Saturday, February 13, 2010

Friday, February 12, 2010

The way we are...

So, during our walk down memory lane - or our historical tour down some of our major commercial corridors - we saw that we were once able to sustain ourselves economically.  This came from capitalizing off of our location along the main north/south automobile routes in South Florida.  We used our beach as an asset to draw tourists that stayed at the local hotels and motels, spent money in our downtown and provided a tax base that was not as dependent on single family residential property as it is today.

I-95 become the major north/south transportation route in the mid-1970s and the city has yet to adjust to that reality.

With the recent demolition of the Midnight Sun building - fresh earth in the slideshow above - we have even more vacant land along large sections of South Federal Hwy.  Some of the properties were assembled for redevelopment during the recent boom period in residential construction, but were eventually caught in a lurch once the bubble burst.  South Federal Hwy. is not a historic district, nor does it deserve to be, but now it represents a significant amount of lost property tax base that supports the city's general fund.  This part of the city is not within the CRA district, so the tax revenue is not captured through tax increment (TIF) that land along Dixie Hwy. is.

We are still in the midst of a depressed real estate sector of the economy and that is not helping this situation.  Eventually, we will emerge from our current economic storm someday and need to be ready once we do.

Rather than deal with trying to rent out these small rooms and all the unintended consequences associated with that, property owners are choosing to demolish the buildings, lowering their carrying costs - and as a result reducing our tax base.  While on the Planning and Zoning Board, we would occasionally hear cases where we sat as the Nuisance Abatement Board.  That board is empowered to take evidence generated by code enforcement and law enforcement.  Many of the cases we heard came from South Federal Hwy. Usually code and drug/prostitution related issues were the focus.  If there was a problem property, we could take action and shut down its operation for a period of time, or even permanently.

Crime and its impact to adjacent single family neighborhoods is still a major problem in the area.  Its existence, and the perception of its existence, does not contribute to the incentive to redevelop the area.  I met with Commissioner Mulvehill this week and we talked about this issue.  I brought up the possibility of the Nuisance Abatement Board meeting more often to address the problem here and she said that she would talk with the City Manager about it.  It seemed to be news to her.  We also talked about the need to talk to property owners, real estate professionals and examine our new Comprehensive Plan so that we can try to generate interest in re-investing in these properties.  We'll see.

Now, it is up for discussion whether or not the current regime wants any shovel to hit the ground - ever.  Maybe vacant, low property tax producing land is what they want after all.  Perhaps this is an area of new urban farming - acres and acres of tomatoes and lettuce in the midst of the South Florida area?  Maybe on a more limited basis, but this would be extreme - and the tax consequences would be immense.

And maybe it is just that the "brand" Lake Worth is so tarnished due to - quoting from another message board:
 - "I've lived in Lake Worth 15 years, close to Dixie highway and have put up with:


Prostitutes openly working and getting picked up and dropped off in neighborhoods
Almost every home on my block has been broken into
Blight that is getting worse by the day
Illegals lining up on Lake and Lucerne even after the ignorant commissioners spent $400k on the shuffleboard courts for them
Gang shootings
No code enforcement, overcrowding
Taunts from my friends about staying in Lake Worth
But the "Pain Clinic" at N. Dixie and 12th is the absolute bottom. In addition to Lake Worth being known as the place to not to move to if you have a young family, a place to not to move your business to, a place where the utilities are overpriced and ineffective, a place where slumlords thrive, a place where illegals know they can hang out in the street looking for work and openly drinking,
WE ARE NOW KNOWN ALL ACROSS THE SOUTHEAST AS THE PLACE TO GO IN PALM BEACH COUNTY FOR DRUG ADDICTS TO GET THEIR ILLEGAL PRESRCIPTIONS FILLED.  
The parking lot at that place was packed with cars at 5 p.m. on Thursday all but 2 cars were from Kentucky or Tennessee and the parking lot was packed again this morning at 9.
Never mind what the scumbag people looked like. If you can believe it they make Lake Worth's homeless population look spiffy.
I've fought as long as I could. Time to sell and move
We have a problem that needs many solutions - is the current Commission and city administration up to addressing these issues?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

My favorite version...

The way we were...

This is the "Hotel Florida."  I have seen other references to it.  Does anyone know where it was located?  Judging by the picture, what looks like a main street, I suspect it was near the downtown.
Listed on the back of the card as 129 North "J" Street, this occupied the southwest corner of North "J" and Second Avenue North - which is now the parking lot behind the Gallo Building.
The "Southgate Motel", on the west side of the 700 block of South Dixie Hwy, is still there today.  In fact, I used to live behind it when I lived on South "H" Street. The back of the card says that it is in "within walking distance of shopping, restaurants and the ocean."  Really?
This is one postcard that has a message on the back dating from 1962 - the "Cedar Motel".  It is in the general location of the Courtyards at the northeast corner of 6th Avenue South and South Federal.  The description on the back of the card talks about the "New Pier" and "cross ventilation" - before air conditioning.
Another postcard with a message on the back, postmarked 1979.  This is the "Carolina Motel & Apartments" at 711 South Federal Hwy - on the west side a few blocks south of 6th Avenue South.  Notice the neon sign announcing "Heated Apts." - good advertising for a night like tonight!  This one is still intact and now goes by the name of "Seven Eleven Apartments."
Meet "Evelyn's Apartment Court" - probably a former neighbor of the "Southgate Motel."
"Purvis Garden Villa Court" - 1122 South "J" Street - Just north of 12th Avenue South, actually next to the lot that was to be "Chicks-on-Dixie." Up-Date - this has now been demolished.
Not the glamor shot here, to be sure.  This is 1417 South Federal - the "Saga Apartments." This is what it looks like today.
Here's the "Dixie Bell Motel" 1100 South Dixie Hwy.  It is still there today, albeit with a different paint job and somewhat different client base.
1617 N. Dixie Hwy. - "The Palm and Pine Motel" - now the parking lot north of Ample Storage.
This is the "Holiday House" at 320 North Federal - currently surrounded by a chain link fence and not occupied now for a few years.

Remember my post about "pain clinics?" Click here to read Tom McGow's post on Tom's Page.



Important upcoming dates - Reef Rescue News


Hands Across the Sand
is coming to a beach near you - February 13
Hands Across the Sand is a statewide event organized to protest oil drilling off the Florida coastline. This is an opportunity to show opposition to oil drilling as close as 3 to 10 miles off our coast. This movement will be made of people from all walks of life and will cross political affiliations. This is not about politics it is about protection of our shoreline, our tourism, our valuable properties and our way of life.  
Suggested dress - wear black to resemble an oil slick  
Click here to find an organized event near you

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Court orders Florida to set limits on fertilizer and animal waste pollution in state waters – dates set for public hearing

EPA is holding three public hearings in Florida for public comment on the proposed rule. 

Background - A federal judge in Tallahassee approved a historic consent decree which requires the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to set legal limits for the widespread nutrient poisoning that triggers harmful algae blooms in Florida waters. The ruling comes 13 months after five environmental groups filed a major lawsuit to compel the federal government to set strict limits on nutrient poisoning in public waters. (Learn more about the court settlement)
The opposition is organized to fight water pollution controls  
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Charlie Bronson is siding with the polluters to fight against cleaning up polluted waters. Instead of working to make the publics water cleaner and safer, Bronson is spending tax dollars to help special interests like the Florida Pulp and Paper Association and Big Agriculture block the clean water settlement. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services filed a motion to intervene in the case on the polluters side. 
Show your support for water quality standards. 
Meeting locations and dates: 
February 16, 2010 at the Holiday Inn Capitol East
1355 Apalachee Parkway, Tallahassee, FL 32301

10:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon (new session) 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.  
February 17, 2010 at the Crowne Plaza Orlando Universal
7800 Universal Boulevard, Orlando, FL 32819

1:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. (this session has been extended 1.5 hours) 7:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. (this session will begin 30 minutes later than originally planned)  
February 18, 2010 at the Holiday Inn Palm Beach Airport
1301 Belvedere Road, West Palm Beach, FL 33405

12:00 noon to 5:00 p.m. (this session will begin 1 hour earlier than originally planned) 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. (this session will begin 1 hour earlier than originally planned)  
Click here to signup for meeting 
 Meeting information: http://www.epa.gov/waterscience/standards/rules/florida/

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More Florida Coral in Danger of Extinction

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) announces decision to consider adding 7 Atlantic and 75 Pacific coral species to the Endangered Species List.
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The NMFS published their findings to proceed with a review to determine whether 82 species of coral warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The action was taken in response to a petition filed by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD). The petition asserts that the species are being affected by dredging, coastal development, coastal point source pollution, agricultural and land use practices, disease, predation, reef fishing, aquarium trade, physical damage from boats and anchors, marine debris, and aquatic invasive species. The petition contends that synergistic threats of ocean warming, ocean acidification, and other impacts affect these species, stating that immediate action is needed to reduce greenhouse gas concentrations to levels that do not jeopardize these species. 



The seven species of Atlantic coral under consideration are found along the entire Florida reef tract stretching from the Dry Tortugas to Martin County and include: Mountainous Star Coral, Rough Cactus Coral, Lamarck’s Sheet Coral, Pillar Coral, Elliptical Star Coral, Boulder Star Coral and Montastraea franksi. 
Deadline for public comment is April 12, 2010 
NMFS has opened a 60 day public comment period to solicit information from the public, government agencies, the scientific community, industry, and any other interested parties on the status of these 82 coral species. 
Click here to learn about the public comments period
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Upcoming Reef Rescue Events 

March 13, Turtle Days at Gumbo Limbo Environmental Center, Boca Raton
http://gumbolimbo.org/ee/home/picture/2205/  

May 1, Annual Kayak-a-thon Fund Raiser for Reef Rescue
http://www.kayakathon.com/ 
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Keep in touch with breaking news at the Reef Rescue Coral Reef Blog 
Recent entries: 
Juno Beach project kills endangered sea turtle
http://reefrescue.wordpress.com/2010/02/06/juno-beach-project-kills-endangered-sea-turtle/ 
Coral in Florida Keys suffers lethal hit from cold
http://reefrescue.wordpress.com/2010/01/29/coral-in-florida-keys-suffers-lethal-hit-from-cold/ 
Feds too busy to review habitat protection for Palm Beach staghorn reefs
http://reefrescue.wordpress.com/2010/01/22/feds-too-busy-to-review-habitat-protection-for-palm-beach-staghorn-reefs/ 
Say ‘no’ to shark fin soup campaign launches in China
http://reefrescue.wordpress.com/2010/01/02/say-no-to-shark-fin-soup-campaign-launches-in-china/
  
Palm Beach County Reef Rescue

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Lake Worth Lagoon Living Shorelines Workshop - April 20, 2010


Dear Friend of Lake Worth Lagoon,

The Lake Worth Lagoon Initiative’s Habitat Working Group is pleased to announce a Living Shorelines Workshop will be held on April 20, 2010 in West Palm Beach. Living shorelines use plants and other natural materials to stabilize the shoreline, minimize coastal erosion, and maintain coastal processes while also enhancing the natural shoreline habitat for the benefit of property owners as well as fish and other wildlife.

Space is limited. Please go to http://livingshorelines.eventbrite.com/ to view workshop details, tentative agenda and to register. The workshop is free, but registration is required. If you have questions please contact Erin McDevitt at Erin.McDevitt@myFWC.com or call (561) 625-5122 ext. 130.

There are two City Commission Work Sessions today - starting at 6 p.m. in the Compass Building



No action can be taken tonight.  The CRA is again in the position of having to justify its successes before the City Commission.  Note to Commissioner Jennings who at the last regular City Commission talked about the city going bankrupt, what have you done to encourage investment in our community?  Why lash out at the very agency that is making the most of multiple opportunities for sustainable redevelopment?  Also realize that nothing is sustainable if it cannot survive economically.  Looking at another potential double digit percentage decrease in our property values next fiscal year, we really need to find ways to responsibly redevelop our vacant and under-utilized lands.  Limiting redevelopment to 3 stories with required public benefits amounts to a defacto moratorium.  The following paragraph is a poignant reminder about the importance of re-investment in our community.

They say a picture says a thousand words...

That's why I posted the renderings contained in the various responses from the architects.  I hope you find it helpful in getting an idea of the approaches contemplated by them in accomplishing the goal.  It is good to see that most were not hamstrung by only looking at a "historic wrap-around" project that seems to be suggested by the RFQ.  In fact, the least creative proposals stuck to that formula, ignoring other opportunities.  You can also see how important the building's relationship to the overall site is.  I maintain that to design the site first, as was done here, and then back the principal building in at the last moment, is really doing a disservice to the community.  At a time when we have the opportunity to re-do the beach, it is worthwhile asking the question if the current building location is the best one.  I don't necessarily think it is in the best location.

If you have time, I encourage you to read all of the responses.  They can be a bit dry, given all the boilerplate qualification forms of the architectural firms, their personnel, representative projects and sub-contractors.  But they do a good job showing that we were able to get a well-qualified group to respond.  It's also important to realize that, given the fact that this is a RFQ rather than a RFP, price is not discussed.  In fact, my concern about this process is that it raises expectations that the project is actually financially feasible - which to this point in time no one has really proven that it is.  I am also concerned that, again, the beach may be used as a distraction from the city's real problems and become window dressing for the two campaigns that will follow later this year.

With financing in mind, it would be good to concentrate our efforts on an approach that lends itself to grant funding from either a historic preservation or a green building perspective.  There are some approaches that I think would be fundable, given the parameters of a grant program.  The ones that provide a 1920s-esque facade only fall short of that mark.

Don't forget that the City Commission will be hearing presentations from all the respondents this coming Saturday at CITY HALL.  It's an all day affair.  Given the importance of this project, I hope the city is making some effort to videotape the entire proceeding so that those who cannot attend can view what went on at a later time.  I think we have the technology for this.

I hope that you agree with me that whatever is done at the beach should be an expression of the "best" that Lake Worth can offer.  It is our flagship property and to do something half-way or inconsistent with the historical importance of the site, would be a long-term mistake.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Pain Clinics...copy of e-mail sent to City Commissioners, Mayor, City Manager and Chair of Planning and Zoning Board.

This is a mistake...again from the City Manager's 2/5 report:

HISTORIC PRESERVATION
At the January 26, 2010 Commission Workshop, the City Commission discussed the
division of the Historic Resources Preservation Board from the Planning and Zoning
Board and requested that Staff present the item at a March Commission meeting.
Staff has begun the work to re-write the Historic Preservation Ordinance to amend
the Zoning Code and create the new board. Further updates will be reported as
further progress is made.

From the 2/5 "re-instated" City Manager's Report

CASINO UPDATE
The City of Lake Worth will be hosting a Special Meeting on February 13, 2010, to
hear presentations from all of the firms that submitted responses to the Casino
RFQ. The Meeting will last from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm; during this meeting we will
hear from 14 different architectural/engineering firms. The firms will explain their
proposed project teams, describe their conceptual drawing of the casino site, and
answer City Commission questions. This will be a public meeting, and will be a great
opportunity for residents to get a “first glance” at the future of the Lake Worth Municipal
Casino Building. Below is a schedule of presentation times.
Casino Rehabilitation Presentation - Special Meeting
8:00 – 8:30 Arrivals
8:30 – 9:00 REG Architects
9:00 – 9:30 Architectural Dimensions p.a.
9:30 – 10:00 Donaldson Group
10:00 – 10:30 Break/catch up
10:30 – 11:00 Bessolo
11:00 – 11:30 Beilinson Gomez
11:30 – 12:00 Living Designs Group
12:00 – 12:30 West Architecture
12:30 – 1:00 Gestalt
1:00 – 2:00 lunch
2:00 – 2:30 David Godwin
2:30 – 3:00 RS Architects
3:00 – 3:30 Slattery & Associates
3:30 – 4:00 Zeidler
4:00 – 4:30 BRPH
4:30 – 5:00 Song + Associates

Zeidler renderings included in RFQ Casino response

West Architecture rendering included in the RFQ response re Casino building



This is a Lake Worth firm.

Song and Associates' renderings in response to Casino RFQ