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COLUMN

Council watch

Billy Manes pays attention to city government so you don't have to

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Timing was everything as this week's clockwatching club holiday party. For one, this was a Wednesday meeting – which never happens – because Mayor Buddy Dyer was pulled out of town to Tallahassee to be an official Democratic elector for Barack Obama (and certainly not to position himself for a gubernatorial run). On a sadder note, it was also the first public meeting after the tragedy in Connecticut, which naturally meant long assurances from the Orlando Police Department about cops patrolling schools. It was necessarily sad. Or was it?
"The meeting's been somewhat happy, for the most part," said the mayor before leading a sing-a-long of "Happy Birthday" to Commissioner Sam Ings.

Orlando is rather adept at processing sadness, apparently.

Item: The city approves an amendment to its option for ground lease – with option to purchase – and a memorandum of the amendment.
Translation: Amid the late-breaking news that the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts will indeed be the nightmare for local arts groups (see Happytown, page 6) that we previously reported (and repeated) that it would be comes this little pre-Christmas chestnut. You know the notorious "round building" across from City Hall that is currently sort of a humble mess that also happens to serve as the rent-free headquarters for DPAC staffers? Well, the parcel from which it juts is actually under the control of CNL real estate company, inasmuch as the city entered into an agreement with CNL back in 2004 that would allow CNL the option to lease or buy the property.
The idea, at least back in 2005, was that CNL would demolish the round architectural icon and develop some kind of mixed-use abomination that matched all of the other mixed-use abominations the city was considering before the real estate crash. Also, it sure would be nice to have some variety of commerce to buffet the city's performing arts center ambitions. Well, that agreement with CNL is set to expire at the end of this year, and, because the parcel upon which the building sits is considered a construction pad for DPAC (which isn't slated to complete its first phase before 2014), the city and CNL are extending the agreement for two years, allowing the DPAC staff to keep working there for free, at least until they get phase one of the center open for business (either that, or be moved to a rent-free office in one of the existing two CNL towers if CNL wants to rush ahead with demolition).
The municipal calamity that is DPAC continues.

Item: The city approves Ordinance No. 2012-54, dissolving the Mills Park Community Development District.
Translation: Among other developments we sort of hoped would never happen is Mills Park, the artificial burg that has been dragging railroad dirt through ViMi for decades. Now that it appears the whole thing will go up – mostly because everybody loves a Fresh Market – it's time to reexamine any special treatment the development was given. Back in 2007, Mills Park warranted its own community development district status, a confusing designation born of state statute that allows a "district" to issue bonds to pay for operating and maintaining a development's infrastructure. "To hell with all that mess!" the current developer probably shook an arm at the sky. "I'll do this myself!" So, that's what's happening here. DeBartolo Development Co. will take care of its own financial concerns with regard to roads and stormwater, and the city no longer has to worry about any of it. Probably. For now.

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