Bay Harbor Islands’ newest council members ready to get to work

Bay Harbor Islands’ newest Town Council members seem eager to get to work now that the elections are over.

Incumbent Stephanie Bruder and former Miami Beach police lieutenant Kelly Reid received the top votes in the three-way election. Lawyer David F. Anderson was third in the April 16 contest.

The election in the town of 6,000 residents drew a turnout of just over 24 percent. Town Council members are elected to four-year terms.

Bruder was elected to her third term, but said she didn’t take the campaign for granted. She spent two and a half weeks walking the town and knocking on doors and meeting voters. The experience was both enlightening and humbling.

"It gave me an opportunity as a councilor that I don’t often get," she said. "It was the most enjoyable part of the campaign."

Bruder says that her third term will see her concentrating on continuing the work the council has begun in improving the town’s infrastructure and amenities. She wants to finalize getting a library for the town, as well as expanding the Police Athletic League’s after-school program.

"We have a lot of work to do in the town," Bruder said.

For the newly elected Reid, being on the council is her way of being able to continue to work on the issues that are important for her. Among her top priorities will be looking at the pace and scope of development in the town.

"People are concerned about the direction (of development) in this town. I am concerned that the kind of development we are doing may lower the existing value of homes."

Reid is also a petitioner in a lawsuit filed against the town in Miami-Dade Circuit Court regarding development. Reid, along with Elegant Eight Inc. and the Bay Harbor Islands Citizens Coalition, contend the town has misinterpreted the charter’s height and density restrictions when it approved the planned Edgewater Apartments development. The development is adjacent to the Elegant Eight condominium, where Reid owns a unit.

The Town Charter states that the maximum height for all new buildings shall be 75 feet. Any structure above that height must be approved by a town referendum before approval by the local government. Town officials have stated that this number does not include the base flood elevation nor non-habitable roof features (such as elevator shafts or water towers). The lawsuit contends this interpretation is at odds with the intent of the rule. It also states that the Edgewater apartment development is currently designed to be more than 100 feet in height.

Reid said that her being elected to the council isn’t a conflict.

"This is a very important question that needs to be answered," Reid said. "This is a legitimate challenge and not a frivolous lawsuit. People in this town are still baffled by (the Town Council’s)decision. We are doing a community service by bringing them the answers."

Besides, Reid contends the lawsuit is only one tiny aspect in the work council members do. There is a great deal more still to work on. She is interested improving safety standards in new public amenities like the parks. Reid also wants to introduce an ethics policy for the council.

Lawyer David F. Anderson came in third in the vote tally. And while he didn’t win a seat, he was pleased with the experience. He says running gave him both a new appreciation of what candidates have to go through and of the town itself.

" I gained a deeper understanding of the town and who the main players are," he said. "I think I’ll be following the council proceedings even more closely now."

Although Anderson says its too early for him to consider running again for local office, he did say he wouldn’t rule out being more closely involved in civic life.

"I suspect there may be some opening that may come my way," he said. "But the issues that concerned me (during the election) still matter to me."

And he had this advice to Reid and Bruder: Try to strike a middle ground when it comes to deciding on issues for the town. There is no room for extremism.

"Focus on the issues and be prepared to work together to get it done," he said. "You don’t want people who are either all pro-development or all anti-development. Come up with a middle ground."