You learn a lot at a City Council workshop.
Maybe because the format is informal and fact-finding in nature, and there are no votes or public comments, the Council will sometimes go off-topic a bit when asking questions of the presenters and in discussions between themselves. And sometimes those discussions and questions bring on bigger-picture discussions and questions that gives you a glimpse into the vision this Council may have for Apopka's future.
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Take yesterday's workshop for instance...
The Council had given consensus on a police grant and the John Land statue rather quickly and efficiently, when the third agenda item seemed to take them to topics both micro-specific, big-picture and far into the future.
The Recreation Master Plan.
After Recreation Director David Burgoon gave an abbreviated presentation, he took questions.
Commissioners Diane Velazquez and Kyle Becker both asked about which parts of the plan were priorities, but Mayor Joe Kilsheimer interjected that today's focus was on direction of the plan.
We are not adopting a master plan today," he said. "I think any discussion on priorities is appropriate now. Does somebody want to do something with the Connelly House sooner rather than later? Let's put that on the table. But we are briefing you on the elements of a master plan. Giving you food for thought for when we come back again to adopt a master plan. Maybe we can set some goals in terms of priorities at that point."
"Since the mayor brought up the old Connelly House, why don't we talk about demolishing that old house and putting the splash pad there rather than at Kit Land Nelson Park? Dean asked. "Why couldn't the Connelly House be demolished? Because That's the white elephant in the room to me. We have had it for three years and nothing has transpired with that property. I hate to see taxpayers money wasted."
Kilsheimer responded with the idea of a centrally located park.
"One of the concepts we are trying to use here is the concept of a central park," he said. "One concentrated area in the center of the city where there's a variety of recreational options and it also happens to be along the trail... making it accessible to children without having to go on the roads at all. So North Apopka and South Apopka children can get to this park just by riding their bicycles."
Commissioner Doug Bankson, looking at a room filled with members of the Apopka Women's Club and the Apopka Rotary Club, reminded the Council to have the public weigh-in on this issue.
"A couple of things that I think are important. One is getting the public's input. Because I think many in town are concerned. The (Apopka) Fair being able to house that event at Kit Land Nelson Park. That is a big event. That would be a concern as we dig into this. To make sure we provide for that and get the public input. This is their money so this will help us to form our forward motion here. The other thing is that we as a council need to establish a benchmark for unrestricted reserves and I suggest we put it around 25% and I understand this is not for this discussion but I wanted to put it in our mindset. I think this will help us going forward to say this is how much we can do this year. I just think that's a real safe and stable way to make sure we never get in a tough spot."
" A lot of the concern seems to be for the footprint that the Women's Club's use in April and then the Rotary Club's use for the Fair in November. Do these changes affect the footprint?
"It wouldn't change it too much, said Burgoon. "When we were in talks with CPH, we let them know about those events taking place there and we feel with the new parking and everything else that we can still hold those events there at that location."
"From the get go the direction we gave to CPH and the direction that staff has that both of those events are vital community events," added Kilsheimer. "And we're not going to do anything overtly to kill the opportunity to have those events. We're not going to do it. But in terms of giving direction to the staff, which is what we are doing today... so in terms of the recreational master plan, is it the direction of the council to move forward with the central park type concept?"
"I fully support the idea of having everything centrally located," said Becker. "I have from the very beginning. My ask is to engage with the people in this room (from the Women's Club and Rotary). Because that's why they're here... that we don't have any unintended requirements that adversely affect what they do with that location."
"I understand having a central destination," said Bankson. "I think there is merit to that because it is something that will help us draw and develop that area. That's a good thing. At the same time we don't want to do this without public input."
"I'm not sure we can say community input is going to be the be-all end-all," said Kilsheimer. "We have to keep it in perspective. Every single member of this Council is entitled to get input from the public. Everyone who sits on this Council has enough community contacts to gather the information you need to make a decision. Informal input which is equally as valuable in my opinion can be given at any time. The public is entitled to speak to us anytime. And you come to the meeting on December 13th prepared to represent the input that you got… and prepared to make a decision."
Kilsheimer closed the discussion with a call for consensus.
"I'm not hearing a strong objection from anyone on the council regarding the central park concept. I hear interest in getting community feedback. I hear interest in figuring out details and ensuring that our existing community organizations that use these facilities for their programs... that we don't infringe on them. But I don't hear any other strong objections."
At the close the Council gave consensus to advance the Recreation Master Plan and the concept of a central park forward.
Here is your chance to voice your opinion: Everyone on the City Council has asked for public input - either formal or informal. And The Apopka Voice wants to help in that endeavor. Use this link to vote on your idea as to where the Splash Pad should go. After voting leave a comment either on The Apopka Voice Website or Facebook Page. To vote, go here.
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