The latest chapter in this saga involves the county's travelling theatre troupe, a/k/a public works, doing a one act play, portraying a county that really cares...a county that wants to make things right...a county that wants to use whatever resources it can to fix the problems created when they gave the Bloomingdale Big Box retail developers what they wanted without citizen input.
This latest performance took place in the auditorium at Bloomingdale HS on Tuesday, February 4, 2014. The playbill said they wanted to hear what citizens had to say about fixing the traffic problems in the Bloomingdale area.
As hard as they tried, the play got panned by local residents. Why? Because the Hillsborough theater troupe showed up with nothing more than a blank script.
The one act show consisted of showing a few slides containing area road diagrams, and spreadsheets showing where all of the road money was being spent. Under their current plan, however, no new road money was being spent at the Bloomingdale development site. Then they opened the mics up for public comment. The bottom line is that they didn't have answers that would quell public anger. They offered adding turn lanes and changing the timing of traffic signals at distant intersections. But how does that solve the addition of over 8,000 cars to an already overcrowded roadway if this new development occurs? It doesn't. Hence, the crowd delivered blow after blow and, in a few instances, brought the volume of discourse to a scream.
The crowd was incensed at the fact that county staff's recommended plan was to take the developer's proportionate share (a partial contribution toward fixing resulting traffic messes, based on a state formula that favors guess who?) and use it at other nearby intersection improvement projects that are currently underfunded (up to 3 miles away...is that nearby???) instead of at the development site which is on Bloomingdale Ave, just west of Lithia Pinecrest. The developer's contribution is a mere $564K. The crowd thought that diverting those funds away from ground zero was a slap in the face.
At one point in the show I asked John Lyons, Public Utilities Director, if he would be willing to meet with citizens to brainstorm and come up with real fixes to the traffic problems that will occur at or near the Big Box development site. He said yes, and agreed to meet. Let's see if local Bloomingdale residents take him up on his offer.
Lyons was supposed to give a follow up report on February 19, 2014 with recommendations to the Board of County Commissioners following Tuesday's meeting with citizens, but it looks like his report will be delayed if he meets with local residents for a genuine brainstorming session.
The Bloomingdale Big Box fiasco has exposed how the county continues to approve and promote development with little or no new infrastructure to handle traffic. Bloomingdale Ave and the other main roads in that area are painfully congested, as a result. In addition, it exposes the shell game of arbitrarily taking away road money from one project to fund another, leaving some neighborhoods with the short end of the stick. Fortunately, citizens are beginning to fight back, as they are in this case.