Where do can­di­dates stand in Semi­nole Com­mis­sion District 2?

Orlando Sentinel - - LOCAL & STATE - By Martin E. Co­mas

Pro­tect­ing the county’s ru­ral area is one of the top is­sues among the three can­di­dates — Repub­li­can Jay Zem­bower, Demo­crat Ka­t­rina Shadix and non-party-af­fil­i­ated Paul Cooper — vy­ing for the District 2 seat on the Semi­nole County Com­mis­sion in the Nov. 6 election.

Com­mis­sion Chair­man John Ho­ran, who has held the seat since 2010, de­cided not to seek a third term. District 2 stretches from the cen­ter of the county to the eastern bor­der and in­cludes Geneva, Win­ter Springs and por­tions of Sanford and Long­wood. Com­mis­sion­ers are elected coun­ty­wide but must live within their dis­tricts.

Who they are

Zem­bower, 57, of Chu­lu­ota, is part owner of Zem­bower’s Auto Cen­ter in Al­ta­monte Springs. He also is a con­sul­tant in au­to­mo­tive in­ves­tiga­tive foren­sics for law en­force­ment, gov­ern­ment agen­cies and law firms.

Shadix, 50, of Geneva, is di­rec­tor of the non­profit Bear War­riors United, which aims to pro­tect Florida’s black bears. A sec­ond­gen­er­a­tion Semi­nole County na­tive, she is a mem­ber of the Foun­da­tion for Florida En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Con­ser­va­tion Com­mis­sion’s bear tech­ni­cal as­sis­tance group.

Cooper, 57, is a Cas­sel­berry res­i­dent and was the part owner of Re­store Com­put­ers, a re­pair busi­ness op­er­ated out of a home. He worked as sub­sti­tute teacher, but was re­cently barred from teach­ing by Semi­nole County Pub­lic Schools for what district of­fi­cials called in­ap­pro­pri­ate ac­tions and com­ments to stu­dents.

Where they stand

A vo­cal ad­vo­cate for pro­tect­ing the county’s ru­ral area, Zem­bower said high-den­sity de­vel­op­ment should be con­cen­trated in Semi­nole’s ur­ban ar­eas. In 2004, Semi­nole vot­ers ap­proved a bal­lot mea­sure that es­tab­lished a strict ru­ral bound­ary mostly east of the Econ­lock­hatchee River. Den­si­ties in that ru­ral area are cur­rently lim­ited to be­tween one home per three acres and one home per 10 acres. But a ma­jor­ity vote by com­mis­sion­ers can change that zon­ing.

“There’s go­ing to be de­vel­op­ment pres­sure in that ru­ral area in the com­ing years,” Zem­bower said. “So my po­si­tion is that the peo­ple voted to leave the ru­ral area alone. We need to be smart about growth.”

Zem­bower pro­poses rais­ing the county’s three-story height limit in most of the county’s ur­ban ar­eas to al­low for more of­fices and res­i­den­tial com­plexes.

He also pro­poses elim­i­nat­ing “bur­den­some reg­u­la­tions” on lo­cal busi­nesses and stream­lin­ing the county’s per­mit­ting process.

For ex­am­ple, when county build­ing di­vi­sion em­ploy­ees are busy, workers in other de­part­ments could process ap­pli­ca­tions and pa­per­work.

“There’s no rea­son they can’t be cross-trained so that they can jump in when things get busy,” Zem­bower said.

An ar­dent en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist, Shadix of­ten speaks out at county meet­ings on con­ser­va­tion is­sues.

Shadix also sup­ports pro­tect­ing Semi­nole’s ru­ral bound­ary and, along with Zem­bower, op­posed the pro­posed River Cross mega-de­vel­op­ment that called for 600 sin­gle­fam­ily homes, 270 town­houses, 500 apart­ments and 1.5 mil­lion square feet of com­mer­cial space on 291 acres west of County Road 491 and north of the Orange County line, within the county’s ru­ral bound­ary. County com­mis­sion­ers unan­i­mously re­jected the pro­posal in Au­gust. The devel­op­ers have since filed a law­suit against Semi­nole in fed­eral court.

Shadix said the county should fo­cus more on re­de­vel­op­ing va­cant eye­sores in ur­ban ar­eas rather than ap­prov­ing projects in un­de­vel­oped spots with woods or wet­lands.

“We should work to re­fur­bish and re-en­er­gize many ur­ban ar­eas,” she said. “We’re tired of devel­op­ers com­ing in and do­ing what they want. I want that rep­u­ta­tion to end.”

Shadix said the county and other lo­cal gov­ern­ments along the SunRail line should take a hard look at the in­ef­fi­cien­cies of the mass tran­sit sys­tem be­fore “we sink any more money” into it.

Shadix blasted com­mis­sion­ers for re­cently boost­ing their pay by more than 2 per­cent to $83,708 a year, and said she would push for a referendum that com­mis­sion salaries be pegged to Semi­nole’s me­dian wage.

Cam­paign­ing with­out party af­fil­i­a­tion, Cooper calls him­self a “lib­eral Repub­li­can” or a “con­ser­va­tive Demo­crat.”

Semi­nole should make it eas­ier for med­i­cal mar­i­juana clinics to open within des­ig­nated zones, Cooper said. He points out that his mother died from can­cer, and “she would’ve been an ex­cel­lent can­di­date for med­i­cal mar­i­juana.”

“We need to make that as easy as open­ing a liquor store or a smoke shop,” said Cooper, 55.

He said Semi­nole should con­sider build­ing through a pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ship a small-to-medi­um­sized con­ven­tion cen­ter for mu­si­cal per­for­mances, sports com­pe­ti­tions and other events.

“It would help Cooper said.

Re­gard­ing growth and de­vel­op­ment, Cooper said the county should en­cour­age devel­op­ers to hire 75 per­cent of their workers – such as elec­tri­cians, plumbers, ma­sons, car­pen­ters – from Semi­nole County. The de­vel­op­ments should be af­ford­able to those workers, who thereby would be build­ing their own com­mu­nity through “sweat eq­uity.”

In March, Semi­nole’s school district barred Cooper from work­ing as a sub­sti­tute teacher af­ter of­fi­cials said he told mid­dle school stu­dents that he was shot “in the pri­vate ar­eas” while in Gre­nada.

Un­be­knownst to Cooper, first graders in his class watched a mu­sic video that de­picted a boy drown­ing in a lake and dy­ing in a car fire, the district said. at­tract tourism,”

How they dif­fer

Shadix said she has not ac­cepted any po­lit­i­cal do­na­tions from devel­op­ers. She added that she signed a pledge not to raise taxes, even though Zem­bower sup­ported a penny sales in­crease in 2014.

Zem­bower said he has com­mit­ted more than $170,000 of his own money to his cam­paign. How­ever, through Septem­ber, Zem­bower has raised a to­tal of $276,376, that in­cludes the $170,000, ac­cord­ing to county records.

“If you con­trib­ute to my cam­paign, it buys noth­ing from me,” he said. “You’re en­ti­tled to the same time and same open door as any­one else.”

Cooper said he is not be­holden to a po­lit­i­cal party, un­like his op­po­nents. He added that he lim­its his cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions from in­di­vid­u­als to $500 rather than the al­low­able $1,000.

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