Has the “CHICAGO WAY” come to Naples?
Connecting the Dots…. And Follow the Money
Most of us are familiar with the images from the movies and television of Elliott Ness and the Untouchables” of a rough and tumble Chicago that blazed its way through the Prohibition Era. In the movie, “The Untouchables”, Sean Connery famously characterized this pugnacity and toughness (... If they pull a knife you pull a gun”...) as the “Chicago Way”.
But there is another “Chicago Way” that depends on smart lawyers — and subtle, barely visible changes in law and governmental policy — to brings tens of millions of dollars to those who know how to play the “inside game”.
Many city officials in Chicago are masters at the game: Put on a rush to get the City Council to quickly pass a major public works program — tell the City Council and the public that time is of the essence, that the project is a “done deal”, and there is no time to investigate and expose flaws in the program — put on a major PR campaign to sell the public and the media that the public wants and “needs” this massive public cash outlay and the associated public indebtedness — and whatever you do, don’t let the City
Council or the public find out where the really big money is going and who is reaping the financial windfall that is often hidden in these deals. To paraphrase a famous colorful saying often applied to this process: “Treat the City Council and the public like mushrooms ... keep them in the dark and feed them ##@@**##”.
It appears that the “Chicago Way” may have come to Naples. The Naples Garage Coalition and CPN have already told you about many of the serious problems with the proposed massive #4th and 4th garage proposal. (See https://www.44garage.com and citizensforpreservingnaples.org.
But you may not be aware of a clever maneuver put together by some very talented lawyers working for major Fifth Avenue property developers which promises to bring these developers tens of millions of dollars by gaming the system.
Up until two years ago, the Fifth Avenue the maximum limit on residential density was 8 units an acre — a density in keeping with the low key historical character and charm which many Naples residents cherish. But without any public notice as to a major density change as required by Florida statute, lawyers for major Fifth Avenue developers — without ever telling the City Council the full impact of the proposed change — persuaded the City Council to eliminate the 8 unit density limit and allow virtually unlimited density, as long as sufficient parking was provided.
You do the arithmetic. Where for the same land cost and on the same footprint a developer has for 8 units per acre in central Naples, a developer can build 22 or 24 units per acre (currently under development on Fifth Avenue as a result of the lifting of the density limit) — creating many millions of extra profit going straight to the developers’ bottom line. A respected local land planner estimates that under the “unlimited density subject only to parking being made available” ordinance a developer could squeeze in up to 44 units per acre — a more than 500% density increase based on an ordinance
slipped through the City Council by developer lawyers without any public notice. So, as long as parking is available, there is an opportunity for a huge multi-million dollar windfall to Fifth Avenue developers.
Aye But Here’s the Rub. Where do the Fifth Avenue developers get the required parking spaces to go along with the massive increases in residential density needed to reap these millions in extra profit?
“Mirabile Dictu!” Wonder of wonders — the Naples City Council has developed a program where the City has built public garages where the City provides “phantom” parking spaces for the parking space shortfalls the developers are unable to provide at their developments. We say “phantom” spaces because these spaces are not dedicated and are available to the public — leaving frustrated owners of multi-million dollar condos adrift to find spaces on the street on days when public use of the garage spaces is high.
So Dear Reader, Connect the Dots. The City staff is now asking the City Council to build another massive garage at 4th and 4th which will allow developers on the West end of Fifth to build residential developments with much higher densities and much higher multi-million dollar profits — all the while using public debt to subsidize these developers’ profits.
And the “smart money” in Naples is now betting that the City Council and the public in general will fall for “Chicago Way” techniques being used here in Naples to get the City Council to approve the 4th and 4th garage. Indeed, the Fifth Avenue developers — operating under the auspices of the “Business Improvement District” (BID) — have created a “petition drive”, stuffed in large part with hundreds of names of persons who don’t live or vote in Naples, to “convince” the City Council that Naples citizens want the garage.
As Naples residents, here is what you can and should do. If you don’t want the “Chicago Way” to be used to pull off the 4th & 4th garage scam here is what to do:
- URGENT!! Sign the Naples Coalition Petition Asking the City Council To Reject the Land Purchase Contract For the 4th and 4th site. This will counter the BID padded petition. GO TO www.ipetitions.com/petition/reject-public-garage-in-residential-neighborhood.
- E-Mail the City Council (addresses below) and ask them to reject the garage contract. Copy CPN. firstname.lastname@example.org.
- “The 5 X 5” campaign” – Get 5 of your neighbors – and each of them get 5 of their neighbors — and 5 of their neighbors, etc., etc., — to send emails to each of the City Council stating: “As residents of Naples we request that the CRA and/or Council vote "NO" on purchasing the parcels on 4th and 4th and vote to not construct a parking garage on this property”. Ask them to copy CPN as well.
- Go to the meetings of the Council sitting as the CRA (Community Redevelopment Agency) on August 15 and the City Council on August 16 and show by your presence that you are against the garage contract.
City Council Contact Information
Mayor Bill Barnett email@example.com
Vice Mayor Linda Penniman firstname.lastname@example.org
Reg Buxton email@example.com
Doug Finlay firstname.lastname@example.org
Michelle McLeod email@example.com
Ellen Seigel firstname.lastname@example.org
Sam Saad email@example.com