Saturday, September 27, 2008

LINKING WATER RESOURCES and LAND USE PLANNING

THURSDAY Evening, OCTOBER 2, 2008
South Florida Water Management District Offices
B-1 Main Building - Storch Room (3rd Floor)
3301 Gun Club Road, West Palm Beach

5:30 – 6:15 PM - Meet and Greet with Appetizers
6:15 – 6:30 PM – Welcome and Introductions
6:30 – 8:30 PM – Presentations, Panel Discussion, and Q&A Session

Please RSVP by NOON, WEDNESDAY, October 1, 2008

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Linking the development of water supplies to comprehensive plan amendments has presented a number of challenges in light of existing and new growth management legislation. Learn more about…..

• Supporting water supply plans with sufficient data and analysis,
• Providing a financially feasible commitment to water supply projects
• Ensuring on-going coordination
• Impact of CS/HB 697 on comprehensive plan amendments (approved by the 2008 Legislature and effective July 1, 2008)
o the discouragement of urban sprawl,
o energy-efficient land use patterns, and
o greenhouse gas reduction strategies

Speakers include:

• Barbara Powell, AICP, PMP, Lead Planner, Water Supply Department, South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD)
• Brian Traylor, Associate ASLA, Senior Planner and Urban Designer, South Florida Regional Planning Council (SFRPC)
• Christopher Pettit, Esquire, Associate Attorney, South Florida Water Management District

Barbara Powell joined the SFWMD in 2000 and currently serves as the Regional Coordinator for Lower East Coast Water Supply. She is responsible for coordinating issues related to comprehensive planning, permitting, and implementation of alternative water supply projects. Prior to joining the District, Barbara served as Environmental Coordinator for the Seminole Indian Tribe of Florida for 7 years. She has a Masters Degree in Water Policy from the University of Rhode Island and a BA in Economics / Marine Ecology from Smith College.

Brian Traylor is a Senior Planner and Urban Designer for the SFRPC focusing on the implementation of infill and redevelopment initiatives throughout the region. His efforts include assisting local governments with form based land development codes, facilitating transit oriented development, and promoting community collaboration throughout the design process. Since joining the SFRPC, Brian has worked with the sustainability initiatives of the Miami-Dade Climate Change Advisory Task Force, the USGBC Broward 2030 Initiative, and the Governor’s Action Team on Energy and Climate Change. He has a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture from Pennsylvania State University.

Christopher Pettit is an Associate Attorney with the SFWMD and works in the areas of Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Program (CERP), cultural resources, growth management, regulatory environmental law, and regulatory enforcement. Prior to joining the District, Chris worked as a law and policy adjunct for the Marine Policy Institute of Mote Marine Laboratories in Sarasota, Florida, focusing on the legal and regulatory issues arising from storm water runoff and harmful algal blooms. He has taught several classes as an adjunct professor at New College of Florida and the University of South Florida. Chris has a B.A., Political History, Comparative Religion, New College; J.D., University of Florida, With Honors; and L.L.M., University of Cape Town, Highest Honors and is a member of the Florida Bar.

Let me know if you are interested in attending. This is designed for Planners, but might be of interest to others - I can probably make arrangements for up to three people to attend along with me.

Federal grants to help fix up foreclosed homes

Friday, September 26, 2008

JPMorgan Chase buying Washington Mutual's assets for $1.9 billion after FDIC seizes bank

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Special City Commission Meeting - 9/25 re Golf Course


Sorry to the people who asked about the guts of the proposal. The e-mail from the City did not include attachments. They were available on-line but didn't have time to look at them today due to an electrical emergency at my house. I am pleased to report all is well, after a trip here by an electrician. It's always something. Just more on the to-do list. If you click on the title, that will take you to the back up for the item.

I'll get the low-down on the implications of this and get back with you.

South Florida housing market won't get quick fix from economic bailout

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Welcome Clay Aiken...

"Happy Days are Here Again!"

Home sales rise as prices fall

Interesting in light of the comments by Dr. Murray. Graphic comparisons are given for Broward and Palm Beach counties.

Notes from CRA meeting - 9/23

Well, it was a very interesting, at times depressing, CRA workshop meeting yesterday. We got involved in a discussion with an expert about the housing situation in Lake Worth and the entire south Florida region - Dr. Ned Murray of Florida International University. I re-posted a summary of the seminar I attended back in May of this year. Dr, Murray attended that symposium andi t was revealing to hear his opinion of where we are now, as of late September 2008, versus where we were in May in terms of the housing market and residential real estate values, etc.

Please take time to read the post below as I think it may have gotten lost in a flurry of posts when originally made. There were plenty of other alarming tidbits from that seminar, besides Dr. Murray's presentation.

The most upsetting revelation Dr. Murray made last night was that we are not out of the dark economic woods yet, and in fact, are deeper into the abyss than he thought we would be at this point in time. It turns out that, according to his analysis of the statistics, the foreclosure juggernaut has now moved to an outer ring of effect. Most of the junk mortgages are being digested by the market in one way or the other - the new wave, one that keeps on increasing, includes those households that have prime mortgages with good interest rates. There is now a secondary surge of those households affected by the downturn in the residential market - usually two income families where one has either lost a job or is not working for a reason out of their control (health, children rearing, etc.). He told us that the three county south Florida market mortgage delinquencies are at record levels - today! Meaning another wave of foreclosures is on the way.

Other data are just coming out now in the form of the 2007 Housing numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau. Since they were just released yesterday, Dr, Murray hadn't had the time to digest the numbers yet, but he did offer a few insights from the results as well as other findings.
  • More than half of homeowner households are paying over 30% of their income for housing costs - 30% is an industry standard.
  • We are still a tourism economy in South Florida and becoming more of one - most new jobs are in the lower paying service sector.
  • We experienced 60% per year appreciation in housing values in each of the three years leading up to the housing bust. This led to increased expectations (irrational) about future increases and the possibility of "free money" in the form of your home's equity. Lenders were all to quick to feed those expectations, as we are finding out now.
  • Transportation costs as a percentage of household income can be as high as 15 to 20 percent - sometimes approaching the 30% standard related to housing costs - due to the price of gasoline and the impact of longer commutes to work from "affordable" housing markets.
  • As a region, South Florida lacks high wage earners. Our demand comes from forces external to our region.
  • The region's "second home" market is growing significantly - fueled by wealthy households in other locations looking for vacation properties. These include well-healed foreign interests.
  • Rents for the Lake Worth area: The average 2 bedroom rental unit in Palm Beach County goes for $1180 per month. Compared with the median Lake Worth income, that is an affordability gap of $204. This also assumes that the apartment is in livable, up-to-code condition - which is not a given in Lake Worth.
  • The median sales price for a single family home was $305,000 in 2007. It is now $265,000 - that is still a gap of $85,227 in relation to a sales price that would be affordable related to the Lake Worth median income.
  • Down payment requirements, in addition to already stiffer credit standards, have increased from 5% during the boom times to 20% or more today.
  • Condominium units are actually selling o.k. in this market and have a median sales price of $73,500 - a 100% drop from last year.
  • Some rental conversions to condos are also selling, but these are former rental flats - condition and lack of on-site management can be issues.
  • The above condo sales prices leave out condominium fees that can be as high as $300 or $400 a month.
  • People need cash so they are selling to market "bottom feeders" - soon "vulture funds" will be coming in and buying up packages of properties and wait for the next market up turn.
  • Usually a strong economy will help mask the impact of these sorts of corrections in the market - that is not the case in today's economy.
  • CRAs and other government and non-profit agenci4es have to be more proactive - thinking "out of the box."
  • Stressed the importance of collaboration with planning departments in terms of reserving areas for transit oriented development and unified land development codes. It could be a time for REAL neighborhood revitalization.
  • Have to reach out to corporations - encourage employer assisted housing.
  • Cannot get rid of industrial land as that is an area where higher income jobs can be produced. Success achieved in Miami/Dade around the design district by film and entertainment development companies.
Conclusions:

We're in a heck of a mess. When I say "we", I am referring to the entire region of which Lake Worth is a part. Nationally, talk of the $700 BILLION bail-out underlines the whole severity of the situation. But, as with the Chinese sign for crisis - there are equal parts danger and opportunity. The danger is a road that we want to avoid at all costs, but it can also be a motivating factor to come together, roll-up our sleeves and get out of our own ways. With the economic trajectory in a dive, the time is now to set a standard in Lake Worth about what image is acceptable, who we really are and what part of the market are we going to pursue to make sure we have a City to call home once all is said and done. Our next guest at the meeting, Mark Barone, may be part of the answer. More on that later. In the meantime, think of ways that Lake Worth can chart its course through these choppy economic seas - instead of being engulfed by wave after wave across the bow.

Notes from Seminar: Planning Challenges of the 21st Century - Effective Planning in an Anti-Government Environment

RE-POST FROM MAY 2008

As mentioned, last Friday I took part in the above seminar sponsored by the Palm Beach County Planning Congress, Treasure Coast and Broward Sections of the American Planning Association of Florida and the College of Architecture, Urban and Public Affairs of Florida Atlantic University. It was held in the City of Boca Raton's magnificent public meeting building. See following slide show. Imagine having this space in Lake Worth for our public meetings!

A new requirement went into affect this year by the American Planning Association (APA). Members of APA have long ago been able to achieve certified status by taking an exhaustive test. If passed, you are then a "certified" urban planner - a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP). I became certified in 1991 while working for the City of West Palm Beach. The new requirement is that in order to retain your certification, you need to accumulate continuing education credits. We were fortunate that this seminar was approved for 4 credits. You need a total of 32 within a two year period. So we will be having more of these, among many topics, in order to meet the requirements. Notably, Joan Oliva, Executive Director of the Lake Worth CRA and member of the Broward APA section was also on the seminar committee.

Here is the agenda and introductory write-up related to the seminar (excuse my chicken scratchings):




Well, let me tell you this, if you thought we are in deep, we are. In the introduction, we find that the mismatch between wages and housing costs is increasing. We also realize that makes our whole regional economy ore fragile. Many acknowledge that Florida must focus on the high tech sector in order to compete in the 21st Century. But the short term fixes seem to be taking the forefront and not the fundamental long term changes that are needed to attract that sort of labor market. As the introduction says, tax cuts seem to be the answer to every problem.

The speakers unanimously echoed those concerns and sounded alarm bells. One left with a very dim view of the actions and probable outcomes by our elected officials and policy makers of all stripes.

Dr. Jaap Vos, PhD says that the public sector must communicate better. It needs to explain what it does and why. Issues need to be addressed, not just the problem of the day or the need to win the next election. The public sector needs a long term vision and has to get the guts to say "no." He emphasized that we no longer have money to throw at the problem, so we will need the creativity and guts to do things differently.

During the question and answer session, I asked the panel about how we can be proactive as planners to address the boiling discontent amongst supporters of the Hometown Democracy Movement. Dr. Vos gave the best response in citing an example. He talked about a project in Miami's Overtown district and a public hearing attended recently. He recounted how the developer team got 45 minutes, the organized - lawyered opposition got 45 minutes and everyone else in the room got 2 minutes. He said that somehow we have to bridge the divide and make those that feel left out of the process have a voice at the table. Maybe our new medium and the one you are using right now is part of the solution.

Especially depressing was the talk given by Kelly Skidmore, State Representative of District 90. She was very disappointed about the results from the last legislative session, citing big cuts in education ($330 million) and nursing homes ($164 million) as the worst examples. The leadership is adamantly opposed to any attempt to increase revenue - including a proposed $1 per pack tax on cigarettes. With the resulting federal tax benefit in addition to that tax, that would have yielded $1.14 billion. The State of Florida is now #50 in per pupil funding in the United States with the $114 per pupil reduction as a result of the cuts in education. This goes in the wrong direction if we want an educated and educable workforce.

Skidmore declared that a "long term plan for Florida does not exist". Forget about a state income tax, she says. Instead we have a property tax structure that is based upon value of property and not the ability of someone to pay. Eventually, given the skewed income distribution, people will have to move. According to Skidmore, the tax system of this state does not fit the needs of the future and will not support our current needs. She pointed out that the housing slump also dampened the substantial market for household goods which produced markedly lower sales tax revenues. Lastly, she says it is obvious that the leadership is all about "emptying state government offices" - period.

Paul Schofield, AICP, Manager of the Village of Wellington, gave a planner's perceptive, as that is his professional background and only recently assumed the manager position. Do you realize that Wellington's population is 58,500!? Multiply that at least by two to find the number of cars roaming our east/west streets each day. They really have no employment base, but for service industries. He commented that two thirds of the village is essentially a traditional planned unit development and the other third is an equestrian community. According to Schofield, the two do not talk to each other well.

In addressing the needs made real by the passage of Amendment #1, they developed a "business model re-evaluation" of how the Village of Wellington does business. They created a hierarchy of four levels from the cannot-live-without to choice core businesses to quality of life services to add-ons - giving an example of each. By the way, he included planning - especially comprehensive planning - as an essential cannot-live-without service. As a result, over $60 million of their formerly proposed capital improvement projects are eliminated. He said that their budget is done for this year, but the County can't tell them what their tax base is cause the values are still dropping!

The other speaker that I thought had a lot to say and is worth sharing is Dr. Ned Murray, Phd, AICP. He is Associate Director of the Metropolitan Center with Florida International University. His mantra was that sound fiscal policy can only emanate from a sound economic policy. You have to plan for an employment base that produces something to sustain your communities. One of the most important things he said that applies to Lake Worth is that you cannot have so-called sustainable communities without sustainable economies. He cited examples where the entire region is slipping back into a "resort" economy. Those condominium units that start at $500,000 are being bought up by Europeans as second homes - given the weakness of the dollar and the lack of any economic base to support those prices.

In order to get out of this cycle, we have to understand the importance of economic development - but especially industrial development. He said that is one of the more difficult areas in Planning as it takes a lot of patience, but the rewards can be great. He warned about the elimination any land zoned industrial because once it is gone, it's not coming back. He pointed out that almost all of the industrial land in the South Florida region is found 1 mile east or 1 mile west of I-95 - hello Park of Commerce! We also have to focus on conditions that create and enhance the competitive advantage of our local economies. We are all interconnected and have to acknowledge that as it relates to a community's position in the regional economy. Lastly, he said that one answer is mixed-use/transit-oriented development in support of industrial development.

WOW! Great minds think alike - Look at the Lake Worth Road corridor, the charrette that took place last fall and our Park of Commerce.

And two final depressing statistics from Murray: They estimate that each of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties lost at least 5,000 jobs each since the year 2000. Income growth in Palm Beach County over that time on a per capita basis increased by only .86% annually.

As far as the other speakers, they all represented their communities well and communicated their progress in meeting the increasingly complex and dire conditions of local governments. They are doing their homework and their leadership is aware. They are pro-actively attempting to address the challenges that will be faced in the 21st Century.

One last item: Questions from the audience came up concerning how the State is addressing the impact of global warming and all the attendant consequences that may have for the State over the next Century. The panel expressed that only now is some preliminary discussion taking place, but nothing concrete and not very much.

We can only hope for leadership here in Lake Worth that will do its best to meet these challenges.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

CRA Workshop Agenda Tonight - 9/23


Click title for link to back-up material. This is a change decided on at the last meeting - the second CRA meeting of the month will be a workshop. The first meeting of the month will be a regular meeting where action can be taken.

We will be hearing presentations from Mark Barone, who successfully led a program which attracted artists to, of all places, Paducah, Ky. We will also be hearing from Dr. Ned Murray who will tell us about the local housing market and Palm Beach County's Workforce Housing Needs Assessment. Both should be very interesting. I have an individual meeting scheduled with both of them tomorrow.

City Meetings in October

Discussion on Ethics Coming Up...

Florida Redevelopment Association
Treasure Coast Regional Meeting

"Sunshine, Public Records and Ethics Laws - What is Required of Redevelopers?"

Friday, October 3, 2008

11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Delray Beach Marriott

Featured speaker: Glen J. Torcivia, Esquire, Law Office of Glen J. Torcivia and Associates, P.A., West Palm Beach

Let me know if you are interested and I will forward you a registration form.

Palm Beach County election officials seek third round of recounts in disputed judicial race

All this does not bode well for November 4th. Are we looking at a repeat of 2000 - or worse?

Monday, September 22, 2008

World Town Planning Day November 8th Celebrate How Planning Benefits Florida


Please join the Florida Chapter of the American Planning Association in celebrating World Town Planning Day on November 8th. World Town Planning Day recognizes and promotes the role of planning in creating livable communities. The international organization for World Town Planning Day was founded in 1949 by the late Professor Carlos Maria della Paolera of the University of Buenos Aires to advance public and professional interest in planning. World Town Planning Day is promoted each year by the International Society of City and Regional Planners (ISoCaRP) headquartered at The Hague in The Netherlands. World Town Planning Day is celebrated in 30 countries and on four continents.

Planning is the process of envisioning, mapping or otherwise conceiving how communities will look, grow, and define themselves. Planners work with citizens and local governments to ensure that new developments are planned, designed, and built in harmony with the community character. Planners must carefully balance the needs and desires of residents against the challenges presented by growth and development in the physical, economic and social realm. Planning strives to give residents choices. Whether it is the type of home an individual or family chooses to live in or mode of travel from place to place, planning helps to ensure communities address the needs of everyone.

Florida has significantly benefited from good planning practices. Florida is consistently ranked as one of the best states in which to live. Good planning has enabled the state of Florida to balance the state’s environmental integrity, while experiencing population and economic growth.

The American Planning Association (APA) represents more than 43,000 members including professional planners, associated professionals (engineers, architects and more), academics, business leaders, students, and engaged citizens. To learn more about APA’s World Town Planning Day initiatives, visit the organization’s web page at http://www.planning.org/worldtown/index.htm. The Florida Chapter of APA is based in Tallahassee and has over 3,400 members. To learn more about upcoming planning-related events in Florida visit the Florida Chapter website at http://www.floridaplanning.org.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Protest at FPL plant site more peaceful than Feb. clash - Follow-up

lA "family friendly" protest...(click title for PB Post article)

Those that see this power plant as the "beating heart of development" should be making sure there are incentives in place and redevelopment opportunities on land that has already been disturbed by human activity. We need to channel our energies so that there are opportunities to steer investment to older, coastal communities - where there is established infrastructure and possibilities for increased provision and use of mass transit.