by William Skink
When I wrote this post about the city purchasing the Sleepy Inn motel I forgot to highlight another maddening aspect of development in Missoula, the inevitable study.
You see, the Missoula Redevelopment Agency loves directing tens of thousands of TIF bucks to study what to do with the acreage the city has been accumulating. Much of this money has been going to the Florida-based consulting firm, Dover Kohl. Engen claims that will happen again with this parcel:
The Missoula Redevelopment Agency in February funded a study to complete a preferred development scenario for the parcel. The study will receive public input this year, with proposals including housing, office space, retail and parking. The end result should enable the city to partner with a private developer to move the recommendations to construction and occupancy.
Engen said Monday he envisions a similar process playing out at the Sleepy Inn if the City Council approves the purchase using tax increment financing from the district. Public input would help craft the end result.
“The best analogy would be what we’re doing with the Payne (library) Block,” Engen said. “We’d do a public scoping process to understand city and neighborhood desire, and follow that up with a request for proposals.”
While we prepare for our NEW NORMAL, it sure looks like there’s a lot of the idiotic old normal still happening.
Since it looks like this consulting firm in Florida is going to continue getting paid lots of public money to reshape our community in Missoula, Montana, people in Missoula really should pay a little more attention to how this firm has rolled through past communities.
I did a little more online searching today and found a very interesting article. Apparently the community of Naples View, Florida, had such a bad experience with Dover Kohl’s urban planning in 2003 that a decade later, in 2013, when talk of another study was broached, people were immediately skeptical. Here’s a lengthy excerpt from the article:
Naples Park, consider yourself notified.
A study is under way that could lead to improved sidewalks and better ‘walkability’ in the neighborhood.
The innocuous-sounding study is raising fears, however, of a repeat of the disastrous 2003 Naples Park Community Plan, an episode that led to no improvements and bitter feelings that linger to this day.
Also known as the Dover-Kohl Plan after the consulting firm that worked on it, the 2003 plan discussed ways to enhance Naples Park. Ideas included more sidewalks, better landscaping, on-street parking and even a new street to be built between Eighth Street and U.S. 41.
The Dover-Kohl Plan was accompanied by a media blitz to get the word out, a weeklong open meeting allowing residents to express their ideas and a door-to-door campaign to pass out fliers explaining the process.
But the ambitious plan that came out of the meetings also drew criticism. Many who hadn’t participated in the early stages later claimed to have been left in the dark. They balked at the fundamental change the plan would have meant for the neighborhood and the price that Naples Park residents would have had to pay through their property taxes.
It eventually disintegrated amid squabbling, accusations and counter accusations.
Now, 10 years later, comes the Naples Park Walkable Community Study. The Collier County MPO, made up of county commissioners and City Council members from Naples, Marco Island and Everglades City, heard an update on the plan last week.
Here’s more about how the first plan devolved:
Naples Park resident Chris Carpenter is spearheading the effort to make sure there’s no repeat of 2003.
‘It was a very divisive issue. It was horrible,’ Carpenter said, recalling an instance when a proponent of the 2003 plan made an obscene gesture to opponents at a public meeting.
‘What upset people the most was the lack of communication. People felt like it was done behind their backs. I’m seeing some signs of a lack of communication this time around,’ she said.
Carpenter asked the MPO to send out a survey to all Naples Park property owners asking their opinions on sidewalks. A 2003 survey on the issue showed about 68 percent opposed them, she said. If there isn’t enough money to do a survey this time, the entire walkability study should be dropped, she said.
I was really hoping a global pandemic would maybe scale back the ambitions of our new urban planners and their old addiction to public money, but, alas, it appears they see themselves as exempt from our NEW NORMAL.