Monday, June 08, 2009

Palmetto Bay: School Expansion controversy necessitates a Citizens's vote. By Miamigal

Although the Village Council denied Palmer Trinity’s application April 14, 2008, they continued to file lawsuits against the Village, trying to more than double their enrollment. They are fighting the community by putting out fancy flyers that are misleading and a distortion of the ballot question.

Palmetto Bay is facing another wave of political storms this coming week as ballots are mailed out in their Special Election. The storm is not brewing over mitigation or the police or even a charter change as it usually does in municipal politics. The lightning bolts are flying over Palmer Trinity’s (an exclusive private school in Palmetto Bay) conscious effort to distort the facts on the private school item on the ballot:

On the ballot is a question (#3) which is about allowing neighbors of existing (or future) private schools to have input in enrollment increases. It encourages schools to work with their neighbors to ensure that any expansion is realistic and attuned with the neighborhood’s character and the Village.

A recent example of the need for this amendment is Palmer Trinity’s proposed expansion plan to more than double their student enrollment. In 2008, Palmer Trinity wanted to double their size smack dab in the middle of a residential community. That would be a campus of 1200+ students, 160+ teachers and service personnel. Along with this increase in staff and students came massive buildings, a bell tower and an enormous sports complex with the accompanying negative impact on an already insupportable traffic problem. Additionally, they have plans for long-range growth that would be equal to placing a major business (such as a hospital) 20 feet from your back door literally overshadowing your patio.

Palmer Trinity never has come into compliance with the previous 1999 zoning hearings. In fact, in 2008 while involved in new zoning hearings, the head master and his board of directors were ignoring zoning violations on the existing campus along with not being able to account for the overage in the number of students permitted.

Although the Village Council denied Palmer Trinity’s application April 14, 2008, they continued to file lawsuits against the Village. So, the neighbors were required to defend their community’s interests in court when Palmer Trinity appealed and sued to over-turn Village Council’s ruling in the zoning hearing. Because of the 2008 hearing, the neighbors gathered enough signatures (over 2000) to get a ballot question requiring all private schools to work with their surrounding neighbors when deciding to apply for a growth change.

Palmer Trinity is continuing to fight the community by putting out fancy flyers that are misleading and a distortion of the ballot question. They have their students in parking lots approaching strangers, they have them knocking on doors and they are using calling machines to preach their outline of the truth. The two kids that approached me in the doorway of a restaurant were not from Palmetto Bay. These kids are campaigning against a ballot item in a community that they do not live in and will not return to once they graduate. Their family’s investment in Palmetto Bay is the 30k a year they give to Palmer Trinity.

Palmer Trinity’s representation of the question would lead you to believe that a “yes” vote would result in children being deprived of an education that would allow them to be a doctor, lawyer, or community leader. They overlooked the children needing an education to prepare them to be plumbers, store managers, firemen and public school teachers. Other than Palmer Trinity’s campaign literature is not about diversity, it definitely makes one think that the ballot question is concerned about public schools, enhancement of parks, the environment and oh my, SMART GROWTH! They are using all the “buzz” words with the cute children pictures and warm fuzzy handouts. It is great that Palmer Trinity can tap some of their student’s tuition for glossy PR pieces.

Just to set the record straight ---The ballot question is about preserving the integrity of the Village as a whole and it’s neighborhoods. This ballot question lays groundwork for communities throughout the State of Florida given Governor Crist’s inability to deny developers in his quest for higher office.

A YES vote would result in private schools having to meet with the people who live next door to the school to resolve the direct impacts of being next to a business. The YES vote would force the schools to develop concepts to make their school‘s business plan compatible with the people who have invested their dreams in their homes and neighborhood. Smart Growth is making smart decisions for the entire community, not for just a student body.

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

I hope the good people of Palmetto Bay are also supporting FL Hometown Democracy so they can vote on Master Plan changes too. Given Charlie "build it" Crist's decision to let builders rape Florida (more than they already have) with few restraints, FL Hometown Democracy will be the only way to have input into preserving our communities. Go to WWW.flhometowndemocracy.com, download a petition, sign it, and mail it in.

Anonymous said...

I am appalled they are using children in this way. The parents are misguided to let children participate.

Lee Allen said...

If you actually read the ballot measure, you may understand why they are fighting so hard. It would require a special election for any private school expansion -- regardless of size.

In order to expand, a school would need 75% of residents within 2,000 feet, yes 2,000, to vote in support, plus 4 out of 5 of the Village Council members. That means that 75% of the electors would need to: (1) vote; and (2) vote in support. In other words, good luck with that.

Calling the ballot question a mechanism to require schools to "meet with the people who live next door to the school to resolve the direct impacts of being next to a business" is, frankly, insane.

Realistically, it is a ban on private school expansions. I have no dog in this fight, but we need to understand the facts.

JSKC said...

SaveOurPalmettoBay posted this leaflet on my door the other day: http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/8KSMSFU2pjoaqENEIUU21g?authkey=Gv1sRgCNu1zfiwqMOQ4AE&feat=directlink

Download it and email it around.

Why are outsiders lobbying against the community said...

Lee Allen,

The ballot IS about neighborhood and community compatibility (not just on the Palmer Trinity issue)...

The public schools know how to work with the community. It is time for all schools to respect the neighborhoods that draw people through their streets.

It doesn't matter whether it is a school like Palmer or a little daycare/kindergarten,it matters to the village how it affects the quality of life those people who live there.

Is it proper that people who live in Coral Gables are in Palmetto Bay messing with laws that directly impact me and my family? No, I don't think so.

Beth said...

The herald needs to report the facts and sources correctly. Last week they published an opposing view from a Pinecrest resident not a Palmetto Bay resident. This week they published an opposing view from a Ludovici without noting that she is Vice Chair of Palmer Trinity's Board. A new park is named after the Ludovicis and they paid 300,000 for the privelege. All this could have been discovered with about 5 minutes of research. I know they are understaffed, but please...

Lee Allen said...

Again, I am not taking a position on the Palmer Trinity expansion. I don't live in Palmetto Bay and the expansion proposal may, for all I know, be a really bad idea.

It does no one any good, however, to ignore the impact of this ballot measure:

It will prevent any expansion of any private school within Palmetto Bay. You will never get 75% of the people within 2,000 feet of a school to vote in a special election. That alone shuts the door.

Let's call this measure what it is: "No More Private School Expansions in Palmetto Bay!"

Why are outsiders lobbying against the community said...

How else do you give people a voice in their community?

If residents can't vote on issues that are near to their homes and businesses then they might as well have stayed in the county and skipped the incorporation.

Why shouldn't cities allow votes on issues that impact the growth, well-beginning and development of their boundaries?

Lee Allen said...

Many municipalities have charter provisions that require a vote on certain items.

Can a proponent of the ballot measure why a "democratic" measure designed to give people a voice requires 75% of people to vote in favor of an expansion?

Wouldn't it be more appropriate to let a majority of electors decide the issue?

Let's be honest with each other. This measure is designed to ensure that Palmer never expands. That is it.

Anonymous said...

As a Palmetto Bay resident, I say this amendment is a bad idea and may cost the Village big time in legal costs. I'm no fan of Palmer but they purchased a huge parcel of property, which has access to SW 184 ST. FINALLY, traffic from the school can be rerouted to a section-line road (from SW 176 ST).

PB residents should vote down this amendment and demand the Village Council to address Palmer's request in a fair manner.

Anonymous said...

The village council did vote on it. But Palmer lost. And they don't like that.

However, this is not about Palmer .... this is about quality of life for residents, including traffic burdens and noise levels. Ever had to work nights and sleep during the day listening to traffic and school bells and delivery trucks and dumpsters being slammed down? Ask the folks that live by fellowship church on 168 about noise and traffic generated by their enterprise. Of course, they are buying the neighborhood around them so the neighbors do not complain.

Anonymous said...

I find Ballot question #3 unfair and truly unnecessary. The current system works. It's not about Palmer Trinity. It's about supporting development in Palmetto Bay now and in the future. Why impose these types of restrictions? Next thing you know we won't be able to paint our houses the color we want. As a long time resident, I am baffled by the NIMBY (Not In My Backyard)neighbors- don't they have a life????

Dederie said...

Dear Baffled person

Has your backyard been intruded upon by a car dealership, a Mickey D's or any business that attracts traffic and/or noise? If your house has been violated then you must have not lost sleep because of it or your home is very soundproof or you have not been blocked in your driveway. Lucky you. I can see where people get ticky about listening to speakers blare and worrying about getting to work.

I don't live up against any schools, public or private, because I made a choice not to when I bought my house. I went and looked at any house that was near a school during the school hours before deciding to chase it. Almost all of the schools had noise and traffic. I hate the way that Gulliver closes down Old Cutler everyday.

People buy houses for very personal reasons. Somehow I do not think that accomandating a growth spurt of a school, church or even a strip mall is one of the reasons people buy in neighborhoods. No wonder people buy in gated communities that are built-out. Of course, then they send the kids to school elsewhere so they don't have to deal with it.

It is all about respecting residents rights. People who sink their life savings in a home should have a say in how it's value is impacted by others, whether the value is endangered by lack of code of enforcement, high crime or a business expansion.

JCE said...

Sounds like a case of wealth envy to me by some Palmetto Bay yentas.

My kids go to Coral Reef Elementary, but I respect anyone who chooses private school instead.

These private schools do nothing but good for the community, so let's let them spend their time educating kids.

Anonymous said...

Okay let's see is it Nimby or not. You buy a house and you have one thing and then a school or other entity goes for variances to make it something else.

I think people have a right to object to their neighbor getting variance/zoning change if it disturbs them or will effect the value of their home. The fact that it is a school has nothing to do with it. It is a business entity wanting to expand so stop all the school crap. The fact that it is a school has nothing to do with it. It is a business expanding. Should they? Apparently the village said no...so why the vote? Pressure from parents I guess.

Miamigal said...

Last Anon:

You are correct when you say I think people have a right to object to their neighbor getting variance/zoning change if it disturbs them or will effect the value of their home. The fact that it is a school has nothing to do with it. It is a business entity wanting to expand so stop all the school crap. The fact that it is a school has nothing to do with it. It is a business expanding.

My kids went to church school in Palmetto Bay. When that school tried to trample the homeowners by super-sizing. They lied to and then blew off the community living around them - that is when I supported the neighbors and pulled my kids out of the religious based school that did not respect their neighbors.

Schools, businesses and/or incompatible anythings in ANY neighborhood is an issue. That is what is important. How does this change affect the people living there?

Your property zoning DOES NOT come with a inherit right to be up-zoned to make it more valuable. AS a homeowner, I can not decide to build an apartment building on my neighborhood land just because it benefits my family. I have to have (if I am smart) meetings with my neighbors, zoning changes and compatibility studies. So, what is the big deal about asking that of any business or school? The only big deal I see is that schools try to soft sell themselves into their new buildings and a law would require them to be more accountable to the people who live around their facility and the village.

Voting YES gives the community a chance to be a part of planned growth. I believe in the change. As parent, I have seen what private schools are willing to do to forward their own agendas. It is evil.

Lee Allen said...

Miamigal,

"meetings with my neighbors, zoning changes and compatibility studies" are what any applicant needs to do now, including a private school.

The proposed amendment does not require neighborhood involvement. Instead, it creates a higher standard for schools than any other use in the Village.

It would be easier to build a regional mall in the Village than get a daycare expanded from 10 to 20 kids under this amendment.

That is why I say that this amendment's sole purpose is to stop Palmer.

miamigal said...

I think that is WOULD not be easier to build a regional mall... don't be silly.

When it comes to schools - they do wrap themselves in a cloak of pious "think of the children" when in fact, it is a self-serving use of loaded phrases and children's sweet faces to keep the school in business.

It is evil when any business does not respect the community that allowed them to exist in the first place.

A school is not a little mom and pop facility. They draw people, traffic and noise into a community just by virtue of their nature of being a school. You double the size of a school and you are double it's support system. All of which has a grave impact on the community on the perimeter of the school's property line. AND it still is my opinion that a school (even churches, in this day of mega churches) is a business and a business has no business overwhelming and disrupting a city or changing it's quality of life.

The charter change may not be perfect, but it can be changed should it not work out right. We have to start somewhere when it comes to growth management, we may as well start the dialog by managing the communities right to have fruitful conversation with the people who would impact their homes and sanity.

Anonymous said...

What I don't get is the lies... there is no mega sports complex in Palmer Trinity's plans. If you don't believe me, go ask the Village of Palmetto Bay. Also, the growth that was planned was not to double the population overnight- it was to grow 30 kids per year for 10 years... slow growth. I would think that the perimeter neighbors would be thrilled to know that we want to open up a new entrance on Eureka. Palmer Trinity is an amazing institution that does an exceptional job of educating students. Whether or not you believe in private school education is irrelevant. Why wouldn't you support a great school like Palmer Trinity?

Anonymous said...

Palmer should use the Belen Jesuit rule, expand first, get caught, admit violating resolution for 20 years, then go to the commission get all the violations cleared & additional expansion. just have Mayor Manny Diaz & state rep Marcelo Llorente show up at beginning of the hearing; even Miami-Dade County Commissioner Katy Sorenson bowed down to the power of Belen, she said it was wrong but her vote did not.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 7:

Question 3 is not about Palmer Trinity. It is about quality of life. Other private schools in Palmetto Bay manage to get along with their neighbors, so what is the difference with them?

That being said:

What plans are you looking at?

Swimming pools, football stadium, athletic fields, gyms and assorted other sport activity facilities being built on the south side of the property is not a sports complex? And that is BEFORE you include dorms that can house visiting teams for tournaments.

Give me a break.

You obviously are not going to put up the traffic from the inter-school competitions and headlights in your bedroom windows at night...

...the growth that was planned was not to double the population overnight-it was to grow 30 kids per year for 10 years... That my friend, is a strange thing to say since they still won't confirm to the attendance population that was set in 1999 when they asked to expand. Actually, in 1999 they said that would be the last expansion.

During the public hearings in April 2008, the headmaster said he didn't know how many students attended Palmer Trinity. (Goodness, I wonder how many kids go missing every day there, if they don't tally them!)

He did not 'know" because he refused to admit that he was over the limit by a mere 30 or 40 students every year (depending on the source). I found on the Internet, a former teacher's resume with 630 students listed for the school size. So, who is lying to whom?

Anonymous said...

Wasn't Belen the Mayors school too?