By: Sharon Aron Baron
There has been nothing that has angered residents of Coral Springs more lately than four out of five of their elected officials voting to move forward on a $8.1 million parking garage. This is on top of a a brand new City Hall which technically needed only 250 parking spaces to house City Staff.
Besides being the most cost effective, Mayor Skip Campbell believed a surface parking lot, at $2 million would have been sufficient for City Staff, and would have been utilized for other events when they were gone on weeknights and weekends. However, it would have used space designed for potential retail space around it.
The option most of the commission chose was a four-floor, 600-spot garage costing $8.1 million, with the city’s share being $4.5 million. This would be a Tri-party agreement, meaning the city would take the lead in drafting the agreement and borrow the $8.1, then the CRA and Amera Corp. would enter into an agreement, and upon completion of the garage, Amera as the Master Developer could assist the CRA to defray the cost of the additional 250 spaces.
“Parking garage. Waste of money.” Said former commission candidate Howard Melamed. “In a town that wants to go green, we should be encouraging and helping to developed walking paths and cycling. However when you have three out of five commissioners beholden to their largest sponsor, what do you expect? The downtown Coral Springs developer has no agreement with the City. Now we are building him a parking garage? He needs to build it himself.
On April 1, four City Commissioners voted to move forward on what was the most expensive option on the table after Vice Mayor Larry Vignola tabled the item in order to get more feedback from the residents.
However, it didn’t change the commissioners minds about going forward with the garage.
Commissioner Lou Cimaglia immediately voted to move the project forward.
Commissioner Joy Carter who emailed 397 residents said that 53 of her respondents told her do it, so she said she went with the majority.
Commissioner Dan Daley sent out on email blasts to 1,600 people and he was surprised that the vast majority were positive that they wanted a larger parking garage. “If there’s too few parking spaces we have a problem.”
But how will resident know exactly what respondents did say to Dan Daley and Joy Carter if they were asking mostly friends and supporters of their campaign what to do. Secondly, since both used personal email addresses to conduct their poll and not their City email addresses, making a public records request would be extremely difficult.
Vice Mayor Vignola, who asked for the motion to wait on the vote, but never specified who exactly he asked to gather more research during the time it was tabled said, “I’ve never developed a downtown, no one here has. With the Frozen event that we did in December, the parking was atrocious. I know families that came and didn’t get to go because there wasn’t enough parking. If we’re going to do this, we need to do this right.”
Mayor Skip Campbell seemed surprised that everyone received the go ahead to spend so much from their constituents. “I have received just the opposite in community participation in this concept,” he said. “I’ve already said that it’s financially irresponsible based on the way we are financing it but that’s what democracy is all about and we’re going to have a vote here and hopefully it’s a vote based on your conscience.” Looking at Joy Carter Campbell said, “And I believe statistically 53 is not a valid number, and statistically we should have put this in front of the voters. We should have asked the people. Are you willing to pay for it and that would have been done with the general obligation bonds.”
The vote was four to one in favor of the parking garage. Campbell was the one voting no.
The city plans to borrow the money in bonds this fall.