BY BUDDY NEVINS
There has been a lot of talk since last week’s Broward County Commission debate on The Commons about the biting comments of Geoffrey Cohen.
Cohen, who lives in west Davie, pleaded with commissioners to vote against the massive shopping and office complex.
No surprise. Cohen’s the husband of Property Appraiser Lori Parrish, who is helping lead the campaign against construction of The Commons.
The couple will be able to hear and see The Commons from their neighborhood.
But Cohen is a Broward County Circuit Court judge. That’s at the heart of the controversy.
As a judge, Cohen is supposed to stay out of politics.
Avoiding politics is in the rules set by the Florida Supreme Court.
I read what Cohen said. In my opinion, he never stepped over the line into politics.
Cohen and many of his neighbors believe The Commons is too big and totally incapable with their semi-rural neighborhood.
Attacking what he saw as undo influence by The Commons lobbyists, Cohen implored county commissioners to kill the project.
His comments were pointed. His comments were stinging.
When you take into account that Cohen believed his home was under attack, he had a right to say what he did publicly.
Cohen wasn’t doing anything more than protecting his way of life. Wasn’t that what Washington, Jefferson and the rest of the American patriots were doing?
So Cohen was acting in the finest tradition of the American patriots defending his homestead.
You can judge for yourself.
Here is a county transcript of what Cohen told the commissioners last week. The parentheses and words within them are mine:
MAYOR STACY RITTER: GEOFF COWEN.
COHEN: GOOD AFTERNOON, MAYOR RITTER, MEMBERS OF THE COMMISSION. GEOFF COWEN. I’M A RESIDENT OF WESTERN DAVIE AND LIVE IN CLOSE PROXIMITY TO THE PROPOSED SITE.
I URGE YOU TO REJECT THIS HUGE COMMERCIAL MONSTROUSITY PROPOSED TO BE CONSTRUCTED.
THIS PROPOSED REGIONAL SHOPPING CENTER IS OF COURSE ENTIRELY INCOMPATIBLE WITH THE SURROUNDING AREA, AND IF BUILT WILL DESTROY OUR NEIGHBORHOOD.
THE HOMES ON, ADJACENT TO, AND IN PROXIMITY TO SHOTGUN ROAD WILL SUFFER SUBSTANTIAL REDUCTION IN VALUE, AND THEIR RESIDENTS WILL LOSE THE PEACE AND ENJOYMENT THEY CURRENTLY POSSESS IN THEIR HOMES.
(Cohen doesn’t believe the developer’s promise that all traffic from the project will be funneled through Weston or unto Interstate 75.)
THE TRAFFIC ASSOCIATED WITH THE SHOPPING CENTER WOULD DESTROY OUR RESIDENTIAL COMMUNITY.
I WOULDN’T WANT TO LIVE HERE ANY LONGER, AND I CAN ASSURE YOU THAT MOST OF MY NEIGHBORS WOULD MOVE AS WELL. NO ONE WHO LIVES NEARBY WISHES THIS HUGE COMMERCIAL SHOPPING CENTER CONSTRUCTED.
THE DEVELOPER’S PROPOSAL TO RESTRICT TRAFFIC INTO AND OUT OF THIS MASSIVE REGIONAL SHOPPING MALL THROUGH A SINGLE ENTRANCE TO BE BUILT OFF INTERSTATE 75 IS NOT VIABLE, UNTENABLE, AND NOT CREDIBLE.
(THE) DOT (DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION) RECENTLY OPINED THAT THEIR TWO ALTERNATIVES WERE NSUFFICIENT. ONE BEING NOT VIABLE, THE OTHER DEEPLY TROUBLING. IT’S ONLY A MEANS TO SECURE APPROVAL FOR THIS PROJECT.
IF YOU VOTE FOR THIS LAND USE CHANGE, THE DEVELOPER WILL BE BACK LATER WITH OTHER PROPOSALS TO UTILIZE LOCAL ROADS IN DAVIE. THEY BELIEVE THAT YOU’LL HAVE NO CHOICE BUT TO APPROVE THESE NEW PROPOSALS AFTER THEIR EXPENDITURE OF LARGE AMOUNTS OF MONEY
IN THE INITIATION OF CONSTRUCTION.
AS YOU KNOW, THE BROWARD COUNTY PLANNING COUNCIL VOTED 10 TO 5 TO DENY THIS PROJECT.
THE PLANNING COUNCIL STAFF RECOMMENDED AGAINST ITS APPROVAL LARGELY DUE TO SERIOUS CONCERNS ABOUT TRAFFIC AND BECAUSE THE PROPOSAL DIDN’T COMPLY WITH LAND DEVELOPMENT CODE, AND THE PLANNING COUNCIL CONTINUES TO RECOMMEND DENIAL.
THE TOWN OF DAVIE APPROVED THE LAND USE CHANGE FOR THIS PROJECT.
THE TOWN’S COMMITMENT TO GOOD PLANNING CAN BE SEEN EVERY DAY AS ONE DRIVES ALONG I-595. ONE PASSES AGING, DILAPIDATED STRIP SHOPPING CENTERS SET AMIDST UGLY INDOOR AND OUTDOOR STORAGE FACILITIES, FAST-FOOD RESTAURANTS, MOBILE CELL TOWERS AND TACKY ROADSIDE BILLBOARDS.
I TAKE ISSUE WITH (WESTON CITY ATTORNEY) MR. (JAMIE) COLE. THIS (DAVIE) TOWN COUNCIL HAS DONE A MISERABLE JOB PROTECTING THE RESIDENTS OF WESTERN DAVIE AND I’M HERE TO TELL YOU THAT.
THE TOWN STAFF CLEARLY STATED THAT THE PROPOSED LAND USE CHANGE DIDN’T COMPLY WITH THE LAND CODE BUT THAT IF THE TOWN APPROVED IT THEY WOULD WORK WITH THE DEVELOPER TO AMEND THE TOWN LAND DEVELOPMENT CODE IN DAVIE.
IF THE RIGHT LAWYERS AND LOBBYISTS ARE HIRED, THE TOWN LAND DEVELOPMENT CODE IS IGNORED TO ACCOMMODATE THEIR PROJECTS AND LATER CHANGED.
I HAVE NEVER SEEN A LARGER CONTINGENT OF HIGH POWERED, LAWYERS, LOBBYISTS, AND POWER BROKERS WORKING ON BEHALF OF A POWERFUL DEVELOPER, AND EVERYONE IS AWARE THAT THE PRESSURE IS INCREDIBLE AND IS BEING EXERTED UPON EACH OF YOU (COUNTY COMMISSIONERS).
I ASK PERMISSION FOR 30 MORE SECONDS.
MAYOR STACY RITTER: SURE.
COHEN: FOR THEM IT’S A JOB AND NOTHING MORE, AND FOR OTHERS IT’S AN OBLIGATION FELT FOR PAST FINANCIAL SUPPORT AND THE EXPECTATION OF FUTURE SUPPORT.
IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE MERITS OF THE CONTROVERSY, NOR IS THERE ANY REAL CONCERN FOR THE WELL-BEING OF OUR NEIGHBORHOOD.
COMMISSIONER (DIANA) WASSERMAN-RUBIN, MAYOR RITTER, YOU WOULD NEVER SUPPORT THIS PROJECT IF THIS WERE PROPOSED NEAR YOUR HOME AND IN YOUR COMMUNITY.
(Actually, Wasserman-Rubin does live near the project in Southwest Ranches. She isn’t as close to The Commons as Cohen. They project is almost in his backyard.)
PLEASE TREAT MY NEIGHBORS, YOUR FELLOW CITIZENS AND ME AS YOU WOULD WISH THEM TO BE TREATED WERE YOU IN OUR POSITION.
COMMISSIONER RUBIN, I WOULD BE DEEPLY HURT AND OFFENDED IF YOU WERE TO SUPPORT THIS PROJECT.
MAYOR RITTER: THANK YOU, JUDGE.