A SPECIAL JOINT MEETING OF THE BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS
AND THE TAVARES CITY COUNCIL
JUNE 12, 2006
The Lake County Board of County Commissioners met in special session with the Tavares City Council on Monday, June 12, 2006, at 6:00 p.m., in the Jury Assembly Room, Lake County Judicial Center, 550 West Main Street, Tavares, Florida, to discuss the proposed downtown campus construction. Commissioners present: Catherine C. Hanson, Chairman; Welton G. Cadwell, Vice Chairman; Jennifer Hill; Robert A. Pool and Debbie Stivender. Others present for Lake County: Kimberly Williams, Assistant County Attorney; Cindy Hall, County Manager; and Judy McAuley, Deputy Clerk.
The Tavares City Council was represented by Mayor Nancy Clutts, Vice Mayor Sandy Gamble, Bob Abernathy and Robert Speaks (Council Member Dennis Wilson was not present); and by Nancy Barnett, Interim City Administrator and Bob Williams, City Attorney.
CALL TO ORDER AND INTRODUCTIONS
Commr. Hanson called the meeting to order and noted the presence of Mr. Bob McKee, Tax Collector. She expressed her appreciation of the working relationship and communication between the County Commission and the City of Tavares. She opined that this is a momentous meeting.
Mayor Clutts introduced the City of Tavares’ Planning and Zoning (P&Z) Board Members: Chairman John Adams, James Gardner, John Tanner, and Brent Albertson; and introduced members of the CRA (Community Redevelopment Agency) Advisory Board: Chairman Paul Gross, Richard Joyce and Carey Pierce. She also introduced Ms. Susan Jackson, Community Development Director for the City of Tavares.
PROPOSED DOWNTOWN TAVARES CAMPUS
Mr. Jim Bannon, Lake County Facilities Development and Management Director, stated that HLM Design, architects, will present conceptual designs (included in the backup material) for the Tax Collector/Property Appraiser building and the parking garage and will discuss the Judicial Center expansion and the Jail.
Mr. Bob Egleston, AIA, Executive Associate, HLM Design, emphasized that the development of the project is in the early stage.
SITE PLAN/PARKING GARAGE
Mr. Egleston gave a presentation on the Site Plan which included the following information:
Mr. Egleston explained that, in anticipating the size of the garage, it was very important to have enough land to accommodate the size of the facility. He stated that they are proposing to close Maud Street, otherwise, it will be very difficult to accommodate the parking deck and the parking deck would end up being very, very tall. In responding to Mayor Clutts, he stated that this parking garage will take care of the City requirements for all the additions, plus they will be picking up the deficit, about 100 cars, that currently exists for the County’s facilities. The 1,500 parking spaces are meant to satisfy all of the users of the Administration Building, the Historic Courthouse, the Jail, the Courthouse (Judicial Center) and the 320 West Main Street office building.
Mayor Clutts remarked that the City will need to know how many parking spaces there will be over and above what is anticipated for employees. Mr. Egleston stated that information can be provided.
Mr. Luis Diaz, HNTB, stated that they met with the City’s traffic engineer a couple of months ago to work out a methodology for the study area. The study area, the area that would be effected by the downtown campus development, is bounded on the north by Alfred Street, on the south by Main Street, on the east by Joanna Avenue and on the west by Barrow Avenue. Existing traffic counts were collected for the study area. Other potential development, such as property south of Ruby Street toward the lake, was also studied. Mr. Diaz showed a slide for existing AM peak hour traffic counts and existing PM peak hour traffic counts. He noted that only 60 vehicles currently use Maud Street during AM peak hours and 58 vehicles use Maud Street during PM peak hours. According to the study, if Maud Street were to be vacated, that traffic could easily be accommodated by parallel corridors or by Texas Avenue. In showing the proposed level of service PM peak, with Maud Street vacated, the analysis shows every intersection is operating at Level D or better. The only location offering a Level of Service D is the intersection at Alfred Street and Sinclair Avenue. In response to Mayor Clutts, Mr. Diaz stated that the improvements that were recommended as part of the City’s PD&E study on Alfred Street were included in the study and do not show the need for any additional improvements beyond those recommended. According to the analysis, the roundabout being proposed at the intersection of Main Street and Sinclair Avenue operates nicely without traffic issues. Mr. Diaz explained that the draft study is being reviewed by the County. The study will be finalized with new numbers that will be generated by the Judicial Center and should be submitted to City staff in a couple of weeks.
In response to Vice Mayor Gamble, Mr. Diaz confirmed that data for the study was collected in March or April. Vice Mayor Gamble opined that possibly 300 vehicles might be exiting the parking garage at quitting time and he asked what is proposed at the intersections to incorporate those cars into the traffic plan. Mr. Diaz explained that the full traffic study addresses that. He stated that, according to the study, using the peaking characteristics, there is enough capacity with the existing system to handle any additional traffic that will be generated. In response to Commr. Pool’s questions about the roundabout, Mr. Diaz explained that putting a roundabout at an intersection depends on the type of movements and type of traffic at an intersection. Looking at the Sinclair Avenue/Main Street intersection, Mr. Diaz commented that it would operate sufficiently with a roundabout or with a traffic signal. In response to Vice Mayor Gamble’s concerns regarding Texas Avenue at Main Street and at Alfred Street, Mr. Diaz reiterated that, according to data collection, traffic will be disbursed in all directions based on people’s habits. He stated that the analysis shows that everything will operate okay after the construction of the parking garage.
Mr. Egleston referred to the Site Plan and explained that a generous amount of staff parking will be maintained at the rear of the addition to the courthouse (No. 7 on the Site Plan) which will accommodate the vast majority of the courthouse staff.
OFFICE BUILDING (320 WEST MAIN STREET)
Mr. Doug Kleppin, AIA, Executive Associate, HLM Design, continued the presentation which included the following information on the 320 West Main Street office building.
Mayor Clutts stated that the City has architectural standards in place and no application has been made yet by the County. She asked Mr. Kleppin if they will be asking for a variance to those architectural standards since these do not meet the offsets in relief nor do they meet the variation in rooflines. Mr. Kleppin explained that the plan is to propose a PD for the entire campus. Mayor Clutts stated that would be based upon conditions made upon the governing entities. She asked if Mr. Kleppin, with the governing entity taking into consideration what the architectural standards are, is actually looking for conditional uses to ignore the architectural standards that are currently in place. Mr. Kleppin confirmed that they do not meet the letter of all of the guidelines with what they are proposing.
Mayor Clutts stated that she would caution the Council at reaching any consensus as a result of this meeting this evening. If they were to do so, they would be circumventing the process the City has put in place with respect to their Codes of Ordinances and their Land Development Regulations.
Regarding the requirement for the varied elevation, Mr. Kleppin remarked that it was their concern that the cornice line of the office building be reflective of the quiet horizontal line that occurs in the Historic Courthouse. They felt that guideline might not be as appropriate for a civic structure in that location and that is, in part, why they suggested they vary from that guideline.
Commr. Pool asked if there is any particular façade or architectural features the City would like to see. Mayor Clutts opined that is an unfair question given the fact they are seeing something for the first time. She stated that, just as the Board has processes for government and applicants that ask for certain types of variances, the City should anticipate that it will have the very same thing downtown. She stated that the City has some proposed development on the waterfront and Mayor Clutts stated that she would assume that they will treat everyone consistently, given the processes that are in place.
Mr. Kleppin continued the presentation, as follows:
· South Elevation (Continued). Two-story entry space that links the Tax Collector and Property Appraiser entrances. They have highlighted the place where the public interfaces with government with a great deal of transparency which is a good orientation to be able to control the amount of glass. There are horizontal projections to deal with solar conditions as well as the way specific glass will be detailed. Mr. Kleppin explained that they have taken the base of the Historic Courthouse and have pulled it out to create an arcade. The openings are reflective of the main entrance into the Historic Courthouse but this occurs about ten or twelve feet in front of the glass wall. That helps maintain the Main Street line, acts as some solar shading, and is a security device.
· West Elevation. The balance of the building is executed in a simple palette of brick and cast stone masonry with vertically proportioned punched windows, very much sympathetic to the Historic Courthouse. The intent would be that the material palette reflects in many ways the brick and stone pieces. That becomes the unifying element even though there are different scales. Through materiality and color, a government campus can be created to anchor this end of Main Street.
· North Elevation. Faces the parking deck.
· East Elevation. On Texas Avenue. Mr. Kleppin emphasized that all the depicted elevations are very preliminary in nature.
· 3D Renderings. Give an idea of the scale relative to the parking structure and some sense of the arcade, the two stories, the public orientation, the colonnade, the plaza and the entrance way. He reiterated that these lines exist on the Historic Courthouse and are a reflection of that.
Commr. Cadwell confirmed with Mr. Kleppin that this will be packaged and presented to the City as a planned unit development based on a planned development for the whole campus. He confirmed that the process would be just as any other developer that would come in, looking at the City’s rules.
Mr. Egleston reiterated that this is very preliminary. He stated that they have met with City staff a couple of times and they have the list of requirements that need to be followed. They plan, once the end of the schematic design phase is reached, to submit the full package to the City to start the process for plan development. The list of any variances to the City’s guidelines will be submitted. The traffic studies will be completed by then, all the surveys will be done, and all the stormwater issues will be put to bed. Mr. Egleston explained that they plan to submit that within the next month or so for review and to start the process. He stated that they understand that it is a five or six month review process.
Commr. Cadwell asked if the Council wants the County to be downtown, in looking at the future of downtown and foot traffic. Mayor Clutts stated that she thinks the issue is that they are seeing this cold tonight for the first time. She stated that she would imagine, if the tables were turned, that the Board would feel similar to how the Council feels in that they have citizen boards and the Council needs to make sure they respect their time and efforts. She commented that, just as they would any private entity that would make application to the City, they must allow it to go through the process to be able to identify what the City believes would work best with what they are seeing comprehensively downtown.
Commr. Cadwell asked the Council if they, individually, see that it is beneficial to have 1,000 people downtown during the day. He stated that, regarding how the building is designed, the County will work through the City’s process and do whatever it takes to make it happen. He stated that the Board needs to know if, philosophically, the Council feels it is bad to have the core of government in downtown Tavares.
Mayor Clutts stated that, personally, the problem she is hearing voiced by the citizens is that they have a large area of downtown Tavares being taken by a non-profit entity. She stated that some of the most valuable land downtown is being utilized in a way that is not going to generate revenue that will further enable them to provide the very services that the City is requiring of them, services that are also being required by governing entities for water they use, for expensive water reuse systems that are going to be required and the impact to transportation systems and parks and recreation systems. She stated that they have to be able to recover the costs and yet they are in a situation where some of the most precious land is being utilized in a way that is going to be County facilities. She stated that can absolutely work with the City but she believes there has to be an open line of communication and that we have to work to provide whatever revenue stream we can, as creatively as we can. She stated that if that means allowing and entertaining private funding for some entities and being creative with the parking structure, then that needs to be considered.
Commr. Hanson stated that we probably are at the appropriate point now because the Board just got these plans last week. She stated that the timing is right to come to the City so that it can go through the City’s CRA and P&Z Board. She opined that a good point was made in that County government is downtown and the services that are demanded are increasing so the demand for the buildings is increasing. She stated that the County has plans to move part of its services outside of town in the future but there is an immediate need for the courthouse expansion, for parking and for Tax Collector and Property Appraiser’s offices.
In response to questions by Vice Mayor Gamble regarding the buildings in the next block on Alfred Street, Mr. Bannon stated that the bank building and the Fort Smith building will not be included in the acquisition. The parking garage footprint does extend over Maud Street but not all the way to Alfred Street. Vice Mayor Gamble remarked that the Council, at one time, was shown parking options in two or three locations on property that is owned by the County. Mr. Bannon explained that some of the earlier plans had about 1,000 parking spaces and some little parcels of land would have to be acquired. He noted that the Board preferred the current parking garage location. Vice Mayor Gamble stated that an earlier plan showed three smaller parking garages totaling 1,500 spaces. He stated that, while costing a little more money, those garages would be on County property and would not take away from the City’s tax base. He expressed concern about accessing the people’s property where the parking garage is to be as shown today. He asked if the Tax Collector will shut down the Eustis office and bring those people to the new office. Mr. Bob McKee, Tax Collector, stated that the Eustis office will not close.
Commr. Hill stated that part of the problem with three separate parking locations would be that clientele of the Property Appraiser and Tax Collector would have to cross a busy street. With the parking garage plan presented today, that clientele would be parking behind the new office. She pointed out that most of the Judicial Center employees will park on site. Vice Mayor Gamble stated that, with today’s plan, the public will be crossing Sinclair Avenue to access the Judicial Center and will be crossing Main Street to reach the Administration Building. He stated that, if there were three different parking garages, the public would generally be able to stay on the same side of the street where they want to do business.
Commr. Cadwell stated that none of the plans included being all on County property; therefore, property would have to be purchased. He stated that the Board felt the cost savings and the flow of the people would work better with the one parking garage.
Regarding leased gravel lots that are currently being used, Mr. Bannon advised that the Board would be asked for advice on those lots after the parking garage is opened. Commr. Stivender stated that the two buildings on Ruby Street were Lake Region offices.
COMMUNITY REDEVELOPMENT AGENCY ADVISORY BOARD
Mr. Paul A. Gross, Chairman, Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) Advisory Board, City of Tavares, read the following comments for the record:
“Commissioner Hanson, other Commissioners, Mayor Clutts, Members of both the Staff and Officiating bodies of the City of Tavares and Lake County and most of all to our Residents, Tax Payers and Voters. My name is Paul Gross. I am a Resident of Tavares and Lake County, Chairman of the City of Tavares’ Community Redevelopment Agency Advisory Board to the City Council of the City of Tavares, and it’s CRA.
“I would like to comment publicly and as a matter of record on the projected process and the actions of the County Commission regarding the projected construction of the proposed downtown parking garage and the other related capital building projects to be located within the City of Tavares and within the dedicated CRA District, therein as well as the efforts and timing you are perusing to reach a completion.
“All of us, to my belief, are very proud that the County Seat is located within the boundaries and jurisdiction of the City of Tavares. Its location is so tantamount to all of us, recognizing that at one time it was considered to be the perfect site for the Capital of our great State of Florida. Of great importance to us as residents is the fact that Tavares is our Community and our home.
“However, having a County, State or Federal site located within the boundaries and jurisdiction of a City carries with it both legal and coordinative behavioral responsibility. One entity of government might very well be empowered to a greater degree than the jurisdiction in which it is located; however, that in itself does not relieve that government entity of its public duty and legal responsibility to timely coordinate with it’s related partner and to go that extra mile to bring about acceptable standards of Community Planning, meet the standards of aesthetic value, architectural designs & goals to which a City has committed itself to, comply with its long range plans, applicable Codes, and most importantly to create a vision and execute that vision toward an outcome which not only enhances the Community in which we live but drives all sectors of Government to act in a responsive way which is in compliance with and meets the trust and legal responsibilities to which we must all adhere to. We are here only at the bequest of the public who has entrusted us with this duty of meeting the needs and values of our Citizenry.
“I am here to highlight an adherence to a timing between the County Commission and the City of Tavares which will allow effective planning communication, coordination between the two governmental entities, and lastly and most importantly to meet the legal responsibilities of each unit of government. When one form of government is intruding into the jurisdiction of the other, into a CRA District and in line with Ordinances and Conditional Use Permits which are in place, they not only should “speak for themselves” but they should be respected by all parties affected and concerned therein.
“At this point and time, our City is in a slight state of structural and management change. As you are publicly aware our previous City Administrator just recently resigned her office. We gratefully have an interim City Administrator, Nancy Barrett (sic) filling in to help and aid the City. We just last week authorized the employment of a professional search firm to expedite the search for a new City Administrator. We have had some turn over at the highest levels of our City organization. None of this means that planning should come to a standstill but it does rightfully evidence that we need some time and consideration to act with a full house, armed with factual knowledge, and equipped with the leadership to allow the outcomes sought to be determined in a manner that our Community expects. Surely if County Government was in a similar state of organization or disorganization, our Community would and should give time and consideration for it to act accordingly.
“We, as Citizenry of our Community, are as interested as you are as a Commission to move forward, at a pace which is effective and timely to capitalize on the economy, growth, financial and service needs of the environment in which we live and within the pace of change which is all around us. However, we all heard when we were little from our mom’s and dad’s, as they slapped our hands and dutifully told us that ‘Haste makes Waste’. There may very well be a need to rush or to move expeditiously, but there is a much more surmountable need to conclude an outcome which will live and be sustained for years to come. One must not rush into something as concrete as Capital Construction Plans, just to push ahead. After all, when an action becomes ‘set in stone’, it becomes very difficult to mold change over time. As Phillip Graham said in his book, Written in Stone, ‘we need to be very careful about the folly of making images with our hands and then bowing down to worship them.’
“We must efficiently serve the measurable needs of our constituency in which we were elected and/or appointed to serve. To do otherwise and act just to expedite a plan based on what some might determine as a power push and not an action based on the reality of measurable performance would not in my opinion be responsible behavior. When a Corporation seeks to expand, it generally measures its behavior so that the capital outlay justifies a means to an end. We must approach this plan and execution supported by knowledgeable facts. Something that is going to make an imprint on our community for years to come must be given timely thought and action by those entrusted to make such decisions.
“In closing, for the City of Tavares, as an adjoining and jurisdictional partner to the capital needs and efforts of the Lake County, I urge and request of you to slow down your actions so that we may collectively, efficiently, and economically coordinate, plan and execute the need designs of all concerned and to meet and fulfill the Citizen and taxpayer needs, legal responsibilities, planning and coordinative efforts of all including those of the service agencies serving our Citizenry.
“Our City Council, in my opinion, has the commitment, dedicated loyalty, and energy to work in concert with you to make right that which best serves the needs of our public and at the same time preserving the rights and obligations of their office.”
Mr. Rick Joyce, Community Redevelopment Agency Advisory Board, asked how many employees will be moving out of Tavares with development plans at the CR 561/SR 19 bypass. Ms. Cindy Hall, County Manager, stated that Public Works employees will be moving during the summer. She stated that EOC/Public Safety is currently housed in the Administration Building and it is envisioned that they would be transferred to the new south Tavares facility. She stated that all the departments are overcrowded and a domino effect will happen this summer by moving people and departments. When the Tax Collector and Property Appraiser vacate their offices in the Historic Courthouse, the Sheriff may extend his operations into those areas.
Regarding private development, Mr. Joyce stated that the CRA is funded by tax increment financing and they hate to see property go off the tax rolls. He asked if there has been any thought by the County to see if a private investor would build these things and lease back to the County. He stated that he sees advantages in being able to eliminate maintenance and certain other things and maintain the property on the tax rolls.
Commr. Cadwell stated that the County looked at condoing the parking with leased spacing, maybe retail, but staff recommended that it probably was not feasible.
Ms. Hall stated that staff can look into lease back options, which would be a financing tool, but the County can do its financing, and incur savings, with taxes and bonds which are not available to the private sector. Typically, it is cheaper for government to do it that way.
Mr. Joyce further discussed advantages of private investors and lease-backs. He noted that, in the City’s original CRA, 66% of the property is non-taxable.
Mr. McKee advised that he contracted with Jack Prickett, a developer, to build the Tax Collector’s building in Eustis to their specifications with a 15-year lease. He stated that trying to establish the same relationship with Mr. Prickett in south Lake County failed because of the exorbitant cost of real estate. When they do triple net leases, and pay taxes back to themselves, it is becoming cost prohibitive exclusively because of the cost of real estate. He stated that, in many cases now, it is less expensive for government to build their own facilities. He further explained that when his three facilities were leased, the numbers were such that it was more advantageous to lease because they engaged in ten and fifteen year leases. He added that those savings could not be realized today with new leases.
Regarding a previous discussion by the Board, Mr. Gamble asked if it would be feasible to build a three-story building at 320 West Main Street rather than a two-story building. Commr. Hanson stated that, because plans have gone so far, it would cost quite a bit to change and would increase the parking requirements. Commr. Cadwell remarked that it is hard for governments to build twenty years out. He stated that there is not enough money for all the projects on the drawing board. Commr. Hill commented that different offices may be added in other areas of the County for the Property Appraiser and the Tax Collector in order to serve the people.
Ms. Hall stated that all of the square footages for all of the buildings are accommodating our needs through the year 2020. She stated that expansion room is built into the design.
UPDATE ON JUDICIAL CENTER
Ms. Hall noted that the consultants have given some information on the Judicial Center. The total square footage, when complete, is expected to be about 418,000 and the current building is about 120,000 square feet. The consultants are meeting with the future occupants of that building and discussing floor plans and traffic flows within the design of the interior part of the building. As mentioned, the main part of the Judicial Center will front on Main Street and will make use of the overpass from the Jail for inmate transport. A conceptual plan and building elevations are expected to be brought to this Board on July 11, 2006. Commr. Pool suggested inviting the City Council to that meeting.
Mr. Kleppin stated that the intent is that there are some common themes between the Judicial Center and the 320 West Main Street building that would be picked up from the Historic Courthouse. Mayor Clutts stated that there is not, necessarily, unification of design. Mr. Bannon remarked that materials and colors will be similar. Mr. Kleppin stated that there will be some common themes, some language between the two, with different proportions. He stated that they will look like they belong together but they will not look alike.
Commr. Cadwell gave the example of Osceola County’s complex with their historic courthouse, their county administration building and their courts, which are all dramatically different, but you feel like they all belong together.
Mayor Clutts remarked that they are unifying the design through connectivity as opposed to actual architectural elements. Mr. Kleppin agreed, noting again that the scale may be different. He stated that the space between may be more important than the space itself.
Commr. Hanson suggested inviting the CRA, the City Council and the City’s Planning and Zoning board to any presentation which is made to the Board.
Ms. Hall stated that staff is developing a monthly update on the building program which will be on the County’s web site perhaps later this month. The update will be mailed to a distribution list and she will be sure the City, the CRA and P&Z are on that list.
Mr. Gamble asked consideration of reversing the entrance and exit to the parking garage, making the entrance on Texas Avenue and the exit on Sinclair Avenue. He suggested some no-left turns on Alfred Street.
Commr. Stivender pointed out that there is an optional cashier booth on the parking garage plan. She asked if we have decided that we will charge people to park in the garage. Mr. Bannon stated that no decision has been made. He advised that the parking garage will be discussed at tomorrow’s Board meeting.
Mayor Clutts thanked the Board for today’s meeting and the opportunity to exchange plans and receive information. She thanked the City’s CRA and P&Z members for being present. She stated that she truly believes that, if we all thoughtfully deliberate over this, we will be proud of what we have as a product.
Commr. Hanson assured the Council that communication will be better and today’s meeting is a good step in the right direction.
UPDATE ON WIND EVENT
Ms. Hall gave an update on the wind event (Tropical Storm Alberto). She noted some of the associated closings, staffing of the citizens’ information line and the availability of sand bags.
Mr. John Tanner, City of Tavares Planning & Zoning Board, asked the Board what they are going to do with the old bank building downtown. He stated that, since the Board will be coming to P&Z to consider this complex, P&Z will be a lot more agreeable to a complex if everything is put in one spot. He asked the Board to consider selling that building and putting the money in the complex, maybe putting an extra story on. He stated that he certainly would be against building another County building way down there and splitting the City further apart. He stated that parking is available down there. He stated that there probably is room to acquire land on the south side and that it is not some of the most prime property. He noted that would help the City’s tax base. Mayor Clutts agreed that is a great idea. Commr. Cadwell and Commr. Pool explained that is a Clerk of Courts’ building. Commr. Pool stated that it is something worth considering.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 7:30 p.m.
CATHERINE C. HANSON, CHAIRMAN
JAMES C. WATKINS, CLERK