By Marcia B. McDaniel,
Managing Editor, St. Cloud Resident
In an October City of St. Cloud Council meeting, impact fees were raised for new development homes in the St. Cloud area, while new business fees were lowered. It was passed by a 3-2 vote. Councilwoman Lynette Matheny was the main force behind getting the higher impact fees passed. During discussion before a vote took place on the issue, the point was raised that we would be taxing people who choose to come and live in our city. In response it was said the developers will just pass it on and it will be included in the price of the home. I live in St. Cloud with my husband and we live in a mobile home on a quarter acre. We were annexed into the city two years ago in October. We bought our house when the housing market was very high. A few months after we purchased our home we had a mortgage that was underwater. To this day we continue to have a mortgage that’s underwater. After hurricane Irma, my husband and I had discussed buying a new home. because so many are being built. However, I feel after these impact fees were passed that just adds to the price of my husband and I being in a better home. A home that we won’t have to leave because of a tropical storm or a low category hurricane.
After the October 12 City Council meeting, Councilwoman Matheny placed a small article in another publication. The headline said, “Developers must pay their fair share”. In the article she commends Mayor Nathan Blackwell and Deputy Mayor Dave Askew you for having the courage to join her in passing the higher impact fees. She also says, “Developers and some politicians contend this will raise new home prices and make it more difficult to sell these houses.” I say what about the citizens of St. Cloud? Is she not listening to them? It is not just developers and politicians but actual citizens of St. Cloud that are being limited.
With that being said, I want to fast-forward to the October 26 City of St. Cloud Council meeting. Another developer appeared before the city Council requesting the city to vacate and abandon a piece of property in order to help the developer with his development. During discussion, Councilwoman Matheny asked, “Have you talked to the landowner that this also affected by this? The answer was no, we’ve talked to her family. The family expressed there would be no problem. Keep in mind the land owner would not sell the land to the developer. Councilman Shroyer talked directly to the Council saying what are we doing why are we letting these developers come in and tell us what to do? Councilman Shroyer made a motion to sell that property to the developer for $40,000, saying the developers must pay their fair share. Now you would think Councilwoman Matheny would agree with that statement. However, the motion was made by Councilman Shroyer and seconded by Councilman Cooper and failed by a vote of 3-2. The majority of the City Council is giving the developers whatever they want.
Now this was just the first reading to abandon this property and give it to the developer. On November 9, which is the only Council meeting in November, I believe the final reading will be on the agenda. It will be the final reading and final vote on the matter.
Now just over a year ago, a different developer was given a piece of property located west of the St. Cloud Hotel. At the time there was a different City Council. The deal made with ADMC, was by October 15, 2017 construction would start on a parking garage / multiuse 10+ story building. If they did not comply, ADMC was to pay the City of St. Cloud $250,000 and provide blue prints for a parking garage. As of October 27, 2017, the city’s website shows no permits have been requested. The only information that has been made public is the City Manager is in negotiations with the developer.
It has been just over one year since the five City Council members have been working together. From the beginning they have had to push developments through that had already been deeply vested in the process. They also made it clear in unity that they want better standards, bigger lots, sufficient parking, and accommodations for emergency vehicles within these developments. Finally, the City Council voted 5-0, giving one developer go back and enlarge the lot size or the City of St. Cloud would not provide utilities. This is the first time I recall a vote went against a developer 5-0. So, I have to ask, “What is going on?”