Saturday, August 29, 2020

Just for fun - POD - The Trash Panda ride. Seen at Black Point Canal.

A hungry raccoon raiding the garbage cans at the Black Point Park and Marina. Taking a break and watching him (or her) look for a meal. And no, I did not intervene. I kept my social (and safe distance).

This lil guy (or girl) shows why raccoons are also called 'trash pandas'.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Happy National Dog Day - Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020

 Lil Timmy and Bailey are happy to wish everyone a "Happy National Dog" Day in Palmetto Bay, Miami-Dade County, FL.

Bailey - above left, Timmy - above right.
Happy National Dog Day - Aug. 26, is celebrated as International Dog Day, in the United States.

Lil Timmy loves to celebrate his "Gotcha Day" of June 29, 2014 - See Prior related Photo of the Day Post - It’s Lil Timmy's very first Gotcha Day! He is Meredith's loyal canine companion, adopted from the Miami-Dade County Animal Services.

Support your local pet rescue group. There are many more animals looking for a home where they help improve your own life. Don't take it from me, check out WebMD - 5 Ways Pets Can Improve Your Health.

CLICK HERE to view prior related posts relating to dogs and dog events previously held in Palmetto Bay.

Politics and dogs are intertwined, 

The friendship of a dog is precious. It becomes even more
so when one is so far removed from home….I have a 
Scottie. In him I find consolation and diversion…he is 
the one person to whom I can talk without the 
conversation coming back to war.

—Dwight D. Eisenhower

and, finally, one of the all time classics quotes:

I love a dog. He does nothing for political reasons.

Will Rogers

Have you ever watch the famous "Checker's Speech" delivered by Richard Nixon? Here is your chance:

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Saturday, August 8, 2020

From the memory archive: 1976 Faculty Favorites recipe collection, Blue Lakes Elementary

Look what my daughters found. You never know what you will come across when visiting mom.

Friday family night dinner was take out brought to my mother's house for the entire family. Both daughters enjoyed looking through some treasured items. One notable item is the “faculty favorites” recipe collection -  from 1976 - Blue Lakes Elementary. I posted to my Facebook page and received many comments from fellow classmates and Facebook friends. I thought I would add it here to my collection on this blog.

I enjoyed the comments. One friend recalled that her Mom was a cook at Blue Lakes Elementary at that time.

I enjoy recalling memories as well as making new ones. 

The book is in mint condition.

Good times. The year of America's bicentennial. Who remembers the nightly update relating to on this day in 1776"?

Friday, August 7, 2020

Remembering America's Veterans - those who earned the Purple Heart.

Important memories and celebrations that should be recognized at home, if we cannot safely join together during this pandemic. 

Palmetto Bay became a "Purple Heart City" as per resolution 2016-40 that I was proud to sponsor as Mayor of Palmetto Bay. 

This is a national day of recognition. Purple Heart Day is observed on August 7 each year and is a time for Americans to pause to remember and honor the brave men and women who were either wounded on the battlefield or paid the ultimate sacrifice with their lives.

See Channel 10 News online: Palmetto Bay becomes first Purple Heart city in South Florida - Flag-raising ceremony held to commemorate honor, By Peter Burke - Local Managing Editor, posted: 1:22 PM, August 10, 2016.

Pictured above: Palmetto Bay's initial Purple Heart event at the local American Legion Post 133

See prior related post of August 12, 2016, Recognizing our Purple Heart Awardees. Palmetto Bay is now a Purple Heart City! where there are additional photos from this 2016 event

CLICK HERE to view other related posts recognizing our Veterans for their service.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

"When one door closes another opens". Bait & switch on zoning. The 2020 downtown code changes are more than balanced out by the 2019 liberal variance process

Monetizing the Palmetto Bay zoning process and removing certainty. Hardship variance goes bye, bye, replaced with a liberal variance process that includes significant discretion known as “administrative”. A code is only as good as the enforcement. The new 2020 downtown code will be very flexible due to the variance procedures revised in 2019.

Little attention was paid to significant changes to the Palmetto Bay code regarding variances. Any door 'closed' by the 2020 code clearly can be opened through this 2019 standard variance process. Note that there is no such thing as a strict code where it can be undone through variances. This is a classic case of go ask mommy (the granter of variances) for permission if you don’t like that daddy (the code) tells you (the developer) no. In other words, what you think was taken away (or lowered) under the 2020 code can be given back through an administrative or council variance. Sleight of hand, bait and switch. 

I championed and established the original process regarding hardship variances in Palmetto Bay. Variances were limited in that they were granted under the original, now former, Palmetto Bay standard only when a true hardship associated with a property was preventing the property from meeting the requirements of the zoning ordinance. The code ruled. In other words – adjustments were limited to what was required to allow an odd property to build to what is intended by the code – this includes design standards. It served Palmetto Bay well from enactment until it was untimely dismantled in 2019. This is, or was, a strict standard. That must be why the current mayor and council determined that the hardship standard had to go and be replaced with something that would allow a case by case reconsideration of the code they ultimately enacted in July 2020.

The changes to the Palmetto Bay variance rules sailed quietly under the radar under the Cunningham administration in ordinances 2019-09 and 2019-13 (click the links to read the entire changes). There was never any explanation to the public why these changes were needed and who would profit by these changes (my opinion: developers, not adjoining property owners).

This new/current Palmetto Bay variance procedure allows actual deviation (relief) from the July 2020 downtown code at the discretion of either administration or the council (if it gets that far). Palmetto Bay’s new rules on variances are very liberal – and, most importantly, allow for changes of building heights. This allows for additional floors and greater density. Development is now controlled by variances, not the code.

I have always been of the opinion that variances should not be easily or lightly granted and a variance should be the exception not the rule. There are numerous conflicts in the most recent code approved by the Palmetto Bay Village Council in July 2019. In fact, Council Member Patrick Fiore recently pointed out that many of these issues can be (actually, will need to be) resolved through the soft variance standard enacted in 2019 under the Cunningham administration. In my opinion, this is like hanging a huge 'open for business' sign in big neon letters to developers, letting them know that the code is merely aspirational, little more than a great political sound bite. The huge risk is that the Palmetto Bay planning process is now monetized where what is built is not dependent on what is written in the code, but how lawyered up developers are willing to push.

This results in little to no certainty for residents in what will end up at any specific property. At least not until plans are approved. The question is, after reading these two ordinances, whether the variances will be granted 'administratively' (behind the scenes) or whether residents and adversely affected property owners will have their day in court at a public hearing before the Village Council.

We shall see. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

There is ‘truth’ then there is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth … what is in store for the Palmetto Bay downtown?

The Shores at Palmetto Bay LLC is a previously approved project that has recently requested to down scale the project based upon the new code. This project passed in 2018 on a 4-0 vote [Cunningham, Singer, Seigel Lara, & Flinn (note: DuBois did not participate)].

What about the retail, the commercial, items residents clearly wanted for the Downtown, not merely apartments? The 2018 Zoning Application for Shores Development passed by a vote of 4-0. This was the last residential application submitted for hearing for the Downtown Urban Village before the moratorium was voted on in April, 2017 (which was later dropped in 2019). During the hearing an additional ten amendments were added to the zoning resolution. These included a total of 307 parking spaces, increase in minimum apartment square footage, a transit stop and covenants to ensure dedicated landscaping and open space as presented. There were restaurants and first floor commercial planned for this property along with approximately one acre of village green space.

Now the project has morphed from a community destination to live work apartments. (CLICKHERE) The project list claims an application date of June 29, 2020. The village describes the application as follows: 

Request for approval of a site plan with a non-use variance proposing a 3-story mixed use project configured around three (3) respective buildings (the “Project”). The Project will encompass 120 total units, including 6 ground floor live/work units, with direct frontage along SW 97 Avenue (Franjo Road). The Project represents a significant reduction in development intensity and proposed density from the 2018 Site Plan Approval.

The Project represents a significant reduction in development intensity and proposed density from the 2018 Site Plan Approval.’
That is true – but is that the entire story?... Remember the meaning of ‘truth’ is relative for some. That is why oaths often include:

“…the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth…” meaning:

The absolute truth about something, without omission, embellishment, or alteration. Used to swear in witnesses while giving evidence in court, and used by extension in other contexts.


This is a topic for future posts where I will dive deep into the recent code changes and provide the actual details as well as some reaction from some who have been and continue to be affected. Just note that the article about the Shores at Palmetto Bay LLC will discuss how this project removed more than a couple of floors – it removed the substantial retail, commercial, the public green aspects that many were clamoring for in the controlled redevelopment. Voters were promised more resident friendly amenities and less apartments in the 2018 election. Is this what they are getting? We are starting to see the shoes drop and what we have is a current mayor and council with their foot firmly on the gas to provide little more than apartments. 

Future post – Shores at Palmetto Bay LLC – what his sudden request to reconfigure this property tells us about the future of Downtown Palmetto Bay

Monday, August 3, 2020

The Tropical Storm Isaias Bread & Circuses show - Palmetto Bay edition. A few sandbags do not provide our residents with what we need: affordable windstorm/flood insurance, our largest expense in homeownership.

No homeowner insurance relief, but have a sandbag or 5 (while very limited supplies last)!

What am I referring to? Our local State Representative partnered with Palmetto Bay officials to hand out sandbags at Coral Reef Park. Officials are poised to raise taxes this year, perhaps so they can fund ‘free sandbags” for a limited few. Pictures are worth a thousand words; you can see that there was a mere small truckload for the “lucky residents” that drove up for up to five sandbags (each weighing up to 30 pounds each). So, you got about $15 dollars of sand for your use to offset the probable tax increases for this coming year. Sounds like an awesome plan, right?

They also hope you don’t see the pictures and the waste of employee time in distributing these sandbags in this “voluntary giveaway ‘But like my grandpa taught me; nothing in life is free. Village employees were involved. Let’s be honest. It was merely an election season photo op. It certainly was not even a band aid. I certainly feel that the latest actions of Government fall far short of addressing crucial needs under a threat of a potential storm. Examples: where were the crews making sure the drains were not covered with clippings? Or in documenting houses that left debris piles in the front or even documenting potential trees that would be at risk during a storm? How about the crews needed to ensure our roads would be open after the storm? What was the contingency plan?

This is part of the new form of government embraced by the voters where results are no longer expected. There are no metrics to determine success. Instead there is a steady diet of ‘bread and circuses’, ‘thoughts and prayers’ and one heck of a campaign photo op for all involved (again, ultimately funded by the local taxpayers).   

What do we need versus the deliverables?

  • We really need affordable windstorm/flood insurance, our largest expense in home ownership. Instead elected officials offer a limit of 5 sandbags 'while supplies last.' (paid for by taxpayers). 
  •  I need affordable car insurance, instead elected officials offer a few sandbags. 
  • We need proper funding for SFWMD to fix the drainage canal for flood control, instead elected officials offered us 5 sandbags to a household, again, while supplies last.

And where was the current Mayor of our village? Was she in Tallahassee or DC over the year fighting for any of the above? Nope, the current mayor of my village was helping to fill the 5 sandbags. Bread and circuses. $15 of sand for the lucky few to offset the tax and fee increases for all. Fair?

The real use for the 5 sandbags? Placing on your roof to hold down the post storm blue tarp. Too many people will be unable to afford a new roof out of the post deductible and post depreciation insurance settlement - again, a gift to our pro-industry legislature.

The real question is if we voted carefully for elected officials would we, the homeowners who find their pockets constantly picked, get what we truly need.

I have an idea. I know it is a crazy idea, but an idea nonetheless: Elect officials who will actually work to reduce the overwhelming burden taxpayers face in trying to live here in South Florida. We can then afford to buy our own sandbags  (as well as in the number that will actually be useful for the purpose intended) instead of paying the higher taxes charged to fund their self-promotion foolishness!

Why can’t the legislature work to make home ownership affordable? Bring down the cost of Homeowner, Windstorm, automobile and Health Insurance. There are people who are paying $10-15K or more for home and flood insurance, as well as paying some of the highest rates for automobile insurance in Florida, if not the nation.

150 pounds of sand broken up onto a mere five sandbags does not make up for the huge financial burdens that our State government refuses to address. I know some will find the gesture worthy but I do hope most really see it for what this really is, a distraction from the lack of results for the taxpaying, insurance stressed residents.