Saturday, February 14, 2009

Recollections from last Tuesday's joint City Commission/CRA meeting

Thought some of you might be interested in what happened at the joint meeting. In the end, not too much transpired of note. Commissioner Cara Jennings was absent at the beginning of the meeting, but made it there a little after 6 p.m. (the meeting began at 5:30 - maybe she thought it was 6 - who knows?) We spent most of our time going over the list of priorities that appeared on last years list - created by the former City Commission and former CRA members. We added some new priorities to the list. There was talk about preparation of a revised list of our priorities by staff and then we'll get back together later and re-prioritize the new list.

Mention was made of our contract with Hands On Consulting, but there was not a lot of discussion on the topic, other than a lot of our priorities will be addressed by this group. Commissioner Jennings repeated her issue with the $90,000 for an additional Sheriff officer in the CRA district. Other Commissioners commented that it may not be the best thing to have an officer accompany a code enforcement officer and some may be afraid of a uniformed officer walking the beat in their neighborhood. This we have heard before at City Commission meetings. When I had a chance to comment, I reminded everyone that this came from savings from going with the Sheriff's department (to the tune of $250,000) and therefore I didn't think it was an example of excessive spending, which Commissioner Jennings claimed. When I brought this up, she abruptly left the table, coming back when I was finished. I thought that was odd.

Everyone was generally civil and we will be getting back together soon to refine the list of priorities. There was also discussion about a joint meeting with the CRA, City Commission and Planning and Zoning Board to go over the recommendations from the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council report on transit oriented development. There is actually a lot more in that report than transit oriented development, as I have explained in earlier posts. The Mayor thought that meeting would be late in March.

I'll let you know when that date is set.

Special CRA "Mobile" Workshop on 2/17 at 10 a.m.

Next Tuesday, the CRA will be meeting at the southwest corner of N. E. Street and 10th Avenue N. to review construction progress with the contractor on the project. As you are probably aware, work is on-going to improve the right-of-way to add landscaping (including a 5 foot swale area north and south of the curbline), improve infrastructure, install pavers and lighting, along with moving aerial utilities underground.

This meeting comes from my suggestion made at the 1/27 workshop meeting. I know that I am asked frequently about the status and other specifics regarding the progress and the nature of the project. The board thought this was a good idea, so our field meeting will be taking place.

CRA Attorney David Tolces penned the following memo regarding the Sunshine Law and field meetings of this type. He concludes that we must advertise the meeting, allow the public an opportunity to appear and take minutes of the meeting. All of which are being and will be done. If you are interested, you might want to tag along with us. We are meeting at the contractor's HQ at 10 a.m.

Chinese drywall the latest suspected threat to Florida consumers

Click title for link to PB Post article. No locations in Lake Worth are mentioned that are problematic.

Sometimes it feels like...

Happy Valentines Day!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Hammon Park FYI

I had a brief e-mail exchange with one of the principals of New Urban Communities, developer of the Hammon Park project. I inquired about the status of the workforce housing grant through the state of Florida. You may recall there was an article regarding the potential loss of money in that grant program due to budget issues and shifting priorities. Apparently, there is still money in the fund and they are trying to put something together. This came up as a question in our joint City Commission CRA workshop last Tuesday.

Lincoln Remembered...

A little real estate humor...all too true!

Your House As Seen By:


Your Buyer...

Your Lender...

Your Appraiser...

Your County' s Tax Assessor...

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Early Valentines Treat - A trash map and schedule understable by humans!

Click here for link to an interactive map of the city - separated into trash pick-up zones. Once there, click on the area of the city in which you live and actually SEE what day is your day for what type of garbage pick-up. Actual dates are given indicating when bulk and vegetation pick-up takes place.

Thanks go out to Jim Stafford for the creation of this needed tool. I will post a permanent link on the right hand side of the blog as well. Note that no trees were felled through the creation of this map.

Please tell your friends and neighbors about this resource.

One caveat: This assumes the city follows its own schedule.

Enjoy this early Valentines Day treat!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Slideshow: Selected Properties along N. Dixie Hwy.

This is a re-post (and the one below) from about the middle of last year, soon after I was appointed to the CRA Board. Given the discussion we had last night in our joint City Commission/CRA meeting, I thought that it merited another look. The concept here is that while - currently - residential properties produce the bulk of the CRA revenue, it is more a reflection of the sorry state of commercial properties within the CRA district. Once redeveloped, they have the potential to produce more property tax revenue on a per square foot basis than residential properties. Blighted residential areas within the CRA will then benefit from additional resources created by the reinvestment and redevelopment activity.

I thought it would be helpful to prepare a little show-and-tell about the status of properties along N. Dixie Hwy. In many ways, this area represents a large potential for economic growth for Lake Worth. As shown through the slideshow above, there are a significant number of under-utilized properties that are not producing the tax dollars which could be channeled into neighborhood improvements. Furthermore, as explained during the recent Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council charrette, there is an imbalance in the amount of retail and office opportunities available within the city's boundaries. This means that residents endure a heavy reliance on various forms of transportation to get basic retail goods, along with the need to commute for employment opportunities. When gasoline is over $4 per gallon, that becomes a very important aspect of living in Lake Worth.

It's important to remember that when Lake Worth was originally laid out as a city in the 1920s, Dixie Hwy. - and the FEC Railroad - were the main means of coming and going. There was a great reliance, one that we shared with other coastal communities, on tourism. Looking back into historical material from the 1950s, the political power base in this community was the mom-and-pop ownership of motels along US Highway 1. It was the commercial strip - where you could find all sorts of goods and services directed at those traveling on US 1. And by being what it was, it contributed greatly to the tax base of the community.

When I-95 was built in the 1970s, all the "interstate" traffic that shuffled through the city was diverted to the new highway. Dixie Hwy became a local arterial and the City still hasn't recovered from that shift. During my interview with the City Commission for a position on the CRA, the Commissioners from Districts #2 and #3 looked at me like I had three heads when I talked about the need for investment in this part of the city and the blighting influence it causes. This "no growth" philosophy, while placating those that find it difficult to accept change, falls apart in application due to the unsustainable nature of having employment and shopping areas distant from the city's residential areas. It also chokes off captured tax revenue, made possible by the establishment of the CRA, that could be targeted to blighted residential neighborhoods within the CRA district boundaries.

The map above represents the boundaries of the CRA. It encompasses all the major commercial corridors within the city east of I-95, with the exception of Federal Hwy - which is of a different character and really a hybrid area between residential and commercial. Note that any development that happens along Federal Hwy. creates tax revenue which goes directly to the city's general fund and is not captured by the CRA. You may want to recall that the next time you look at the townhouses that were built over the past 5 years along that street.

The CRA boundaries are unique in Lake Worth in that they take in a lot of area. In the N. Dixie Hwy. extent of the district, the eastern side is made up entirely of the shallow commercial properties that we are all familiar with. On the western side, the district goes all the way to the FEC RR tracks, which includes multi-family zoned areas as well as commerically zoned areas. Additionally, the area depicted in yellow on the above map is residentially zoned and consists of mostly single family and smaller multi-family structures. In summary, there is a lot of land area within the CRA district that is predominantly residential. This is both good and bad. It is good in that as the commercial area redevelops and better reaches its tax revenue producing potential, more funds can be directed to this area to address the slums and blight in some of our most challenged neighborhoods. The bad is that it's potential to contribute additional tax revenue is not as great as commercial properties within the district.

One of the revelations discussed at last week's meeting with the City Commission concerned the information contained on the above spreadsheet. It shows that 54% of the total taxroll of properties within the CRA district come from all categories of residential properties. This should not lead you to the conclusion that residential properties produce more tax revenue than commercial or industrial properties. It just happens to be that a large part of the CRA district is made up of residential properties and that they are in essentially a "built out" state. What increase comes from them will come primarily through market flucuations (increases) in non-homesteaded properties. By the way, 29% of the CRA district taxroll comes from homesteaded properties (a total of 797). Commercial property within the district only produces 37% of the total taxroll within the CRA district. This can be explained by the condition of many of the larger properties within the boundaries (see above slideshow). It can also be explained by the long-term under-valuation of commercial properties in Lake Worth that still has to catch up to current market conditions.

I thought it would be helpful to break down the value on a per acre and per squar foot of land basis to show the potential of commercial and industrial property redevelopment. Check out the table above. Even with the amount of nearly fallow commercial property along N. Dixie Hwy., commercial property generates more per square foot of land area than residential or industrial uses. However, industrial properties are a close second to commercial properties on a per square foot basis. When you consider this, and the potential quality of life and environmental benefits from developing these urban "grayfields", it underlines the importance of these properties in the overall strategic positioning and long term future of the city of Lake Worth.

Something else to consider...

This is going back to the previous post where I discussed the value difference between residential, commercial and industrial properties on a per square foot basis within the CRA district. In studying this, I noticed a discrepancy between the number of parcels shown on the breakdown on types of properties per the 2008 Preliminary Taxroll (above) and the number of parcels shown in a similar breakdown as contained in the Lake Worth CRA's redevelopment plan (below).

Adding them up, you come up with a difference of about 926 less residential parcels in the redevelopment plan versus the taxroll. There are a couple ways that this could be explained. One is that these figures were arrived at in different years. The redevelopment plan is dated 2001 and the taxroll data is from the current year. Another is that individual parcels under the same ownership are shown separately on the taxroll and not in the redevelopment plan.

However, I believe that the main reason these two numbers are different is that the taxroll data reflects the current use of the property/parcel. That there is an actual house or apartment building on the property. Even though the redevelopment plan doesn't specifically say so, I would guess that number represents more the future land use and zoning of the property. So, in areas such as the Gateways along 6th Avenue South and 10th Avenue North, while still individually counted as residential structures, the future land use and zoning call for more of a commercial element. The same could be said for the area west of City Hall.

I thought this discrepancy was interesting in that it shows where the City is going in the future based upon future land use and where it is now in actuality. It also demonstrates the power of land use regulations to direct change over time.

Palm Beach County Centennial Timeline - Click here

Cool timeline showing major events and milestones in Palm Beach County history. Where is the City of Lake Worth - one of the oldest municipalities with an interesting history - in the list of Centennial Partners?

Centennial Partners

Downtown Lake Worth crash kills woman, closes Federal Highway, part of Lake Ave.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

My response to Tom McGow's Post re Beach (click for link)

Thank you Tom - it’s good to hear your perspective. As much as it seems like I am for demolition of the existing building and for a new “green” building at the beach, that really is too simple of a box to put my opinion in. We, as a city, have limited resources. We need to know with a high level of certainty the troubles and complications - through objective analysis - what approach has the best cost to benefit ratio. Perhaps we will know more once we get the financial analysis due soon on the project. Let’s look at the facts surrounding both options. Let’s not rely on emotional reasons and, please, do not call rehabbing the building “restoration” - especially if we are grafting on a 1920s facade to an already historic (yes, it is) International Style building. As for my beating the drum on the campaign contributions, I do so to point out the hypocrisy of screaming Pay to Play at every turn, put together a patchwork, Pay to Play ordinance (and call it an “Ethics” ordinance), introduce it just prior to campaigning, then get one of your “targeted” candidates to vote against it, shamelessly beat that candidate over the head with it during the campaign and then accept campaign contributions from “professional business entities” that have “contracts” with the city and make their interests the cornerstone of your campaign. Yeah, I have a problem with that.

NY Times article on Historic Preservation

New Deal Architecture Faces Bulldozer
Published: February 9, 2009
A movement hopes to save from demolition hundreds of buildings built by the Works Progress Administration.

Click title for permalink to article.

Reasons for Commissioner Mulvehill's Beach-related Myopia

FYI - A lease is considered a contract.

BREAKING NEWS: "The Leaning Tower of Pisa is still leaning in Italy...." Commissioner Mulvehill

Click title for link to last week's WPBF story. John G's owner "We're just doing everything we can to stay here."

Our Commissioner's other motivational moments:

Monday, February 9, 2009

Important Message from the Tropical Ridge Neighborhood Association

Click title for link to website and click image above for more detail.

E-Mail from Blog Reader:

Hi Wes
Started reading your blog a few days ago. I am very seriously thinking of moving to Lake Worth with my husband also an artist. I've been researching your area for ever it seems and became aware of the Artist overlay district. Only never saw a notice or announcement regarding this.

This is back when i ran a not for profit art org. Many of our artists at that time were looking to move out of Coconut Grove .

My Husband and I looked at Bradenton which had the original Fl. Art colony but it was to far
from friends and was a bit crafty. We ended up in Vero Beach and that lasted only until Hurricane Wilma destroyed our studio and everything else. Well that was then we have never recovered. We came back to a tiny rental cottage in the Grove and work here .
Your blog is what I am reading to see what is being done and how are the city fathers handling housing for artists at this juncture. Is your community artist friendly? Mars and Venus are cute.

My response:

Nice for you to write and your contact is very timely. I happen to be on the Community Redevelopment Agency board and we have recently engaged "Hands On Consulting" to put together a program that would target the artistic community that is already here and work to attract artists so that they relocate to Lake Worth - making this an artist destination, creating housing and studio space as part of what could be a 30 block redevelopment effort. This would potentially be on a national or worldwide scale. The contract was just entered into last month (see attached). This group has had great success in Paducah, KY - you can get an idea of what they have accomplished by clicking here.

We are setting things up so that we can avail ourselves of various monies that are becoming available addressing the foreclosure crisis and the overall downturn in the economy. The CRA has a joint meeting with the City Commission this coming Tuesday to affirm this approach and gather input from Commissioners in the design of the program. Your input and suggestions would be helpful.

Again, the timing of you finding my blog is perfect - I have come to understand that in this world there are few coincidences. I am sure there is a greater reason beyond our understanding.

Wes Blackman

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Pink Floyd - Money

Re: Beach - Since someone doesn't allow responses on her blog...

My responses in bold.

He (Dale Hedrick)is a supposed expert in building restoration having restored the Palm Beach County Courthouse.


Why then, does he want to build new on our Lake Worth Beach property rather than restore?

Because he realizes that you would have to spend more money bringing the building up to code (ADA, pilings, windload) and have to work around an existing building complicates that - with no benefit resulting from those upgrades in the end product. A new building - that could be made to look old - would not have those complicating factors. Plus, it would actually give flexibility to tenants as they could stay in the old building until the new one is finished - without what is surely going to disrupt their operations if the existing building is re-habbed. Either way, you are recreating history - nothing is being "restored."

Is there more money to be made in building new?

No and you have more flexibility.

Or does it all boil down to the plan he originally submitted and one similar to Greater Bay, building across from Benny's on the dune, that he is still pushing behind the scenes.

That is no "dune" - the hill is the former western edge of the barrier island - everything west of that is fill. The plan showing that as the buidling location comes from the Treasure Coast plan - a product of many public meetings.

The Mayor says that a building garage WILL be built on our beach.

A parking garage would consolidate parking on a smaller piece of land and allow for more green space. An alternative would be to build a parking ramp in our downtown and encourage people to park there and hitch a trolley ride to the beach.

Or is it all simply to ensure that our beachfront is changed to commercial zoning.

The BAC actually allows less retail than what is there now. The property always has had commercial uses and the BAC memorializes that. From the BAC language: E. Retail establishments. The sum of all retail establishments may not exceed seven thousand two hundred (7,200) square feet.

Her response to my responses:

An alternative would be to build a parking ramp in our downtown and encourage people to park there and hitch a trolley ride to the beach.
That's an idea that will surely get you elected. :) Frankly, I am really SICK TO DEATH OF THE discussions on the BEACH. I don't give diddly as to how much square feet is allowed under BAC. I am not the least bit interested in the argument for it. Let's just allow us to vote on it and we will see who is thinking correctly here.

My Response:

Yes, we take way too much time talking about these 19 acres while the rest of the city goes wanting.

Her response:

Wes, the beach is really a unique property that we own. How many cities can say that they own 19+ acres of oceanfront property? The people have always had a right to determine its future, in my mind or at least have a big input. The beach is why we have tourists here from all over the country and the world. It has nothing to do with why we have so many other problems in our City or why they are not being addressed. Ending the illegal immigration would be a great start to ending blight and a lot of crime. The cessation of give-aways of public buildings on ridiculous lease amounts and terms would be another. Hiring good managers and electing smart public officials is a way. There are many others.

Dishonoring civil disobedience

Click title for link to PB Post editorial. Some excerpts below:
For Mr. Tsolkas, Palm Beach County's most devoted anarchist, civil disobedience means throwing a public tantrum to show contempt for things he is certain deserve contempt. For him, that amounts to just about everything.

The difference between the ranks of the legitimately committed from other eras and Mr. Tsolkas' camp, however, is in the whining. Honorable protesters don't whine; they accept the consequences of their decision to break minor laws in order to advance higher causes.

All this compromised the credibility of the protesters, who have legitimate environmental issues about the FPL plant. Instead of drawing attention to those concerns, they made themselves the story with a self-congratulatory display of slapstick narcissism.

Lake Worth voters have made a number of questionable decisions in recent years, but rejecting Mr. Tsolkas' non-platform platform wasn't one of them. Still, he is a better candidate than a protester.

The Future is Now: News over the "Internet" as seen from a 1981 vantage point...