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Orange County Commission Board Meeting Recap: Earth Day, COVID-19 Response, Gun Violence Prevention

ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN) – The Orange County Board of County Commissioners met on April 13, 2021, with the first item of business being the reading of a proclamation by Jeff Williamson, Manager – Communictions Division, declaring April 22, 2021, as Earth Day in Orange County. The proclamation was given to David Jones, Manager – Environmental Protection Division.

The commissioners then heard public comments on a number of issues including; the International Drive Community Redevelopment Area (CRA), guardianship issues, serological testing, the impact of a business complex within a community, and the mask mandate and COVID-19 restrictions.

The commissioners then unanimously approved the consent agenda before hearing from the Citizen’s Safety Taskforce.

The task force recommendations were presented to the board by the Mayor’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Carol Burkett, and the task force co-chairs, former Commissioner Rod Love and Pastor Jim Coffin. The task force’s focus was the reduction of gun violence and serious violent offenses. The task force’s recommendations to the commissioners were as follows:

  1. Use a racial equity lens and trauma-informed approach to implement all task force recommendations
  2. Expand/enhance access to effective youth and parenting, mental and behavioral health programs
  3. Transform the criminal justice system to reduce the disproportionate arrests and incarceration of black youth.
  4. Support economic development, reduce poverty and address family economic insecurity
  5. Reduce access to illegal firearms
  6. Improve overall neighborhood conditions
  7. Communicate key issues and programs to the community

The task force’s Intervention Subcommittee made the following recommendations to the commissioners:

  1. Develop a detailed plan that addresses generations of neglect and poverty by formulating a 10-year vision with a systemic focus that reviews the structural changes that provide a health community where everyone thrives
  2. Increase the use of grassroots organizations in the community and allocate funding for them
  3. Develop a Neighborhood Accountability Board and increase the use of diversion services
  4. Define, develop and fund a Credible Messenger’s program
  5. Coordinate with mental health providers to increase the number of providers in the areas identified and require the agencies to increase their hours of operation
  6. Provide safe and reliable areas for youth to congregate
  7. Create a realistic channel for communication with the community and the youth

The task force’s Enforcement Subcommittee made the following recommendations to the commissioners:

  1. Establish and maintain a quarterly scheduled community public safety forum between law enforcement and community stakeholders over the next 12 months to review data, solicit community input and discuss and develop strategies to reduce gun/violent crimes
  2. Increase the community’s and law enforcement’s use of evidence-based practices and non-traditional approaches of community policing and engagement to further build trust in communities historically distrustful of law enforcement and that are disproportionately impacted by gun/violent crimes
  3. Implement public safety workshops with law enforcement agencies and community stakeholders through an independent third-party facilitator
  4. Increase community awareness of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office Behavioral Response Unit and Orlando Police Department’s Community Response Team mental health programs that provide a joint response to calls that involve mental health crisis

The task force’s Prosecution Subcommittee made the following recommendations to the commissioners:

  1. Implement Geographic Stewards Programs in the community
  2. Implement civil citation diversion programs

The task force requests and next steps to the commissioners were to:

  • Begin allocation of $2 million for implementation of the recommendations upon acceptance
  • Convene staff workgroups to develop a strategic implementation timeline
  • Staff will provide progress report bi-annually to the Board of County Commission

The task force requested that the commissioner accept the recommendations to prevent and reduce gun violence and violent crimes in the community. The commissioners voted unanimously to accept the recommendations.

The commissioners then heard an update on the International Drive CRA Plan given by Carla Bell-Johnson. Eric Raasch, Planning Administrator, Planning Division then asked the commissioners to approve three rezoning cases that were approved by the Planning and Zoning Committee at their meeting on March 18, 2021. The commissioners approved the rezoning recommendations with a unanimous vote.

Ann Dawkins, MSTU Supervisor, Special Assessments Division, then presented several Municipal Service Benefit Unit (MSBU) requests to the commissioners. The requests were:

  • A developer request to establish the South Creek MSBU for retention pond(s) maintenance
  • Developer request to establish South Creek and South Creek phase two MSBU for street lighting
  • Developer request to establish the Spring Isle Palms MSBU for retention pond(s) maintenance and street lighting
  • The Stoneybrook Hills Master Roads MSBU requested an amendment to add lots to the current MSBU for street lighting
  • Stoney Grove Area MSBU requested an amendment  to add lots to the current MSBU for street lighting and retention pond(s) maintenance
  • Summerlake Groves and Highlands at Summerlake Groves Area MSBU requested an amendment to add lots to the current MSBU for street lighting and retention pond(s) maintenance
  • Wekiwa Springs Septic to Sewer Retrofit Program phase 1 MSBU requested by Orlando Utilities Commission for the construction of a central gravity sewer system
  • Orange County Code Enforcement requested an MSBU for the establishment of a resolution for the collection of special assessment leins for one-time-only lot cleaning

All the MSBU’s will become effective November 1, 2021, and were approved unanimously by the commissioners.

Next on the agenda was an application for shoreline alteration/dredge and fill for a new sea wall on Lake Down by Bruce Knox. The commission approved the application by a unanimous vote.

The commissioners then heard several planned development (PD) and land use plan (LUP) requests. These included:

  • Neal Shivcharran, Galleon Consulting Group for rezoning from R-1A to PD for the South Goldenrod Townhomes development
  • Brain Ashby, Kimley-Horn and Associates, Inc. to amend the Science and Technology PD/LUP by seeking a waiver for the height restrictions for the stairway and elevator shafts in the parking garage of the planned project so that development can continue
  • Eric Papalini, Cambridge Group, Inc, requested to amend the Faircloth PD/LUP to add C-3 use for outdoor storage of heavy equipment, construction vehicles, and materials and to remove the restriction on outdoor storage for the entire site. The Planning and Zoning Division recommended that the request be approved with the condition that there be a buffer created on the west side of the property and that no outside storage be allowed on the west side of the property as well.
  • William Burkett, Burkett Engineering, Inc requested a privately-initiated map amendment and concurrent rezoning request for the Ordinance/Comprehensive Plan and Future Land Use Plan to move from low density residential to commercial use in order to develop a storage facility

All of these requests passed by a unanimous vote from the commissioners.

The last thing on the agenda for the commissioners was to hear an update on the county’s COVID-19 response. As of this meeting, the county has seen 129,000 cases and 1,215 deaths related to COVID-19. The 14-day positivity rate is up from 6.7% to 7% and the median age for infection is 33 years old.

The Convention Center and Barnett Park testing sites see a combined average of over 3,000 tests per day and are scheduled to be open until April 30th.

Over 650,000 doses of the vaccine have been administered by the county, FEMA, and the local pharmacies with over 220,000 being administered at the Convention Center. 77% of those over 65, 50% of those over 40, and 36% of those over 18 in Orange County have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

The Convention Center administers an average of 4,000 doses per day, six days a week but will begin the transition to a new, yet unknown site in early May. The county’s mobile vaccination site focuses on underserved communities and will be in Barber Park from April 12th to April 16th. It is a drive-thru site and the site administered 1,000 doses of the vaccine on its first day of operation at Barber Park.

The county’s COVID-19 rental assistance program has had 5,936 total applicants in the portal with 2,640 total applications submitted. 1,331 applications are under review with 986 applicants contacted. The total number of applications approved so far is 80, with a total cost of $328K, with the average payment being $4,000. The total number of applications that were denied is 986, but most of them were duplicate applications or the applicants did not qualify because they live in the City of Orlando or outside of Orange County. The county is receiving about 250 applications per week.

After the commissioner heard the update on the COVID-19 response the meeting was adjourned by Mayor Jerry Demmings.

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