A SPECIAL MEETING OF THE BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS
JULY 27, 2007
The Lake County Board of County Commissioners met in a special workshop session on Friday, July 27, 2007, at 8:00 a.m., in the Carlton Palms Educational Center, Lake Jem, Florida. Commissioners present at the meeting were: Welton G. Cadwell, Chairman; Jennifer Hill, Vice Chairman; Elaine Renick; Debbie Stivender; and Linda Stewart. Others present were Sanford A. “Sandy” Minkoff, County Attorney; Cindy Hall, County Manager; and Susan Boyajan, Deputy Clerk. The Deputy Clerk upon arriving at Forrester Haven was misdirected to the wrong meeting location. She joined the meeting in progress at approximately 8:20 a.m. Notes were taken by the County Attorney prior to her arrival and are included in the minutes.
Commr. Cadwell indicated that three items he wanted to discuss were conduct of County Commission meetings, issues regarding the Growth Management Department, and the Public Records Center in Tavares. He also noted that any Commissioner would be free to bring up additional issues.
CONCERNS REGARDING GROWTH MANAGEMENT DEPARTMENT
Commr. Cadwell gave the other Board members a history of the Growth Management Department for the last 15 years and indicated that the department often had problems. He opined that this might be because they had a planner rather than a manager running the department. He also commented that at one time or another, the environmental community or the development community had problems with the Growth Management Department, but now it seemed both had issues with it.
Ms. Cindy Hall, County Manager, asked for specific concerns.
Commr. Hill commented that over time the issue had not been who the employees were, but how they worked. She was concerned that the department had customer service issues and was not customer friendly. She wanted to be sure that all employees knew they were working for the Board and were there to serve the public.
Commr. Stivender thought that the staff was trying to appease people instead of following policy. She mentioned that when she previously worked there, customer service was the number one priority, but that they seemed to have shifted away from that. She also agreed that it was a problem having a planner running the department.
Commr. Stewart concurred that the attitude of the employees was an issue, and that some of the cities referred to the department as obnoxious and arrogant. She commented that the employees needed to remember that they worked for the citizens and needed to do things like return telephone calls.
Commr. Renick added that both the management and general employees were acting like they were doing a favor for the public rather than serving the public. She thought there was an attitude problem and that there needed to be an attitude adjustment. She also opined that it was possible to find a planner who would also be a good manager.
Commr. Hill added that there was always a fifteen minute wait, and the process was especially difficult for citizens who had never been through the process before. She also stated that citizens were often shuffled from one employee to another without getting an answer.
Commr. Stewart reported that citizens often got different responses from different employees to the same questions. She related an incident where a citizen was directed to obtain a form from the internet, because the department did not have paper copies, and after he traveled several hours to get it signed and submitted it, he was told it was the wrong form.
Commr. Renick asked if there was a checklist used for permitting.
Commr. Stivender responded that there used to be.
Commr. Cadwell stated that they were all talking about the same types of issues and problems that were systematic in the Growth Management Department, and that it was not a communication issue between the Board and the department with any particular case. He mentioned an instance in which he directed a citizen to the department and asked staff to work with him, but after he left, the citizen did not get a positive customer service response from staff.
Ms. Hall stated that after the Board Meeting on Plaza Collina, staff did not interpret the Board action to require withholding of the site plan approval until after the meeting that the Board requested the developer to have with Clermont, Oakland, and others. She mentioned that there was a need to clarify what the Board direction was during the meetings.
Commr. Cadwell commented that it usually was not a problem getting applicants to follow the Board’s desires regarding requests like the meeting concerning Plaza Collina, because usually the same applicants or representatives appeared before the Board and generally followed Board direction.
Commr. Renick stated that they asked for the heavy industrial standards during the first workshop after her election to get that in place as quickly as possible, because they knew they had a problem coming on the horizon. She asked what they needed to do to communicate that urgency as a Commission.
Ms. Hall responded that those types of things had to go through the Local Planning Agency (LPA), and she had understood that they were not to interrupt the LPA process with the Comprehensive Plan. She stated that if they wanted to change that and give something priority over the Comp Plan for a short period of time to get some different Land Development Regulations (LDR) passed, then they would do that.
Commr. Renick opined that it was not that difficult to change an LDR, and she also emphasized that she would not bring those things up if she did not think they needed those changes immediately to avoid a problem. She commented that she felt there was a pushback from staff to do things their own way.
Ms. Hall pointed out that, in the case of the heavy industrial standards, staff would need to hear the Board say to do the LDR’s on the heavy industry and bring them forward to the LPA. She also noted that the difficulty with the LDR’s right now was figuring out whether to tie them to the old Comp Plan or the new Comp Plan.
Commr. Cadwell noted that any LDR they adopted now would have to be redone.
Ms. Hall stated that they did not have a problem with that and would take Board direction on however the Board wanted to handle the LDR’s, but that the staff recommendation was to wait until the new Comp Plan has been done so that they could tie the LDR’s to the new one. Also, she mentioned that there was sometimes not clear direction from the Board on some issues.
Commr. Cadwell suggested that Ms. Hall go back through the list of things that were brought up under their reports that were not in the Agenda to make sure they had clear direction on those at the meetings. He commented that they needed to be more specific about whether they wanted staff to spend the energy and time on things brought up by a Commissioner.
Commr. Hill stated that she looked at the Comp Plan differently than she did the LDR’s, and that there had been people who have had problems and wanted them to change the LDR’s because it did not particularly fit their situation in certain areas. She stated that they needed to look at how changing the rules would have an effect countywide.
Commr. Renick stated that she would only bring up problems that could reflect a larger problem in general, and not because it was a problem for only one individual. She commented that very simple changes could be made in the LDR’s in a matter of weeks.
Commr. Stivender pointed out that she usually sent an e-mail or memo to Ms. Hall with a concern instead of bringing it up at the Board meetings under her business, unless it was something that really needed to be in the public eye, and then when she got a response, she sent a copy to all of them so that they knew that it had come up. She added that if it was an issue that they needed to talk about, she would then bring it up at the Board Meeting.
Commr. Renick was concerned that upper level staff in Growth Management acted too much as an advocate of the developer, and asked the Board their thoughts on that.
Commr. Cadwell stated that they would not want them to come off as advocates on specific cases, but he pointed out that sometimes their advice was not what the Board wanted to hear when given a professional opinion about whether something was bad policy.
Commr. Renick stated that she would like to have the best way to do the site plan according to the planner presented to them, rather than some compromise that had been worked out.
Commr. Stewart commented that the planners got a lot of biased input from the applicant, and that a lot of that information was untrue, incorrect, or a misrepresentation. She also stated that staff had given biased or inaccurate answers to some of her questions.
Ms. Hall commented that she should be able to come to staff and get reliable information, and she would get with her to look into those incidents.
Commr. Renick was concerned that some of the planners’ decisions were overridden by upper level staff. She asked how the Board would know what to do when the planners disagreed.
Commr. Cadwell stated that he thought if there was any kind of issue, they resolved it by committee, but someone would have to make the final call, and that person usually was an upper level person.
Commr. Renick commented that she appreciated that the County Manager had the financial background, but that she did not have as much experience as far as growth management, and she wanted more involvement on the County Manager’s part and for her to be the final word when there were those issues.
Commr. Stivender pointed out that she went to Mr. Gregg Welstead, Deputy County Manager, with Growth Management issues, because he had worked in that department and had the experience to do that and answer her questions.
Commr. Renick emphasized that she thought Ms. Hall should be more involved in that.
Commr. Cadwell pointed out to Ms. Hall that she probably had heard them loud and clear about not being happy with the issues in that department, but pointed out that outside of that, he was very happy with everything else in other departments as well as her direction and what she had been doing.
Ms. Hall stated that she did hear them loud and clear and would take what they said under advisement. She related that she would take some time to put careful thought into the situation before she took any action.
Commr. Renick commented that it was a trust issue with staff.
RECESS AND REASSEMBLY
At 8:50 a.m., the Chairman announced that the Board would recess for ten minutes.
BOARD MEETING PROCEDURES
Commr. Cadwell stated that he wanted to talk about how they were doing the Board Meetings. He admitted that he tended to try to move mundane things along quicker than he should sometimes, but that he would try to slow down. He also wanted to make sure that the Commissioners thought they were being heard.
Commr. Stewart stated that she thought the meetings were going well and that the Commissioners were working well together.
Commr. Renick explained the background regarding the problem over the concrete meeting, relating that she was told by Mr. Sandy Minkoff, County Attorney, that she would be breaking Sunshine Rules if she came out and explained to the Board that she wanted just a listening meeting because she knew that the residents would sue if certain things were not put in place for them. She related that the residents really wanted to be heard, even though there was not going to be a vote at that time. She explained that her purpose was to try and get Prestige to agree to a monitoring plan to give the residents assurance. She noted that she suggested to the homeowners group that they choose one spokesperson rather than have many people getting up to speak. She stated that she thought afterward that it was a total failure, because they did not avoid a lawsuit as she intended, but she received an e-mail days later from a resident thanking her and stating that the concrete company explained and agreed to so much more for the Board than they did for the residents at the private meetings. She also stated that she knew that if they did not have an organized session like that, the residents were going to come and air their grievances during the Citizen Question and Comment Period.
Commr. Stewart stated that the citizens had a lot of frustration over the concrete plant, and she felt that just opening the discussion so that citizens could have some input helped those residents, which is what they were there for.
Commr. Hill commented that if they came en masse during the Citizens Comment period, the Board would have been blindsided and would have had nothing prepared to present to them to show what they had in place.
Commr. Cadwell stated that they needed to get to know each other better and know what their motivations were, and commented that in this case, he did not know what Commr. Renick’s motivations were. He was concerned that in general if they exposed and abashed a business that was following the County’s own rules at a public meeting, it would not give other businesses a comfort level about the County.
Commr. Renick pointed out that there was a whole lot behind this situation, and she thought that the company would be able to see that there were going to be complaints constantly in the future. She also stated that there was an educational element to that meeting.
Commr. Stewart stated that she hoped that would encourage cement plants to be better neighbors. She also thought that for years citizens in general had felt left out of the process and felt like they were not heard.
Commr. Hill was concerned about citizens who used the Citizen Question and Comment Period to talk about their own personal agenda or personal life and did not think that was what they should use that venue for. She was also concerned about an individual showing personal photographs, advertising, and asking for money. She also talked about the way the Commissioners were seated and whether they needed some lights, buttons, or additional equipment to be aware of anyone with questions or comments.
Ms. Hall stated that one of the things they were currently looking at was all the electronics down in the Chambers, and she would mention that.
PUBLIC RECORDS BUILDING IN DOWNTOWN TAVARES
Commr. Cadwell stated that he had been contacted by the Tavares City Manager about the Lake County Clerk Public Records Center. He reported that the City would hear their zoning case before the Board met again, and they were trying to get some indication from them that eventually that building would go back on the market. He suggested that they direct staff to look at the long-range ability to put that back on the market and mentioned that the City thought it was key to the center of the downtown area. He stated that originally he did not think that would work, but now that the Sheriff was moving elsewhere, they had some extra room.
Ms. Hall commented that they could use the extra money, but stated that they would need that building until they could actually occupy the courthouse, which would be about three to four years down the road.
Commr. Cadwell stated that if they could give staff direction to look at a long-range plan that would have them out of that building when they got their Certificate of Occupancy (CO), it would give the City some comfort that they would keep their campus where it was and that the City could include that into their commercial activity.
Mr. Sandy Minkoff, County Attorney, stated that he and Mr. Jim Banon, Facilities Development and Management Director, would be presenting the rezoning Wednesday, August 1, and he would like a clear direction of what the Board would like them to present to the City Council. He commented that the City wanted a commitment from them stating that when they moved back into the Judicial Center, they would put that back in private ownership.
Commr. Stivender added that next to City Hall was the core of downtown, and they were working on downtown redevelopment plans for it. She opined that it would be the appropriate thing to do.
Commr. Hill brought up that the City had several things that they wanted the Board to consider, which were the Public Records Building, the roundabout, the greenery on the garage, and a traffic/pedestrian plan for downtown during the construction phase so that the businesses could still stay open and customers could still have access.
Mr. Minkoff responded that they had accommodated all of those things in the ordinance, and their plan on August 1 was to have a little more simplified presentation than they had at the Planning and Zoning Board, since the Council had already seen most of the information. He mentioned that Mr. Jim Stivender, Jr., Public Works Director, had a plan for customer access to downtown businesses. He stated that the only issue he thought needed to be resolved was concerning the building.
Commr. Stivender made a motion to direct staff to go before the City Council to state that once they had their CO for their Judicial Building, that the Public Records building would go back to the private sector. Commr. Hill seconded it for discussion.
Commr. Cadwell asked if the CO for the judicial building was going to be the last thing.
Mr. Minkoff stated that he would rather it be a little more general to state that once they were done with their downtown construction, they would then put the property on the market.
Commr. Hill stated that it would depend on what the marked looked like, and they might want to even put it up for sale prior in anticipation of the completion of the construction, but not vacate it until construction was completed.
Mr. Minkoff stated that they actually had people call them to offer to buy it now and lease it back to the County. He noted that the value of downtown property was increasing right now and it was hard to know when exactly the construction would be done.
On a motion by Commr. Stivender, seconded by Commr. Hill and carried unanimously by a vote of 5-0, the Board moved to put the Public Records Building back on the market once the construction was completed of the downtown government buildings.
SUNSET DATES USING A CUP PROCESS
Commr. Renick brought up having sunset dates on Planned Unit Developments (PUD), stating that Clermont had Conditional Use Permits (CUP) that directed that construction had to be within two years or some kind of time limitation. She asked how they could put that in place now.
Mr. Minkoff stated that this was a concern that the LPA was currently working on and that Mr. Brian Sheahan, Senior Planner, was working on some language for them. He related that the difficulty under their current LDR and Comp Plan was that the PUD was actually a zoning district, and a PUD actually changed the zoning of the land. He explained that the County used to do it the way that Clermont did where the PUD was done through a conditional permit which expired. He stated that they were exploring bringing the County back to that.
Commr. Renick asked if there were any more of those on the horizon, and wanted to avoid developments waiting for 15 years before initiating construction.
Commr. Cadwell asked if they could deal with that issue with each PUD without an LDR.
Mr. Minkoff responded that the only option they had now would be to have a County-initiated rezoning to take the PUD away and rezone it to something else.
Commr. Cadwell asked if they could change it for those coming in with a PUD now.
Mr. Minkoff stated that it could not automatically expire, because in effect, it was a rezoning, and they would have to rezone the property back.
Commr. Renick stated that a particular vendor had permission from a private property owner to set up a hot dog cart to serve a construction crew that was building a development for about seven or eight months or the length of time of construction. She explained that Code Enforcement would not let them stay past the 30 day deadline, after they had spent $50,000 on the vendor cart and equipment. She wanted to know if they could put something in the Code for those types of situations to allow the vendor to stay longer in one location while servicing a construction site. She also noted that the vendor was suing or thinking of suing the County.
Ms. Hall asked if this was an issue that they wanted the staff to give a brief presentation on.
Mr. Minkoff stated that his office would do research these types of issues. He mentioned that the Board had an ordinance prepared at one time concerning the temporary vendor issue, which was defeated. He related that it was a big issue statewide, and that the trend was to not allow them or to greatly restrict them. He specified that this mainly revolved around the auto dealers who sold cars in tent sales.
Commr. Renick inquired if it was possible to differentiate between a food vendor and someone who took away business from a car dealership.
Mr. Minkoff stated that it might be feasible to do that, and suggested that the particular vendor they were discussing could become permanent and get a site plan approval. He commented that it was a very complex issue, with people having strong feelings about both sides of the issue. He stated that they could change the 30 day time limit to 90 days, 180 days, or six months; but if they did that, some nearby restaurants would be unhappy with it.
Ms. Hall stated that she wanted direction on whether they wanted them to look at some options and come back to the Board with some ideas.
Commr. Renick stated that if it had been working fine the way it was, she would drop it.
Mr. Minkoff commented that through the years, he did not remember that there had been a large number of those issues.
Commr. Renick inquired whether they could make exemptions when someone had been misled by a government entity.
Mr. Minkoff stated that paying compensation to people was a better way to remunerate for the damage they caused them than to try to make exceptions to the Code.
Commr. Cadwell stated that they should bring this back at the next meeting.
Commr. Hill commented that they made sure not to do any harm to agriculture interests, but she thought that the car dealership was in an entirely different realm. She stated, however, that it would depend on whether the businesses were local or not.
DOWNTOWN CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS
Commr. Hill related that they sent out another Request for Proposal (RFP) to change the construction company, and she would like the names of the companies brought back to the Board as soon as they possibly could do that, because she was concerned that choosing another construction company would slow the process of the downtown projects.
Ms. Hall gave the Board an update of that, specifying that a selection committee met, heard presentations from the three firms that were shortlisted, and selected PPI as the construction manager. She stated that at this point, the company was looking for the insurance that was required, and once all that was ironed out, they would anticipate bringing back the contract to the Board for approval.
Mr. Minkoff commented that PPI had been attending the zoning hearings. He also mentioned that Beef O’ Brady’s asked to extend the time before they would have to leave from September 1 to September 13, because they had a new store opening in the Villages. He reported that he would bring an item for the Board’s approval that would let them stay for an extra two weeks. He also related that he received a letter from Mr. Fred Belton’s lawyer stating that he heard the County gave Beef O’ Brady’s two weeks and also asked for two weeks. He asked the Board for direction on how to respond to him.
Commr. Cadwell commented that it should be alright, as long as it was no longer than two weeks.
Commr. Hill inquired about opening up the parking on that property.
Ms. Hall stated that they were looking at two additional parking areas, one behind the jail in an enclosed area where the Sheriff was having his staff park and the other behind Ruby Street in an area that was not yet under construction
Mr. Minkoff added that the County had to pay compensation to use the Ruby Street location, but they were willing to allow the County to use it up to two years on a temporary basis. He also stated that they could probably get about 300 spaces there while the construction was going on downtown.
IMPACT FEE PROCEDURES
Commr. Hill stated that she wanted to discuss the impact fee procedure. She related that they had taken information on both impact fees to the Impact Fee Committee and had taken the transportation one to MPO. She inquired whether they went to the Planning and Zoning Committee.
Mr. Minkoff stated that there was nothing in the Code that would require them to go to any other advisory committee.
Commr. Renick thought they were going to hear the school impact fees first.
Mr. Minkoff stated that they had a copy of the draft, but he believed it was being presented to the School Board on August 27, so they did not think it would come to the Board until October. He noted that the school impact fees would be presented again to the Impact Fee Committee in September.
Commr. Hill commented that there must have been a substantial change made to that one. She also noted that they did not want transportation to be held up until after October.
BUDGET AND GIS ISSUES
Ms. Hall stated that there would be a Budget Workshop on August 14, and the Board would be receiving an Agenda regarding different things that they were aware of that had come up or any changes that the Board would like to make to the Budget.
Commr. Hill stated that they had voted to move GIS out of Growth Management, and asked whether it could be set up as an enterprise fund.
Mr. Minkoff stated that it was a public records problem, and that unfortunately the law only allowed that department to charge the cost of the copy, unless it took an inordinate amount of time or computer resources. He reported that the legislature created a public records committee this year and that there was a lot of emphasis being placed on electronic records. He commented that the trend he saw was making them provide more for free than to charge more.
Commr. Stivender commented that Public Works was getting revenue from the maps and books created by GIS, even though it was a reasonable cost.
Commr. Hill commented that that was a department that would be getting more expensive, because it was a high tech service.
PARKING OF COUNTY VEHICLES
Commr. Stivender stated that the eight County buses that were parked at Lifestream needed to be out of there by the end of the year, and they were trying to find a place to temporarily park those until they found a facility to handle it. She related that they got staff together and came up with a temporary parking area out of the landfill, which had plenty of land for it. She stated that staff informed her that they had to do a site plan review and go through that process. She also stated that she did not understand why they could not do that on property that the County owned on a temporary basis. She was also concerned that if they were not allowed to park at the landfill site, they would have to spend additional money for parking.
Mr. Minkoff explained that going through the process correctly would avoid a lot of problems that she might not realize would arise, and if they did not follow the rules, sometimes they fell into a trap and did something that would not be allowed. He opined that usually the rules were not that burdensome to have to go through. He added that if it was an emergency situation and they absolutely had to do something, they usually could work out an accommodation somewhere.
Ms. Hall assured the Board that they would look into it further.
FORGIVENESS OF DEBTS BETWEEN DEPARTMENTS
Commr. Hill was concerned about debt forgiveness she had noticed throughout the budget book between departments and wanted to know if that was a policy that they were going to currently have.
Commr. Renick stated she had the impression that they would have to pay it back.
Ms. Hall stated that the one she was aware of was the parks borrowing from stormwater, and in that case, they were requesting not to have to pay that back as far as the proposed budget was concerned.
Commr. Stivender stated that she thought it was only done in the engineering and stormwater departments.
Commr. Hill noted that there was borrowing from the Commerce Park, and as a member of the Economic Development Commission (EDC), she needed that money to help promote business and look at incentive packages. She also mentioned that she thought there was some money borrowed from Solid Waste. She inquired whether the money got paid back.
Commr Stivender stated that she believed it got paid back.
Ms. Hall stated that the intent was to pay back the money to the Commerce Park.
Commr. Cadwell commented that the stormwater one was not a loan and that there was stormwater work done, so they requested stormwater funds.
Commr. Hill commented that was fine, if it really pertained to that. She also mentioned an example of one that pertained to an Advanced Life Support (ALS) situation regarding a fire, where $1.4 million was borrowed. She further clarified that they had paid for ALS from funds that they should not have, so they needed to pay that back.
Mr. Minkoff stated that it was probably a reaction to a North Lauderdale case where they were using assessments for ALS.
Ms. Hall stated that she would look into that and other forgiveness of debt situations.
There being no further business to be brought to the attention of the Board, the meeting was adjourned at 10:30 a.m.
WELTON CADWELL, CHAIRMAN
JAMES C. WATKINS, CLERK