Heitmann: Church can stay, pray in parks
City Council member sizes up downtown, walkovers
NAPLES — The Celebration Community Beach Church should be allowed to stay, sing and worship at Cambier and Lowdermilk parks.
So says Naples City Council member Teresa Heitmann, this week's guest on Comcast's "One on One with Jeff Lytle.'' Lytle is editorial page/Perspective section editor of the Daily News.
Video and transcript highlights of that and past interviews are available at naplesnews.com/oneonone. The 30-minute program with Heitman will be shown in its entirety Sunday, Nov. 1, 2009, at noon on Comcast CN 14.
The transcript follows:
Lytle: Should we allow the Celebration Community Beach Church keep using the beach and Cambier Park? How are you going to vote on that?
End of discussion?
Heitmann: No, not end of the discussion. This has been a year-long conversation with many, many, many e-mails, mainly for support, and I have attended the church. I don’t attend that church on a regular basis, but there have been times when I haven’t been able to get to my church, and I’ll get on my bike.
The family has gone out to that church, and it serves a diverse population. Beautiful environment. Beautiful worship music, and I think there’s a need being met there.
Lytle: There’s no down side.
Heitmann: I don’t see a down side to singing and praising and God’s environment.
Lytle: Just to play the devil’s advocate with you — pretty funny. What about those who might say, and I haven’t heard anybody say this lately, that other churches have to build their own buildings and make that investment and put down roots in the community; and the city has been very gracious with the Community Beach Church for many years.
Does there come a time when you have to say, OK, it’s time to do what the other churches have done just like doctors building doctors’ offices rather than making house calls, and go the conventional route for your church services?
Does there come a time when we do that?
Heitmann: I don’t think that churches have to have a building, so that’s why I find this to be very unique. I think that might have been their original plan. But I think they find that people will come because it’s not your traditional building.
So, again, I think it’s something that serves a diverse population — not just for the city but for county residents and for visitors.
Lytle: There was a time when church leaders thought there was going to be a big debate at the council meeting, it sounds like it’s not going to be any big hoo-ha.
Heitmann: Not from my part.
Lytle: Is it going to be a hoo-ha from anybody’s part?
Heitmann: I don’t see that being a big hoo-ha.
Lytle: We’ll tune in, and I hope that’s the case.
What about the bigger picture on downtown, both on Fifth Avenue and Third Street? How much responsibility should City Hall or City Council have for the future health and prosperity in that shopping area? And even as it reaches to the east to Tin City and Bayfront?
How much of that should be the property owners’ and the merchants’ role, and how much of that should be the city’s role?
Heitmann: Well, we all know that business is very important to Third, Fifth, The Dock, Tin City, Bayfront and to even the whole community. So I think it’s important for a city to make sure they put in legislation that benefits the commercial businesses.
I don’t feel that it is the responsibility of the City Council to run a street. That is to be run by the merchants themselves. Third Street has an association, and they do a great job. Fifth Avenue has an association that used to just be Fifth and I think it is expanding ... I think it’s their responsibility as business owners to get together and work together.
However, I do feel we have been facilitators for businesses mainly because we have the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) funds, and that is the responsibility of City Council to monitor those funds and plan for those funds.
That’s why I think we have spent a lot of time in that Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) district, because it our responsibility for those financials.
Lytle: With tax revenues down, is there enough money in the TIF and the CRA funds to accomplish what some of the leaders downtown want to get done?
Heitmann: Well, for the immediate situation, I know that they’re moving toward going ahead and finishing the lighting project that was projected.
I personally believe that there is money to be able to finish projects, but my hope is that we’ll all come together and realize that if we have the CRA it for the next 13 years — I think it’s 13 to 15 more years — we have these tax dollars coming in that we’ll look at the bigger picture and where we want to be at the end of that, and then take those projects that are priorities and move backwards and then plan at this time that we are seeing this recession, and come up with a really good plan that we can meet our objectives for the rest of that period.
Lytle: Talking about the recession, do you have any sense of when we might see some of the condo projects that are on the shelf — when we might see some of them come back?
Heitmann: From a commercial point of view, I’m not sure, because those are corporations that have had to decide what projects will come first.
But I see a lot of projects and a lot of building throughout the community.
Lytle: Like homes?
Heitmann: I see homes and condos.
We also have seen several commercial buildings on Tenth Street in the 41-10 area, and then on Fifth, where I think we had two buildings coming about.
Lytle: But how about the larger scale condominium projects? Or mixed-use projects, like Renaissance Village, Trails End ...
Heitmann: I have not had any updates on those. We will, I’m sure, in the next couple of months be going over what the future of those will be.
Lytle: What can you tell us about the future of the Olde Naples building?
Heitmann: The Old Naples building?
Lytle: At Broad and Third.
Heitmann: At Broad and Third?
Lytle: Some call it the Old World Cheese Shop or Fantozzi’s.
Heitmann: Well, there’s some activity going on there.
Lytle: Yes, but what’s happening there?
Heitmann: It hasn’t been public knowledge. It hasn’t been presented to me. So we’re hoping that it will be something that fits the character of that building.
Lytle: Hoping ... ?
Heitmann: And preserves that historic corner.
Lytle: Is it OK with you as a policymaker in the city that a building like that — an important building — should be allowed to start on some project when you or nobody else really knows where it’s going? Does it make sense that the city government should allow them to start, not knowing where it’s headed?
Heitmann: Well, that would be an interesting factor, and sometimes that’s the way that city business happens. Sometimes you find out about things before they come to the council meetings or before you receive your agenda packet. And then sometimes you don’t.
I find that to be disappointing in not knowing sometimes the broader picture of what’s happening. But you just kind of have to be a little bit investigative and ask a lot of questions when you aren’t sure what’s going on.
Lytle: And here we are — I should say, for the record — that the property owner has a permit from the city to do the interior cleaning out and inspecting that they’re doing.
There’s nothing untoward suggested here. My question to you as a policymaker, was, should we know more in advance before we start?
Heitmann: I would strive for that, yes. Because then that would eliminate some of the conflicts in a project once they come to you.
I think being up-and-up and letting people know what’s happening brings support towards projects.
Lytle: What do hear about the old Daily News building? What’s going to happen there?
Heitmann: Well, I’ve heard affordable housing might potentially go there. I would love to see a manufacturing company come. We miss the business of the Naples Daily News. They brought in support for the local services — dry cleaning, barber shops.
Lytle: Manufacturing what?
Heitmann: Well, there was a company that came to the Jewish Federation that manufactures a lot of medical products in Israel. The board of trustees is here in the United States, and they came to present the possibilities of coming here.
So I’m hoping something like that, some science background, some technology backgrounds. I would love to see that.
That’s a very important area for the growth of the city.
Lytle: Thank you for the insights. Does anybody have the big picture in mind? Do you step back and you take a look at the undeveloped Renaissance Village — the old Grand Central Station — and others around it?
And that property really isn’t being used to its best and fullest potential. And then you add in the Daily News, and you’ve got a big chunk of property there.
Is anybody thinking big-picture and developing it as one big thing?
Heitmann: Well, that goes back to exactly what my concerns are, and I hope that the City Council will find a majority to support us looking at the next 15 years, and looking at the bigger picture.
Because that Tenth Street and that area that you’re describing is part of the CRA, and we need to get the broader vision for what we want to see happen.
And that’s why I said it’s very important in these times that we plan so that we understand what we’re hoping to find, and then hopefully the owners of those properties will be able to find businesses or condos that will support the bigger project.
We started off with a town hall meeting two weeks ago, and I think it was a good start. I’m looking forward to having another town hall meeting. We had a large room. The room was filled, which I have hope that we can do it again and make sure that we are presenting the broader picture.
Lytle: I need to go back to downtown just for a second.
Once we heard of a walkway at the Four Corners. This would actually like take you up and above — it would be like a pedestrian bridge. And now I see in your agenda packets and information we’re talking about pedestrian "walkways.’’
Is that the same thing? Is the bridge idea still alive?
Heitmann: It is not the same thing, and the bridge project has never been eliminated. I don’t think there is support for the bridge over U.S. 41, but that has not been completely discussed and eliminated by the council, which I think it should be. It’s a large project.
The Four Corners, though, is really, I think, something that the business owners want to do connectivity to Tenth and to Bayfront and to Tin City and to the total area. And I like moving forward and making sure that we connect those areas.
I’m not sure that a crosswalk with no future plans to property on the other side of that crosswalk would be the best thing for us to be doing right now. But I do believe that making that area and having that area be noticed is a good idea.
Lytle: Should that now vacant southeast corner where these people had the gas stations and stuff — should that be a park? Should the city get involved and buy that and preserve it? Or should that be developed just like everything else?
Heitmann: My feeling is, we should have more parks, but they are an expense and maintenance. I love green space. That is a requirement as part of the mixed-use area. But I think we should ask the person who owns that piece of property what they’re thinking before we start moving forward with our plans.
Lytle: So what are they thinking?
Heitmann: Don’t know. We haven’t met with them about it.
Lytle: That’s the Fleischmann family, right?
Lytle: We also heard of a possible pedestrian bridge, if you will, over Golden Gate Parkway near Goodlette-Frank Road to get from what’s now Freedom Park to the zoo area, and the greenway, and all that.
Is that bridge OK with you? Is that idea still alive?
Heitmann: Well, that was a new idea that I had never heard before, and I talked to Ellie Krier about it, and she said that would be the last project for the greenway. That is not one of the priorities.
Moving south is the priority.
Lytle: But that wouldn’t be a City Council decision, but. I would imagine you would be consulted. Wait, it would be a City Council decision.
Heitmann: I would certainly hope so.
Lytle: Because now that area is in the city.
Heitmann: That’s right.