Council addition bucks peers
Marc Valero | Highlands TodayAVON PARK - After his first regular council meeting it appears new Councilman Garrett Anderson will not being going with the flow or the general opinion of the council.
Published: January 23, 2013
Published: January 23, 2013
He asked many questions at the Jan. 14 council meeting, and on a few issues his position was in direct opposition with the rest of the council.
Council had a few unanimous votes of approval on issues at the meeting, but Garrett's four "no" votes were the only "no" votes cast that evening.
Councilman Terry Heston said Tuesday that everybody on the council ought to give their own opinion about everything.
"I think it is not a bad deal; it's just the way it is," he said. "He has his opinion and I've got mine. Mr. Sutherland has his," and the deputy mayor and mayor have their opinions.
Deputy Mayor Brenda Gray said Anderson seems to be a go-getter. He asks questions when he doesn't understand something, which is what all the council members should do.
She reads the council meeting packet extensively and if she doesn't understand something or needs more information, she calls City Manager Julian Deleon.
"It appears to me that maybe he [Anderson] had not done that prior to the meeting," she said.
Gray said she sometimes asks questions, even though she knows the answers, because she believes it may be the same questions or concerns that city residents may have.
Following is a summary of the issues Anderson and the other four council members did not agree on.
Council voted unanimously on the first reading of an ordinance to annex three parcels of land totaling 37.32 acres owned by Lake Ridge Groves east of Memorial Drive near South Florida State College.
But Anderson voted "no" in the council's 4-1 vote to approve the first reading of an ordinance to change the Future Land Use designation for two of the Lake Ridge Groves parcels totaling 36.1 acres.
The Land Use change for the parcels, located at 1030 and 1050 Memorial Drive, would be from county agriculture and medium density residential to city neighborhood commercial.
Central Florida Regional Planning Council Planner Jeff Schmucker said the new commercial classification and the upcoming zoning change on the agenda would be compatible with the surrounding land uses providing low impact commercial development and some residential development.
Deleon explained that the property has huge potential with the Sebring Parkway eventually going between the parcels. It's a perfect location for commercial development.
Anderson also cast the only "no" vote on the first reading of the ordinance to rezone the 36.1 Lake Ridge Groves to neighborhood commercial (C-1).
Anderson said without knowing what the property would be used for, it would be hard for him to vote "yes" for this because it was impossible to know what could be going there.
"It could be absolutely amazing or it could be disastrous," he said.
Councilman Parke Sutherland said right now the property is a bunch of orange trees, and it will stay that way unless the zoning changes.
A subsequent phase of the Sebring Parkway will increase traffic flow into that section of Memorial Drive just to the south of where this property is located, he said.
Heston said waiting until the parkway is built would make it harder to get this property into the city limits of Avon Park.
Anderson noted that the council already voted to annex the property; now they were considering a zoning change.
Schmucker said it would be much "cleaner" and it's the proper way to bring the land into the city rather than keeping it with a county Future Land Use designation.
The property owner is interested in going to a "commercial" zoning because it makes the property more valuable, especially coming into the city, he noted.
Later in the meeting, as reported in the Jan. 16 edition of Highlands Today, Anderson was persistent in his opposition to allow an extension to the residency requirement in Deleon's employment contract.
Sutherland introduced a motion to eliminate the residency requirement, which council approved by a 4-1 vote with Anderson casting to sole "no" vote.
Anderson also cast the only "no" vote on the final item on the agenda, which was to authorize Deleon full authority to negotiate on behalf of the city at an upcoming mediation hearing in former police chief Mike Rowan's lawsuit against the city.
Anderson asked if Deleon was personally involved in the lawsuit.
City Attorney Gerald Buhr said Deleon was not a defendant in the case, but one of the arguments against the city is that Deleon improperly fired Rowan.
Mayor Sharon Schuler said Deleon was involved with the separation agreement that Rowan accepted and then turned down.
It's not unusual for Deleon to negotiate on behalf of the city, she said. He would still have to bring back any settlement agreement for approval by the council.
Highlands Today could not reach Anderson for comment.