Hayward continues to have problems with zoning and neighborhoods. Why?

March 12, 2014

In the past five months, we’ve had two zoning issues come up inside the Pensacola city limits—Dollar General on Spanish Trail and Dept. of Corrections on North Palafox.

The residents in both neighborhoods have felt that their city government was not acting in their best interests. They have voiced concerns that city hall was less than transparent in those situations.

The Spanish Trail issue never made it to the Pensacola City Council. The citizens were able to confront the mayor, voice their disapproval and eventually the item was pulled.

Mayor Hayward hasn’t spoken to the North Hill residents directly, although his spokesperson, Tamara Fountain, did call their association to say the mayor didn’t support DOC moving into the old Coca-Cola building.

Yesterday, after 5 p.m., Hayward issued a statement to clarify his earlier position on the problem:

While I personally do not believe this facility belongs in a historic residential neighborhood, my administration is bound by the laws and ordinances adopted by the City Council. I have directed the City Attorney to review the documents related to the issuance of building permits for 1625 North Palafox Street, and he has advised the City Council and I that, based on the information submitted by the applicant, City staff acted properly and in accordance with the law. Likewise, the Department of Corrections asserts the same.

Like the residents of North Hill, I have a lot of questions about the scope of activities planned to take place at this facility. Effective on Thursday, March 13, I have directed my Chief Building Official to withhold the issuance of a Certificate of Occupancy on the building for a period of fourteen days in order to allow the North Hill Preservation Association and their attorneys the appropriate amount of time to seek whatever legal remedy is available to them.

Either Fountain spoke too soon last week on the mayor’s behalf, or Hayward issued a statement without knowing the facts or seeking legal counsel first.


These zoning issues bring into question how Hayward manages the city. As the strong mayor and CEO of the city of Pensacola, he may delegate duties, but not the responsibility.

Does he meet with his department heads on a regularly? What is his decision matrix in dealing with problems and potential problems? Do his decisions match his priorities? Certainly someone on his leadership team would have recognized that Spanish Trail and North Palafox would be politically sensitive issues.

When you mess with people’s neighborhoods, there will be pushback, especially if you don’t take the time to explain the changes to the residents.

We saw this happen in 2012 when Councilman Brian Spencer and Alan Gray tried to push through the opening of Government Street at Ninth Avenue by Bob Kerrigan’s offices. Spencer said that he was doing it at the mayor’s request. The neighbors weren’t having it and that initiative died.

Whatever management system Hayward is using, the system isn’t working, leaving him and the city constantly having to put out “fires.” He is forever reacting, rarely seen as proactive.

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  • W. Compton March 13, 2014 at 9:50 am

    Paul, and then there’s “Pensacola – Making It Up As They Go Along.”

  • Greg Rettig March 13, 2014 at 9:46 am

    I have signed up for the electronic notification service. However, in dealing with the DG fiasco, I’ve had at least 2 dozen elderly residents who live in the area advise me that they don’t have a computer. Frankly, in this part of town that surprised me. How about in the lower income part of town?

    As for the passing on of costs, I absolutely agree with the process. My point was that a member of the planning board who is also an architect and regularly lobbies for planning/zoning changes didn’t like the idea of increasing the notification area because it would increase costs to his clients. Fox in the henhouse. I didn’t go back and read my previous post but I’m thinking you didn’t quite get my point. Hopefully you have now.

  • Paul A. Szalai March 13, 2014 at 9:42 am

    W. Compton you might be on to something.

    “Arbitrary and capricious”

    Instead of ‘Pensacola, the Upside of Florida’.

    ‘Pensacola, Arbitrary and Capricious’.

  • W. Compton March 13, 2014 at 9:26 am

    One of the reasons the City of Pensacola’a Land Development Code exists is to depoliticize land use decisions. The code describes what is a permitted use and what is a conditional use. Assuming that use of the old Coca Cola plant as a probation and parole office is a permitted use, then it would be improper for the mayor or city staff to not allow it. Denial of a permitted use for purely political reasons just because the neighbors don’t like the idea would be found to be arbitrary and capricious. Hopefully the city’s planning staff understands this, but perhaps failed to make it abundantly clear in their staff report. If, for some reason, they are being squealched in making basic planning decisions by the mayor’s office that is another story entirely. I hope that is not the case.

  • Richard Hawkins March 12, 2014 at 4:22 pm

    Greg has pointed out elsewhere that the DG proposal has changed somewhat and is expected before City Council on 3/27.

    It will be interesting to see if Ashton attends that meeting and repeats his public opposition from before.

  • CJ Lewis March 12, 2014 at 3:29 pm

    All problems ultimately trace back to the City’s municipal constitution, its Charter. According to the National Civic League’s Model City Charter, there are three main variations of the Mayor-Council form of government. We do not have a Strong Mayor or Weak Mayor so by default we have the “standard” Mayor-Council form of government. On August 10, 2009, Charter Review Commission (CRC) Chairwoman Crystal Spencer, writing jointly with the CRC’s general legal counsel Margaret Stopp, wrote to the Council, “As I recall the discussion of the CRC, the intent was to create a balance of power within a Mayor-Council form of government (not ‘strong’ mayor form of government).” You will not find the term “Strong Mayor-Council” anywhere in the Charter or the Code of Ordinances.

    In truth, what we have is a form of government that does not give anyone the authority to do their job. Most importantly, during the CRC’s very last meeting, it reassigned one of the Council’s most important legislative powers – the power to approve the organization of the government and distribution of powers among departments – to the Mayor. I believe that Pensacola has the only municipal government in the nation where the Council has no constitutional role at all with respect to how the government is organized or misorganized.

    We can thank a very confused City Attorney Rusty Wells for that SNAFU. On August 7, 2009, Wells wrote to the Council, “In addition, the section provides that the City that the City Council shall determine the organization of the City and the duties and responsibilities assigned to the various departments, which has a measure of conflict with the power of the Mayor to exercise executive powers of the City [determined by the City Council having adopted ordinances and resolutions for that purpose] and supervise all departments reflected in Section 4.01.(a)(1).” Wells had no understanding of the distinction between the legislative and executive functions.

    It gets worse. The City Administrator adopted from the St. Petersburg Charter was intended to serve as Acting Mayor and be confirmed into office by the City Council. Those provisions went away but the City Administrator remained in the Charter with all the resulting confusion. If you ask any 100 random citizens, almost all will likely think that the Mayor runs the daily operations of the City government. They would be wrong. The Charter’s Section 5.02 actually places the City Administrator “in charge of the daily operations of the City.” All administrative department heads of the Executive Branch are direct reports to the City Administrator – not to the Mayor.

    To avoid complying with Section 4.01.(a)(7) that requires the Council to confirm the appointment of all department heads, Hayward injects more confusion falsely rebranding many department heads as “division heads” in conflict even with the definitions used in the annual budget document. Unexplainably, the Charter gives the City Administrator no authority to appoint and dismiss the department heads for whose actions and inactions the City Administrator is accountable to the Mayor. The City Administrator lacks the authority to do the job.

    The CRC intended that the Charter require the City Administrator to have experience in “municipal government.” That provision was removed. Neither Bill Reynolds nor Colleen Castille came into the job with experience in municipal government. It shows. Reynolds’ background was so problematic with so many holes that he would not be considered competitive if applying for the job as City Manager of Gulf Breeze.

    It is on the above-described foundation of municipal muck that the City government is forced to operate. Mayor Ashton Hayward came into the job of Mayor never having served in a leadership or management position. At one point in the 2010 campaign, he claimed to have supervised hundreds of employees. He later confessed that the truth was one or two. Under our Charter, a Mayor can succeed if they focus on working in collaboration with the Council “and” with other local governments. Hayward does neither.

    Our Charter provides for the Mayor to be a political leader not a micro-manager. Unfortunately, Hayward has a “reach around” tendency with the result that the City Administrator is often cut out of the loop of what seems to be a parallel structure within City Hall. The situation was even worse when Hayward installed John Asmar as a Chief of Staff to include stripping Reynolds of authority over the Financial Services Department that Hayward now claims to be a “Division.”

    With respect to neighborhood and zoning problems, those issues are easy to analyze. The City has a Neighborhood Services Department. Its Director Brian Cooper is a direct report to the City Administrator. For no clear reason, the Office of the Mayor includes a one-person Office of Neighborhoods, its so-called “Chief of Neighborhoods” supervising no one, a Chief without Indians. With respect to implementation of neighborhood policies and programs, there is no unity of effort with no single person in charge.

    The Planning Services Department (called a Division by Hayward) is a mess. Sherry Morris holds the title Planning Services Administrator. According to the Planning Services’ organizational chart contained on page 311 of the FY2014 Annual Budget, there is an “Office of Sustainability” with a “Sustainability Administrator” embedded in the staff element. There is also an “Office of Economic Opportunity & Sustainability” in the Office of the Mayor with no one in it. Because Hayward both recommends the organization of the City government “and” approves his own recommendations in secret, the Council has no idea how the City government is organized.

    To make matters worse with respect to zoning issues, Morris has said that she does not exercise supervisory authority over the people in Planning Services. All of them receive direct tasking from Hayward. It is unclear what the City Administrator knows or does not know about the activities in Planning Services. On top of it all, Morris has to contend with a self-promoter on her staff named Alan Gray who imagines himself Hayward’s special projects boy. Gray is often seen aimlessly wandering around downtown.

  • jeeperman March 12, 2014 at 2:31 pm

    “the costs of notifications are apparently passed on to the party that is seeking the change”

    As it should be. Otherwise the Planning Board would be swamped with frivolous zoning changes and variance requests from those just wanting to see if it could be done or not for no valid reason.

  • jeeperman March 12, 2014 at 2:26 pm

    When is the last time you visited the City of Pensacola website?
    Specifically this page:
    Sign your self up for whatever “electronic access” notifications you desire to receive.

    They do not yet have a “slap upside your head and take notice of this” service.

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