I was planning an article about selecting a new tagline for the city until something the Mayor said at last week’s Commission meeting got stuck in my head. During a discussion about the city’s Green Building Code, Mayor Gary Resnick made a comment about meeting with an unnamed developer who is planning, in his words, “low-income housing” in Wilton Manors.
The Mayor talked about working with a developer who has plans for a sizable low-income housing project here in the city. Going even further, he voted against a proposal to strengthen our Green Building Code because he does not want to put an economic burden on this developer by adding minor increases to the cost of construction.
Wow, let’s think about this for a minute. In a city that has seen some of the highest increase in property values in Broward county over the last two years, where residents are pushing to have the Andrews Avenue Redevelopment Project move forward, where we continue to improve our park facilities at huge expense, and where Westside residents have a glimmer of hope that blighted areas are beginning to turn around, our Mayor appears more concerned about the bottom line of some developer than about the concerns of residents and about creating a substantive Green Building Code for our city.
I hope this is not the case.
Now do not get me wrong. At some point the city must look into projects that will offer affordable housing choices for our residents, affordable housing to our seniors who have lived in Wilton Manors for many years, for veterans, for our aging LGBT residents, and others.
If the Mayor’s developer cannot build quality, green, safe, energy-efficient, sustainable affordable homes, there are plenty of other developers who can. Progressive eco-friendly firms are doing amazing work around the country, building affordable housing projects that utilize the latest in green technology and energy-saving devices.
If this can be done elsewhere, then why not here? Settling for mediocrity is not the way to move our city forward into the future.
Climate change is real, and South Florida is only beginning the planning needed to move our region where it needs to be with building codes, infrastructure, energy efficiency and LEED certification. Commissioner Green’s insistence on mandating certain green changes to our building code and Commissioner Flippen’s going one step further by asking for holistic review of the entire Green Building Code are what we should be hearing from our elected officials. Instead, we still see the same old resistance to change, the bottom-line interest of a few over that of the public good.
As this issue moves forward, it would be interesting to know exactly where the Mayor’s “sizeable low-income housing project” will be located. Perhaps the church site on NE 26th Street, perhaps along Andrews Avenue, maybe even in Jenada Isle (oh no, that will not happen, silly me.) We need to talk about attracting award-winning eco-friendly development for affordable housing that brings together innovative design, energy efficiency, green building codes, and community involvement. The Westside would welcome such discussions. Certain aging properties along Andrews Avenue and NW 29th Street are prime spots for such redevelopment and community partnership.
Perhaps tapping into funds collected from the Affordable Housing Impact Fee our city collects might offer the means to attract the type of quality development this city deserves. Our city should demand projects that have the opportunity to deliver significant healthy, economic and environmental benefits to our residents, not a cheaper way out for some developer.
This is Wilton Manors. We deserve better. We should demand better.
Why? Because “Life is just better here….”