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Maitland moves forward with Flexbus

The Maitland City Council committed to joining the one-year trial study of Flexbus, a mass transit system that will service the city's eventual SunRail station.

The Maitland City Council committed to joining the one-year trial study of Flexbus, a mass transit system that will service the city's eventual SunRail station.

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For better or worse, someone always has to be the one to try something first, the Maitland City Council agreed, voting to continue to pursue two first-of-their-kind propositions aimed at growing business and transportation within the city.

At its meeting on Monday, Nov. 26, the Council voted unanimously to officially participate in the trial study of Flexbus, an on-demand mass transit system set to launch in late 2013. And despite harsh criticism and skepticism from Maitland City Attorney Cliff Shepard over its legality, the Council also agreed to continue talks with developer Dan Bellows’ regarding his proposition of commoditizing impact fees.

“This shows that we are reaching out in innovative ways to make development more successful in our city,” Councilman Jeff Flowers said, adding that the city will never know how successful — or unsuccessful — these things will ultimately be unless they at least look into their processes.

Being flexible with FlexBus

Following years of planning, a trial study of the FlexBus mass transit system got the go ahead this week, with Maitland being the last of its four participating cities to sign a letter of commitment to the project.

The city joins Altamonte Springs, Casselberry and Longwood in the demonstration study, which will test 27 stations offering on-demand service in its multi-city route. Maitland is set to house seven of those stations including one at the eventual SunRail station, all of which is estimated to cost the city $210,000 in 2014.

City transportation lobbyist Louis Rotundo said signing the agreement is the equivalent of reserving a ticket to a show you’re not going to see or have to pay for until eight months from now.

“You’re reserving a ticket — you haven’t paid for it, but you’ve got it. … in June you decide if you want to pay and go to the show,” Rotundo said.

Flowers said the system could develop into a great tool for the city, or be a great disappointment, but that it’s too early to tell and it’s worth moving forward on for now.

“It’s like a ticket on the Titanic,” Councilman Ivan Valdes added with a laugh.

Providing the city is able to meet financial obligations in 2014 without additional costs to its residents and businesses, funds to initiate the study will be allocated in late-2013.

“We all know that we need a transportation system here … and it all needs to start somewhere,” Councilwoman Bev Reponen said.

Outside opinion sought on impact fee issue

If the city decides to pursue an agreement with Ravaudage developer Dan Bellows to help him commoditize impact fees, City Attorney Cliff Shepard says they’ll have to seek outside legal counsel to do so.

“If you do this, I don’t think I can defend you successfully,” Shepard said, adding that in his research on the legality of the agreement, he found no case law to support pursuing the idea.

“I’ve called a lot of people and I’ve asked a lot of questions but I don’t have any answers that are favorable to this solution,” he said.

After a back-and-forth between Shepard and Bellows’ attorney, Kim Booker, over legal details of the deal, the Council decided to table the issue, allowing Bellows to find an attorney who could find a favorable resolution to the legality of selling impact fees and present his or her opinion to Council at a future meeting.

“This may be a little bit of a learning curve for the city of Maitland … but at least the word will get out that we’re not these stogy old people that we have been in the past, the ones who aren’t willing to work out of the box,” Councilwoman Linda Frosch said.