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Fort Lauderdale church’s big expansion plans rile neighbors

By Dan Christensen, BrowardBulldog.org

In this architectural rendering, the First Presbyterian Church is in the foreground. Behind it are the proposed Family Life Center and separate parking garage/office building along Las Olas Boulevard.

In this architectural rendering, the First Presbyterian Church is in the foreground. Behind it are the proposed Family Life Center and separate parking garage/office building along Las Olas Boulevard.

Three years ago, Fort Lauderdale’s First Presbyterian Church lost a fight with neighbors to build $25-million family center, parking garage and other facilities in the city’s historic Colee Hammock district.

The defeat, however, wasn’t a knockout.

The church goes back to the city’s planning and zoning board April 21 with a new proposal intended to address neighbors’ concerns.

Some of Fort Lauderdale’s oldest and most influential names have a stake in the outcome – as congregation members or nearby homeowners. They include: Huizenga, Bryan, Egan, Maus, Blosser, Stiles, Horvitz, Cobb.

Church leaders say the proposed construction on church-owned land south of Las Olas Boulevard between Tarpon Drive and Southeast 15th Avenue is desperately needed to fulfill its ministry.

“This is critical to our church,” said attorney E. Hugh Chappell, chairman of the church’s master plan committee. “You have to stay up with the times. Churches are failing because they are not addressing young families and the needs for different types of worship.”

But opponents at the Colee Hammock Homeowners Association say the church – a seven-day-a-week operation – has forgotten that it is an urban, neighborhood congregation. They say its expansion could pave the way for more high-rise buildings – spelling calamity for residents already besieged by too much traffic and too many outsiders, especially vagrants.

“The church wants to grow at our expense,” said association president Jerry Jordan. “It seeks to destroy the habitat, the ambience, the way of life and the residential property values in the downtown Colee Hammock neighborhood.”

Both sides have signaled they’re prepared to play hardball.

City records show the church has hired a trio of politically connected lawyer-lobbyists – former county commissioner Robert Huebner, John Milledge and Robert Lochrie. Lochrie is also a registered lobbyist for project planner Stiles Development, whose owner is First Presbyterian congregation member Terry Stiles.

Jordan said the homeowners have raised an $18,000 war chest and will use it to hire land planners and other experts to make their case before the zoning board and the city commission, which has the final say.

Colee Hammock, Fort Lauderdale’s first neighborhood, is a shady enclave of hundreds of homes between Broward Boulevard and the New River east of bustling downtown.

The church has been there since the 1940s. Its website boasts 2,800 members, but one church leader said a recent in-house head count put the actual number at 2,000. 

To make its plans a reality, the church wants the city to rezone 5.52 acres it owns as a planned unit development district. Such districts allow for “unique or innovative development” not allowed under traditional zoning districts, according to the city’s PUD ordinance.

Under the proposal, a pair of large Spanish Mission-style buildings would be constructed:

  • A five-story commercial office building and parking garage fronting Las Olas Boulevard. The upper four levels would include 264 parking spaces, with retail, restaurant and office space on the first floor.
  • A two-story Family Center along Southeast Fourth Street with  administrative offices, classrooms, a kitchen, gymnasium, lockers and showers, meeting rooms and an activity center.

Those new buildings would join the existing church and fellowship hall across Tarpon Drive as well as several lesser structures already on the site.

The proposed view of the parking garage/office building from Las Olas Boulevard

The proposed view of the parking garage/office building from Las Olas Boulevard

The size and height of the buildings are lightning rods for critics. They noted that a proposed tower on the parking garage would top out at 66 feet – considerably higher than surrounding buildings.

The association contends the garage and the family center are just too big, and out of character with the neighborhood.

“We don’t want massive buildings,” said homeowners’ association board member Ann Wier Shumpert. “We have pointed out that the football field size of the single massive building that’s proposed for Fourth Street could be designed into a smaller building and designed architecturally to fit with the design of the neighborhood.”

Chappell, a longtime church member who does not reside in Colee Hammock, disagreed.

“We think it’s an outstanding complement to the neighborhood,” he said.

Senior Pastor Dr. Douglas Brouwer, who joined the church last year, did not respond to a request for comment.

A detailed narrative prepared March 24 by the Stiles Architectural Group says the development would be built in phases, but provides no timetable.

Church leaders are likewise vague about how much the church expansion will cost, and how it will be paid for.

The estimated cost of the proposal in 2007 was $25 million. Now, the church says the cost is less, but won’t give a specific number.

“But now is the time to build. Prices for labor and material are down,” said Chappell.

Rent and parking fees would pay part of the cost, Chappell said. The church also has between $15 million and $17 million in cash and pledges should the city approve, Chappell said. Several members said former Miami Dolphins owner H. Wayne Huizenga has pledged $5 million, but Chappell declined to identify any donors.

After the city rejected the 2007 plan, church leaders say they decided to revamp it.

“We stopped and said, OK, let’s go back and redesign it and get some input from the neighborhood,” Chappell said.

Lobbyist Robert Lochrie said the church’s current plans are “significantly different” from what was proposed in 2007.

He said the changes include switching the locations of the parking garage and the family center, redesigning the retail segment along Las Olas to make it more pedestrian-friendly, widening an alley and increasing setbacks and landscaping. The height of the family center was also reduced, as were the number of spaces in the parking garage, according to Lochrie.

“It hopefully addresses the primary concerns for a majority of the neighbors, but we know some will disagree,” Lochrie said.

But mutual distrust has shaped the disagreement.

Chappell says Jordan and his association are opposed “to us doing anything with our land.” Jordan and his association deny that and counter that the church repeatedly has misled them about its intentions.

“Their attitude is one of ‘We are entitled to this, and we’ll do what we want to do,’” said Shumpert.

Clearly, Chappell is confident. He said the church’s 30-person governing body, the session, is “totally behind this project” and he declined to consider the possibility of losing. “I’m an optimist,” he said.

The implication of such determination isn’t lost on former Colee Hammock Homeowners Association president Susan Bryan.

Bryan, who with her husband Reed moved to another part of the city in 2004, says the church and its neighbors have long been at odds over the church’s rezoning requests.

“It’s a lovely church that was designed and built as a local church for people who live in the area. It’s under the current leadership that started about 15 years ago that it kind of wanted to go global,” said Bryan, who helped stymie similar plans in the 1990s.

“What is so trying for the neighborhood is that it keeps coming back over and over. It’s very difficult and very stressful. I couldn’t sleep at night thinking about it. I’d wake up and think, ‘What are we going to do?”

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  • How does a MONSTER building right smack in the heart of Colee Hammock COMPLIMENT our neighborhood? Hugh Chappell should read some planning books! Colee Hammock has helped the church on numerous occasions by not opposing variances among other things. This is not about Colee Hammock residents being against the church, it is the residents protecting the quality of life in Colee Hammock AND protecting our property values.

    How many neighborhoods in Ft. Lauderdale would support rezoning over 5 acres in their neighborhhod to a PUD, whereby the existing zoning code is eliminated? Do you think the City envisioned Colee Hammock as a target for a PUD? Unfortunately the plans and ideas the Church has for its future are simply not compatible for a small historic neighborhoood like Colee Hammock. I would like the church to work within the boundries of the current zoning requirements.

  • In oppposition to the Church’s desire to expand, it must be understood that that wishes include expansion in an alreasdy overly crowded block on E. Las Olas Blved., and there has already been a a fatal accident one block east from SE 15th Avenue; that section of Las Olas Blvd. is under the jurisdiction of the state of Florida, and since the dangers are such that speeding causes a fatal accident, how can that church even think that it would be safe for children to even be within a block of such a dangerous traffic area when the state considers it so dangerous?
    Obn SE 4 Street, the county decides where onstreet parking
    can be done, but the city must ENFORCE the county’s
    decision. Where congregational members may be more familiar with their own neighborhood far away, they are unaware of Colee Hammock’s specific and speciak requirements where even our nation protects such hisotric and beautiful sites.

  • I am not against the church expanding, but I think they should expand under the current zoning laws the city has,and have a little consideration for their neighbors. I don’t feel we (the residents) should have to be on our guard continouusly to watch for big developments coming into our neighborhood and ruining our historic ambiance.

  • I live one street off of Las Olas. I am a member of First Presbyterian Church. I love my neighborhood and I love my church. Since the church is located IN A NEIGHBORHOOD, I think this expansion is sad. I wake up in the morning, open my front door to get newspaper, and I see a beautiful sky. I have lived in this neighborhood for over 20 years. Can you imagine waking up and seeing a parking garage???? This is not fair to us.

  • the church seems to be trying to expand into something it was not intended to be, at least in a historic residential neighborhood: a huge business-style mega-church. the expansion plans include a LOT of commercial development on las olas and se 4th st, and while las olas is commercial, the areas zoned residential, which is most of the PUD, are most definitely not.

    the 300′ long proposed buildings have the size and look of big box commercial retail stores, complete with a mall sized parking garage, and they do not belong in any residential area, especially one with such a rich local history and appeal to residents and visitors alike.

  • NO! Look folks we’ve tried this before and were we bamboozled. A hotel parking lot and a few hotel rooms. Result HUGE EYE SORE RIGHT on Las Olas VERY CHIC neighborhood. wHERE BOTIQUE MEANS SMALL. BECAUES IT DOESN’T FIT IN. That was a commercial enterprise. Now we are talking strictly residential. Permission or not they want to build. How do we convince them this is not necessary nor prudent. Simple, it isn’t prudent its a monster which will cause monster problems for all of us. Parking off Las Ollas our secret. NOt anymore. Access to post office , Floridian, and shops without parking becoming a nightmare. SO who wins here they would and we lose. This isn’t the answer. No is NO period. To much to give up to help a big church get bigger at our expense which causes access and parking problems galore. More is what they want, but not the neighbors. This doesn’t work amd for now that is enough….NO!

  • It is clear that the PUD zoning regulations (the zoning district change which is the subject of the April 21 P&Z hearing)is being used as a BIG loop hole – big enough to drive a stadium through – as well as the 5-story parking garage on Las Olas Boulevard, the City’s most prominent and beautiful street. It can be likened to taking the very urban First Baptist Church facility, on Broward and Third Avenue, and plopping it down in a quaint, historic residential neighborhood. This is a NO-vote from the git-go.

    There is no doubt that the Church seeks to do the Lord’s will, but to paraphrase, do that which is right and good in the right place. Colee Hammock is not the right place for the proposed project. This is not an issue of the neighborhood against the Church (all I have heard is support for the Church) but it is an issue of development-siting, and this proposed development is not sited in any appropriate way. This is a NO-vote from the git-go.

  • There is only one way to handle the request by the First Presbyterian Church to change the present zoning to a Planned Unit Development and that is to “just say no.” It is ridiculous to think that you can squeeze an elephant and insert it into a keyhole. The mission of the church when it was established was far different in the mid 1900’s than trying to meet all of the religious and social demands we have in the world around us today. And Colee Hammock and its historic tranquil setting is not the place to expand to such major proportions.

    The Broward Bulldog is the first meaningful press that this situation has received, remarkable in that the outcome could affect a far greater area than Colee Hammock, in that it could set a precedent that could lead to the deterioration of other residential neighborhoods convenient to downtown. Let us hope good sense prevails and this destroyer of quality of life is denied.

  • NO to PUD. If FPC wants to build something, then go ahead but stay within the building code requirements. This started when the previous minister, DAVE BERRY, wanted stardom and fame. He was liar and a cheater and had to leave in disgrace. I don’t understand why Hugh Chappell has continued to fight for the expansion that Dave Berry wanted, but that many, many members of the congregation do not want. Buddy Lochrie tried to fight against this expansion for years. I feel badly that his legacy is being tarnished by Buddy’s son. The whole neighborhood loved Buddy and honored him for his endless hours of fighting this PUD. I can only guess that his son needs the money so badly that he is sacrificing his father’s memory by turning against him.
    Please everyone write your Commissioner and the P & Z board. Make sure that Romney Rodgers knows he will not be re-elected if he votes for this PUD.

  • It is an unbelievable shame when people who live outside of a neighborhood, i.e. Colee Hammock, and who DO NOT PAY Property Taxes, think that they can determine appropriate zoning changes for our downtown historic residential neighborhood. And, thus the neighbors of COLEE HAMMOCK HOMEOWNERS ASSOCIATION say NO to PUD REZONING for First Presbyterian Church (FPC). None of the ‘movers’, the forces who are pushing this PUD Project, live in our residential area. And, if they did, I feel confident, that they too would be joining the effort to secure a NO VOTE for FPC REZONING to a PUD.

    Mr Chappell implies that FPC’s membership is growing. According to the FPC published 2009 Annual Report, Regular Membership declined by 277. The Church terminated staff due inadequate funds. And yet, FPC promotes to invade out Circa 1916, oak canopied, historic residential neighborhood, build and pay for an approximately $25 million project of multiple facilities. Sounds like the Federal Government, doesn’t it? Who is paying?

    Colee Hammock residents don’t need a Project ‘hanging over our heads’ for years before the actual bulding. The Colee Hammock neighborhood doesn’t need a project which requires REZONING to a PUD.

    The neighborhood has never said that we didn’t want FPC to build on their properties. We asked only that they design within the available zoning. There is a bigger picture that we, the neighbors, and the Membership of FPC and the City are not being told. In fact many of the FPC members are totatlly unaware of What is being built; How Much this Master Plan Project will cost; When will it start? and more importantly, When will it be completed.

    But, with the approval of a PUD, the even greater loosers are the Ft. Lauderdale citizens who live in residential neighborhoods. IF this PUD is approved, every neighborhood in Ft. Lauderdale is in jeopardy. THE PRECEDENT WILL BE SET by our ELECTED Mayor and City Commissioners. Because once granted, the flood gates are open.

    To join us in SAVING OUR DOWNTOWN Oak Tree CANOPIED RESIDENTIAL NEIGHBORHOOD, Colee Hammock, Circa 1916, and perhaps your own neighborhood, visit the City website: http://www.fortlauderdale.gov. Obtain the email addresses of the Mayor and City Commissioners and the nine (9) members of the Planning and Zoning Board. It is Case # 3-ZPUD-08. Immediately send your email request to each for a NO VOTE for First Presbyterian Church Resoning to a PUD.

    TIME IS of ESSENCE – The Planning and Zoning meeting is WEDNESDAY, APRIL 21st, 6:30 PM, at City Hall.

    Come join us!

  • What is that store over on Broward and 8th, across from the former Washington Mutual Bank that has changed the Zoning to serve alcohol within 500 feet of a school? Why Does Valerie Lyons get to challenge the long standing law of keeping alcohol away from children. Why don’t we just put a bar inside the school and destroy the minds of the children immediately it would take much less time.

    The Bottom line is that what ever law there is to protect the people of Fort Lauderdale from selfish unscrupulous developers won’t protect anybody if the residents do not stand for their rights. Furthermore, when the First Presbyterian Church (Las Olas) razed the Old Folks Retirement home back several years ago that was on Las Olas Blvd, that was a violation of the law too. That was an illegal destruction of a building without full disclosure of their plans in the first place. So in conclusion: The First Presbyterian Church off of Las Olas has planned this building since the destruction of the building that stood there housing older Americans. This town is run by a criminal Cabal doing what ever they want to however they choose. Blog that!

  • I see my comment has to “be approved”. I hope the communists are not running this site too.

  • One more thing. If the First Presbyterian Church would like to grow perhaps they should start with their own bible. Thou shalt not Steal. Perhaps better: Thou shalt not Covet. The Coveted the land on which the old folks home stood, and then they Stole from all those people who lived in that building who believed they would have a home for life.

    So I suggest the First Presbyterian Church go back to basics and pay attention to the founder of the Faith, Jesus Christ and drop their money hungry false church expansion project.
    I have wondered why Benny Hinn has not stopped by to be the pastor. He’d fit in perfectly.

  • Why does the article say “Hugh Chappell does not live in Colee Hammock: he lives just down the street. Also: ““This is critical to our church,” said attorney E. Hugh Chappell, chairman of the church’s master plan committee. “You have to stay up with the times. Churches are failing because they are not addressing young families and the needs for different types of worship.”

    The church is not failing because it is not BIG enough. It is failing because it has lost track of the message of the founder of the faith in the First place. Jesus did not even have a home. The true Christians were having private bible studies in the homes of the faithful. They did not go to some massive building to worship.

    And another thing:“But now is the time to build. Prices for labor and material are down,” said Chappell.

    The Riverside Hotel was robbed by Irving Bowen. This man almost destroyed Barbara Wells. This guy mortgaged the entire street for 51 Million dollars and then tore down the only two business making profit on the street Cafe Europa and O’Hara’s Club.

    So maybe we should let Hugh Chappell et. all destroy themselves at the First Presbyterian Church. But I still don’t want the traffic congestion of the year long process to destroy the neighborhood with a Nasty structure so out of place.

  • Recently, a Public Safety officer of the Ft. Lauderdale Police Dept. told me that alot of the neigherhood’s swales being used as a parking spot is due to people not utilizing provided parking gargages because they opt not pay the monthly fee .
    So, I believe an already saturated parking problem in our neighborhood would be exacerbated by any additional “traffic” on a large scale. The provision of a parking garage in the plans maybe a moot point that will not address the parking situation in reality.

  • There are underused parking garages and lots all over the place, why would the church even propose this? Located next to the Main Library on 2nd St and 2nd Ave is a huge parking garage, amongst others. Always plenty of spaces, especially on the weekends. The community/church could utilize already-in-place parking and take the 11 bus from 2nd Ave & Las Olas Blvd to Tarpon Dr & Las Olas Blvd. Sun Trolley also runs along this route during the weekends, which is a free service running every 30 minutes from 10am to just past midnight.

    Maybe the city and transit officials can speak to the church and their members about the many options for parking and transit already in place in the immediate area.

    http://www.suntrolley.com/
    http://www.broward.org/bct/
    http://fortlauderdale.gov/parking/parking.htm

  • Hey citizen of ft lauderdale east please join our group on facebook NO PUD in Colee Hammock

  • Jackie, I appreciate the invite but I don’t think it is a good idea to join a group. I failed the “Political Correctness” class, if you haven’t noticed and I don’t plan on re-taking it. I don’t want to completely destroy what is left of my business from my political, and etc. over the net. But I did notice that the blog by Bernie McCormick is heavily censored because just about ever comment I have placed on his blog is gone. Every one of them is delete, or it would appear never even posted for public consumption.

    I guess if the guy is scared of opinions perhaps he should get into another business. I got it: He could work for Mark LLoyd and implement Obama’s censorship plan. Lloyd is on camera praising the Communist take over of Argentina’s media by the state. Welcome home Bernie, I think Chavez is trying to reach you, he’s got a job for you. See what I mean, I didn’t just fail “PC” class, I rewrote the class definition.

    LOL Have a good day. ( If you are J.S. I’ll see you around now and then, as usual).

  • I am against the rezoning to a PUD. I am not againt the church expanding under their current zoning laws. We are the only people concerned about preserving our historic neighborhood. I do not believe FPC cares one bit about the impact their expansion would have on Colee Hammock.

  • I am a native of Ft. Lauderdale and can’t believe how the city has changed in the last 30 years. We have gone from a relaxed, laid back town to hurry up, lets go, were going to be late attitude. If I wanted to live like that, I would live in Miami or New York. I moved into Colee Hammock because it was a charming historic neighborhood. There is no other place like it in Fort Lauderdale. Oak trees that are over 100 years old, back streets you can walk down, blue skies not blocked by buildings, homes restored from 1940,s and still get the feel of why so many people wanted to move down here. Sun, fun and a place to relax and enjoy away from big cities, concrete jungles, and traffic.

    I am very sad to see another group of people trying to destroy this area once again.
    I am referring to the new church project. I can understand they want to grow, what church doesn’t?
    But, lets face it folks it’s a business and the bigger the business the more cash flow it takes in, right?
    In most cases this would be true but not for this project. A small percentage is retail and that too can change with this PUD. Church’s do not have to pay taxes on church owned property. The only one that will benefit is the church, after this and the next generation pays for it.
    I can’t believe the church is even going to ask people to pay for this project in difficult times, people are getting laid off left and right. The members and there children are the ones who will be left with this burden. Maybe this Preacher should be more concerned about his flock or the area it now resides in, as he is about his legacy.

    This area does not gain any benefits from them putting up 60 some foot buildings. But It does lose it’s quaint historic charm. Not to mention the traffic Las Olas an already congested road will have to deal with more cars coming in and out of the area. With little or no land to expand the roads now where are these people going to go? My guess is the back streets and another neighborhood will be lost to commercial traffic flow. How many of these people that want this project reside in the area, any of them? How many of them live on busy streets? Why should they care if this project impacts the area?

    As far as the parking situation, I can attest to the fact that people coming from outside area are not using the pay parking lots. They use the homeowner’s front swales. Ride around and look at where the people park. As far as the parking garage paying for this project, better think again. If the city can’t make people use the pay lots what makes the church think they can?
    I personally think rezoning is a real bad idea for everyone.
    I hope more compassionate and level heads will prevail at this rezoning meeting.

  • have you ever heard of LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR?
    you hate our parking garage, colee hammock, but we love you anyway. because that’s what jesus would do.

    as an FPC member, our youth NEEDS a bigger space. we are a growing church, to the dismay of many people.
    we need more room.

    First pres has already reduced our building TREMENDOUSLY, but i guess that’s not enough.
    Jesus had to make some sacrifices, so I ask you this Colee Hammock, can you?

  • Oh God, forgive these commenters, for they know not what they do.

    See you at the board meeting. Jesus will be there. Bear that in mind.

  • I say we do ask Jesus Christ about this. I thought I was pretty clear in my comments earlier. We have already discussed Thou shalt not steal. We have also discussed Thou shalt not Covet. Exactly how could this possibly have the Blessing of God when two of his Commandments are already crossed? You Coveted the land, and then you stole from the people living in the building that you destroyed.

    I would wager that this plan has been in the works for 15-20 years, maybe longer.

    I don’t think Jesus Christ has been near that church for 50 years much less inside.

  • All this talk about love. It suits you perfectly ‘follower of christ’ to allow the church walk all over this community. We live in a small town. This is a small community and we who live here do not need a Mega Church in a part of town that has a tiny population. If you would like to minister to the needs of this community, why don’t we start with the concept ‘Love YOUR Neighbor”. What Answer me this: Did Jesus Christ let the Pharisees walk all over him in the verbal debates with them? Not once. He knew the law and He knew the Scriptures. And he used them with irrefutable precision. I think people forget what Love is. Fundamentally, love is not a feeling but an action. Love is expressed by following the Law. But what Law? Simply the Law of God as set forth by the 10 commandments and summarized by Jesus Christ into two law: Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength; and the second law is Love your neighbor as yourself. What could these laws mean? Well, if one is following the law; I.e. Do not steal, do not kill, do not commit adultery, do not covet, then one is essentially expressing Love for his/her neighbor. Fundamental issue here. http://www.markwoodman.blogspot.com

    So all this wasted breath about a massive church needing more building in a tiny community is just preposterous.

  • “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s” (“Ἀπόδοτε οὖν τὰ Καίσαρος Καίσαρι καὶ τὰ τοῦ Θεοῦ τῷ Θεῷ”) Jesus taught to obey existing laws, even if you don’t like them. Spritual life is separate from temporal demands. The existing zoning law does not allow this new project.

    Jesus also taught that “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” Perhaps the best lesson for the youth of this congregation is to GIVE instead of expecting such a beautiful, $25MM structure. Especially when their structure causes heartache to their closest neighbors.

  • Precisely and concisely stated, FLLResident. Interesting. Do you have a website? I am interested in learning Greek.

  • I was not so sure this project was the right thing for the church. With the downturn in this nations economy I have seen many development projects good and bad get shelved, approvals expire or extended to just collect dust and many people loosing their jobs. The future looks dim from where I sit. I started to think and feel that what we need are projects like this church in our community. To lift up our community. Churches and non-profits always find a way to get the funding even in times when no funding is available. Like now. I think this project will benfit the whole community and help kickstart our economy once again. I’ve grown up in this town and it has grown with me and in my short life (36yrs) I have seen many diferent sides of our community. Nothing begrudges me more than to see staunch neighborhood advocates so menacingly seeking to control everyone and everything around them. It is just too bad that everything has to be considered a “war” and we can’t all just get along. I’m certain the Churches plans to expand have been going on for years now (at least 20yrs) and that the church has reached out to the community and worked with the community to incorporate the communities concerns into its program. It is unfortunnate that so much money is wasted on a “war” in which nobody wins. The community and the church should save it’s “war chest” for doing good things in the community and not waste them on fighting…

  • Jesus told people to give up all their worldly belongs, and follow me, not go out and get more stuff. If my memory serves me right, Jesus tore up a place of worship where goods were being sold instead of worshiping his Father.
    This is not about Jesus or whether he wants a mega church with retail and a parking garage. It’s about a few people that want to build a legacy and have lost sight of what God’s Word is all about.
    It’s about destroying a neighborhood that loves it’s charming history, culture and small town feeling.

    Love your brother as you do yourself and What you do for others you do for me. Ring any bells?
    Ask yourself. Will this project hurt others? If so, how is that God’s will?

    Please help us stop this project and ask the church to find a more suitable place for a building of this magnitude. Or maybe scale it down to fit within the confines of this area. This project is not making people love God more, it makes people not trust the church and the people who call themselves Christian’s who preach God’s Word and hurt others to get their way. Do you think they are helping to spread the word that Christian’s can be trusted?
    Your brothers are hurting, are you going to do the right thing?
    Now that you know people are hurting how can you turn your backs and walk away?
    I can’t and I would be ashamed of myself to be called a Christian if this is allow to happen and not do a thing. How will you do on Judgement Day. Well God, I built a parking lot and some retail stores and a mega church or will you say, I helped save an old neighborhood and looked out for my brother and helped my church find better ways to suit there needs. Just a thought people…

  • Whilst we are all respect of the Church and its desire to grow the magnitude and implications of the proposed development cannot be ignored! The proposed structures would drastically and overwhelmingly change one of the few remaining truly historic and residential communities available in Fort Lauderdale. The shady residential enclave will be no more and the valuable local history is irreplaceable.

    Residents are already besieged by too much traffic and congestion. Parking is a huge issue in the community. The overall size of the proposed buildings is offensive and really shows blatant disregard to all of the current zoning guidelines. If this is passed it will open to doors to destroying the peace and balance of other residential neighborhoods.

    It is very difficult to exactly quantify the extremely negative impact of the residential property values. Many of these residents are major contributors of property taxes and long established residents. People are drawn to the charm of Collee Hammock and enjoy the close proximity to Las Olas, the community appearance and nature will be severely compromised by these commercial type structures. The serene environment of the river and the shady lanes which run alongside will be disrupted and devalued. I truly hope that a more neighborhood friendly facility can be agreed upon.

  • I’m writing to express my concern and opinion on the proposed zoning change for First Presbyterian Church project in Colee Hammock. I do not live in Colee Hammock, so I may not have the same concerns as people who own property in the neighborhood have. I am writing merely from a prospective of a person who has lived in Ft. Lauderdale for 25 years, has a tremendous love for the city and values this wonderful pocket of the city for its charm and quaintness. So many people dream of living right off Las Olas because of the uniqueness of the beautiful old houses, lack of high rise buildings and the magnificent tree canopy. So much of the rest of the city has been destroyed by development and has become a concrete jungle in the name of “progress”, but really is it progress?

    Let’s keep this neighborhood just as it is and not bow to the wishes of a church with their selfish desires to expand to benefit themselves to the detriment of the neighborhood. Once it’s gone, it’s gone and there is no turning back. The P&Z Board needs to think about the impact on this magical slice of Ft. Lauderdale when they make their decision. It not only effects the people living in Colee Hammock, but those of us who come here to enjoy the uniqueness for a morning, afternoon or evening. Seeing monsterous buildings, parking garages and dealing with even MORE traffic will make it a less desirable destination in my eyes. I hope that the P&Z Board Members do the job they were hired for and entrusted with: upholding the zoning laws that were put in place for a reason.

  • Carla, in response to your post: “I don’t feel we (the residents) should have to be on our guard continouusly (sic) to watch for big developments coming into our neighborhood and ruining our historic ambiance.”

    “The price of liberty is Eternal vigilance”, and “There have never been nor shall there be a free people that lived in ignorance” (quoted from some founding father of this country, possibly James Madison).

  • Colee Hammock,is not my neighborhood so you can take my opinion with a grain of salt. I think the surrounding homeowners and taxpayers have the ultimate say in this. Afterall I know some of the people who commented here and they are not Stupid people. This project effects them not me and I say their concerns or opposition is paramount when such a controversial project as this comes to the table. These people didnt buy their homes and pick this neighborhood on a whim. They have what is probably the largest asset they have at stake here. So in my opinion that trumps those who do not live in the area. I dont pay their taxes, maintain their properties or have to wake up everyday looking at a project that was shoved down my throat. I see miles and miles of depressed and vacant properties all over Ft. Lauderdale, surely the “powers that be” who are advocating for this project can look in a less controverial area and be welcomed with open arms..

  • “needs the money so badly that he is sacrificing his father’s memory by turning against him.”
    That is a disgusting comment. Focus on the issue, not mudslinging. Do you have any idea of their relationship? Any idea of the conversations they had? Obviously not, because Buddy and Susie could not have been more proud of their son.

  • I have just recently become aware of this issue and I attended the meeting last night at the Northern Trust Bank. I don’t have direct standing as I don’t currently live in the neighborhood, nor do I want to, ever, until allodial becomes available. (You think you own your property? Try stop paying property taxes and find out who REALLY owns your property).

    But the point is that this local community has 51 homes approx. and this local community has no need of two, ( count them) two 292 foot long buildings on a private community by-way. These are commercial buildings in the final analysis and need to be built in a commercially zoned area. What is the matter with Sistrunk, that area needs attention far more than Colee Hammock, and there is a much larger community that needs the basic services provided by a church. That is what they are in business for, is it not?

    Question: Do we want the environment of down town New York City here on Las Olas?

    In business I have found it is the best practice to always sell to the customer that which is in their best interest. The customer may not understand what is in their best interest, from my point of view, but the objective is to always sell them what is in their best interest.

    Who Benefits from this boondoggle if it goes through? It certainly will not be the local, current property tenants/owners.

    I see quite a few people for whom I have worked in the past in this list and would like to remind you people that I am still in business and looking for more houses to paint. I, as Stiles, want to keep food on my table as well. If I have painted your home and you have found value in my work, I would appreciate a lead or a direct reference to your neighbors. If I have provided value in my work to your home, please tell others. Thank you, Greg

    Post Script: Here is my contact information.
    Website: http://www.lasolaspainting.com
    Email address: lasolaspainting@gmail.com

  • After listening to at least 50 people speak from the FPC at the Planning & Zoning Meeting Wednesday night,saying the same thing over & over, it appears that they still don’t understand. It is all about their desires to build an entertainment complex to serve their kids & families. THe Colee Hammock owner’s rights are insignificant, just let the us do what we want is the theme. The Stiles Company threatens us that they can build much bigger on Las Olas but I know that is unlikely because of set backs, landscape,neighborhood compatability etc. If that were the case why would they try and rezone to a PUD you may ask yourself? Simple, they want to build an entertainment complex aka “Family Center” with a 2000 Sq ft commerical kitchen,12 classrooms, stage and Gymnasium along with a giftshop. The catch is that it is not allowed because it would be built on residential land! Steve Buckly made an excellent presentation as to quite a few schools & churches that started out in Colee Hammock years a go but as they grew they realized moving to much larger parcels awy from here would enable them to grow their business. Pine Crest, St Thomas are just 2 examples. The church is building a school! They won’t call it a school today it will need 5-10 years before they would come back for the change to use the classrooms. I can imagine a parade of 200 kindergarden students crying and telling the P&Z board they don’t want to leave Happy Land they want to stay at their beloved church “please don’t make us leave” etc etc etc. I believe if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck it is a Duck… FPC is requesting a project that walks like a duck and quacks like a duck but they say it is not a duck honestly they say 🙂 !! At least not for the next 10 years!

  • If they want parking build a parking lot an build a fence.

    Otherwise they are doing this for PROFIT.
    The hood will become yet another neighborhood stranded behind commercial buildings — just owned by a church this time.

    IF they want to become a megachurch – sell the current land to someone who wants to develop it within current zoning.
    Then buy cheaper land elsewhere.

  • Why can’t the city and church work together on an area that “NEEDS” development??? I see many articles on areas that beg for building, why not expand there? Not practicle to move, how about using some pledges to make it happen? How about the city, the neighborhoods, the donors, the movers and shakers work that angle, one where everyone could win?

  • This town is run by a Criminal Cabal and they are stealing money from God’s Little People and transferring that wealth to the rich whom have a vested interest in the THEFT.

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