District 3 Digest. Your Monthly E-Newsletter from Commissioner Julie Fishman. Julie.Fishman@Tamarac.org. Office: (954) 597-3460. Cell: (954) 461-1311

Understanding the Development Process

mage of the Mayor, City Commission, City Manager, City Attorney and City Clerk sitting at the dais during a City Commission meeting.

I was asked recently about my stand on a proposed project currently going through our City's planning process. When I responded that I really couldn’t say, the resident got upset and felt I was dodging his question. Nothing could be further from the truth. Here is the explanation I gave him and share with you as well.
In Tamarac, we have a process that developers must go through to get a project approved. First, applicants for larger projects, such as those that require major site plans, amendments to the comprehensive plan or site-specific rezoning, must hold community meetings to discuss their vision for the project and to get feedback. Some developers meet with the community numerous times to get additional input on changes made based on feedback from earlier meetings. 

Board room image

Next, the project is filed with the City. Major applications go before the Development Review Committee (DRC), which consists of staff from the City's Community Development, Public Services, Fire Rescue and Building departments, as well as BSO.

This committee provides a technical review of the project plans to ensure they meet the standards and requirements of the City’s zoning, fire code, building code and other regulatory standards such as traffic, including Broward County’s requirements, where applicable.
If the plan meets technical and regulatory requirements, the DRC then provides a conditional approval and it’s sent to the City’s Planning Board. When the Planning Board reviews major applications, it can make additional requests of the developer, such as adding more trees to the design to replace damaged trees in the area of the project.
Projects like planned developments, or those that require comprehensive plan amendments or rezoning, are forwarded to the City Commission with a recommendation, and the Commission makes the final decision. While the Planning Board can approve other major site plan applications, the City Commission has the option to call them up to make the decision for them as well. 

Image of a gavel

When proposed projects go before the Planning Board or Commission, a quasi-judicial hearing is held. This resembles a court hearing in front of a judge. In fact, anyone coming to speak on the item will be sworn in to give testimony.  Decisions are based on the evidence presented by the applicant, City staff and the public. Like a judge in a courtroom, Commissioners and Planning Board members are required to base decisions on what’s presented at that time

What does that mean? Let's look at it in terms of a court case involving domestic violence. What if, prior to a case, a judge was very public about an opinion that anyone who stays in a home where they are a victim of domestic violence is getting what they really want?

Having voiced this feeling publicly, most people would think that the judge would not be “fair and impartial” and would have to recuse or remove him or herself from this case.

This standard of impartiality is the same in a quasi-judicial hearing. If a Commissioner gave an opinion publicly when a project was first proposed, would they actually be able to judge the project on the merits presented at a quasi-judicial hearing? Would the public feel comfortable with the decision made by the Commission if all the Commissioners made up their minds at the beginning of a project, even though the plan presented months later was substantially different than it was at the beginning of the process?

Would you really want your Commissioner to have to remove him or herself from a vote on a project because they chose to voice their opinion outside of a quasi-judicial hearing?

While the explanation of the process was simplified here, the steps are all included to demonstrate the issues faced if we voice our opinions before a project is in front of us. It’s not that we don’t want to answer the questions on a specific project. It’s that we do want to be able to vote on projects when they come before us.

If any of you have additional questions on this topic, please call me at (954) 461-1311 or email me at Julie.Fishman@tamarac.org.

Image of a group of school-aged children blowing bubbles in a park.

Planning and Learning as Summer Starts 

June is usually a quiet time for many families in our City, with the school year ending and summer vacations beginning. But it will be a busy month for me. In addition to attending a number of local board, committee and summit meetings, I’ll be traveling outside of Broward as well.

My first trip will be to Orlando for the first of several Florida League of Cities Legislative Policy meetings in preparation for the 2020 Legislative Session, which starts in January. I recently changed committees to better address issues that are important to our community and that are being affected by policymakers in Tallahassee.

I’ll be working with other local city officials to protect Home Rule on issues such as building and fire safety codes, code enforcement, elections, emergency management, gaming, homeland security, public meetings, public property management, public records, public safety, and procurement, as well as charter counties and special districts. I’m looking forward to the challenges of this new committee and the new legislative session.

National League of Cities, Cities Strong Together logo

My second trip this month will be to Indianapolis for the National League of Cities (NLC) 2019 Summer Boards and Leadership Meeting. This is a week-long meeting of several boards I sit on: Energy, Environment and Natural Resources and the Racial Equity and Leadership Council.
In each of my previous meetings/summits with the NLC I learned how other cities across the nation are addressing issues we’re dealing with here in Tamarac. Sharing ideas and solutions with others has been a rewarding and enlightening part of my job as a Commissioner.
I will share what I learn and bring back from these meetings in my July Newsletter.

Upcoming Meetings and Events:

June 15: Father’s Day Fishing Tournament, 9 am – Noon, Caporella Park (Pre-registration required)
June 24: Commission Workshop, 9:30 am, City Hall room 104
June 26: Commission Meeting, 9 am, City Hall Commission Chambers
June 27: Lunch with Uncle Sam and Betsy Ross, 1 – 3 pm, Community Center
July 4:    Patriotic Swim Party, Caporella Aquatic Complex, Noon - 4 pm
July 4:    All-American Celebration, Tamarac Sports Complex, 6 - 9:30 pm

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