Tuesday, April 2, 2013

City Council Meeting Summary - April 2, 2013

This is intended as a brief summary of the Belle Isle City Council meeting that took place on April 2, 2013:

Citizen Comments

The meeting opened with citizen comments. A number of residents spoke, including myself. Many asked questions and made statements regarding the Belle Isle fire department project.

Dr. Stuart Bernstein spoke to propose a new City ordinance requiring publication by mail of the qualification deadline for our Mayor and City Commissioners. His proposed ordinance is based on Orlando ordinances 21.06 and 21.08, linked below. You can see the complete text of Dr. Bernstein's proposed ordinance in his open letter:

City Financial Report Presentation

After citizen comments, Kelly Leary of McDermit Davis made a presentation to the Council on the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) for the year ending September 30, 2013. She described her report as an "unqualified opinion," which she explained to mean an opinion based on financial statements that accurately reflect the City's financial position.

One interesting fact revealed by Ms. Leary is that City Hall has failed to submit approximately $380,000 in building permit fees collected from Belle Isle residents to Orange County. Mayor Brooks explained that this was because the City was awaiting the outcome of a court case in Broward County regarding whether some of those building fees must be paid back to the city by the county. Ms. Leary strongly recommended that those fees be paid to the county immediately.

With regard to the present financial state of Cornerstone Academy, Ms. Leary stated that revenues were "slightly higher" than expenditures at the charter school. There was also significant Council discussion regarding the potential financial impact of catastrophic weather damage to the school.

If you would like further information about the financial state of our City, please refer to the full text of the financial report, which has been posted to records.belleisle.com under "Financial Reports."

Belle Isle "Special Events" Ordinance 13-06

The final issue addressed by the Council was the second reading and adoption of the City's proposed "special events" ordinance. Ordinance 13-06 requires residents to purchase a special permit from City Hall for any events meeting the qualifications in the ordinance. The cost of this permit will depend on the services that the City Manager and Chief of Police determine will be needed for the event, as well as a fee schedule to be set by the Council on a future date. The Mayor strenuously stated our City's need for such a law due to problems caused by recent large parties and filming events.

During citizen comments on the proposed ordinance, I noted to the Council some problems with the ordinance as written. Despite reassurances from the Mayor that this ordinance would not be enforced against block parties or similar private events, the text of the ordinance explicitly refers to "block parties," "lake parties," and "fireworks displays."  Also, any parties utilizing “amplified sound” or "high intensity lighting" would be required to obtain a permit under the ordinance. These vague terms could apply to just about any private party or event in Belle Isle.

Commissioner Readey expressed similar concerns about the "special events" ordinance. He strongly urged the Council to revise the ordinance to make sure that it was clear which events would require the host to obtain a permit. Commissioner Readey further expressed his opinion that Belle Isle has never required such an ordinance in the past, and there is no strong evidence that it is needed now.

At the conclusion of the Council's discussion, the "special events" ordinance was passed with two minor modifications. On page 1, line 24, the word "shall" was changed to "may." The effect of this change is to prevent events utilizing “amplified sound” or "high intensity lighting" from being automatically required to obtain a permit under the ordinance regardless of the size of the event. The other change is to add the term "waterway" to page 6, line 11, in order to ensure that lake events will be covered under the ordinance. The new City Attorney approved these last minute changes because, in his opinion, they were not substantive changes requiring a new reading of the proposed ordinance. All Commissioners voted in favor of the ordinance, except Commissioner Spaulding, who was absent, and Commissioner Readey, who voted against the ordinance. You can read the full text of Ordinance 13-06 (before changes) in the meeting agenda:

March 5 Meeting Minutes

As always, you should refer to the City minutes for the official record of this meeting. Unfortunately for those interested in reviewing the City's minutes from the March 5 Council meeting at Cornerstone Academy, those minutes were not reviewed and approved at tonight's meeting. You can see on the City website that regular meeting minutes are typically approved at the Council workshop meeting held approximately three weeks later. At the latest, they are approved at the next regular Council meeting the following month.

Upon being questioned as to why the March 5 minutes were not approved at this Council meeting, Vice-mayor Lydia Pisano explained that the March 5 minutes were not yet prepared for reading and approval by the Council. She indicated that this was because there was too much material from that meeting for City Hall to compile in one month, although at least one City Commissioner was skeptical of this explanation. Regardless, I will let you know when the March 5 minutes are approved and available.

As always, email me at contact@belleislesun.org with your thoughts. I welcome comments, criticism, questions and story tips!

1 comment:

  1. What an amazing job you have done. Perhaps you should run for office. Obviously BI interest is your goal.


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