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DFS City Council votes down ordinance to bring back proportionate fair share program

Aug 30th, 2013 | 0


The DeFuniak Springs City Council voted 4-1 against readopting an ordinance reinstituting transportation concurrency and proportionate fair share, with Councilman Mac Carpenter casting the lone nay vote.

The ordinance, which was up for its first reading at the Council’s Aug. 26 meeting, was proposed by Carpenter at the last regular Council meeting as a possible means of resolving the issue with property owner Diane Pickett, whose donation of 31 acres is under dispute. Per the city’s agreement with Pickett, she was to receive $7 million in appraised future proportionate fair-share credit in return for the donation of the land, while the city was to get about $600,000-worth of utilities relocation from the Florida Department of Transportation. However, as Carpenter contended at the previous meeting, that deal between Pickett and the city had effectively been undone when the Council voted last year to opt out of participation in the proportionate fair share program.

The other four councilmen, along with City Attorney Clay Adkinson, more or less disagreed that bringing back proportionate fair share would resolve the dispute with Pickett, who now intends to sell the land directly to FDOT, which, if upheld in court, would make the city liable for upward of $600,000 in utilities relocation. Furthermore, it was argued that participation in the program was originally ceased due to the difficulty in enforcing fair share, the burden it places on developers for transportation impacts and the limitations placed on the city in terms of use of the money raised through the program. Carpenter remained the sole defender of adopting the ordinance, saying that proportionate fair share was still in practice with Walton County for the reasons its reimplementation could resolve the Pickett issue, though he was in favor of working toward a better solution to addressing the cost of transportation impact.

“If we reimplement this, I’m going to be looking at coming up with something new,” Carpenter said at the meeting. “I don’t think it’s a perfect system, but right now it’s the system we were already in when we made commitments to individuals who gave us land….when we take 31 acres and we say ‘well, we were going to give you credits but now we’re giving you nothing,’ if it were me, I’d be trying to unravel the deal and get somebody to pay me the money.”

Nevertheless, the ordinance failed to pass muster when put to the vote.

The Council also had some disagreement when it came to what seemed at first to be a routine request from Public Works Director Bill Holloway to fill two vacant water and sewer utility worker positions. While neither request was to create a new position, Councilman Mac Work opposed the approval the second request, as the individual recommended for the hire had at one time been a city employee for several years prior to leaving for personal reasons. Carpenter objected to discussing a current or former employee’s personal matters at a public meeting, segueing into a call to place employee hiring policies, namely that approval for hires must be granted by the Council in all cases, on the next agenda.

The motions to approve the two hires passed 5-0 and 4-1, respectively, with Work casting the nay vote in the latter case.

In other Council news, the board voted 5-0 to interview the top three applicants for the city’s grant writing services provider, with the interviews to be conducted in a special meeting at 5 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 16. The Council also decided to retain the Florida League of Cities as DeFuniak’s insurance provider; to award a bid to North Carolina’s Eastern Aviation Fuels, Inc., to provide fuel to the city’s municipal airport; and to adopt Ordinance 883, which deals with flood damage prevention practices, after second reading.

Finally, the Council decided to halt monthly town hall-style open forums, which have been held prior to the first council meeting of the month for the past two months. The Council requested city staff bring to the next regular meeting a prospective calendar for semi-regular town hall open forums, as the board could not decide to hold forum-style meetings quarterly or on an as-needed basis.

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