UPDATE: Fort Lauderdale’s planning and zoning board will meet June 16 at 6:30 p.m. to decide whether to approve First Presbyterian’s proposed expansion plans.
By Dan Christensen, BrowardBulldog.org
Fort Lauderdale’s planning and zoning board can’t get its act together to take a vote on First Presbyterian Church’s controversial building plans in historic Colee Hammock.
The board announced Wednesday that it had canceled Thursday’s special meeting to consider the church’s rezoning request because it couldn’t get enough members to show up.
It was the second time this month the nine-member board has said it couldn’t muster a quorum.
The board will nevertheless convene at 6:30 p.m. in the city commission chambers at City Hall to set a new date to hear the matter.
The 2,000-member church wants to build a pair of large Spanish-Mission style buildings on church-owned land south of Las Olas Boulevard between Tarpon Drive and Southeast 15th Ave.
The proposed, $20 million buildings are a five-story commercial office building and parking garage fronting the boulevard, and a two-story Family Center along Southeast Fourth Street.
Current zoning does not allow the buildings as planned. So the church has asked the city to rezone 5.52 acres it owns as a planned unit development district. Under the city’s PUD ordinance, such “unique or innovative development” can be built.
Church leaders have said the new buildings are needed if the church is to continue to thrive and grow. They have hired lawyers and lobbyists to make it happen.
The Colee Hammock Homeowners Association is opposed. Its members say the buildings are too massive, and will devalue their homes.
In April, a packed house of neighbors and church members showed up to speak at City Hall. After the meeting dragged on after 1 a.m., it was continued until May 19.
But the board wasn’t at full strength. Three board members had removed themselves from hearing the case, citing conflicts of interest or appearances of conflict. Another member had resigned.
So when board member Mike Moskowitz announced he was unable to attend on May 19, the remaining board members decided to hold a special meeting a week later.
Almost immediately, Colee Hammock residents began to complain that holding the meeting right before the Memorial Day weekend meant some members would not be able to attend.
Homeowners association president Jerry Jordan complained by email to an aide to Vice Mayor Romney Rogers on Wednesday afternoon. Two hours later, the board announced it would not consider the church’s rezoning request at the next day’s meeting.