Saturday, May 9, 2009

Click here for link to pics from the Pier - taken this morning...

Must respond to this absurdity...

From Lynn Anderson's blog, calling out yours truly:

Even on a local level, we have Wes Blackman, a CRA member and local blogger who says he wants to run for Mayor. He seems to relish in the thought or possibility of Save Our Neighborhood Inc. and the Lake Osborne Heights neighborhood losing on the Sunset property issue and disses Florida Hometown Democracy, every chance he gets, calling it a "radical proposal." The only thing radical is his statement.

Some people get perverse pleasure in just fighting the very people they live around and get turned on when thinking that their view is the only one that is correct, hoping the other guy goes down in defeat, thus proving that they were smarter all along. One thing for sure that can be admired, he is not hypocritical in his beliefs on these issues even if they are not very politically smart with a lot of the people. I like someone who stands up for what he believes but he just alienated one half of the city by a single statement.

All we are saying is "Let the people vote" on land use changes. Why should three commissioners be able to change an entire neighborhood for a developer? Sounds fair to me.

Well, for those around here that surf the local blogs, you might already be aware of Ms. Anderson's. It is a unique breed. You can find it through a Google search if you're interested. In my opinion, its tone is decidedly negative and is laced with half-truths and misinformation. I defend her right to say whatever she wants, but it would be wise for her to look in the mirror of public opinion after she touches her computer keyboard. Can life be all that bad?

I don't "relish" the thought of anyone losing anything. I relish "win-win" decisions and the time when we can all co-exist peacefully, follow established process and laws and have the ability to look at the facts objectively. For many reasons, I see the Hometown Democracy movement as a dangerous precedent for the State of Florida. This conclusion comes after my years (26+) as a certified urban planner, most of which have been practiced in the State of Florida. My professional experience is predominantly one that is all about sensitive redevelopment of already existing urban areas and the promotion of historic preservation - it has not been about "greenfield" development.

Hometown Democracy is dangerous for the following reasons:
  • It will over-politicize a process (amendment and adoption of Comprehensive Plans) that should be based on "data and analysis" - objective fact, rather than emotional hyperbole.
  • It will draw big developer money into elections in order to "buy" the vote of an already weary electorate tired of big money media campaigns.
  • It will push what development there will be to areas away from an established voter base - locally that means western portions of Palm Beach County and interior regions - many environmentally sensitive - in the state of Florida. This would ensure the "sprawl" type of development pattern that has been the bane of our existence since the advent of the automobile as a primary means of transportation.
  • It will tax the voter in studying complex issues that are distilled into a minimum number of words to fit on a ballot. These may appear in groups of 10, 20, 30 more individual items on that ballot. The difficulty in interpreting what is actually being proposed will encourage over-simplification of these complex issues and lead to sound-bites contained in 15 second advertisements on your local news programs.
  • It will lead to lawsuits from those people who may have their property rights (founded in the U.S. Constitution) taken away from them.
  • It uses the romantic term "Hometown Democracy" to pull on the heart strings of petition signers and voters - dropping bread crumbs to follow toward disastrous land use decisions.
I am not "fighting" against the people. I haven't involved myself in PACs or lawsuits or signature gathering like Ms. Anderson and her associates such as Ms. Blackner (head proponent of Hometown Democracy), have in the pursuit of their vision of what "right" is. My involvement was limited to an affirmative vote when I was on the Planning and Zoning Board to change a land use designation and rezoning on a 4 acre property at the edge of a single family neighborhood - surrounded on three sides by one of the most dense residential projects in the city. My vote was based on objective information and the implementation of safeguards that buffered the effects of the zoning change on the surrounding neighborhood. As a result of the City Commission voting 3-2 to approve the land use plan change and rezoning, a very small and vocal group has leveraged this decision to advance their political agenda by backing certain candidates for the City Commission. The composition of the present Commission is a result of their efforts.

The property was also annexed by the city of Lake Worth. Oh, and the resulting change in land use and zoning amounts to four (4) additional units from the former County zoning designation. I have the documentation of that if you care to read it.

Does growth management and how we adopt and follow local comprehensive plans need to be overhauled in the state of Florida? Yes indeed! The fix to the current situation is not Hometown Democracy as currently proposed by its most ardent followers. And it's also not found in the gutting of the growth management laws produced during this last legislative session.

Locally, I have come around to believe that we should vote on anything - ANYTHING - that would involve changing or spending significant money at the city's beach property. And I think it's interesting that those that push for "let the people vote" are the ones that ignore a local Lake Worth referendum that allowed height of buildings to go up to 100 feet west of Dixie and 65 feet east of Dixie Hwy. Hmmmmmm.

Personally, I like Ms. Anderson and think we'd have a great time on the dance floor dancing to disco tunes. We just don't see eye to eye on issues related to redevelopment.

Don't forget the GRAND Re-OPENING of the Pier!

From early on in the reconstruction - January 2008

10 a.m. today - ribbon cutting. And also the last day of the Beach green market. Channel 5 and 12 have had major coverage this morning of the pier and the fishing tournament that begins at 8 a.m. I had to giggle listening to the weatherman from Channel 5 give directions to the pier from I-95.

Anyway, hope to see you there!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Lake Worth CRA Bicycle Rodeo - 5/30

This is a product of discussions with Commissioner Mulvehill and Joan Oliva - CRA Executive Director regarding the CRA bicycle plan that is in the works. It's should be a great event - bring the whole family!

E-MAIL: This just in re Trash and City Surliness

Hey Wes;
I think I'm about to have another stroke, thanks to this so-called city we inhabit.
Once again, I've run afoul of the trash schedule, today, by putting-out our bulk trash, after having a CITY EMPLOYEE come to our door 2 weeks ago and have us revise our calender FOR THE FIFTH TIME !!!
Apparently, this guy was wrong, as another city worker just orange-flagged my well kept trash pile [star's for compact, neat, AND covered with a tarp], and give us the option of removing it or a fine.
We had words.
I admit I was p.o'ed and angry
this guy as much as called me a liar when I told him I had spoke w/another city rep, had revised my calender, and when I showed him the much scribbled-over calender, again inferred I had just done said revision and then told me he was talking to my wife, and I should "get back in my house"!
He then put himself in extreme jeopardy by pulling the "big man gonna get in your face/space" by jumping out of his truck and GETTING IN MY FACE!
When I told him I was NOT intimidated, that he should immediately back-off, and that I .
would certainly make ANOTHER call to the city, he quickly took his seat back in the truck.
I know I bear a certain amount of responsibility for this confrontation, but I ask you, is this the standard of communication we should expect from the people who WORK FOR US !!!???
I do not lie when I say that he got physically in my face/space, and were I not 6' 2 @ 200lb.'s, this may have did not, just made me more angry and considering escalation........
I'm positive I'm not the only one faced with this kind of bad behavior, and would like to see this on your site, read if/ of others facing the same kind of attempted intimidation by city workers.
This is bad.
This is how ppl. get hurt.
how some go to jail.
Being as my wife witnessed this entire episode, I'm considering exactly what Lake Worth doesn't need - a law suit
Thanks for reading my rant,

NEWS ALERT: Lawsuits from local Hometown Democracy measure drain city coffers

Dear Fellow Floridian:

Over the past year, we have been sending you news on Hometown Democracy-related developments in the small Pinellas County town of St. Pete Beach. Since adopting Hometown Democracy-style rule in 2006, local residents have endured ongoing economic hardship and a seemingly endless string of lawsuits at taxpayer expense.

The St. Petersburg Times is now reporting that--after spending over half a million dollars on Hometown Democracy-related lawsuits--"the city has less than $500 left in its legal budget with five months remaining in the fiscal year."

Although it is hard to imagine the chaos that would ensue if Hometown Democracy were taken statewide, St. Pete Beach gives us a small glimpse into Florida's future under this radical proposal: An unending legal nightmare, tragic job loss and widespread frustration.

I encourage you to read the article above and share the story of St. Pete Beach with your friends and family. As we speak, Hometown Democracy's largest funders are bankrolling a major petitioning effort throughout Florida. We expect that they will pay for enough signatures to reach the ballot soon.

Unless we organize for victory now, every community in Florida will quickly learn the hard lessons of St. Pete Beach.

Warm Regards,

Ryan Houck
Executive Director
Floridians for Smarter Growth

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Horrific Story from South Palmway, Lakeside Area...

Yesterday Afternoon (Friday May 1st), on the alley easement located at the terminus of 13th Avenue South and Lakeside Drive, a Caucasian woman described as being a brunette with medium length (shoulder length) Hair, with a dog with medium length coat, black/brown (could have been a Shepard mix or a pit bull mix) with the name "GINGER" allowed her dog to run off leash on this roadway easement. Her Dog viciously attacked and mauled the beloved pet and companion of XXXX our Neighborhoods' 104 year old resident.
XXXX's 2 pound Chihuahua, named Tootsie was no match for this larger dog who was not on leash and who's owner obviously ignored the state leash law. This attack is certainly not the first attack, or problem that we as residents have had to contend with, living next to these open easements.. The City at one point did have a posted sign which stated that animals must be leased, but that sign was removed for some reason. No this was not the first attack, but it will be the last.....We are fed up with the lack of support from our City, and from residents who believe that they can thumb their noses at ordinances and laws. Leash laws are to protect the public from the very unfortunate and criminal attack of this poor little dog.
I really wish our Commissioner Suzanne Mulvehill, and those responsible for removing the sign, and for those who believe that these easements serve some sort of public purpose , had the duty to inform a 104 year old man that his only companion, and his beloved dog lay dead in the yard because of others stupidity.
The Dog's owner left the scene and did not report the attack to anyone, she left that poor little dog to die, abandoned and alone. She must be found and punished. Our neighbors are offering a $5000.00 reward for information which leads to the arrest and conviction of the owner who provoked this attack. If you see anyone matching this description, and a dog who answers to the name Ginger, please contact us immediately, or contact Officer Shirley Raia, with Palm Beach County Animal Control. Refer to Activity (case) number 09-007943. Telephone number is 561-233-1200 ex. 0.
If anyone has any information, please provide this immediately as we want to quickly locate this dangerous dog and owner. This could easily have been an elderly person or child who was attacked! There are way to many people who allow their animals to roam the neighborhood, off leash.. This must stop. It violates the law, but more importantly it makes our neighborhood less safe. You can and should report any incident of off leash dogs to animal control. An animal control officer does not have to witness the offense, they can take your statement, and file the complaint. Once several complaints are made, the owners face stiff fines up to and including the removal of the animal.
Please, help make our neighborhood safe. Lets take back our streets from those who treat our community with such a lack of human decency and compassion.

From the NY Times: The Manure Chronicles

The Manure Chronicles
Published: May 7, 2009
The chickens had a glut of droppings — manure — and I had a new vegetable garden that needed fertilizing. I was hoping we could come to terms.

Click title for more...actually a fair article - but notice that these are "registered organic gardeners" and the operation is part of a community "co-op" - a little more structured and regulated to a greater degree than what was proposed here. And, how well does the city do at regulation? My point entirely.

All time record for visits in one day - thanks for dropping by!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

10th Avenue Update

A construction progress update in provided for your viewing below. Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns.

Thank you


Construction on north half of the road :

· Installation of band curbs at corner features

Construction on south half of the road:

· Installation of street light poles to follow sidewalk completion

· Installation of band curbs at corner features

· Water main tie-ins

· Installation of signal pole foundations at “D” and “A”

· Installation of conduits for franchise utilities

Also continual:

Redesign of handicapped ramp at “B” and 10th and discussions with property owner

Discussions with FDOT regarding requirements for pavers vs. concrete at 10th and Dixie – information from FDOT expected late May

Discussions with the County for a change in timing/ light fixture at the intersection of “A” and 10th

EDITORIAL: Jennings failed her own test

The Palm Beach Post is starting to get the message - about 7 months too late. They even used the phrase "holier-than-thou" - appropriate.

Announcement from City: Grand Re-opening of the William O. Lockhart Municpal Pier

You are cordially invited to be our guest at the grand re-opening ofthe William O. Lockhart Municipal Pier.

Saturday, May 9th at the Lake Worth Municipal Beach.

Ribbon Cutting at 10:00 a.m.,

Activities Throughout the Day
  • Fishing Tournament With Prizes - 8:00 am start ; Registration Begins at 6:30 am
  • Free Admission to the Pier and Parking
  • Free Food and Drink
  • Free Giveaways
  • Free T-shirts to First 300 Guests
For more information please call Judy Reed, Leisure Services Manger at 561-533-7365.

Another result of our "progressive" City Commission...

Click title for link to story on Channel 5.

We don't have lifeguards at our beach again on Tuesdays and Wednesdays - this after we had a drowning no less than a month ago. I provide here again the ocean rescue statistics from 2007 and 2008 on our beach.

TRAGEDY does not obey the calendar - this is a basic public safety function - what more is there to say?

Below is a letter from the United States Lifesaving Association - written in January of this year - begging for lifeguard coverage at our beach.

Have we hit bottom yet?

Lake Worth nixes county deal; moves ahead with reverse-osmosis water plant

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Sources for Rain Barrels:

The following are links to rain barrel sources:

Click here

Click here

Click here

Click here

No recommendations on retailer or manufacturer, just a resource you might want to consider.

Lake Worth Tree Board - Shade Tree Give-away - 5/16

Click here for live link to City Commission meetings on 5/5

Click here for link to Sierra Club website on deep well injection - which would be required for our "new" Reverse Osmosis plant.

They decided not to pay the $6 million to the County. They are going forward with the Conflict Resolution Process with the County. Much talk about conservation of water related to our Emergency Order from the South Florida Water Management District.

Annabeth Carson called green lawns a luxury for the rich if they are not producing food. A lot of talk about rain barrels and catching what rain we get from the sky. Commissioner Jennings wants big signs at the entrance to the city proclaiming water crisis. They also want increased enforcement measures by the Sheriff for violators of watering restrictions (a good idea.) They also talked about going to a modified "Phase 4" (most critical) water restrictions. Commissioner Jennings brought up an idea they implemented in Australia about the length of showers, turning off fountains, etc. And they still talk about hooking up to West Palm Beach water, which is operating under a court order regarding their system.

There is also no guarantee that the city will get a permit for deep well injection. There is no guarantee that we can hook up to West Palm Beach or the County (they even asked if the County would let the city connect to the new line on an "emergency basis")

No one either would or could come up with the complaint that the city has with the County agreement - they'll let staff come up with the reasons. Commissioner Golden said there were lots of complaints.

And we are approaching the County, having not honored our obligation, and expect them to go along with our Conflict Resolution process and at the same time we are going to them to negotiate an extension of our $5 million grant for the beach redevelopment.

Any guesses what will happen next?

E-mail communication between Commissioner Jennings and Rachel Bach - prior to last Monday's meeting on Comp Plan...FYI

Click image to make larger. Rachel Bach's responses in blue. Commissioner Jennings' use of a term like "new or re-developed tracts" makes me wonder if this isn't meant for a larger outside of Lake Worth.

Click here for review of residential real estate sales in 33460 last 30 days

Some townhouse units and a unit in the Lucerne sold. It's interesting that the cry from those against townhouses at the time they were approved were that they weren't affordable housing. The market has a way for correcting that as these sales attest. Excess supply and less demand leads to falling prices. Eventually the market will find its equilibrium where currently vacant units are occupied at a new market price.

That is the trouble with the thinking of people who complain about vacant units in townhouses. First of all, these buildings are on the tax rolls and property taxes have to be paid whether vacant or not. Second, as noted above, it is a temporary situation that will resolve itself with the market. Third, the townhouses built in Lake Worth during this national and international BOOM in housing are a relatively small number compared to other local municipalities. Fourth, in many cases, these buildings took care of some blighting influences that couldn't be eradicated in other ways...6th Avenue South and Federal Hwy. come to mind. Fifth, for every unit built in Lake Worth - one less is built in environmentally sensitive or sprawl-prone areas.

Commissioner Jennings talks a lot about the FPL plant at "the headwaters of the Everglades" - she even lent her negotiating talents between protesters and law enforcement -and frequently references how that power plant represents the beating heart of development.

Question: If we wall off the already urbanized area (which Lake Worth is in the middle of) from redevelopment, then where will that go? The only place left will be interior regions of Palm Beach County and the rest of the state of Florida. All of which will be aided if Hometown Democracy makes it on the ballot in 2010 and becomes law.

One last hope for Tri-Rail's 14,700 weekday passengers: Mangonia Park to Miami service faces shutdown

Click title for link to PB Post article. Hopefully, they can find a way to rescue this service. I personally know many people how rely on it and made their home purchase/residence decisions based upon this service (two income households usually.) To not find funding for this sends a very pessimistic message on how we as a society are going to handle future environmental and economic challenges.

Lake Worth commission to debate paying $6 million to Palm Beach County for water

This is why our water rates will be increasing 86% over five years - we will be paying for two sources of water through our utility bills. This is courtesy of our "progressive" City Commission. Click title for item in PB Post.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Article by yours truly in current CRA newsletter...

...on Lake Worth's economic and environmental sustainability. It's on the third page - click title for link. Other great information as well.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Revised "Beach Site Vision Study" as of Friday...

I called Jason Bregman from Michael Singer Studios - Friday - about the "revised" "final" product when it wasn't on the website after 4/27.  They posted it later that afternoon...something about trouble with the size of the data file. Click here for link.  

Still, the big question is what will happen with a building at the beach.  From last Monday's meeting, it sounded like Vice-Mayor Golden didn't want a casino building at all.  Commissioner Mulvehill was still loyal to the beach merchants who supported her campaign.  Commissioner Jennings was quiet on the building issue, but thought that the Beach and Casino zoning district should be deleted.  Expect more later on this.

From my point of view, the entire plan means little if you haven't decided whether to re-hab the building, tear it down and build a new one or just tear it down period.  Regardless, there are site plan implications based upon the yet-to-be made choices.

Myths, misinformation, selective memory, hysteria, bungling bureaucracy...who benefits?

Part of the reason that I devote time to this blog is to make up for the poor job that the city does in getting out basic information to people that live here, invest here, play here and work here.  The city's website - a self-proclaimed "continuous work-in-progress" - amounts to a labyrinth of confusing links, directories, quirky search functions, out-dated information and the list goes on. It's basic format hasn't changed for at least ten years which, in the arc of technological evolution, is an eternity.  Surf other websites for other communities in Palm Beach County and you will see glaring differences in the functionality and ease of information retrieval provided by other municipalities.  Recently, the city's website has become a place that can't be relied upon to have agendas available for meetings that are taking place on the same day.  

We live in an information age and there are issues related to computer availability and skills that need to be addressed so that all populations can benefit from what this technology offers.  To overcome those obstacles, outreach and training is needed.  But just because that's so should not prevent a municipality from making the most of available technology to distribute information and to increase the availability of services through electronic means.

Custody of the validity of historical information (that could mean last week or 25 + years ago) is a sacred trust.  Many political leaders have used the manipulation of information to further their own goals based upon the reality they want to portray.  Stalin was famous for making "historians" erase images of political foes from text books, propaganda sheets, and public places after they were hauled off to labor camps in Siberia or a fate even worse.

Given the political environment of the city of Lake Worth, one has to wonder if this making information difficult to access is a means to an end.  For example, there are groups in the city that do not want the public to remember that the city of Lake Worth had a referendum on allowable height of buildings in 1996.  The referendum passed which calls for buildings no more than 100 ft. tall west of Dixie Hwy and no more than 65 ft. east of Dixie Hwy.  They would rather have you believe that the "people" want only 2 and 3 story buildings - period. Likewise, there are people here in Lake Worth that would like you to not believe that the Sunset property could be developed under Palm Beach County regulations at 36 multi-family units.  See below analysis from the Palm Beach County zoning director:

These same people would not like you to know the amount of public input and protections put into the regulatory actions as it relates to this property. They point to the zoning allowing 80 units - when the project would be restricted to 40 units through an annexation agreement designed to protect surrounding residents. They would also like you to ignore the fact that the property is surrounded on three sides by one of the more dense residential developments in the city of Lake Worth - Murry Hills.

By not dealing with the realities (i.e., the truth), we are being led down a path that would have you believe that down-zoning this property to SF-7 is somehow a reasonable alternative for the property owner and the city.  Here is a section from the city's Zoning Code related to lot and building height regulations for the SF-7 district:

In truth, the maximum allowable density in SF-7 zoning does not equate to 7 units to an acre.  An acre has 43,560 square feet.  The minimum size lot in the SF-7 district is 7,500 square feet.  Dividing that into the number of square feet in an acre equals 5.8 units per acre.  Then, you add the requirement of a 75 foot wide lot which is accessed by a dedicated road 50 to 60 ft. wide to access the newly platted single family lots, you probably get down to 15 or 16 single family buildable single family lots - around 4 units to the acre.  In more than one meeting, one vocal proponent of misinformation offered that at 7 units to an acre - including the "historic building" on the property - would give the property owner 29 single family units.  This is nothing but WRONG information being dispensed as fact at a public meeting.

And, it's worth noting, that the long-existing height limitation in SF-7 zoning is 35 feet - or two stories.  So, some could build the equivalent of a three story structure in height, as long as it didn't have more than two floors.

In retrospect, it would have been better to create a new low density multi-family future land use designation and related zoning district that would be limited to 10 units to an acre, with use and setback and height protections built into it.  There are other appropriate applications of this sort of zoning district throughout the city.  This would have eliminated the need for an annexation agreement.  (Another thing certain people avoid talking about is that the whole project would have gone through a whole other review for special use and site plan approval.)

As it turns out, that would have been the easier path than the now four years of legal battles that now may go on longer.  On this coming agenda, the city attorney's office is asking whether or not to attend a State administrative hearing - since the battle that the city and others fought for four years ($$$) is now against the desires of the current city commission.

Why aren't we getting down to the real solutions?  Because certain groups gain politically by protracting this controversy through a smog of misinformation.

I've also thought that the lack of response by the Commission and city administration in addressing deficiencies in the building department may likely be more of a means to an end.  If you don't want anything to be built in Lake Worth (i.e. a moratorium on development), why don't you just make sure that it is as difficult as possible to do business here?  Why would you want to address the city's image as it relates to the efficient processing of permits and inspections if you didn't want any physical change at all?  

How is not addressing this issue different from laying down in the middle of a street to block access to a driveway?

Next time you hear something being promoted as fact, it would be advisable to do a little research and ask about the ultimate motivations of the people that speak what passes for "truth."  Isn't motive one of the most important aspects of criminal investigations?