Ruskin Community Plan back on track, ALL Community Plans defended
Note: This is a follow-up post with the resolution of the problem that was first described in this previous post: Emails needed to defend Community Plans
Thanks to all who sent in emails and spoke with commissioners, the Ruskin Community Plan is headed for firmer ground, AND our county commissioners received a strong message from people all over the county that we expect them to follow ALL our Community Plans.
Please send a thank-you note to commissioners for addressing our concerns (see sample below).
We’ll have to continue watching & participating in the process to keep things on track, but their general plan is good.
Commissioners voted to do 2 things:
1.) Write the Ruskin Community Plan’s Guidelines into the Land Development Code (LDC), where they will be firmly enforceable. County staff promised to do that ASAP, in the current Round I cycle of hearings, so it should go into effect in a few months.
SOON: Public Meeting (TBD, very soon — stay tuned)
April 24: County Commission Preliminary Public Hearing
May 12: Planning Commission Public Meeting
May 29: County Commission Final Public Hearing
We’ll need to participate in this process, by attending hearings and sending in written comment, to ensure that Ruskin’s Guidelines don’t lose any teeth as they are rewritten into Land Development Code language, and to see that the process does not get delayed.
This will be an important test case for ALL Community Plans, as they will all soon go through a process of having some of their Plan elements implemented into the Land Development Code (LDC), so we’ll all want to make sure this process stays true to the intent of the Community Plans.
2.) In the meantime — until the Guidelines can be written into the LDC — commissioners directed staff to clearly identify any rezonings within the Ruskin Community Plan area, as they come up, and let commissioners know whether a zoning application complies with the Guidelines or not, when they are deciding whether to approve or deny any new development plan.
That leaves them some wiggle room, so we’ll have to keep an eye on them. But I was there, and I can tell you that as they made this motion, their discussion showed that (thanks to all your emails!) they have come to understand the importance of these Guidelines. At their request, the County Attorney, Chip Fletcher, advised them as to how they could legally honor the Guidelines, even before they are codified into the LDC, so that the recently discovered “loophole” need not be a problem during this time.
Although public comment is not typically taken on this sort of agenda item, I was allowed to speak to the commission as they made this decision, and I heard their discussion, and came away feeling that our county commissioners listened to us and worked with staff to find an acceptable solution.
Here’s a summary of the commissioners’ discussion:
Commissioner Kevin Beckner led the board discussion with pertinent questions, key evidence, a real sense of fairness, and strong support for the community. The discussion involving commissioners Kevin Beckner, Sandra Murman & Mark Sharpe showed all had done their homework, listened to citizens, understood the issues, and were concerned to maintain the trust of the community and keep the county’s promises. Commissioner Ken Hagan was quiet during the discussion, but he replied by email to citizens saying he is “very pleased” with the outcome, and he did vote in favor of the Board’s final motion, which passed 4–0.
There are 7 commissioners, so why the 4–0 vote?
Although our item was the last thing on the very short agenda, both commissioners Al Higginbotham & Les Miller left the meeting the minute our item came up — less than an hour after the meeting started! This meeting was scheduled for Thursday morning at 9:00 a.m., and it only lasted until 10:34 a.m., but these two came and voted on the first few items, then ducked out right when our item came up at 9:51 a.m., with no explanation. (Commissioner Victor Crist was absent from the whole meeting, but he had a good reason read into the record.)
For more details:
- watch the video of the March 6 Land Use Meeting (it’s the last item — go to 51:44, or search for “Ruskin”)
- read the captioning of the discussion & vote (scroll down to second half of meeting, or search for “Ruskin”)
- read the Tampa Tribune’s wrap-up
(also see the Tribune’s initial report which helped get the commissioners interested)
Let’s thank the commissioners who worked for us, and let ALL of them know we’re still involved.
Here’s a sample letter:
To: Kevin Beckner <email@example.com>, Sandra Murman <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Mark Sharpe <email@example.com>, Ken Hagan <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Victor Crist <email@example.com>, Les Miller <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Al Higginbotham <email@example.com>
Subject: Ruskin Community Plan Guidelines
I am glad to see that the Board voted to put the Ruskin Community Plan’s Guidelines into the Land Development Code (LDC) in the current cycle, so they can be installed quickly, with the final public hearing on May 29.
It is important that any re-zonings that come up in the interim are held to the same Guidelines that have been applied to rezonings during the last 8 years (to all rezonings except the one last April that started this whole mess). So I am also glad to see that the Board directed staff to identify any rezonings within the Ruskin Community Plan area, as they come up, and let you know whether they comply with these Guidelines or not. I urge you to deny any request for a zoning change which does not comply fully with the Ruskin Community Plan documents, including the “Guidelines for Land Use, Density & Lot Sizes for Neighborhood Areas.”
ALL Community Plans represent the will of the people and deserve your full support. I appreciate your working to build trust among the citizens that our government will keep its word and stick to the Community Plans in which citizens have invested so much.
Thanks to Barbara & Tom Aderhold, of Keystone, who joined me in meetings with commissioners and a Tribune reporter, helping them to understand the ramifications to ALL Community Plans when any ONE Community Plan is violated without public process.
Thanks to Tampa Bay Sierra Club for sending a letter of support to the County Commission.
Thanks to Tampa Tribune reporter Yvette Hammett for shining a light on this, without which the county might not have taken it so seriously. The Tribune is the only local news outlet that reported on this important issue, and Yvette Hammett’s excellent writing brought clarity to the whole wonky mess.
The biggest thanks go to all of YOU citizens who contacted commissioners to tell them this is important to their constituents.