Not with a bang, but with a cheerful wave goodbye.
In a non-agenda item that found its way before Cedar Key's City Commission Tuesday, commissioners learned that the Local Planning Agency, long led by local builder Greg Lang, will dissolve itself as soon as an ordinance can be written to do so. An LPA is a citizen advisory board charged with the responsibility to propose and review changes to the comprehensive plan and regulating land use.
The LPA has been both a valuable resource and a bone of contention for the city, in that a recommendation from the LPA has served as the action point on matters of land use brought before the commission. On the other hand, some residents have expressed unhappiness with the authority of recommendations from the LPA, which is an appointed body. One resident recently protested the LPA's recommendation to expand the historic district, telling commissioners, "I elected you, not them (the LPA). If I'm going to have to abide by LPA decisions, maybe we should elect them, too."
Cedar Key's LPA is currently comprised of the aforementioned Lang, former mayor Heath Davis, Stanley Bair, Frank Bottilla and Linda Seyfarth. It has been on the verge of dissolution recently because of the burden of service to its members. Davis was appointed this year to replace another member who had served more than two years. Lang, who has also served more than two years, recently offered his resignation to the commission, which declined to accept it.
Commissioner Gene Hodges introduced the item, saying, "Heath and Greg want to abolish the LPA so that projects can come before the commission like they used to do."
Davis explained that after Lang's recent attempt to resign, the LPA had been casting about for new membership and came to a more fundamental question.
"We decided that since the comprehensive plan has come to the point where it is, now would be a good time to just go ahead and dissolve the LPA," he said.
He added that the LPA members had voted unanimously for dissolution, with minimal discussion.
Davis further explained why the LPA was no longer necessary. "Now that you're where you're at with the comprehensive plan," he went on, "on any given night you have about five percent of the constituency of the island right here in front of you. You all work and live right here in the community and we see you all the time."
Mayor Paul Oliver said he had looked up the Florida statutes relevant to LPAs and learned that the City Commission itself could be an LPA, provided it maintained communication with a member of the Levy County School Board.
"Heath's mom (school board member for Cedar Key, Beth Davis) would be my obvious choice," Oliver said, "because of her extraordinary familiarity with Cedar Key."
"I volunteer her," Davis replied, laughing.
Oliver said he was in favor of granting the LPA's request to dissolve because, after speaking with Lang, he was aware of the weight of the time commitment for members, and was impressed with the unanimity of the LPA's decision.
Hodges and Commissioner Sue Colson said they likewise had no substantial objections, but Colson was concerned that action might be taken without being properly advertised to the public.
Just then City Attorney David Coffey weighed in, noting that the Florida Legislature is currently in session, and would be considering a bill that, among other things, would radically change the terms of the LPA statute.
"The current language says that "a local government may designate itself the LPA," but that would be changed to, "a local government may not designate itself the LPA," he said.
Coffey said he checked to see whether the bill included any exemption for very small local governments, such as Cedar Key's, but found none.
"I think if this is the course of action we want to pursue, that we should ask the legislators to consider adding an exemption," he said.
Oliver, considering both Colson's objection and Coffey's comments, said that he had placed the LPA item under adminstrative issues because Lang had persuaded him the LPA was on the verge of dissolving on its own. He concurred with Coffey's recommendation to seek a small-government exemption from the Legislature, and then asked Coffey to prepare an ordinance for the next meeting of the commission.