Council approves memorial in Pinecrest Gardens for slain journalist Steven Sotloff

An image from a video posted on the Internet by Islamic State militants showing the murder of journalist Steven Sotloff.
An image from a video posted on the Internet by Islamic State militants showing the murder of journalist Steven Sotloff. AP File

Following a brief swearing-in ceremony for its two new members – Doug Kraft in Seat 2 and Cheri Ball in Seat 4 – the Pinecrest council got down to business on Monday night, approving plans for a Steven Sotloff memorial at Pinecrest Gardens, discussing a new sidewalk proposal and voting to oppose a waterline extension variance request.

Also approved, according to a schedule set by the village charter: Bob Ross’s appointment as vice mayor.

The memorial to Sotloff – a journalist originally from Pinecrest, whose murder by Islamic State militants in early September made headlines around the world – won preliminary approval by a 4-1 vote. Ross and Kraft expressed support for a memorial, but questioned whether or not the Gardens was the best place.

“If you walk through virtually any garden facility in this country … there are memorials,” Mayor Cindy Lerner said. “I can’t imagine anything that [it] would be uncomfortable, or untoward, or an unhappy experience for people to be recognizing other residents who we shared space on this earth with quite frankly.”

Council member James McDonald also spoke in favor of the proposal: “I think it’s appropriate … what happened to him was horrific. The whole world was appalled by it, and the fact is he was a boy that grew up here,” he said.

Ross was ultimately the only no vote.

The Council also considered a proposal to put a sidewalk on Southwest 132 St. between U.S. 1 and 77 Ave. Village Manager Yocelyn Galiano-Gomez told council members that despite considerable resident opposition to the proposal, she would recommend supporting the plan given traffic and speeding patterns on the street.

Lerner first suggested going ahead with the proposal outright, saying “that’s what we’re elected to do: to make those difficult decisions,” but council ultimately decided to set a workshop to discuss with residents the pros and cons of the proposal.

The council also voted unanimously to formally oppose a request made by a builder to the county’s Environmental Quality Control Board to waive DERM’s requirement to connect a home, currently under construction in the village, to county water lines.

About 20 percent of village homes are still on well water, and the council has been trying for years to find the money to pay for the extension of county water lines.

“Based on the fact that council has established that as the village’s number one legislative priority.… I felt that it was important that the village council have a position on it and that staff take a strong opposition at the EQCB hearing,” Galiano-Gomez said.

Ross voiced his enthusiastic support for opposition, saying the village needed to make sure a precedent wasn’t set that could allow builders not to pay for line extensions on new constructions.

“I’m concerned that this could become a back door for builders. … I think it’s a matter of coming with a big club and whacking this one down,” he said.

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