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Lack of public workshops could put the City of Venice in a legal quagmire

Francesco Abbruzzino, The Uncensored Report, LLC



The city put out a fact sheet on LDR’s and it basically touches on the areas of disconnect with the group that is petitioning against the LDR’s. I think the residents are concerned primarily with the lack of input by residents and the tremendous amount of input by individuals in the developer arena.
Like I have said, if the city and commission would have offered public workshops dealing strictly with the LDR’s early on and more of them, like the last LDR revision, we could have avoided this mess the city finds itself in now. The city mentioned numerous Planning Commission meeting that are open to the public and meetings between staff and planning consultants. This is their way of stating there was enough opportunities for public input. They know that most the public does not attend these Public Planning meetings that are held during the week when residents are at work and that residents tend to provide input during public workshops on specific issues, which should offer the public more options for input versus the meetings. Although I have been to some, which really did not provide an opportunity for any public input. Also, many residents are not aware that they can delve in and get involved in the planning process, along with the consultants. They can, but it is not always as easy as the city would leave residents to believe it is….. Not all residents are aware of this, there are residents like at Jeff Boone’s firm that reportedly heavily involved in the comp plan and LDR rewrites. He is allowed to do this as a resident and I have no issue with his involvement; however, it should be noted that he runs a law firm that represents Neal, Cassatta and other developers. Jeff has an interest in the rewrite and being involved is part of his job, ensuring the interest of his clients is covered, as any good attorney would do. Most residents do not have the time to be there though and they can not get involved during the planning process with staff because they are working during the weekday hours. So, is the city being fair when they put out that individuals could have attended the Public Planning or worked with the staff during the hours that most of us are working? Perhaps this group thinks that Boone’s influence in the rewrite may have injected a bias towards the developers. Who knows, their concerns may be justified.
Basically, if the petition gets enough signatures, the whole LDR will be suspended, and it may not be reinstated for some time. There is a meeting slated to see if the City Manager and group can resolve this issue. The city is trying to avoid having to scrap all the LDR’s. As it stands the city is spending money on an attorney to see what their options are when it comes to the petition. Again, something that may have been avoided if the city would have opened more public meetings early on and during non-working hours, versus after being forced to when the mayor brought attention to issues that some residents were bringing to his attention. Basically, if the city would have involved the public more in the decision-making process.
A couple of the council members were rather vitriolic towards the group pushing the petition and anybody that would sign it and question their vote, on Tuesday during their meeting. I get the councils frustration, but then I get the residents frustration, especially when I see so many of the council members signs on the property of developers throughout the city during election season or the money flowing into their accounts in the form of donations. I get their concern that there may be a bias towards developers or a bias to approve edits by certain consultants or residents that work with or for developers. Now the same council members will tell you that they can put those biases to the side and look at the edits with no bias. Some residents may not buy this and may question any vote, especially one that lacks public workshops that deal specifically with LDR’s.
This group is having a petition drive on Saturday at the library on the island. I plan on stopping by there to talk to them and find out what their specific concerns are, if they want certain issues resolved or is the issue with the whole LDR, their thoughts on the city retaining an attorney for this issue, and how their drive is going. I will post how it goes.

An update :

Are Venice’s new LDR’s something that will slow the over development of our city or is it just another developer friendly tool in their tool box?

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