Titusville City Council had a large agenda Tuesday night and discussed a wide variety of topics including a new ordinance for city sidewalks, alternate parking on city streets, fencing around dumpsters and the refuse situation in the city. However, one topic dominated the nearly three hour meeting, dumpsters in the new city green space located on Diamond Street.
While tempers flared at points, it was said that the situation came down to a breakdown in communication between city government and area business owners. “There was miscommunication all around,” said Mayor Jon Crouch.
The current plans for the green space include outdoor seating for 32 and space for a large Christmas Tree to go up in the winter. The park is being paid for with Community Development Block Grant Funding (CDBG). However, changes may come to the current plan, as council members have said they want to look into changing the current designs. It was even discussed to possibly abandon the park idea.
“Maybe we need to go back to the drawing board,” said Crouch.
Almost 20 people packed into the meeting room. Most were there to voice their opinions on the inclusion of dumpsters for businesses that include Missy’s Arcade. The owner of the arcade, Missy Wescoat, had posted on Facebook on July 2 about how the city was “forcing us all to remove our dumpsters.” In the post Wescoat said that due to the inconveniences and lack of communication, she was “leaning towards running the restaurant until the end of the year because when I receive no communication, well I simply feel I am being pushed out.”
The Facebook post garnered lots of attention. Including the different places it was shared, dozens upon dozens of comments were made, many speaking negatively about city government saying there were not pro-business.
All the anger and frustration that was shared on Facebook seemed to boil over at Tuesday’s meeting, when Wescoat herself, after an exchange with Mayor Jon Crouch, left the meeting in tears. Wescoat asked that the mayor apologize to her for not showing up to a meeting between her, Crouch and Fratus. Crouch said that he did not believe he had to be there.
The meeting started with City Manager Neil Fratus giving a more than ten minute presentation on the process the city has gone through to get a green space in the heart of Titusville’s downtown. What started with a fire that left city buildings condemned in 2018, has lead down a four year path. The city has added to the space, buying the Day property in 2020. It is the Day lot that has now thrown a wrench into city plans.
The Day property portion of the park, the space not between the two buildings on Diamond Street which used to be a parking lot, is also where four businesses including Missy’s Arcade and the American Legion currently have dumpsters and grease disposals. The current park plans would remove the dumpsters and grease traps.
Council, in November of 2021, had voted on park plans. The accepted plans removed dumpsters from the park, saying that, as Mayor Crouch said during the meeting, “restaurant garbage smells.”
The city has spent more than $100,000 to not only demolish the buildings that stood on the site, but also to have engineers draw up plans. Fratus told council during the meeting that the city had received a bid back for work on the park, and that it was $20,000 over budget. With the increased costs and dumpster concerns, the fate of the green space seems to up in the air.
Council then discussed several topics on the agenda before the public comment portion of the meeting began. Wescoat herself took to the podium after giving council packets of information.
After Wescoat had left the meeting during her turn at the podium, various members of the public, including family, employees and the family of employees took to the podium to express their frustration with city government.
One of those who spoke in support of Wesocat was Tyler Rowe, the son of one of Wescoat’s employees. Rowe asked that council used leniency in the situation to work with Wescoat, saying that he would pay for a fence to go up to separate an area for dumpsters.
Deputy Mayor Sarah Jones, who does not want the dumpsters in the park, said that this line of thinking was part of the problem. While many talked about finding a compromise, she said they really just wanted things to remain how they are now. It was said during the meeting that Councilman Chad Covell had worked out a deal where he would pick up Wescoat’s trash daily.
Wescoat’s brother, Shawn List, and father, Rick List, also took to the podium. Shawn talked about how he felt Fratus’ slideshow was distasteful, and how he felt the city was giving his sister the “run around.” Rick took to the podium to talk about the problem of parking.
There was much discussion, including comments from Don Fickley, about the need for parking in downtown. Peyton Miller, who owns a business in The Merc, also commented on the lack of parking impacting her business.
With many raised voices, and many in attendance at the meeting storming out, it was clear that there is a disconnect between the vision of the green space.
As Pat Fickley said, a solution must be found. She said that she came to the meeting after reading the social media post. As someone who called herself a “future business owner” of Titusville, she said that the city needs to be doing “everything they can do” to help local businesses. She said that the message council is sending out is not one that would encourage others to open businesses in town.
Members of council, including those who were voted in more recently, said they have different stances on the issue. Councilman Sam Logsdon said he would be open to potentially having dumpsters in the park if it was “tasteful.” Councilman Jason Drake said he was for adding parking and dumpsters to the plan, while also saying that it seems like the city is tied to green space between the buildings. Covell said he would be interested in looking into the issue further.
Jones said that dumpsters have no place in city parks. Jones also took time during the meeting to emphasize how important green spaces are.
When asked if he would be in favor of adding parking or dumpsters, Crouch said he had no comment.
At the end of the meeting, no formal action had been taken on the issue. In the past weeks and months, the park seemed to be moving along making process. However, Tuesday night proved that nothing was set in stone, and that the green space may not become a reality. “Some options could be find the money,” said City Manager Neil Fratus. “Another option possibly could be to scrap the park, put it on hold, and turn it into a several project phase for years to come.”
In other business, council unanimously decided to approve the first reading of Council Bill #3 — Open Containers on City Sidewalks. The bill would allow for portions of city sidewalks to be used by businesses in the downtown, in certain areas and with council permission, to have outdoor eating allowed on city sidewalks. The sidewalks would still have to allow three feet for pedestrian usage.
Council discussed alternate street parking. They had previously approved the spending of $20,000 of American Rescue Plan funding to purchase signs. There was discussion of when alternate parking should take place. Council decided to table the issue and have the police chief and director of public works attend the next meeting to give input.