Several Pensacola City Council members have been told that the city administration is seeking to find another attorney to render opinions on the non-conformity of the new, larger radio tower built in the Long Hollow Conservation District and the validity of the ground lease for the tower that was executed in August 2012.
The City Council may do the same, but there is one expert that has not weighed on the issue…a person that won’t cost the taxpayers any more to render her opinions.
According to Asmar’s 11-page opinion on the non-conformity, the Florida Statutes, the City’s Comprehensive Plan and its Land Development Code “specifically prohibited the replacement/restoration, extension, expansion and enlargement” of the original radio tower.
In his legal opinion on the validity of the lease agreement, he wrote that Florida law prohibits a municipality to exercise its power in violation of the Florida Constitution, Florida Statutes, and its ordinances. The City of Pensacola lacked the authority to execute the lease and issue building permits for a new tower in the Long Hollow Conservation District.
“According to Florida Law and Florida case law, the City’s actions were ultra vires acts and therefore, null and void,” wrote the attorney. “The subject tower should be removed.”
In the past, the administration has been successful in hiring outside attorneys to defend its actions. The new opinions may be delivered to the City Council before Thursday’s regular meeting.
Councilwoman Sherri Myers wants to add to the agenda for the Dec. 9 meeting the approval for an independent attorney to be hired to render opinions on the legal issues. She will need five other council members to agree to have it added.
The City Council should ask for opinions from the city employee who is charged by law to make sure all developments and redevelopments in the city are in accordance with its Comprehensive Plan and the Land Development Code–Sherry Morris.
Morris, who has been the Planning Services Administrator since 2004, helped draft the Comprehensive Plan that the council approved in 2011. She is an American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) member and has a master of public administration from the University of West Florida. She is the expert.
Morris can explain how the Comprehensive Plan and the Land Development Code allowed Divine Word Communications to tear down the old non-conforming radio tower and replace it with a larger, new one. The planning services administrator can tell why the building permit originally given Biggs, the first general contractor, was allowed under the plan and code.
She can also cite other incidences when the city allowed non-conforming structures to be completely demolished and replaced with a larger ones since she joined the City as an urban planner in 1999.
The City Council may want to get an independent legal opinion, but Morris is the subject matter expert. If this issue goes to court–due to a lawsuit from Divine to enforce the lease or from a citizen seeking to get council to enforce its laws, she will be called on to testify on the Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Code.
The City Council should hear from her in a public meeting before then.