|Posted by Anne Siren on October 12, 2012 at 3:20 PM|
By Judy Vik
Lauderdale-By-The-Sea – Residents of the Oriana condominium were out in force this week to make sure commissioners heard their vehement opposition to plans for a public bathroom near their homes.
A dozen of them signed up to address the commission, urging them to reconsider a decision reached in July to place a public bathroom in an alleyway between Anglin’s Fishing Pier and the Oriana.
“My house butts up against the beach accessway,” said Maj Soueidan. “This affects me and all my neighbors. This is not a rose garden. It’s a public bathroom. I don’t think a homeowner should have to bear that.”
He suggested commissioners step back and see what else is available so it becomes a win-win for everyone. Soueidan said his home will lose a significant amount of value if the restroom is built nearby.
“How much would you pay for a townhome that’s 15 feet from a public restroom?” asked Dan David, a part owner of Soueidan’s property.
“To put this bathroom in a residential area is virtually beyond belief,” said Oriana resident Ned Seibert. “I don’t think this is fair.” He said there are commercial areas where the bathroom could be located.
Seibert’s wife Dorothy said she thought the town needed to provide a formal notice if something like this were to be done. She’s lived in areas where neighbors had to be notified of a deck addition.
“We’ve been out of the loop. We’re Johnny come lately because we didn’t know about the plans,” she said.
Dorothy Seibert said the residents still haven’t seen any exact information on where the bathroom would be located. “But we know where the property line is, and (the alleyway) is extremely narrow. It would be very near the residences.
“Unless there’s a compelling, urgent reason why would you penalize the residents?” she asked.
Will Powers said there are already problems with vagrancy, intoxicated people and illicit behavior in the area. “We don’t want any more issues than we already have. Public restrooms are a breeding ground for illicit behavior. They should be built in public, lighted areas that can be controlled.”
Vice Mayor Scot Sasser, who voted for the alleyway site in July, put the issue on Tuesday’s commission agenda in response to the many calls he received from Oriana residents.
He said a couple things kept ringing true to him. One was he didn’t feel the plans were communicated well enough to residents.
“In all the other projects we’ve done there has been lots of public input. I’m usually the one who wants things to go faster. But this maybe went too fast without enough information,” Sasser said.
Sasser acknowledged there is never going to be a good place to put bathrooms. He said a lot more discussion needs to happen. And with so many projects in the works, he said, this one is not a high priority for him. He asked that it be postponed to a date uncertain, or to be discussed in 2014.
Commissioner Mark Brown said he is a longtime proponent of public bathrooms somewhere downtown, but he didn’t favor the site next to Oriana. He supported putting the facility in El Prado Park or in a parking lot near the Country Ham & Eggs restaurant.
Now that they’ve heard the feedback from the Oriana residents, he suggested putting off a decision until construction work is completed on Commercial Boulevard and then looking at sites.
Commissioner Chris Vincent, who also favored the El Prado site earlier, applauded the Oriana residents for turning out. He said not enough had been done to engage them.
And though he called for public bathrooms downtown when he campaigned for office, Vincent said he would like to see the matter stricken now and looked at “way down the road.”
“I feel it’s our duty to provide public bathrooms but not next to Oriana,” he said.
Commissioner Stuart Dodd said the commission has yet to see any plans for the public bathroom. “It’s a pending site,” he said, and they have no idea how many feet it is from the homes.
He urged residents to call the Broward Sheriff’s Office if they’re seeing problems in the area, such as public urination.
Dodd said there is no ideal place for the public restrooms. “Everyone wants bathrooms but not in their backyard. We’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t.
“But when the overwhelming voice from the public is ‘we don’t want it here’ that does influence the way we operate.” He agreed the matter should be postponed.
“We haven’t seen this kind of excitement or this kind of anger in a long time,” said Mayor Roseann Minnet. She assured the Oriana residents they had been heard and agreed the decision on bathroom location should be reconsidered.
Minnet suggested the issue be brought up again when the commission works on improvements on El Mar Drive, perhaps the end of next year.
Commissioners unanimously approved a motion calling for no further work on the public bathroom project.
“I bet you’ve never seen government work like that,” Minnet said to the residents.
As he left the meeting, Soueidan said he was happy with their decision and pleasantly surprised. “They heard our voices, and they seem to care.”