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Fort Lauderdale zoning vote on church’s expansion plans delayed again

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 City Hall

Fort Lauderdale City Hall

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.

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  • As a long time resident of Colee Hammock I would like to make one point that I think has been lost in all the arguments for and against. THE FAMILIES IN COLEE HAMMOCK DO NOT WANT TO DENY THE CHURCH THEIR RIGHT TO BUILD ON THE PROPERTY THEY OWN. This project can be built now, without a PUD. All we are asking is that the Church behave like a ‘Church’ and be a good neighbor. Make the necessary changes in their plan and build within the present zoning.

  • Keep an eye on Judy Stern and the supporters of the Church.

  • Diddo Judy!!

  • Why is Judy Stern being brought into this issue?

  • Who resigned?

  • I’m glad to hear that the vote won’t take place May 27. When the last meeting ended at 1:30 am, the board made a point of selecting a follow-up meeting date that worked for the participants in the room – May 19th. Without a quorum on May 19th, the board should have followed the same procedure. June 19th is the next scheduled meeting, and I expect that will be the date for the vote.

    I hope this break in the action gives everyone time to think through the long-term impacts of the project. While it may offer some construction jobs in the short-term, the construction itself will hurt business on Las Olas. Plus, once the project is built, the negative impact to traffic and the Las Olas ambiance will be irreparable.

    When I think of Las Olas, I think of quaint restaurants, shops, galleries and a pedestian friendly atmosphere. I do NOT think of chuch gymnasiums, youth centers or Kindred Hospital.

    If it gets so bad that the residents are unhappy and move (or rent), property values will decline, tax revenue will be lost and the ambiance will be gone. Colee Hammock needs to be more than a cut-through from Las Olas to Broward. If we’re not careful, Colee Hammock will return to the “crack house” days of yore.

  • As THMaus said above, What the Colee Hammock Neighbors have requested through all the meetings with FPC representatives – NO PUD in COLEE HAMMOCK. Build within currently available zoning. It can be accomplished. FPC needs to demonstrate a desire and will and ACTION to be compatabile with the tree canopied, residential Colee Hammock neighborhood, Circa 1916. THIS IS WHAT the PRESS and EVERYONE NEEDS to STRESS – NO PUD rezoning in COLEE HAMMOCK!

    ANOTHER FACT – the Family LIfe Center is ACTUALLY 41’+ in heigth – that is 3+ STORIES ! ! ! NOT 2 stories in heigth as promoted. The first story is 21 feet TALL – HOW TALL IS the average 1 Story House? The highest point is 55 feet tall.

    And, what about the length? Almost that of a FOOTBALL FIELD, around 283 feet. THIS BUILDING MASS and HEIGTH is WHY A PUD IS WANTED. Is it Needed? NO ! !

    NO PUD in COLEE HAMMOCK ! ! !

  • Several weeks ago, as many of us know, the Planning and Zoning Board held a hearing at City Hall to consider a request by the First Presbyterian Church to rezone a little over five acres in the historic neighborhood of Colee Hammock. The night of the hearing, Mary Fertig spoke for our friends on Las Olas Isles. The words that she spoke that evening, bear repeating. Ms. Fertig said, “If the Planning and Zoning Board votes no to a request for a Planned Unit Development, the church will continue to do its good works in the community. If the Board votes yes to this request, the village of Colee Hammock will be changed forever. I think that about sums it up.

  • P&Z board, Mayor, and commissioners (and especially you, Romney Rogers): Don’t Flub Your Dubs voting for PUD.

  • Congrats on the non-profit status!

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