Hometown Democracy – Take II

Design Renaissance and Beyond

Thrilled – this was my reaction upon reading Matt Hudson’s recent debate excerpts in this morning’s newspaper. The issue has become heated, both in the news and in the “Letters to the Editor” section of the paper for a new Project designed for the Golden Gate Estates. In favor of the commercial space are proponents of facilities closer to home (use less fuel and less expenditure to families) and the new business opportunity it could mean to the area (both during construction and with storefront space). Opposed, folks cite night time pollution, noise intrusion, quality of life, and, drum roll please: traffic.
Amendment 4, is this the savor of the negative aspects above? I’m still not convinced that fair representation can be achieved, as noted by Rep. Hudson in the article -
http://www.naplesnews.com/news/2010/jan/25/homegrown-democracy-issue-debated-collier-county/
The proponents of Hometown Democracy cite ‘fairness’ and ‘deals.’ However, for a member of two quasi-government Committees, I know that the ‘Sunshine Law’ works, and I believe, that government now works outside of what was once considered ‘smoky backrooms.’ Or, is the goal simply to harpoon Projects? You decide when we go to the polls this Fall – an additional layering of Public votes through greater representation? Can this work How, and Who gets to vote?
Recently, our Commission has found a wonderful middle ground, although I dare say the Developer may not be too happy. For them, this means several more months of loan repayment…Here’s what they did to assure that ‘Locals’ get a fair voice by delaying the vote and advertising the Hearing –
http://www.naplesnews.com/news/2010/jan/20/voters-get-say-whether-estates-shopping-center-pro/
This will gauge voter support through a non-binding straw vote. Yes, the folks next door will probably not vote for it, but as an Activity Center, it would serve a large number in the Community…so let’s look at some aspects for the folks next door (as noted in a previous blog – they can dovetail into the process at any point, sharing concerns with the Developer, County Staff, and their District Commissioner). From the first paragraph, one by one: 1) light; after operating hours, dual ballast systems provide for lighting that achieve a security level without ‘night glow,’ thus, a view to the starry skies can be preserved (as long as the nearby street lights don’t already obscure this view). County Code governing ‘cut off’ fixtures and maximum height. 2) noise; barrier walls provide both noise abatement and ‘security,’ and with increased attention to delivery hours, a compromise could be reached. Site planning of loading areas may also be considered, as it relates to adjacent neighbors. And ‘security,’ let’s face it, is anything 100% secure? You achieve greater security by Activity, a multitude of eyes, cameras, and/or motion sensors; however, for the folks next door, you would not want an isolated, paved area to serve as ‘staging’ for criminals. Walls make a quick smash-and-grab inconvenient, from a ‘first line’ of defense perspective, with the second line being ‘personal security’ on your lot, achieved through an alarm system, fenced yard, and/or ‘fido.’ 3) quality of life; a HUGE opportunity is being missed here. Instead of spelling out to a Developer what ‘we’ have and what ‘he/she’ may be missing (condescending tone, of course), trying communicating (a Developer may be more amenable than you think). Seek out positives that could be incorporated into the Project: an equestrian horse trail for access, a wide-swathed bike path/park, preserved area with ‘woods,’ etc. These evoke a unique visual experience, like nothing ‘in-town,’ and with attention being devoted to the Architectural masses, finishes, and entry experience, would evoke a Sense of Place. 4) Traffic; the immediate neighbors should note proposed points of vehicular ingress/egress closely so that side streets are not ‘clogged’ near intersections and/or traffic is not ‘directed’ down neighborhood roads. My family and I walk, bike, and may even play on our lovely, little, 20’ wide street, so I see the value (and safety) in less traffic, without reliance upon speed bumps and chicanes.
I’m optimistic that compromises can be found, and I believe that our Commission has struck a balance without Amendment 4; thus, I believe, while the current system is not perfect, we have mechanisms in place to assert ‘character’ into Projects by neighbors and to offer governing bodies choices in hearing the Constituency, Associations, and other Community-based organizations. In the end, I would not want someone from outside ‘my Area’ to decide whether I should or should not have efficient access to conveniences and/or affect the Character of what will be – that’s for ‘us’ to decide.

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