tampabay.com

Moratorium will help Yankeetown recover

By Times editorial
Published March 14, 2007


After months of neighbor vs. neighbor warfare in Yankeetown over a proposed waterfront development, local leaders and citizens are taking steps toward restoring much-needed peace and sanity.

The recent elections were a good start by demonstrating to the community, and to state officials who had been asked to take over operating the town, that the locals really can be trusted to manage their own affairs.

Next came a decision by the town's zoning consultant that the developer's proposal did not measure up to the comprehensive plan and existing zoning rules.

To no surprise, the developers did not agree with that decision. Rather than pack up their drawings and checkbooks and head to some other unsuspecting town, the developers have sued 17 Yankeetown residents and officials, claiming they have been the victims of an ongoing conspiracy to torpedo their plans.

A former deputy clerk in town chimed in last week by filing a suit of her own, largely echoing the complaints that town officials violated the Sunshine Law by talking among themselves about the project and the controversy.

These are serious allegations, and all sides deserve to be heard. Whether their plans were legal or even in the best interests of the townspeople, the developers have their rights as well. They deserve to have their project evaluated fairly and within the parameters of the town's development rules.

The citizens certainly are entitled to know whether their leaders followed the law as they handled the biggest issue ever to erupt in this small Levy County town.

In the meantime, the council last week took a smart step. The board approved a one-year moratorium on permitting for commercial developments.

Not only will this allow time for tempers to cool a bit, it will also give staff the opportunity to do the necessary work to bring the town's comprehensive plan and land use codes into compliance. This should allow the town, and developers, to clarify the rules and thus avoid the sorts of fights that have torn Yankeetown apart for more than a year.

One council member noted that this community has been battered enough lately and it is time "for a breather."

He is absolutely right.