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Archives for November 28, 2015

Development tide rising on St. Simons Island

By Dan Chapman

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

ST. SIMONS ISLAND (TNS) — It was only a proposal for a gas station along Frederica Road, but it ignited the latest “Oh-my-God-we’re-becoming-another-Atlanta” frenzy in this seaside community favored by sun-seeking refugees from, yes, Atlanta.

About 400 people turned out for an island planning meeting last winter to oppose The Flash Foods. A follow-up meeting a month later drew a spillover crowd of 500. The gas station didn’t stand a chance. The slow-the-growth crowd smelled blood.

Glynn County commissioners responded with two successive 90-day construction moratoriums on the island and lower density requirements for builders.

Still, the fear of overdevelopment rekindled long-smoldering efforts to turn St. Simons and neighboring Sea Island into a standalone city.

“Incorporation will allow people who live here, who have a vested interest in this place, to make sure the island is the way we want it to be,” said George Ragsdale, an ex-Atlantan who recently retired to St. Simons. “It’s not to stop growth, development or progress. It’s about taking more control. Because, ultimately, if the climate changes people will stop coming here.”

Ragsdale is leading the incorporation charge, which faces a long haul. It would require legislative approval for a referendum, and then a local vote.

Ragsdale comes naturally to the task. A decade ago, he led the successful effort to citify Milton in north Fulton County. He said he wants to prevent St. Simons from succumbing to the same over-development woes of Atlanta. “Traffic at Crabapple corners in Milton was horrific,” he said.

Others see less altruistic motives — keeping out new residents with less money.

“It’s kind of snooty of them for wanting to keep St. Simons like it is,” said Paul Forsyth, a home inspector from Snellville who moved to the island in 2002. “I’d hate to see too many people come, but who am I to say you can’t come live here?”

Previous failure

This isn’t the island’s first incorporation rodeo. A 1996 referendum failed by a wide margin. A straw poll of residents eight years later favored incorporation, but Glynn County’s mainland residents mostly opposed it. Local legislators killed another incorporation push in 2006.

The recession and its tepid recovery slowed development. St. Simons’ population, 14,846, remains about what it was in 2000. Traffic crossing the Torras Causeway leading onto the island dropped from 30,000 cars daily in 2010 to 23,000 last year.

And the venerable Sea Island Co., purveyors of upscale home and hotel living accessible only by gated entryway, went bankrupt in 2010. The family-owned resort company controlled huge plots of developed and undeveloped St. Simons land. Employees hailed from every corner of Glynn County. Jones family members were viewed as benevolent dictators and nary a St. Simons development or landscaping decision escaped their typically well-mannered eye.

“When they left, they left a void,” said Cesar Rodriguez, an ex-Atlanta shopping center developer who has lived on St. Simons since 2001. “When their properties went into foreclosure, the zoning went with it and the new owners developed to standards (that) are not compatible and out of scale with certain areas of the island.”

As the recovery took hold, land jettisoned by Sea Island Co., including a 2,500-acre tract on St. Simons’ northern end, filled with million-dollar homes. Subdivisions sprouted, or germinated, along Frederica, Demere and Sea Island roads.

Developers replaced individual homes with condos. Each new development tore at the island’s beloved live oak canopy. By 2015, population and traffic had returned to 2000 heights.

Traffic jams along the two-lane roads blocked access to subdivisions and shopping, especially during busy summer months. And, still, 8,000 undeveloped lots beckon builders.

Mainland commissioners

Ragsdale and others say county commissioners, most from the mainland, saw only property tax dollar signs with every new development.

“We have a county commission, just like the one in Fulton county, that was not acting in the best interests of the people on the island,” Ragsdale said during a recent windshield tour of the island. “Ultimately, it’s about taking more local control.”

Glynn commissioners, just as the Flash Foods proposal became a flash point, imposed the successive 90-day moratoriums. They reduced the number of future St. Simons homes from 4 to 2 per acre. In the village, the number of new townhouses per development was slashed from 10 to 5.

“People come down here and say, ‘Oh, gee, we’ve got the same issues up in Sandy Springs or Dahlonega or Roswell,” said David Hainley, the county’s development director. “If you don’t spend money on infrastructure, you’re going to get some issues. But we’re not the only community that experiences that.”

In October the sewage pump station on the north end reached capacity. New sewer hook-ups were prohibited except for already sanctioned projects. Two planned subdivisions were postponed. It could be two years before any new developments are approved in the bulldozer-ready north end.

Second homes

Hainley estimates 20 percent of the homes on the island are second homes for well-to-do Atlantans and others. Now many of the retiring baby boomers are moving here permanently. And they bring certain expectations.

“Marietta, Johns Creek, Norcross, Alpharetta — there’s a resurgence going on downtown,” Rodriguez, 70, said. “They’ve gotten control of their planning and zoning. We are so far behind here. I just don’t think the county is equipped to deal with the kind of attention this island requires.”

Cityhood proponents say local control of zoning, planning and traffic would slow development. They would also have greater control over their money (and maybe incur higher property taxes). Residents of St. Simons and Sea Island account for almost 20 percent of Glynn County’s population, yet cover 60 percent of the county’s tax base.

Incorporation worries Pat Hodnett Cooper, who owns the island’s largest real estate company.

“I am against incorporation because it will just make the mainland and the island more divided and we have worked so hard to bring our community together,” she said. “I’m not sure their whole reason for incorporating isn’t to stop development. I would like to see some better ideas about development, but you can’t stop it.”

The proliferation of townhomes and condos, costing less than standalone homes, dismays some in the cityhood crowd. Density means more people, cars, traffic and demands on water, sewer and roads, they say.

Double the average

The average worth of a St. Simons home is $310,732 — more than double the value Georgia-wide. An incorporated St. Simons and Sea Island would create one of the wealthiest cities in the state.

Scott Steilen, president of the Sea Island Co. — a company renowned for its ocean casual chic where beachfront homesites run to $5.5 million — thinks reasonably affordable housing is needed.

“If you don’t provide opportunities for young families to move to St. Simons and put down roots and grow, this community will age out and there will be significant problems,” said Steilen, who opposes incorporation.

He added, “I haven’t met any pro-incorporation folks who aren’t either retired or on the way to retirement.”

The median age of St. Simons residents is 53.3, vs. 35.9 for the state as a whole.

“We love our Atlanta folks and, like people from all over, they’ve found St. Simons to be like no other place,” Hodnett Cooper said. “Some, though, think, ‘OK, we found our beautiful retreat and now we don’t want anybody else coming in.’ “

Article source: http://www.albanyherald.com/news/2015/nov/27/development-tide-rising-st-simons-island/

Development tide rising on St. Simons Island

By Dan Chapman

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

ST. SIMONS ISLAND (TNS) — It was only a proposal for a gas station along Frederica Road, but it ignited the latest “Oh-my-God-we’re-becoming-another-Atlanta” frenzy in this seaside community favored by sun-seeking refugees from, yes, Atlanta.

About 400 people turned out for an island planning meeting last winter to oppose The Flash Foods. A follow-up meeting a month later drew a spillover crowd of 500. The gas station didn’t stand a chance. The slow-the-growth crowd smelled blood.

Glynn County commissioners responded with two successive 90-day construction moratoriums on the island and lower density requirements for builders.

Still, the fear of overdevelopment rekindled long-smoldering efforts to turn St. Simons and neighboring Sea Island into a standalone city.

“Incorporation will allow people who live here, who have a vested interest in this place, to make sure the island is the way we want it to be,” said George Ragsdale, an ex-Atlantan who recently retired to St. Simons. “It’s not to stop growth, development or progress. It’s about taking more control. Because, ultimately, if the climate changes people will stop coming here.”

Ragsdale is leading the incorporation charge, which faces a long haul. It would require legislative approval for a referendum, and then a local vote.

Ragsdale comes naturally to the task. A decade ago, he led the successful effort to citify Milton in north Fulton County. He said he wants to prevent St. Simons from succumbing to the same over-development woes of Atlanta. “Traffic at Crabapple corners in Milton was horrific,” he said.

Others see less altruistic motives — keeping out new residents with less money.

“It’s kind of snooty of them for wanting to keep St. Simons like it is,” said Paul Forsyth, a home inspector from Snellville who moved to the island in 2002. “I’d hate to see too many people come, but who am I to say you can’t come live here?”

Previous failure

This isn’t the island’s first incorporation rodeo. A 1996 referendum failed by a wide margin. A straw poll of residents eight years later favored incorporation, but Glynn County’s mainland residents mostly opposed it. Local legislators killed another incorporation push in 2006.

The recession and its tepid recovery slowed development. St. Simons’ population, 14,846, remains about what it was in 2000. Traffic crossing the Torras Causeway leading onto the island dropped from 30,000 cars daily in 2010 to 23,000 last year.

And the venerable Sea Island Co., purveyors of upscale home and hotel living accessible only by gated entryway, went bankrupt in 2010. The family-owned resort company controlled huge plots of developed and undeveloped St. Simons land. Employees hailed from every corner of Glynn County. Jones family members were viewed as benevolent dictators and nary a St. Simons development or landscaping decision escaped their typically well-mannered eye.

“When they left, they left a void,” said Cesar Rodriguez, an ex-Atlanta shopping center developer who has lived on St. Simons since 2001. “When their properties went into foreclosure, the zoning went with it and the new owners developed to standards (that) are not compatible and out of scale with certain areas of the island.”

As the recovery took hold, land jettisoned by Sea Island Co., including a 2,500-acre tract on St. Simons’ northern end, filled with million-dollar homes. Subdivisions sprouted, or germinated, along Frederica, Demere and Sea Island roads.

Developers replaced individual homes with condos. Each new development tore at the island’s beloved live oak canopy. By 2015, population and traffic had returned to 2000 heights.

Traffic jams along the two-lane roads blocked access to subdivisions and shopping, especially during busy summer months. And, still, 8,000 undeveloped lots beckon builders.

Mainland commissioners

Ragsdale and others say county commissioners, most from the mainland, saw only property tax dollar signs with every new development.

“We have a county commission, just like the one in Fulton county, that was not acting in the best interests of the people on the island,” Ragsdale said during a recent windshield tour of the island. “Ultimately, it’s about taking more local control.”

Glynn commissioners, just as the Flash Foods proposal became a flash point, imposed the successive 90-day moratoriums. They reduced the number of future St. Simons homes from 4 to 2 per acre. In the village, the number of new townhouses per development was slashed from 10 to 5.

“People come down here and say, ‘Oh, gee, we’ve got the same issues up in Sandy Springs or Dahlonega or Roswell,” said David Hainley, the county’s development director. “If you don’t spend money on infrastructure, you’re going to get some issues. But we’re not the only community that experiences that.”

In October the sewage pump station on the north end reached capacity. New sewer hook-ups were prohibited except for already sanctioned projects. Two planned subdivisions were postponed. It could be two years before any new developments are approved in the bulldozer-ready north end.

Second homes

Hainley estimates 20 percent of the homes on the island are second homes for well-to-do Atlantans and others. Now many of the retiring baby boomers are moving here permanently. And they bring certain expectations.

“Marietta, Johns Creek, Norcross, Alpharetta — there’s a resurgence going on downtown,” Rodriguez, 70, said. “They’ve gotten control of their planning and zoning. We are so far behind here. I just don’t think the county is equipped to deal with the kind of attention this island requires.”

Cityhood proponents say local control of zoning, planning and traffic would slow development. They would also have greater control over their money (and maybe incur higher property taxes). Residents of St. Simons and Sea Island account for almost 20 percent of Glynn County’s population, yet cover 60 percent of the county’s tax base.

Incorporation worries Pat Hodnett Cooper, who owns the island’s largest real estate company.

“I am against incorporation because it will just make the mainland and the island more divided and we have worked so hard to bring our community together,” she said. “I’m not sure their whole reason for incorporating isn’t to stop development. I would like to see some better ideas about development, but you can’t stop it.”

The proliferation of townhomes and condos, costing less than standalone homes, dismays some in the cityhood crowd. Density means more people, cars, traffic and demands on water, sewer and roads, they say.

Double the average

The average worth of a St. Simons home is $310,732 — more than double the value Georgia-wide. An incorporated St. Simons and Sea Island would create one of the wealthiest cities in the state.

Scott Steilen, president of the Sea Island Co. — a company renowned for its ocean casual chic where beachfront homesites run to $5.5 million — thinks reasonably affordable housing is needed.

“If you don’t provide opportunities for young families to move to St. Simons and put down roots and grow, this community will age out and there will be significant problems,” said Steilen, who opposes incorporation.

He added, “I haven’t met any pro-incorporation folks who aren’t either retired or on the way to retirement.”

The median age of St. Simons residents is 53.3, vs. 35.9 for the state as a whole.

“We love our Atlanta folks and, like people from all over, they’ve found St. Simons to be like no other place,” Hodnett Cooper said. “Some, though, think, ‘OK, we found our beautiful retreat and now we don’t want anybody else coming in.’ “

Article source: http://www.albanyherald.com/news/2015/nov/27/development-tide-rising-st-simons-island/

Word on the Street: Landscaper opens artificial-lawn showroom in Clovis

Hugo Lopez has been doing lawn and landscape work since he was 12, helping out in his father’s business. Now 27, the licensed landscape contractor has opened a new artificial-lawn showroom in Clovis to seize upon a growing desire by homeowners to save water on lawn irrigation.

Synthetic Grass Showroom, at 125 Shaw Ave. near Minnewawa Avenue, opened about two weeks ago in a building that formerly housed Instant Replay Sports. Lopez redid the exterior landscaping of the building to show off his landscape-design services with different varieties of artificial grass accented by drought-tolerant plants and different types of rock landscape accents. But what really makes the building stand out, even to the casual passer-by on Shaw Avenue, is the roof that Lopez repainted in a vibrant green, in keeping with the grassy nature of the business.

You don’t know how hard it was to find a nice shade of green.

Hugo Lopez, landscape contractor and owner of Synthetic Grass Showroom in Clovis

“You don’t know how hard it was to find a nice shade of green,” he said with a grin. “If you get the wrong one, it can be pretty messed up.”

Inside, Lopez set up several areas to show off several styles of grass-and-rock treatments, including lifelike-looking lawns and a miniature putting green. The idea is help give people ideas about how they can replace expansive lawns not with artificial grass alone, but with rock and water-saving shrubbery as well. Lopez said he’s been receiving more calls about installing artificial grass over the past couple of years, and one of the big reasons for opening the showroom is that “we saw some of our (traditional lawn-maintenance) jobs being replaced by this.

“I wanted an establishment to be able to have a steady flow of these jobs coming through” in addition to his residential and commercial landscape services. Lopez does both artificial and natural landscaping work.

Lopez said he works exclusively with two artificial-grass manufacturers, Tiger Turf and Everlast, through distributor Synthetic Grass Warehouse. “We’re in the installation business,” Lopez said, noting that he works with customers to plan and design their projects and then order and install the materials, rather than directly selling the artificial grass itself.

Lopez’s showroom is one of a growing number of artificial-lawn businesses in the Fresno-Clovis area and the Valley that are capitalizing on water-saving awareness after several years of drought.

Article source: http://www.fresnobee.com/news/business/article46826950.html

Word on the Street: Landscaper opens artificial-lawn showroom in Clovis

Hugo Lopez has been doing lawn and landscape work since he was 12, helping out in his father’s business. Now 27, the licensed landscape contractor has opened a new artificial-lawn showroom in Clovis to seize upon a growing desire by homeowners to save water on lawn irrigation.

Synthetic Grass Showroom, at 125 Shaw Ave. near Minnewawa Avenue, opened about two weeks ago in a building that formerly housed Instant Replay Sports. Lopez redid the exterior landscaping of the building to show off his landscape-design services with different varieties of artificial grass accented by drought-tolerant plants and different types of rock landscape accents. But what really makes the building stand out, even to the casual passer-by on Shaw Avenue, is the roof that Lopez repainted in a vibrant green, in keeping with the grassy nature of the business.

You don’t know how hard it was to find a nice shade of green.

Hugo Lopez, landscape contractor and owner of Synthetic Grass Showroom in Clovis

“You don’t know how hard it was to find a nice shade of green,” he said with a grin. “If you get the wrong one, it can be pretty messed up.”

Inside, Lopez set up several areas to show off several styles of grass-and-rock treatments, including lifelike-looking lawns and a miniature putting green. The idea is help give people ideas about how they can replace expansive lawns not with artificial grass alone, but with rock and water-saving shrubbery as well. Lopez said he’s been receiving more calls about installing artificial grass over the past couple of years, and one of the big reasons for opening the showroom is that “we saw some of our (traditional lawn-maintenance) jobs being replaced by this.

“I wanted an establishment to be able to have a steady flow of these jobs coming through” in addition to his residential and commercial landscape services. Lopez does both artificial and natural landscaping work.

Lopez said he works exclusively with two artificial-grass manufacturers, Tiger Turf and Everlast, through distributor Synthetic Grass Warehouse. “We’re in the installation business,” Lopez said, noting that he works with customers to plan and design their projects and then order and install the materials, rather than directly selling the artificial grass itself.

Lopez’s showroom is one of a growing number of artificial-lawn businesses in the Fresno-Clovis area and the Valley that are capitalizing on water-saving awareness after several years of drought.

Article source: http://www.fresnobee.com/news/business/article46826950.html

City spending raises public input questions



In 2007, Naples City Council approved a $30,000 request from the police department to install surveillance cameras in River Park, where most of the city’s poor, black residents live.

The cameras were purchased with a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The federal money, distributed through the Community Development Block Grant Program, is intended to eliminate blight or prop up low-income communities.

In this case, the police chief said at the time the grant money was used to pay for surveillance to reduce drug dealing and “associated conditions in and around” the community.

Made aware of the cameras recently, River Park community leaders said the project should have received an extensive public review to ensure the city isn’t spying on the neighborhood. They also said the area needs other improvements, like sidewalks and street lighting. And some city officials, while not objecting to the use of the cameras, questioned whether they should have been purchased with a grant meant to support the poor area, not help incarcerate its residents.

The project received no public vetting from City Council. The police cameras were approved unanimously without council discussion.

The cameras project highlights what critics say is the city’s failure in handling the CDBG money during the past decade — grant proposals receive little to no public input, and City Council is usually silent on the issue.

In the past 10 years of regular meetings with CDBG applications on the agenda, City Council has discussed the projects, on average, for less than two minutes per meeting, according to a review of council records. There have been no public speakers. The projects are almost always placed on consent agendas and receive unanimous votes.

“It’s a failure of council,” said Penny Taylor, a former vice-mayor — now a county commissioner — who was unaware she voted yes to the police cameras until last week when notified by a reporter. “It appears that we got sloppy.”

The city says the idea for the police cameras came out of a public meeting held at the River Park Community Center in February 2007, but couldn’t produce any records from the meeting. Six residents and River Park supporters couldn’t recall any community discussions about the cameras.

A police department spokesperson said the cameras purchased with the grant money are no longer used, but police still occasionally use surveillance to monitor drug activity.

There’s no evidence that the city has reached out to River Park residents for CDBG project ideas in at least the past five years. And City Council’s almost-always swift approval of CDBG applications is a far cry from its conferring on projects in other parts of the city.

There was a four-hour debate two weeks ago on the redevelopment of a single block on Fifth Avenue South. The city is spending $500,000 to redo a landscaping project on Gulfshore Boulevard North after a large bloc of wealthy voters complained. And if Baker Park ever gets built, there will be years’ worth of records of council shouting matches, consultant contracts and millions of dollars in fundraising.

“I am asking the question, ‘Why?'” Harold Weeks said about the disparity in public input. Weeks, president of the Collier County chapter of the NAACP, suggested there should be a community committee that could vet the CDBG projects each year.

“I feel that the people in the neighborhood aren’t getting the proper notification,” Weeks said.

Mayor John Sorey said he supports the committee and will reach out to residents to help set it up. Sorey also said he has regularly communicated with River Park residents as mayor and, before that, as a council member.

“It may not be a public meeting, but the reality is the area of where we can use [the grant], there is always a lot of discussion with the folks in that area,” Sorey said.

However, the Rev. Lonnie Mills, pastor of Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church, said the community has unaddressed needs. There are sidewalks only on the south side of Fifth Avenue North, and no sidewalks on the intersecting 13th and 14th streets. Kids from the neighborhood who walk to Gulfview Middle School have to cross four lanes of traffic on Goodlette-Frank Road, and another four lanes across U.S. 41.

And Mills said street lighting could be improved.

“All of this is for safety reasons,” Mills said.

Mills, who moved to the area in 2011, said he hasn’t attended a public meeting or heard about the CDBG projects from a City Council member, including Sorey, whom Mills has endorsed in the upcoming election.

The only way a River Park resident learns about the projects, Mills said, is by “seeing what’s being done, when it’s done.”

Naples is a sub-recipient of the CDBG money from Collier County, which votes on the annual grant plan that includes the city’s projects. Typically, Naples has been allotted between $100,000 and $140,000 a year, but annual funding has dropped to about $80,000 in the past few years.

HUD requires the county to publish a draft of its annual plan, including Naples’ CDBG proposal, for 30 days each year. But there’s only been a smattering of public comments on the plans in the past decade.

Eighty-nine percent of the city’s black residents live in River Park, according to 2010 census data. According to the most recent estimates from the American Community Survey, River Park households have a median income of about $22,600 annually. That’s less than a third of the city’s overall annual median income of roughly $78,600.

The city says it has addressed community needs with non-CDBG projects, like the building of the $1.6 million River Park pool. The pool, which opened in 2012, was discussed by the city’s design and finance committees, and through public meetings.

Still, it’s typical that one of the only items City Council receives in a given year that proposes spending in River Park is the city’s CDBG application. In the past decade, Naples has used the grant money for projects that have increased the neighborhood’s parking capability and enhanced the area’s landscaping, among other improvements.

But city officials have also publicly expressed a desire to use the grants only for aesthetic improvements to a neighborhood that’s part of the area the city has targeted for redevelopment. Staff has said it uses City Council policy as direction for developing the projects.

City Councilman Sam Saad, chairman of the Community Redevelopment Agency, said it’s “absolutely” appropriate that the city uses the CDBG money for projects on the CRA’s capital improvements list.

“There’s a lot of overlap in the needs of the community and the purposes of these funds,” Saad said.

Willie Anthony, a longtime River Park resident who has served on numerous city boards, says he can’t recall a CDBG public meeting since 2007.

About previous meetings, Anthony said, “It wasn’t a situation where we were given the opportunity to generate some recommendations. It was a meeting where they had determined what they intended to do with the money and I think they came to us to see if we objected.”

Taylor said it’s a “slap in the face” to River Park that the city and the county isn’t holding meetings to address residents’ needs. “We’re servants of the people,” Taylor said. “It’s not something that should be decided in a room by staff, or even by the City Council without proper input.”

City of Naples CDBG Projects (2006-14)

Year – Description –  Cost

2006 – Fun Time Early Child Academy Playground / Police Cameras – $77,961

2007 – Fifth Avenue North Parking / Landscaping – $40,730

2008 – River Park Community Center Roof Repair – $73,200

2009 – Creation of Cambridge-Perry Park – $103,474

2010 – Anthony Park Landscaping – $108,606

2011 – Fifth Avenue North Parking – $72,243

2012 – River Park Playground – $105,835

2013 – Goodlette-Frank Road Intersection Improvements – $91,693

2014 – Goodlette-Frank Road Intersection Improvements – $79,807

Article source: http://www.naplesnews.com/news/government/city-spending-of-federal-grants-raises-public-input-questions-25625928-55d4-763a-e053-0100007fa3bb-357150381.html

City spending raises public input questions



In 2007, Naples City Council approved a $30,000 request from the police department to install surveillance cameras in River Park, where most of the city’s poor, black residents live.

The cameras were purchased with a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The federal money, distributed through the Community Development Block Grant Program, is intended to eliminate blight or prop up low-income communities.

In this case, the police chief said at the time the grant money was used to pay for surveillance to reduce drug dealing and “associated conditions in and around” the community.

Made aware of the cameras recently, River Park community leaders said the project should have received an extensive public review to ensure the city isn’t spying on the neighborhood. They also said the area needs other improvements, like sidewalks and street lighting. And some city officials, while not objecting to the use of the cameras, questioned whether they should have been purchased with a grant meant to support the poor area, not help incarcerate its residents.

The project received no public vetting from City Council. The police cameras were approved unanimously without council discussion.

The cameras project highlights what critics say is the city’s failure in handling the CDBG money during the past decade — grant proposals receive little to no public input, and City Council is usually silent on the issue.

In the past 10 years of regular meetings with CDBG applications on the agenda, City Council has discussed the projects, on average, for less than two minutes per meeting, according to a review of council records. There have been no public speakers. The projects are almost always placed on consent agendas and receive unanimous votes.

“It’s a failure of council,” said Penny Taylor, a former vice-mayor — now a county commissioner — who was unaware she voted yes to the police cameras until last week when notified by a reporter. “It appears that we got sloppy.”

The city says the idea for the police cameras came out of a public meeting held at the River Park Community Center in February 2007, but couldn’t produce any records from the meeting. Six residents and River Park supporters couldn’t recall any community discussions about the cameras.

A police department spokesperson said the cameras purchased with the grant money are no longer used, but police still occasionally use surveillance to monitor drug activity.

There’s no evidence that the city has reached out to River Park residents for CDBG project ideas in at least the past five years. And City Council’s almost-always swift approval of CDBG applications is a far cry from its conferring on projects in other parts of the city.

There was a four-hour debate two weeks ago on the redevelopment of a single block on Fifth Avenue South. The city is spending $500,000 to redo a landscaping project on Gulfshore Boulevard North after a large bloc of wealthy voters complained. And if Baker Park ever gets built, there will be years’ worth of records of council shouting matches, consultant contracts and millions of dollars in fundraising.

“I am asking the question, ‘Why?'” Harold Weeks said about the disparity in public input. Weeks, president of the Collier County chapter of the NAACP, suggested there should be a community committee that could vet the CDBG projects each year.

“I feel that the people in the neighborhood aren’t getting the proper notification,” Weeks said.

Mayor John Sorey said he supports the committee and will reach out to residents to help set it up. Sorey also said he has regularly communicated with River Park residents as mayor and, before that, as a council member.

“It may not be a public meeting, but the reality is the area of where we can use [the grant], there is always a lot of discussion with the folks in that area,” Sorey said.

However, the Rev. Lonnie Mills, pastor of Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church, said the community has unaddressed needs. There are sidewalks only on the south side of Fifth Avenue North, and no sidewalks on the intersecting 13th and 14th streets. Kids from the neighborhood who walk to Gulfview Middle School have to cross four lanes of traffic on Goodlette-Frank Road, and another four lanes across U.S. 41.

And Mills said street lighting could be improved.

“All of this is for safety reasons,” Mills said.

Mills, who moved to the area in 2011, said he hasn’t attended a public meeting or heard about the CDBG projects from a City Council member, including Sorey, whom Mills has endorsed in the upcoming election.

The only way a River Park resident learns about the projects, Mills said, is by “seeing what’s being done, when it’s done.”

Naples is a sub-recipient of the CDBG money from Collier County, which votes on the annual grant plan that includes the city’s projects. Typically, Naples has been allotted between $100,000 and $140,000 a year, but annual funding has dropped to about $80,000 in the past few years.

HUD requires the county to publish a draft of its annual plan, including Naples’ CDBG proposal, for 30 days each year. But there’s only been a smattering of public comments on the plans in the past decade.

Eighty-nine percent of the city’s black residents live in River Park, according to 2010 census data. According to the most recent estimates from the American Community Survey, River Park households have a median income of about $22,600 annually. That’s less than a third of the city’s overall annual median income of roughly $78,600.

The city says it has addressed community needs with non-CDBG projects, like the building of the $1.6 million River Park pool. The pool, which opened in 2012, was discussed by the city’s design and finance committees, and through public meetings.

Still, it’s typical that one of the only items City Council receives in a given year that proposes spending in River Park is the city’s CDBG application. In the past decade, Naples has used the grant money for projects that have increased the neighborhood’s parking capability and enhanced the area’s landscaping, among other improvements.

But city officials have also publicly expressed a desire to use the grants only for aesthetic improvements to a neighborhood that’s part of the area the city has targeted for redevelopment. Staff has said it uses City Council policy as direction for developing the projects.

City Councilman Sam Saad, chairman of the Community Redevelopment Agency, said it’s “absolutely” appropriate that the city uses the CDBG money for projects on the CRA’s capital improvements list.

“There’s a lot of overlap in the needs of the community and the purposes of these funds,” Saad said.

Willie Anthony, a longtime River Park resident who has served on numerous city boards, says he can’t recall a CDBG public meeting since 2007.

About previous meetings, Anthony said, “It wasn’t a situation where we were given the opportunity to generate some recommendations. It was a meeting where they had determined what they intended to do with the money and I think they came to us to see if we objected.”

Taylor said it’s a “slap in the face” to River Park that the city and the county isn’t holding meetings to address residents’ needs. “We’re servants of the people,” Taylor said. “It’s not something that should be decided in a room by staff, or even by the City Council without proper input.”

City of Naples CDBG Projects (2006-14)

Year – Description –  Cost

2006 – Fun Time Early Child Academy Playground / Police Cameras – $77,961

2007 – Fifth Avenue North Parking / Landscaping – $40,730

2008 – River Park Community Center Roof Repair – $73,200

2009 – Creation of Cambridge-Perry Park – $103,474

2010 – Anthony Park Landscaping – $108,606

2011 – Fifth Avenue North Parking – $72,243

2012 – River Park Playground – $105,835

2013 – Goodlette-Frank Road Intersection Improvements – $91,693

2014 – Goodlette-Frank Road Intersection Improvements – $79,807

Article source: http://www.naplesnews.com/news/government/city-spending-of-federal-grants-raises-public-input-questions-25625928-55d4-763a-e053-0100007fa3bb-357150381.html

Gardening with Evergreens & Conifers

Watters Weekly Garden Classes

Nov 28 – Decorating with Holiday Tropicals, Poinsettia Christmas Cactus – The most garden fun is had with indoor tropicals and our holiday plant collection. The first of these festive plants arrive this week just for the event.
Cooking the turkey dinner is fine, but these plant ideas bring out the kid in even the most avid gardener. Coupons abound for each of the students as we premier this year’s newest poinsettias, amaryllis and blooming cactus.

December Class

Dec 5 – Cut Christmas Trees and Greens How to Force them to Stay Fresh – This is the week the freshest cut trees of the season arrive. We have a new featured tree that last longer than all the others this year. Students learn which
trees stay fresh, care, and some insider secrets that insure your tree stays fresh until the very end. We have locally designed wreaths, swags, and garlands just for the students of this class. Free to all locals with a special coupon just for attending.

 

Our house is a classic mountain home with large windows that enable us to enjoy both the natural and cultivated views. The landscape has been a labor of love, and the gardens finally are filling in and showing off their planned beauty. The design showcases
each of the four seasons, but evergreens are the central focus. Their easy-care hardiness guarantees that they will look beautiful no matter the season. Even on the bleakest winter days the gardens are attractive thanks to the evergreens.

Prescott is famous for its rolling forests of pine and juniper, so it’s natural to begin a landscape plan with these conifers. Because evergreens and conifers come in all shapes and sizes, they are useful for privacy screens, foundation plantings, backdrops
for flowerbeds, and accents in rock gardens.

Mixing evergreen shapes and sizes can bring to life the part of the garden where they are planted in combination. The screen pictured below blends the blues of skyrocket juniper with the green color of its cousin, the weeping juniper. The greens of the
Alberta spruce and weeping Norway spruce contrast attractively with the golds of the Gold Coast juniper. The pleasing combination of colors and textures is there year ‘round, even in the middle of winter.

Choosing the best plant combinations can be tricky, and doing it well can be a challenge. Conifer colors are subtle, and their shapes never really change. A five-year-old conifer shaped like a Christmas tree will be the same cone shape when it is 50 years
of age; only it will be larger.

Evergreens’ unchanging shapes are both charming and demanding to a gardener’s skills. The secret lies in combining their contrasting shapes and colors into a dynamic composition. Each tree or shrub is accentuated by its nearest neighbors, and the varied
combinations yield varying results on the “canvas”, i.e. the garden.

It’s just a matter of mixing shapes and sizes. It just seems difficult when trying to grasp the concept from a printed column viewed on your iPad!

In my mind conifers come in four basic shapes: round, cylindrical, weeping, and flat ground huggers. For simplicity’s sake, I think of both a ball-shaped false cypress and a mound like ‘Blue Star’ juniper as being round. It’s helpful to think of them
as silhouettes. Once you understand the shapes, making eye-catching combinations becomes easy and enjoyable.

When first landscaping with evergreens, begin with small groupings, and make sure each conifer is as different as possible from its neighbors. One of my favorite compositions begins with a ‘Bird Nest’ globe spruce. Place a broadly conical shaped hinoki
cypress next to it. Maximize the contrast with an under planting of a flat, ground-hugging Japanese juniper. Each enjoys growing together in tough mountain soil and on the same irrigation system as long as you don’t over-water them. (More about that
in a moment.)

Each evergreen conifer sold at Watters comes in a nursery container, even the really large specimens. Containers make them easy to arrange and rearrange in the garden before actually planting them. I often help clients arrange conifers right here in the
nursery aisles. It all starts to click when the texture, shapes, and colors are put together.

You don’t want to plant a 12-inch high miniature next to something that will grow to a height of 50 feet; eventually the maxi will overpower the mini. In small planting beds, I use mainly miniatures and dwarfs, and I’ve discovered that intermediate-sized
ground huggers like cotoneaster, juniper, and mahonia rarely overtake their allotted spaces. Slim cylinders like skyrocket juniper and tiny tower cypress serve well as accents and never get too massive.

When planting, leave plenty of room between each conifer. Generous spacing eliminates the need to move a crowded conifer after a few years. More space between plants also allows for better air circulation, thus promoting healthier growth. The real reason
for generous spacing is aesthetics. The beauty of conifers’ shapes is diminished if their silhouettes are obscured by other plants.

A new garden that is properly spaced can look a bit sparse. This is where perennials can be a gardener’s best friends. Use perennials to fill the empty spaces and contribute extra color. Some of my favorites right now are day lilies, irises, and the ground-hugging
creeping thyme. There are many perennials that can be planted even as the nights grow cooler. Carnations, pinks, asters, and mums all bring nice contrasts to a conifer garden in autumn.

A few taller perennials that complement rather than compete with evergreens are the sedums, many of which are local evergreens. Local grasses serve well as partners to more substantial evergreens. Dwarf fountain grass, bunny grass, and deer grass are
beautiful, hardy companions to the conifer garden.

Conifers are the kings of foliage plants, no matter the season. In early spring, the color of new candle growth appears exceptionally rich because so few flowers are up and blooming. In summer, conifers provide a splashy backdrop for the most colorful
bloomers. In fall, conifers take on a renewed glow. That’s when their greens, blues, and yellows contrast marvelously with autumn reds and yellows. But evergreens truly are in all their glory as we head into winter.

The mountains of Arizona are chilly, but even in the middle of winter the days are bright and warm, compared to other parts of the country. As conifers continue to root and form new candle buttons, they lose moisture through their needles. It is important
to water established conifers with one deep soak per month.

It is not unusual, even preferable, to plant evergreens as we head into winter, but cold weather planting really makes watering critical. Water by hand if necessary, but don’t over do it. Newly planted conifers like a deep soak every 10-14 days.

Evergreen trees can be likened to the skyline of a city. Close-up views reveal the essence of an individual tree, or building, by baring its shape, color, and texture. But when seen from a distance, the colors and textures fade. Shapes dominate. Drama
and a sense of wonder are experienced when blended together properly. Conifers are the structural backbone of a garden just as buildings are the architectural building blocks of a city.

We are Celebrating Shop Small the entire weekend

Watters promotes Shopping Local all year long but we have extra specials good from Friday – Sunday shown on these coupons.

 

If you feel a little down after the excitement of Thanksgiving, come visit Watters’ company mascot, Vincent Price. He roams freely through the garden center most days that Lisa and I work at the nursery. Vincent loves, loves, loves people and rarely passes
up a good back rub, or doggy treat. We even had the wording on his service vest changed to read, “Service Dog, Please Pet Me”.

Watters: Website | Facebook | YouTube

Article source: http://www.prescottenews.com/features/columnists/mountain-gardener/item/26599-gardening-with-evergreens-conifers

Garden Society needs sponsors for downtown planters

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Article source: http://www.zanesvilletimesrecorder.com/story/news/local/2015/11/28/garden-society-needs-sponsors-downtown-planters/76373122/

Trowel & Glove: Marin garden calendar for the week of Nov. 28, 2015



Marin

Classes and tours: The Mill Valley Public Library offers seasonal gardening classes and tours most Saturdays. Call 415-389-4292 or go to www.millvalleylibrary.org.

Workshops and seminars: Sloat Garden Center has five Marin County locations that offer gardening workshops and seminars on a weekly basis. Check www.sloatgardens.com for schedule, locations and cost.

Workshops and seminars: The Marin Master Gardeners present a variety of how-to workshops, seminars and special events throughout Marin County on a weekly basis. Check www.ucanr.edu/sites/MarinMG for schedule, locations and cost.

Gardening volunteers: The Novato Independent Elders Program seeks volunteers to help Novato seniors with their overgrown yards Tuesday mornings or Thursday afternoons. Call 415-899-8296.

Nursery volunteers: Volunteers are sought to help in Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy nurseries from 1 to 4 p.m. Tuesdays at Tennessee Valley, 1 to 4 p.m. Wednesday; 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays, or 1 to 4 p.m. Wednesdays at Marin Headlands Nursery; or 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays at Muir Beach, 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays in the Marin Headlands. Call 415-561-3077 or go to www.parksconservancy.org/get-involved/volunteer.

Nursery days: The SPAWN (Salmon Protection and Watershed Network) native plant nursery days are from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Fridays and weekends. Call 415-663-8590, ext. 114, or email preston@tirn.net to register and for directions. Go to www.spawnusa.org for more information.

Garden visits: Marin Master Gardeners and the Marin Municipal Water District offer free residential Bay-Friendly Garden Walks to MMWD customers. The year-round service helps homeowners identify water-saving opportunities and soil conservation techniques for their landscaping. Call 415-473-4204 to request a visit to your garden.

Garden volunteers: Marin Open Garden Project (MOGP) volunteers are available to help Marin residents glean excess fruit from their trees for donations to local organizations serving people in need and to build raised beds to start vegetable gardens through the MicroGardens program. MGOP also offers a garden tool lending library. Go to www.opengardenproject.org or email contact@opengardenproject.org.

Around the bay

Landscape garden: Cornerstone Gardens is a permanent, gallery-style garden featuring walk-through installations by international landscape designers on nine acres at 23570 Highway 121 in Sonoma. Free. Call 707-933-3010 or go to www.cornerstonegardens.com.

Olive ranch: McEvoy Ranch at 5935 Red Hill Road in Petaluma offers tours, workshops and special events. Call 707-769-4123 or go to www.mcevoyranch.com.

Botanical garden: Quarryhill Botanical Garden at 12841 Sonoma Highway in Glen Ellen covers 61 acres and showcases a large selection of scientifically documented wild source temperate Asian plants. The garden is open for self-guided tours from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. $5 to $10. Call 707-996-3166 or go to www.quarryhillbg.org.

— Compiled by David Emery

The Trowel Glove Calendar appears Saturdays. Send high-resolution jpg photo attachments and details about your event to calendar@marinij.com or mail to Home and Garden Calendar/Lifestyles, Marin Independent Journal, 4000 Civic Center Drive, Suite 301, San Rafael, CA 94903. Items should be sent two weeks in advance. Photos should be a minimum of 2 megabytes and include caption information. Include a daytime phone number on your release.

Article source: http://www.marinij.com/lifestyle/20151127/trowel-glove-marin-garden-calendar-for-the-week-of-nov-28-2015

Five tips for apartment gardeners in Dubai

Love gardening, but live in an apartment? Here are some tips for flexing your green fingers within the four walls of your home.

1. Location

You might not have a garden, but you still need to find the perfect plot. All plants need light to photosynthesize and survive – and without it, they will grow tall and spindly, and ultimately die. However, not all plants like the same intensity of light, so check the label carefully before choosing the position at home. A small patio or balcony is ideal for sun-loving plants, as they will be able to absorb more sunlight, whilst a spot near to a window (even with sunlight filtered through a blind or curtain) works better for plants that prefer dimmer conditions. Choose your plant based on where you plan to grow.

More…
– 50 Dubai life hacks

2. Temperature

When it comes to the temperature, plants generally like it between 18 and 23°C. It’s worth buying a room thermometer and keeping an eye on air conditioning settings. Always avoid placing plants in draughty areas or near ducted heat or air-conditioning outlets. If it gets too cold, you will notice the leaves turning yellow and falling off, so it’s time to move your plant or switch up the air conditioning a few degrees.

3. Humidity

A lack of humidity in the house can be a challenge for indoor gardeners – and if the conditions get too dry, you may notice the tips of the leaves turning brown, plants looking withered, or puckered, or even losing their leaves. If this is proving a problem, mist your plants daily with a spray bottle, place a tray of water near to the plants, move your plants closer together to create a microenvironment, or purchase a humidifier to boost levels at home.

4. Care

Heat and sunlight specific to your home will dry out the soil at different rates. The best advice is to feel the soil with your finger. If the plant’s tag says, “Water steadily or evenly,” then water whenever the surface of the soil is dry to the touch. If the tag says, “Water moderately,” allow the top inch or so to dry out between watering. Just make sure that you don’t overwater.

5. Pots

The beauty of indoor gardening is that your plants are an extension of your home styling – and the options for what to grow is limitless. Choose traditional terracotta planters, painted ceramic pots, enamel bowls, large silver watering cans, or any other decorative containers that catch your eye. You can even get creative by planting in quirky containers, like upturned cycle helmets, old boots, or large teacups.

Drainage holes are the main necessity for any container being used for plants. If you can’t or don’t want to put holes in a particular planter, you could fit a smaller container with drainage holes inside the pot in question. This can be a good way to hide the not-so-pretty plastic containers you might buy your plants in.

– For more life tips and loveliness in general, follow good on Facebook. 



Article source: http://whatson.ae/dubai/knowledge/35804/five-tips-apartment-gardeners-dubai/