|Posted by Anne Siren on October 5, 2012 at 3:25 PM|
Wilton Manors – As the city renews its economic task force, some are asking if enough time and money are being spent on the entire city – not just Wilton Drive.
“Too much attention is spent on one area of the city. Let’s not neglect the balance of the city,” said Commissioner Julie Carson, who voted to renew the Task Force for another year.
The Task Force was established in 2011 to help develop economic strategies. The city’s Wilton Drive Task Force, which focused on strategies for developing the city’s main street, was folded earlier this year after its 18-month lifespan came to an end without being renewed by commissioners.
Without the Wilton Drive Task Force, the focus has shifted to other parts of the city.
Mayor Gary Resnick has expressed the city’s frustration with Broward County’s lack of progress in remodeling an apartment building located on Powerline Road. The county, which purchased the building with Neighborhood Stabilization Program funds, is planning to turn the apartments into low-income housing.
Resnick has also talked about possibly creating a Community Redevelopment Agency or other mechanism to put more focus and funding in the Powerline Road area.
But Vice Mayor Tom Green said the city is already investing in the rest of the city.
“I find it interesting that people think no attention has been paid on other parts of the city. Has anyone noticed the lighting and landscaping on Powerline?” asked Green, referring to the pedestrian lighting that was installed along Powerline Road earlier this year.
Green also defended the amount of time and effort the city has put into Wilton Drive.
“The Drive is the draw for many [who come to our city].”
Green also highlighted the $1 million federal grant money the city recently received for Dixie Highway.
According to Assistant City Manager Leigh Ann Henderson, Wilton Manors is one of 15 cities in Broward that applied for funding but only one of five to be approved; the county only had $5 million total to give out and Wilton Manors’ request ranked #3. “It was a competitive process,” said Henderson.
The funding, which won’t be available until 2016, will be used by the city to improve sidewalks, landscaping and bicycle lanes along Dixie south from the bridge to Northeast 26 Avenue at Five Points. “We still have to design the actual project,” said Henderson.
Sometime in the future the city will be soliciting input from the public on its plans for using the money.
The city also recently made improvements to Northeast 15 Street south from the bridge to Northeast 26 Avenue. About 200,000 in federal stimulus funding was used to improve sidewalks, signage and landscaping along that road.
As for the neighborhoods between the streets, resident Randy Comer thinks more should be done to enhance and protect them.
“We’re still worried about this church over here,” said Comer, referring to the residential project developers want to build at the church property at the corner of Northeast 26 Street and Northeast 15 Avenue. Residents, and the consultant the city hired to review the project, say it’s too dense.
Heidi Shafran, community development services director, said the city has taken steps to protect neighborhoods, including the demolition of unsafe structures and modification of the city’s Planned Unit Development, or PUD, ordinances.
Some of the PUD changes included tougher approval process requirements and developers are now required to prove they have the financial backing to finish any project they start.
But Comer thinks having a commissioner dedicated to each area would be the best way to ensure the entire city would get equal attention and protection.
“We need a district commissioner. Someone who lives in the neighborhood. Someone who really cares about the neighborhood. Someone to go in there and fight for our area,” said Comer.
Currently the city is not divided into districts, an idea that Wilton Manors commissioners at various times have said wouldn’t work because of the city’s small size.
And it’s an opinion that Lauderdale-By-The-Sea Mayor Roseann Minnet shares.
Minnet said she feels that her town’s division into two districts, north and south, hasn’t been good for the city. Districts, she added, are good for large cities like Pompano Beach and Fort Lauderdale, not for small municipalities like Wilton Manors and Lauderdale-By-The-Sea.
“I don’t think it’s been very good for our city. Districts tend to be too divisive and I would not recommend it to Wilton Manors,” she said. “The key is just getting [residents] involved. And if you get them involved, you shouldn’t need districts.”