One would like to hear that COVID is in the decline, that life is returning to our normal crazy pace and that all can go out and enjoy the holiday season.
Unfortunately, that is not the case. Hospital beds continue to fill up, new closings announced across the country, and holiday merriment will need to be kept at a minimum this year.
All this dire news has still not kept the holiday spirit from sweeping us up and enjoying good times with our family and close friends. Many this year are volunteering and donating to help the many in our community in need of assistance, finding themselves struggling through these tough times.
Speaking of the holiday magic, our Island City has two new very talented and professional City Commissioners — Chris Caputo and Mike Bracchi. At this past Tuesday’s city commission meeting we got a good indication of how effective these two will be in leading our city.
Both exhibited a unique quality amongst elected officials — the ability to publicly admit when you made a mistake, that you have listened and learned, and able to move in a different direction that is best for the city. Bravo to you both.
When the two were reminded of their responses to a density question during the campaign to be totally different from what they were currently advocating — both were quick to respond to the accusations.
Much credit to you both for defending your current position and demonstrating your ability to make the necessary decisions based on professional advice from city staff, your advisory boards, and the community.
The density issue is of enormous importance for the future of our city. We are talking about only a few possible sites large enough in our city that will be needed to be developed in the most optimum way to benefit us all. This does not mean tall buildings and canyon effects along our streets. This does not mean the destruction of our single-family neighborhoods. This means having the ability to bring in reputable developers who can create something that will be a wonderful asset for our community for many years.
Unfortunately, we still have many who continue to put roadblocks up every time we have this discussion on needed growth and development issues. This half in, half out, the approach has not done much for our city over the last 10 to 12 years. Andrews Avenue and Oakland Park were not just discovered yesterday as an economic growth opportunity. Residents have been pushing the city to act for years. However, as much as some of our city commission believe that they have done over the years — no substantial changes have been done to this vital corridor of our city. Missed opportunities fill the trash bins of many planners and city staff’s desks. Instead of attracting the proper resources necessary to guarantee a project’s success we accept mediocrity and second rate.
Instead of seeing first-class development we have an empty gas station sitting vacant on Andrews Avenue for years now. This was part of properties purchased along with the Wilton House Apartment complex. No great plans for this property — no interest in the appearance and vagrancy of the surrounding community. Just an eyesore that reminds us every day of what happens when you do not do things properly. Instead of attracting a valuable partner in our community, we have properties sitting vacant, unused, and an eyesore to the community.
This is what happens when you do not create the foundation that will attract reputable and established developers that commit to the communities they work with. The few properties of any real size remain underutilized, with little incentive for new players to come into our city and create something wonderful. So we are left with nothing really changing.
Thankfully, our city will be making a big leap forward by increasing the residential units per acre within the TOC zoning areas. This is vital to the future sustainability of our city. The final number will not be decided until January or February. Many will try to keep it as low as possible and hopefully others, especially our elected officials, will be ready to bring this very important number up to 75 or even 100.
Henny Penny will be running around town crying that the sky is falling during the next month or so, but, in reality, the sky will look a lot bluer on the horizon if we make the important decisions today.
Thank you Commissioners Rolli, Caputo and Bracchi for moving this issue ahead.
For now, have a wonderful and safe holiday season. See you in the New Year as we all continue to make life just better here.
Sal Torre has been a columnist for the Wilton Manors Gazette since its inception. Sal has served on the Wilton Drive Task Force, Budget Review Advisory Board, and Charter Review Board, among others. Sal is currently President of the Westside Association of Wilton Manors and Secretary for the Friend of the Wilton Manors Library. He is employed with Broward County in the Human Services Division.