Council Week begins, next episode Wednesday

By Jeremy Morrison

The Pensacola City Council dove into a jam-packed week last night, trying to wrap its arms around the Maritime Park lease process and issues facing the Community Redevelopment Agency, before hitting the next fiscal year’s proposed budget Wednesday and discussing charter amendments Thursday that could potentially alter how city government functions.

Council breezed through its regular agenda review conference, leaving meat such as the proposed charter amendments — there are two separate efforts by council members to give the legislative body more authority over the organization of city staff — for Thursday night. The more interesting discussions came later, during the CRA meeting and a special workshop on the Maritime park lease process.

Pondering Maritime Park properties

The council listened to Beggs & Lane attorney John Daniel lay out a potential lease template aimed at creating a more established process for future property negotiations for the remaining parcels at the Community Maritime Park.

Terms touched on in the template included parking, maintenance fees and rent specifics. Council members generally termed the proposed document a “good template” and a “step in the right direction.”

“It’s not written in stone,” said Councilwoman Sherri Myers. “What it is is a good place to start.”

Assistant City Attorney/Special Liaison Rusty Wells said Daniel will return in October with a revised version of the template for council to discuss. He said the mayor would be sponsoring the item, but encouraged council members to also jump on board in order to show unification on the effort.

“Co-sponsorship will be very much in order,” Wells said.

Hawkshaw re-do?

During the city’s CRA meeting Monday, council members — acting in their role as CRA board members — discussed the recent effort to sale the Hawkshaw property within the redevelopment district. In August, the board rejected the proposals submitted.

Councilman Brian Spencer suggested the board take another run at the sale, this time providing a forum for concerned parties to give input regarding the property and its future use.

“I want to make sure all concerned parties feel they are in an environment that optimizes their expressions of their opinions, goals and concerns,” Spencer said.

The council suggested a workshop, during which the public would have input and “experts” in form-based code could also lend insight on the matter.

“My goal is to provide the sort of workshop that could be, let’s say, mediated by an expert,” Spencer told his fellow council members. “They do help focus what you just described as a wide variety of viewpoints from people in this community.”

Councilman Larry B. Johnson took issue with the suggestion, contending that the board had already received public input on the Hawkshaw property.

“I really don’t want to be a part of any RFP, because of what happened at our last CRA meeting,” Johnson said, referencing council’s rejection of the offers that had been put on its table.

Johnson said he was “very excited” about the proposals, particularly a potential condominium project, and had been “extremely disappointed” and “real frustrated” in how the RFP process played out.

“We fumbled, we dropped the ball,” he said.

Councilman Andy Terhaar said council might consider focusing less on what eventual project might be proposed for the property, and more on the bottom line. He said council shouldn’t be in the business of micro-managing particulars and simply set an acceptable dollar-figure and rely on existing code and design standards to dictate the rest.

“I don’t know if we’re going to get eight or nine people to agree on what is going to go there,” Terhaar said. “This board really needs to get out of the way of itself.”

Councilwoman Jewell Cannada-Wynn said that the CRA as a whole should be explored. She suggested that council schedule a workshop to discuss not only the Hawkshaw property, but also other marketable properties within the CRA district, as well as getting an overall financial picture of the CRA.

The rest of the week
City council will continue the week with a discussion on the proposed city budget on Wednesday at 5:15 p.m. The following day, it has its regular meeting, during which it will consider pursuing charter amendments that would give council more say in how city government is organized.