Busted! Go home to jail
Here’s a cheer for making lemonade out of sour fruit.
“I’m going to jail” could have a whole new meaning should Manatee County and an innovative entrepreneur come to terms on the conversion of the Old Jail downtown into multifamily housing. And possibly some commercial space.
Bernie Croghan, a well-known, successful and respected local businessman, pitched the only proposal to the county’s request for ideas to revamp the spacious building into workforce housing. His Croghan Company submitted the lone proposal under the banner of Connect Bradenton, a business that provides office space for startups, home-based businesses and small companies with limited resources — customized administrative support to on-site and remote office clients. That would include IT technology, virtual assistants, bookkeeping services and conference spaces and business machines.
The Old Jail, right on Manatee Avenue a block away from the popular Old Main Street gathering places, looks like a great location for millennial housing and other community benefits.
Currently, the outside of the building looks like a sad place to call home. We figure Croghan will change that.
The high-rise holds 80,000 square feet of space. The county request for proposals states the vision is creating rental apartments or condominiums with mixed-use housing and a “suggested marketing of 25 percent or more of the units to the millennial population for the upper floors.”
Croghan is on board with serving the underserved millennial population, as he has stated. Downtown is the ideal place for the surging generation, which desires walkable cities, nearby entertainment and an active lifestyle.
We hope Croghan and the county reach an agreement that achieves these community goals.
Are developers too influential?
Florida law favors developers over the public, plain and simple. But does that mean developer and builder payments to political campaigns are totally corrupting?
If some campaign contributions to a candidate for public office represent a bribe, where does that put our political system? Certainly, voters should examine the list of a candidate’s supporters, but the idea that corruption is inherent by that list only pollutes the process. Campaigns are expensive, and candidates need funding. The assumption that once elected they are beholden to donors is quite questionable.
Many Manatee County voters hold a very passionate dislike of developers and builders as well as a distrust of candidates who accept their contributions. For example, let’s take Manatee County commissioners, who some believe approve developments solely at the direction of their campaign benefactors. If that were the case, the commission’s decision some three years ago to reject the 463-acre Long Bar Pointe project on Sarasota Bay would have been different.
But commissioners spurned the developers’ request for a text amendment to the county's Comprehensive Plan that would have allowed impermissible environmental impacts. They held firm to the Comp Plan when they could have voted to approve the requested change.
This is a sound legal defense against a builder lawsuit based on a law that allows property owners to sue governments for rejecting allowable developments, allowable by the jurisdiction’s own ordinances.
Elected officials are not allowed to violate development rules and reject private property rights based on popular opinion. That would be costly — very costly — to taxpayers in the form of large legal judgments, as has happened.
Florida’s Bert J. Harris Property Rights Protection Act, enacted in 1995, forbids such unjustified actions by a government body despite public opinion. Specifically, according to a Florida Law Journal document, the law “provides relief to private landowners when a law, regulation, or ordinance inordinately burdens, restricts, or limits private property without amounting to a taking under the U.S Constitution.”
Elected officials must act within the law. The law is the primary obstacle to a community’s desire to control growth.
Quote of the week
“I think we need to be bold. They (DeSoto Square mall owners) can sell part of that parking lot for hotels, apartments, condos and revitalize the are. ... People really want to see things done in the area.”
— Manatee County Commissioner Charles Smith, speaking about one aspect of the county’s urban corridors comprehensive plan to encourage redevelopment along six corridors.