Column: Border Protection in Wilton Manors

On the same evening that President Trump addressed the nation from the Oval Office last week, members of our City Commission seemed to be in lock-step with the notion of building a wall. 

Locally that wall will begin at NW 30thCourt and carve out a small section of the surrounding neighborhood to protect them from the outside world, but especially from the hordes of developers who are invading our borders and stealing our properties. 

Wow, on the same evening that we heard from our President, claiming of an emergency crisis flooding over our southern border, based on fear mongering and fake news, should it come as any surprise that the majority of our city commission fell prey to the same nonsense?

For many years, the city has paid for and commissioned studies from regional planning groups and zoning experts only to be swayed by a few residents driven by misinformation, fear, and fake news. 

One resident who spoke during Public Comments claimed that city bulldozers were already positioned to start demolition of their homes. Others requested that the city inform residents of NW 30thCourt when the demolition will begin. Fake news and fear mongering are the new norm, and our City Commission is not immune from this devastating new reality. 

Instead of having the leadership to plan correctly for the city’s future, most of our commissioners chose to give in to short-term fear and misinformation -- not a good way to begin the New Year, and not a good way to break out of the starting gate for some of our newly elected officials. 

Vice Mayor Tom Green passionately stated the truth behind the proposed Land Use Changes and explained how future zoning would offer much better protection to our neighbors on 30thCourt, our Westside community and our city as a whole. The TOC Mixed Use designation would provide so much more protection and input into the future zoning and development of the area. Unfortunately, a few property owners were able to use the fear of imminent demolition of homes and uncontrollable destruction of their neighborhood to convince not only their neighbors, but also City Commissioners who should know better.  

The City Commission has had multiple studies by regional planning groups, at a huge cost to the city. Our own Planning and Zoning Board voted unanimously in support of the proposed Land Use Changes in question. We also have advisory boards and community organizations that offer solid community input to our elected officials and city management.  

We elected our officials to make the tough decisions on what is best for our city. This decision to carve out, to figuratively build a wall around a few city blocks, is not a good example of such decision making. 

Let us take a closer look at the reality on the ground. A large number of properties along this stretch of NW 30th Court are non-homesteaded properties. Many are not owned by concerned residents, many are rental properties, and who knows how many are vacation rentals. If I were a resident of NW 30thCourt, I would be more concerned about the future of these properties and their uncontrolled effect on my quality of life and my property values. These residents missed a golden opportunity to have a much greater say in what happens in their community. A TOC Mixed Use designation would give the surrounding community a far greater say in what would be permissible uses of surrounding properties. 

However, due to misinformation, fear, and fake news, the residents of NW 30thCourt will be faced with a new reality. Now that the City Commission has directed city staff to begin the process of removing this area from the Land Use changes and future zoning of a TOC Mixed Use Corridor, they will be left to suffer whatever comes their way in the future, having very little or no say whatsoever in what gets developed in the surrounding commercial, multi-unit residential and non-resident properties, while the rest of the city suffers from the poor choices made by a majority of our commissioners.  

I have to be careful here. Calling out our City Commission when they make bad decisions does not make for pleasant relations. However, doing just that will make us a stronger community. Having a debate on what is the right path for us to take in our community is not a negative as some will claim, but rather a strength that often leads to better decisions. Having such a debate is what will continue to make life just better here.


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