Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Cove Meeting an Eye Opener

Last night the Keith Associates group presented the Cove Shopping Center proposal to the CRA Board aka the Commission. The audience was awed by the well thought out design.

Owners of property in the Cove Center were given first dibs at remarks, and then the renters, in contradiction to Joe Miller’s desire to hear from “businesses and residents”, Noland said no residents would be allowed to speak. Sylvia tried to change it to residents who live nearby, but Peggy said we have to leave at 8:00 so, no!

Giving credence to the suspicion that this meeting was not in reality to give the commission a feel for what the owners, businesses, and residents want but had some hidden agenda. Do I detect the machinations of David Eller here?

In spite of a notice on City Hall door that the commission meeting was canceled which misled people who came at 6:00 who thought the CRA meeting was also cancelled and left, there was a good crowd, almost standing room only.

One after another business owners came to the mike and supported the plan; they were desperate for the renewal, one business owner begged for just a few palm trees and bushes. Others said they looked forward to the completion of the plan so they could fix up their facades.

The entire audience frequently clapped and cheered for the plan, after one particularly well-expressed plea to the commission to embrace the plan and go ahead with it as soon as possible, even Joe Miller clapped, he kind of looked startled at what he did and quickly stopped, but one could tell he was swayed, and perhaps starting to think differently from his handlers.

Concerns were about when the construction would start, how businesses would be able to remain open and accessible, and if it would be done after the current Hillsboro Blvd. renovation was finished. They were assured it would be phased in section by section and every effort would be made to keep disruption to a minimum. Keith and Assoc. gave tips on how that could be done.
Even Sue Agnew, owner of the Cove Restaurant who really, really wants a land use change on her parcels by the water, so she can put up a big tall condo, said she had no quarrel with the plan, just when it would start, maybe she said, not right away. Very different from the other owners who wanted it yesterday.

The Mayor and Miller seemed to be well prepared with similar questions, emphasizing the need for a parking garage.

I heard that O’Leary has plans for a restaurant with an adjacent parking garage, and has had some discussion with Jerry Ferguson about the possibility; surprise, surprise, when one of the questions was about air rights the city could lease to build a garage. Remember O’Leary’s abandoned plan for a beach side garage and a partnership with the city and all the talk about air rights. How strange that air rights possibilities were bandied about, who has been talking to whom? Hmmmm, I wonder.

As one of the business owners said, the parking problem is that the Cove Restaurant takes up all the parking spaces, that left a sour look on both Joe’s and Peggy’s faces, but truth is truth. The parking problem is only on weekend evenings when, indeed, the people going to the Cove Restaurant take up all the room. So the desired garage is really for the restaurants, I hope O’Leary has the green, I can’t see Mrs. Retired Person parking in a garage over by the bridge to go to her dentist by 15th Avenue. Nope, ain’t gonna happen.

The meeting was extended for 15 minutes, the important 8:30 appointments put off for a little, to give all the businesses a chance to speak, and then, with a giggle and 5 minutes to go Peggy said anyone else could speak, she had no takers.

One owner told me that he wanted to fix up his store front but would not do it if the city did not keep its obligation to make the parking lot over. He had the whole parking lot thing worked out in his mind, go to bid in September, get bids back during the winter and be ready to go in March or April when the season was over. He was very enthusiastic about the improvements and the business it would bring.

Enthusiasm and delight mixed with frustration was the tone of the people at the meeting, they had hope, but there was an undercurrent of distrust of the city leaders, how, many voiced, can this commission jeopardize such a needed plan? Let us see.

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