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Westgate, Cocoa Beach, And Expectations.

Last night the Cocoa Beach Board of Adjustment met and unanimously decided to pass a special exemption to Westgate Resorts allowing the company to erect three amusement rides in walkway near the Cocoa Beach Pier, which is owned by Westgate.

We had written about the agenda item here and were interested to see whether Westgate would have to supply the same information other applicants would have to supply or would Westgate get preferential treatment of some sort.

We should have known better than to even wonder.

Proposed location of rides.

First, we want to say that Westgate has done a good if not great job of renovating the Pier and making it better than it was when it was first constructed. The Pier had falling into disrepair and Westgate changed that.

However, it should be remembered that Westgate didn’t do the work out of the kindness and goodness of their heart. They did it to make money. A profit off of their investment. We take no issue with them looking to make a buck off of the Pier and their investment in it. It’s a business and we respect that. However, unlike many, we don’t feel the need to thank them for it. We don’t need to give them accolades for engaging in their business of buying, renovating and maintaining properties.

Many of the people who supported this project cited how great Westgate had been in the renovation of the pier. Some of the supporters (most actually) work for Westgate in some capacity now or in the past. Many of them spoke about the exacting standards and planning the company exhibits on a constant basis. Being great in the past may mean people are less skeptical of you. It doesn’t mean that you get a free pass from the City.

If you think they should be thanked endlessly, let us know the next time City officials come to your home and thank you for making improvements and maintaining your property.

The agenda item itself started out with City Planner Sue Ryan making the presentation for Westgate. It was not, as one would hope and expect from a City employee, neutral in any way. Ryan said Westgate had plans in place to address lighting concerns for both neighbors and sea turtles saying “they can turn [the lights] down.

Last meeting, when the BOA was dealing with the outdoor proposed outdoor seating at the marina restaurant, the applicant was grilled on the type of lights that would be used and was asked to show the fixtures they would use to shield the lights from residents living across the water. The BOA wanted an exacting plan.

Westgate?

“They can just turn them down.”

Ryan also addressed the music that could or would be played from the rides. Once again, Ryan claimed that Westgate had a plan to keep the noise down. (More on this “plan” later.) Ryan didn’t give specifics on the plan. This is once again in sharp contrast to the restaurant at the Marina which was told not only could they not play music after certain hours, but they had to mitigate any music that may be heard via some unknown “air audio baffling” system Board Chairman Don Haynes and others seemed enamored with. Once again, the owner of the restaurant has to give detailed plans on noise abatement.

Westgate?

“They have a plan.”

It was clear Ryan was a supporter of the plan and was not representing in any way, shape or form those in the room who were opposed to the proposal much less those who had communicated their opposition to the plan.


Two representatives from Westgate spoke. We only wish to concentrate on the testimony of one Rick Lohr, who is the agent for Westgate and the General Manager of the Pier.

(NOTE: For those of you who aren’t aware, this was a “quasi-judicial hearing” which means that the people speaking were giving sworn testimony under the threat of perjury.)

Lohr discussed the rides and strangely, he seemed unfamiliar with the specs of at least one.

Of all the rides, the ride with the largest footprint is the Tornado. Lohr said the ride had eight cars and an eight person capacity. That’s not exactly true. According to the documentation, the ride has a capacity of 32 people (4 in each car.)

Minor mistake? A mere misspoken piece of data?

Maybe. But the question was the number of people the ride would handle. According to the manufacturer’s specs, the ride can handle 650 riders per hour. Was Lohr lowing the number because the idea of 5200 people per day in lines is a rather frightening thought for residents. Heck, even 650 people per hour is rather daunting if you thing about it.

Maybe it was a mistake and we certainly can believe that.

Yet if it was a mistake, it somewhat belies the “meticulous” and “attention to detail” supporters of the project claim Westgate has.

Lohr also said the rides would not impact the view of anyone. As we said yesterday, One ride is alleged to be 29 feet tall. (Taller than the surrounding condos.) Lohr and Ryan both made that point. The problem is that the ride is somewhat higher by half a foot. (It’s actually 29.52 feet tall.) We know we are being picky, but basic math is that you round up to next unit when you are 50% past the unit itself. If anything, the ride should have been represented as 30′, not 29′. It’s another strike against the meticulous and detailed oriented company.

As for the view that won’t be impacted?

A picture is worth a thousand words:

Is the impact of the rides on the views of people great? Nope. But that’s not the point.

Why would Westgate / Lohr misrepresent that there would be no impact when there is?

Lohr also represented that the rides were quiet – very quiet. And to prove this he offered data sheets with sound decibel readings which showed…..

Sorry, we can’t even finish that sentence because we are laughing too much. Unlike other businesses that have had to provide and give details on actual noise levels, Westgate only had to to say “they’re quiet.” (Are they certified as being quiet by Elmer Fudd?)

Actually, one person who spoke against the proposal said there was a YouTube video showing the Drop’N Twist ride in operation and how loud it was.

Sure enough:

There are a couple things to notice. The first is while there is some wind than can be clearly heard, there is also the whine of electric hydraulic pump. Between the hissing of the ride itself and the noise of the pump, you cannot hear the voices of the men recording the video or the voices of the men on ride.

It’s loud. And this is just one of the three rides.

(As a side note, later in the meeting when the Board was discussing the proposal, Chairman Barry Plans said of the noise concerns raised by people, “all I heard were complaints of kids screaming.” Thanks for listening, Mr. Plans.)


Have we missed anything? Anything else that has us up at 2 AM pounding away at the keyboard on this issue?

No lighting plan….no sound plan….no accuracy in the data presented,,,,,no data on sound…..

What was the other thing we wanted to cover?

Oh yeah.

The rides don’t fit.

At least not in the locations Westgate and the City says they will go.

The first image in this post is from the packet prepared by meticulous and detail oriented Westgate to the City. The image shows the proposed locations of the rides.

We decided to look at the actual footprints of the rides fitting into the proposed area.

Enter the RoH graphics guy.

We had problems initially with the scale of the images as there is not scale on the plans presented by Westgate. We then realized that we did have something of a known dimension that we could use to measure other things: the parking spaces.

Cocoa Beach requires head-in parking spaces to be either 9 feet or 10 feet wide. The difference in the requirement is because of the distance behind the cars when backing out. Less than 20 feet behind the space requires a 10 foot wide space.

(A 10 foot space actually works better and easier for our purposes.)


The Tornado ride has a footprint of 45 feet. We marked off four and a half spaces, drew a yellow circle tangent to the spaces and viola! A 45′ circle! We then copied the circle and centered it on the red dot the meticulous and detailed oriented Westgate had supplied.

The Tornado doesn’t fit.

It protrudes out into the street.

We then changed the color to lime green and tried moving it over closer to the ocean.

It barely fits fits in the walkway at all. However, there’s a problem.

The Americans with Disability Act (ADA) requires a 4 foot path around obstacles. That’s the law and no wiggle room is available to the City or Westgate. The little blue square with the guy walking is a 4 foot square within the scale of the image. As you can see, the walker is either out in the street or off the edge of the walkway.

The ride doesn’t fit. Not where Westgate has it planned.

We did the same thing in measuring and laying out the footprints for the other two rides – the Carousel and the Drop’N Twist.

The meticulous and detailed oriented Westgate has the rides on top of each other. Not only is there no room for our intrepid walker between the rides, there is no room on the street side either.

The rides don’t fit. Not where Westgate has them.

They don’t fit.

Period.

If you want to say, “well, they can fidget and the coax the rides into the area,” that fine. We won’t debate that at this time, but the problem is that the BOA requires site plans for other projects. None of those plans say “approximately,” or “almost” on them. Citizens and other businesses don’t get to fudge with with location of items. In fact, earlier this year the BOA had to approve a variance because a sign for a business was 6 inches too close to the sidewalk. The location had been approved by the City before the construction of the sign took place. It was only after the sign was finished and another inspector came out and measured that the 6 inch error was discovered.

This illustrates that for some businesses, the City requires exacting measurements and standards. For Westgate? Not so much.

(And go ahead. We double dog dare you to try and get a variance by saying “we think the building will be about 2- 4 feet from the setback. It’s just a rough estimate.”)

There were so many things that were not asked or answered by anyone.

For example, no one addressed the power issue. Where is it coming from, how is it being distributed to the rides, and how will the breakers and power taps on the rides be out of the hands and reach of little kids?

No one thought to ask whether the walkway pavers will be able to withstand the 16,000 (8 tons)of the Tornado ride or the 6,800 (nearly 3 and a half tons) of the Drop’N Twist? Can the base on which the pavers are installed handle that weight? Or should people be concerned that the rides will tumble down from the vibration and or weight?

Maybe one of the most laughable points that Lohr tried to make and sadly people bought into was the idea that parents could let their kids ride the rides while they relaxed or got a beer and came back.

Is Lohr really advocating leaving a child unattended like that? Furthermore, all of the rides have height restrictions on them. You have to be 48″ toll to ride them alone and riders less than 36″ tall must be (wait for it…)

……accompanied by an adult.

A real case can be made that these rides are the equivalent of candy in the checkout lanes of a grocery store. Tired families coming off the beach and the kids screaming to ride the rides.

We don’t have to argue that point. Maybe it matters. Maybe it doesn’t. We aren’t going to delve into it.

Our concern before this agenda item was whether or not Westgate would be treated differently than other applicants who appear in front of the BOA.

No reasonable person can deny that they were given special consideration.

The equality of treatment between Westgate and other businesses and citizens was just not there.

How bad were people bending over?

One of our staff members who lives in another area of the County tuned in late to watch the meeting.

“You would think that the guy running the meeting would at least have the decency to wear a pin or jacket or something showing he works for Westgate,” he said after a few minutes.

We agree.

We really don’t care whether Westgate puts up rides or not.

Our issue is the fairness of the process and that everyone is treated the same.

That didn’t happen.



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One Response to “Westgate, Cocoa Beach, And Expectations.”

  1. Don says:

    Saw CBNN email respecting a community garden. Looks like the city is planting an Amusement Park instead. Can a Jersey style amusement pier be far behind? This commission save one member, coincidently about to be term limited out of office is guaranteed to roll over for any so-called growth, regardless of how it impacts traffic or the resident’s quality of life.

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