By A.J. Arias
Village of Florida residents made their voices heard at the first in-person meeting of the Village’s Board of Trustees since the beginning of the COVID–19 pandemic health situation on Wed., July 8 at Village Hall. All attendees from different households were seated six feet apart and had their temperatures taken prior to entry for the Public Hearings introducing Local Laws 5 and 6 of 2020.
Village Dr. Building Project
Local Law 6 of 2020 proposes to expand the general commercial zoning behind the Saab dealership on Village Dr. to become a Mixed-use Zone for commercial businesses and residential buildings.
Village resident and builder Robert Knebel has proposed a project for the area. Knebel has not yet submitted a proper application for the project but was in attendance at the hearing to outline his proposal. The project would consist of 36 residential units on five acres made up of one- and two-bedroom apartments.
Knebel said the apartments are intended for young professionals as well as older village residents looking to downsize. The project will also include a strip of commercial businesses, which Knebel has verbally agreed to develop as professional offices for doctors, dentists, lawyers, etc.
The public hearing regarding the zoning law change to allow for the project was opened at Wednesday’s meeting. All of the residents who spoke were opposed to the change citing a variety of concerns including increased traffic, congestion, water run-off issues in the area, the appearance if the apartments sat empty, the values of future tenants, hypocrisy over other projects that were turned away in the area, and most commonly the fear the Village losing its identity with a large increase in population for the small village.
Trustee Craig Olejniczak spoke in favor of the project stating that there aren’t many areas available for expansion in Village and that the new tenants and businesses would increase tax revenue for the Village and would help it grow. As a long-term resident of the Village he stated that he has seen the concern that arise when change is proposed in the Village and when new developments are proposed but that they always seem to work out in the end and the new residents are welcomed into the tight knit community.
The public hearing for the project remains open until next month’s meeting.
Parks Local Law
A public hearing introducing Local Law 5 of 2020 was also held at the meeting. The proposed local law, which is commonly referred as the “parks” law, would establish the need for parking permits, boat passes, and dog permits for village residents and visitors to Glenmere Lake for the 2021 season. The law does not include the pricing for the permits. Proposed fees are $5 for residents, boat use and dog permits would be free. For visitors, the proposed fee is $50 with additional fees of $5 for boat use and $10 per dog.
When questioned whether passes could be free for Village residents, Mayor Daniel Harter Jr. responded that it would be, “fine with me” but also said that the Board would need to look into it to make sure the free tags wouldn’t cost money to the Village residents in other ways.
The main intention of the local law was to gain additional revenue from visitors to the lake. The minimal fee for residents would be to cover costs of the tags themselves, according to the Board.
The public hearing remains open for this law as well.
Village Government Changes
Marvin Geller was sworn in as the new Village Treasurer replacing Mark Weaver who retired and has since moved away from the area.
Mayor Harter received a raise to his salary as Mayor. The raise supplements the cost of health insurance, which Mayor Harter does not receive from the Village. In value, Mayor Harter Jr. is still paid the same as the previous Mayor.
Other Village employees also received minimal wage increases as well that varied depending on position and previous wage amounts.
The next meeting will be held on Wed., Aug. 12 at 7:30 p.m. at Village Hall as well as on Zoom. Information regarding the meeting will be on the Village’s Facebook page. There will be a limit on the number of in-person attendees due to social distancing guidelines.
Village of Florida Clerk Colleen Wierzbicki, left, swears in Marvin Geller as the new Village of Florida Treasurer on Wed., July 8 at Village Hall.