourages good design. It explains the community’s expectation for urban design and redevelopment, reflecting the visions created by its citizens for Downtown and for the Uptown/Gateway and Pier areas.

The problem is that great design – designs that become iconic – are often those that are harshly criticized and nearly prevented from being built by some moron sitting on a board in some city.

Don’t believe us?

Cocoa Beach: Planning Board Meeting Tonight.

Tonight at 5:30 PM. the City of Cocoa Beach Planning Board will meet to consider a change in zoning of two parcels located at 1615 and 1675 North Atlantic Avenue.

Ordinance 1603 (Proposed) would amend the FLUM for both parcels from High Density Residential & Professional to General Commercial, and Ordinance 1604 (Proposed) would amend the Zoning designation from RM-2 Multifamily Professional to CN Neighborhood Commercial.

According to the City, here’s what the change would do:

If the two subject parcels remain as currently zoned, the primary development options for the sites are professional/business office space, a multifamily residential complex of up to 35 total units for the two properties, or a combination of multifamily and professional as a mixed use development. The required setbacks would be 40 feet on the front (east), 20 feet on the north and south sides and 15 feet on the rear (west). Since these sites are abutting residential property, the maximum allowable height would be 35 feet. (EDITOR’S NOTE: See our comment below.)

Approval of the request to amend the FLUM and zoning designation for the two parcels would permit the sites to be developed commercially. The setback minimums for the sites would remain the same for the front and sides, but the rear (west) setback would increase to 25 feet, and the height would still be limited to 35 feet.

Within the submittal package for this request, the applicant provided a proposal for development of the parcels. Unknown at this time is whether or not the two sites would be developed individually or together, but there have been some general design elements agreed upon by all parties involved.

Cocoa Beach: Meetings and Woulas, Doggies, and Licenses.

Tonight the City of Cocoa Beach will host a regular City Commission meeting starting at 7:00 AM. The agenda and supporting documentation can be found here. The meeting can be seen online at the City website or on Spectrum Channel 497.

Before we discuss tonight’s meeting, we want to jump back to last meeting, specifically to item item J(2) which was described as:

Review the City Attorney’s firm performance, and determine whether to continue or terminate services per the existing contract.
Representative: Commissioner Williams
Recommendation: Determine whether to accept resignation and solicit replacement, terminate services and solicit replacement, or continue services until further action

We wrote about the genesis of this item prior to the March 2, 2017 meeting. Never could we have guessed what came out of the meeting that night.

First, when the item came up, we were stunned that City Attorney Fowler was not present. He simply wasn’t there. No reason was given for his absence, but we have to say that if one’s job, credibility and reputation is on the line and is going to be discussed, one would think you’d show up at that meeting. Not attending the meeting or having another person say why you weren’t attending is, in our opinion, a slap in the face to the Commission and the people of Cocoa Beach. In Mr. Fowler doesn’t care about his contract, we see no reason as to why anyone else should.

It is our belief that Fowler’s actions which came to light during the February 16, 2017 Commission meeting were illegal and contrary to the City Charter. Four of the Commissioners – Commissioner / Mayor Malik. Vice Mayor / Commissioner Woulas, Commissioner Martinez, and Commissioner Miller were accomplices to those illegal actions.

It is also our belief that this was the final straw to Commissioner Skip Williams, who was not part of the activities and who had not even been asked about what direction the City Attorney should take when it came to the Ocean Dunes lawsuit. Williams seems to have the moral decency and ethics to know that if you can’t trust your lawyer to do the right and legal thing, you don’t need that lawyer. That is why he brought forth the agenda item to have the contract of Fowler terminated and a search for new representation for the City initiated.

(NOTE: It certainly caught our ear that the amount of the base contract for the City Attorney was $140,000 and last year the City had also contracted for $100,000 more work above the contract. That number stayed with us because of this:

Cocoa Beach: Stand Up.

The story goes that after the Constitution was passed in 1787, as he was leaving Independence Hall, Benjamin Franklin was asked by a lady, “Well Doctor what have we got a republic or a monarchy?”

A republic,” replied Franklin, “if you can keep it.”

The story may be apocryphal, but it is enlightening even today.

Franklin, like many others of his time, knew that unless people are involved in government and hold officials accountable, special interests and the interests of the elected officials would end up dismissing the wishes and the desires of the citizenry.

There are far too many times when we think this happens or when there are seminal moments in government.

One of those times may be tonight.

The Cocoa Beach City Commission will hold two meetings – a CRA meeting starting at 6:00 PM and a regular City Commission meeting starting at 7:00 PM. The meetings can be seen on Spectrum channel 497, but there is always room at the meeting for people to actually come, watch and participate in the meeting(s). The agendas for both meetings can be found here.

There are two items on the agenda for the Commission meeting that have caught our eye.

The first item is agenda item G(1) which is listed as:

Request to schedule a Joint Workshop of the City Commission and the Planning Board to discuss the proposed revision to the Land Development Code. (Added to Agenda 02-28-17)
Representative: Commissioner Williams
Recommendation: Schedule Joint Workshop

We can’t read Williams mind but looking at the Land Development Code (LDC) document he references, we see several issues The first is the continued reference to the idea that the permissible height of buildings in Cocoa Beach is 70 feet. (See Policy II.2.1(a)(2) on page 9.)

We have been down this path before and it makes no more sense than it did when the Ocean Dunes variance was being given.

There is also this section that is being deleted from the LDC:

Policy IV.1.2

When developing Special Area Plans, the City must seek public participation and input, using techniques including, but not limited to, neighborhood meetings, charrettes and advertised public hearings.
Significant categories for focus of these public discussions will include:
(a) Land use;
(b) Protecting existing residential development
(c) Transportation/traffic;
(d) Historic preservation and development patterns; and
(e) Accommodating tourists.

The Planning Board’s recommendation is to apparently not allow or encourage public participation in determining the direction of development and redevelopment of the City.

Between these two issues, and probably others, we believe Williams wants to have a public discussion about them that is far beyond a agenda item where there is a deadline for when the entire agenda has to be finished. Williams wants this document brought out into the light and discussed at length if necessary.

We believe he is right.

The second agenda item of interest is agenda item J(2) which is described as:

Cocoa Beach: Questions And “Unfunded Mandates.”

(image courtesy of the City of Cocoa Beach)

We weren’t planning on doing this post today, but hey, why not?

There were two “interesting” things we noticed at the Cocoa Beach Commission meeting last night and we’ll take them in the order they happened.

During the Staff reports, City Attorney Skip Fowler reported on the litigation concerning the Ocean Dunes project.

Mr. Fowler reminded the Commission that the judge in the case had denied the City’s motion to dismiss based on failure to file in a timely manner. Fowler than gave an overview of the steps in the lawsuit (motions, counter motions, pleadings and answers) following which there would be a three judge panel seated to decide the case. While the date of the decision would be based on the Court’s schedule, Fowler said he expected the decision would be “maybe in April – probably in May.”

Then Fowler said something truly curious:

Assuming that you haven’t changed your minds and wish to do something different, then we’ll proceed in that direction.

“Haven’t changed your minds?” Who is this “you” and when were they asked about proceeding with defending the lawsuit?

Commissioner Skip Williams then asked:

COMMISSIONER WILLIAMS: When you say ‘you’ve not changed your minds,’ who specifically on this Board…..

CITY ATTORNEY SKIP FOWLER: The four who voted in favor of the variance.

WILLIAMS: So as far as expending additional City funds, basically to defend a rational from a property owner variance, the City is spending additional funds by having you help them defend their variance.

FOWLER: That’s largely correct. What we are defending is the Commission’s decision and that clearly is in accordance with the property owner’s desires.

WILLIAMS: Well, I would have thought that the burden of defending their rational would have fallen to the property owners and not required an incurrence of additional funding from the City Commission….

FOWLER: Well, they’re in there too, Commissioner. I didn’t mean to suggest that we are carrying all…

WILLIAMS: Well, I’m just saying it’s kind of a blindside to me that we are spending…..what do you think those costs will evolve to?

FOWLER: Well, that’s a good question. I could see it could easily go $15,000 to $20,000.

WILLIAMS: So I want to ask this Commission was it your expectation that the attorney would spend $15,999 – $20.000 to rationalize and to defend the rational for the variance on behalf of the property owner?

FOWLER: No, I expect the judge to….

WILLIAMS: I want to ask the Commission, sir.

FOWLER: I’m sorry. I thought you were speaking to me.

Cocoa Beach: UPDATE: Commission Meeting Tonight. (Also Known As “Oh Crap, Did We Miss This One.”)

We are going to do something that we seldom (if ever) do – use a comment as the entire post. (Or at least the focus of the post.)

One of our readers noticed that while he felt that our discussion on the County Appraisers and Tax Collector interlocal agreement was important, there was another issue on the agenda of importance:

K. New Business:
Approve proceeding with the design for the construction of a new City Hall, Police Department and Parking Structure, following Option D, as presented at the February 9, 2017, Commission meeting, and requests that Staff begin the planning and the budgeting for the project.

We stopped reading after “proceeding with the design for the construction of a new City Hall, Police Department and Parking Structure,” and did not realize that the agenda item would present, vote upon, and essentially give the approval of the basic design plans, including locations.

Geez, did we screw that one up.

Here’s the comment that was left for us and we are presenting it because we don’t think we can add more to it.

These are important issues, but I believe the big issue facing our city is the proposed option D for the new downtown police dept, city hall, green space, and parking structure. While I agree these facilities require updating I really hate the idea of placing the police secure parking along our main drag (S. Orlando ave.). This would be a poor use of high value real estate and an eyesore for folks traveling thru our city.

Below is a copy of an email I sent to the commissioners and city manager. If you agree (or disagree) I urge you to either show up at the meeting to voice your concerns or email them with you inputs. Thirst decisions will be very tough but will affect the look and feel of our downtown area for many years to come. Now is the time to voice your inputs.

(click on image for larger resolution)

Dear Commissioners and City Manager:

I am resending my original input to voice my objection to having the PD parking along our main drag (South Orlando) as it looks like happens if you select option D. I realize there are many ways to skin this cat but IMHO placing a parking lot along our main thru-way would be an eyesore and a turnoff for both tourists and residents – also a very poor utilization of high value real estate. Put the PD parking lot back on Brevard ave.

Please consider placing the new PD next to the fire department – I believe there is a lot of synergy to be gained by locating these two buildings in close proximity (meeting spaces, training classrooms, communications antenna’s and towers, backup power units, etc). No need to have separate stuff at two separate locations when you could put it all together and share common items between police and fire.

A nice green space and city hall along our main drag would be very attractive and make our city look great, additionally by putting the green space along S. Orlando you locate it closer to the proposed parking structure which would seem to make more sense than having to have folks park in the garage and walk across A1A to access events at the new green space as option D would have you do.

Also, as I stated in my previous letter it seems like a bad idea to co-locate police parking and public parking in the same structure due to security concerns.

The writer and commenter is dead on point. No matter how you feel about this, you should show up and express your support or concerns as this is a long term project for the City of Cocoa Beach.

Thanks to the writer for noting our omission and making a great comment.

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