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Thursday August 21st 2014

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

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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.

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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.