Sunday, December 30, 2012

Florida's Long Lines On Election Day Discouraged 49,000 People From Voting: Report

Click title for link to Huffington Post article - we are now getting the details on the number of votes suppressed during the November 2012 election in the state of Florida.  Do you think the same phenomenon happened locally?

Will Florida see more of these domed hurricane-proof structures?

Click here for link to New York Times article.  These are popping up all over coastal areas of Texas as dual use community facilities and storm shelters - funded with a good share of FEMA money, with a required local contribution.  Maybe the Casino building should have been one of these?

Dual-Use Domes Are Shelter in a Storm
In Texas, a hurricane-readiness project partly financed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency involves building sturdy multipurpose buildings.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Remains of large Banyan tree removed at Cultural Plaza

South Florida Bloggers Pick Their Favorite Posts of 2012, Part Two - Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach - News - The Daily Pulp

I was asked by New Times to pick my best blog post from 2012.  So, I sent one off to them which I thought worthy as it is a summary of the "bill of goods" we were sold as part of the beach and casino redevelopment project.  See if you agree by clicking the title for a link to the article.  Other blogs are featured also and there is Part 1 that came out yesterday that you can check out.  You might comment about which your favorite post on this blog was below.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Lake Worth working to meet grant deadline for renovate... |

The Lake Worth CRA continues to set the pace.  I am confident that they will meet the deadline for the expenditure of the grant money.  Remember, there were those that wanted to strip the CRA of their independence.  The same people that wanted to have the City Commission takeover the CRA are the ones that didn't want this $23 million in grant money in the first place.  Click title for link to article.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Great charity event...

See any familiar faces?

Austin Brookley - Chairman, Lake Worth Recreation Board 12/28 by High Noon in Lake Worth | Blog Talk Radio

Tune in this Friday (click title for link to show) as we talk about local and national politics with a young Lake Worth resident.  Mr. Brookley is current chairman of the Lake Worth Recreation Board and recent Deputy Regional Field Director for the Obama for President campaign.  You may call in questions during the live show and/or leave questions by clicking on the comment link below.  The archived edition of the show will be available after the show airs by clicking the title to this post.
After the show picture with Austin Brookley

Voters' mistakes doomed thousands of ballots

Not all the blame can be laid at the feet of the Supervisor of Elections in Florida's various counties - voter mistakes and the post office shoulder some of the blame.  Click title for link to article.

Friday, December 21, 2012

A view from the past...

From the July 25, 1963 Palm Beach Post: "Which way can you go? Directional signs at Lake Avenue and Dixie Highway in Lake Worth are just slightly confusing. The large sign which overhangs the road tells the traveler to turn left to reach the beach; the smaller sign tells the traveler not to make a left turn. The smaller sign must be obeyed because Lake Worth police will be enforcing the no-left-turn ban beginning Monday."

Pothole of the Week

Just west of Federal on Wellesley...

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Paul Gionfriddo - Mental Health Policy Advocate 12/21 by High Noon in Lake Worth | Blog Talk Radio

Join us Friday, December 21, 2012 at 12:00 p.m. when I welcome Lake Worth resident Paul Gionfriddo to discuss public health policy questions - especially those related to identifying and treating those with mental health disorders.  Can a sound U.S., state and local mental health initiative help prevent the horrible events we have witnessed - like the Newtown, CT mass shooting last Friday?  One week later, I am pleased to have Mr. Gionfriddo as a guest on the renewed show.  He has quite a background in the area of public health - and has served as a Mayor of Middletown, CT and as a Connecticut State Legislator.

You may call in with your questions during the show, or leave them as comments to this post.  Click title for link to the live show during the hour long 12/21 show, or listen to the archived show after it airs.

I hope that you can join us.
Paul and yours truly visiting after the show.

Postcards from the Lake Worth Beach (12 19 12)...

My father and I enjoying the ocean view after lunch at Mulligan's.  Thank you Mark Parrilla, who
works there, for taking this picture with my camera.

We ended up parking in the Kreusler Park (County) parking lot - along with what seemed like everyone else whose ultimate destination was the Lake Worth Casino building.  In a previous post, I showed the brightly colored signs that the county installed saying that there is no parking after sunset - looking like they were recently installed upon the advent of our building coming to life.  They may want to re-think that policy since the opening of the Lake Worth building will likely continue to provide a windfall for their parking revenue account - after all, it is closer than the parking on the Lake Worth side of the line.  The two pictures above show the "walkway" between the southern edge of the county property and the Lake Worth property.  Pedestrians are neatly dumped into the traffic circle/bike lane and have to jump a curb to do so.  One could walk along the ocean where there is more of a direct connection, but a little more circuitous if the Casino building is your ultimate destination.  We made it, but the route definitely seemed "improvised."

We saw many people with mobility issues - canes, walkers, oxygen tanks - having to be dropped off in front of the building.  More able members of their party then parked the car in Kreusler Park (Why go back to where you came from, opposite from the direction your car is pointed, and park in the city's lot which is farther away?  And we aren't even talking about the inferiority of our automated parking kiosks in comparison.) and could be seen 15 minutes later joining the rest of their party after having negotiated the automated parking kiosk.  Their money, of course, would be going to the county's coffers and not to Lake Worth's - was this part of the business plan?  The pictures above are just a few examples of people following this pattern.

While we were enjoying our lunch outside, we were treated to more symptoms of a poorly, politically driven site plan design process.  Having the placement of what turned out to be a NEW building in the same location as the old building left little specified area for deliveries to the retail establishments at the beach.  So this means that, periodically, your ocean side experience will include vehicles that look more at home on the Interstate than at a beach front location.  Here an 18 wheel semi delivers goods to the Lake Worth Beach Tee Shirt Shop Company, blocking the view of many who were there for about 20 minutes.

Now these problems are expensive or impossible to fix - I suppose you could designate delivery times during  what would be low volume visitor periods, but this is difficult to coordinate with suppliers.  Again, many of these problems could have been dealt with during the site plan review process - and by the Micheal Singer Group - but any mention of potential problems or re-thinking the location of the building were written off as coming from the mouths of people that were "against the project" or "against preservation" or "just being negative."  So, we are living with the result - hope those that made these decisions are happy now.

As far as our lunch at Mulligan's, service was prompt, efficient and attentive.  We were encouraged to choose the lobster salad, which my Dad had in the form of a sandwich - which he said was quite good.  I had the Mahi-Mahi sliders, which was o.k. - a little dry and a little on the skimpy side considering the price.  Our total bill was just under $40, including tax, tip, a diet Coke for me and water for my father.

After lunch, I wanted to check out the other retail tenants to see how their build-out was coming along and whether they were open or not.  The t-shirt is open and has been for a few days, Kilwin's is well underway - but not ready to open yet - and Mama Mia's was open for business.  Here are some pictures along with a description or two.
Inside the t-shirt shop - most (70%) of the items contain "Palm Beach" as the main message/design element
of the garment.  You had to look a little more for the "Lake Worth" items.  Such is life as a tourist destination that is part of  the island of Palm Beach.
I got this shirt as a gift for Bill - it has the city's birth year prominently displayed, along with a distinctive "LW" as part of the design.

This is one I got for me - I liked the retro-looking design, but here the city's birth year is 1912. No biggie, must be referring to when the city's library opened.  This is the back of the shirt - the front has a smaller image of the same design over the left breast.

Looking through the northern door of Kilwin's with work underway.

This is the view through the southern door of Kilwin's.

Mama Mia's - open for business and serving pizza.  There were some customers there who seemed to be enjoying what they were eating.
Upstairs, it appears, is clearly off limits.  There is a series of tapes strung across the stairway leading to the second floor.  I could hear mechanical sounds - something akin to grinding/sanding? coming from above as I walked back to Mulligan's.  Apparently, the fix to the water problem and the ballroom is being worked on, but what are they doing to address the issue?  It would be interesting to know what the fix actually is and how much work is required to address it.  Strangely, as I walked in front of the building, my face was lightly pelted with debris from whatever was going on upstairs.  Hmmmm.
One last thing...I know that the parking lights are "turtle friendly" but they are a little bit "turtle ugly" too.  Black?  At a beach?  One of the regulars at the beach said he has been there at night when they are on and they give what he referred to as "light as bright as a flashlight."

It was a beautiful day weather-wise.  You need to go there and experience it yourself.  Let me know what you think about it after your visit.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Enjoying the patio last night...

 Bill and I enjoyed having dinner al fresco last night with my father.  He is visiting for a few days.  He flew to Orlando with friends of the family on Monday, stayed with friends in central Florida and yesterday hopped on Amtrak from Winter Haven to West Palm Beach.  The fare was all of $26 one-way for the two and a half hour ride.
 Shhhh...don't tell anyone, but he was born about 12 years after Lake Worth came into being.  You can do the math.
In the background of the last shot is the TV that blasted out during the Monster Surge we had in College Park about a month ago.  It's waiting for bulk pick-up day to come around this month.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Home | City of East Lansing Michigan

Click title to go to the webpage of the city where I worked for a few years while in Michigan.  I just stumbled on it today.  Besides being well-organized, with a lot of accessible information, look to the left of the page above the various social media links.  There is a great, big DONATE button - which when clicked on takes you to a page where the city has designated projects for which it is seeking funding.  If you don't ask, you don't receive.  Why not try it?  We got a large donation for the library recently without asking - what if we actually asked?

How one city in Finland is promoting itself...

Delray's downtown project seen as catalyst for redevelopment

I know, I know.  We are not Delray Beach.  If you want further proof that we are NOT Delray Beach, click the title and read the article.  A few excerpts:
"Very seldom does a project garner the kind of support that the SOFA buildings have from nearby residents and business owners. At a recent City Commission meeting where the developer was asking to build more units than are normally allowed per acre, residents and business owners addressed city officials with an outpouring of support for the project."
The project was praised for its sustainability features: a bicycle sharing program for residents, unbundled parking — residents who do not own a car can qualify for lower rents — and 32 apartments set aside as workforce housing, with lower rents offered to firefighters, teachers, police officers and government workers.
"This is an example of how we should be doing business in Delray Beach," said Commissioner Al Jacquet, who lives in Osceola Park. "I'm in support of this project not just because of the [sustainability] component, but because these folks came and did it right."
I raised the concern during a recent joint Planning and Zoning Board and Historic Resource Preservation Board meeting that our "community benefit" requirement - which in theory would be the only way to allow new buildings to exceed two stories or 30 feet - may be the wrong medicine to administer to the patient.  It might in fact "do harm" and be exactly what we do not need to encourage investment, jobs and redevelopment in our city.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Precolumbian Palm Beachers presented by: Dorothy Block, M.A.

Did you know that Palm Beach Island has been inhabited by humans for around 3,000 years? Are you interested in the conservation and protection of the numerous ancient Indian burial mounds and habitation sties scattered throughout the nation's wealthiest township? Are you curious about the realities of how ancient burial and archaeological sites are dealt with by developers and property owners in this unique municipality?

 If so, please join local archaeologist and Palm Beach County Archaeological Society founder Dorothy Block for a lecture describing Palm Beach’s ancient cultural sites and unmarked prehistoric Indian cemeteries. The lecture will recount the history of archaeological research on the island from the 1930s to the present, and assess the effectiveness of present day approaches to mitigation, conservation and protection of these important and non-renewable cultural resources.

Thursday, December 20th, 2012
7 PM
Paramount Building, 139 North County Road
Palm Beach, 33480

For more info, call: 561-215-7909

From the Northwood Village FaceBook page...

A cute way to promote the Northwood area of West Palm Beach during the holiday shopping season.

Bath School disaster - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In the wake of yesterday's tragedy, this event came to mind which happened in 1927 near where I grew up in Michigan.  It too concerned an elementary school - 45 people died, 38 of them school children.  This involved explosives and a flammable substance laid in place by a deranged member of the community.  History provides grim reminders of the potential destructive forces that can be unleashed by seemingly normal human beings.  I wonder if this historical event will be mentioned among the other reports from this most recent event as facts reveal themselves?  Click title for link to article.

Waffling West Palm Beach puts out ‘closed for business’ sign - BizPac Review

I don't particularly subscribe to all the hand-wringing being done in the article, but it does raise some interesting points and it has to do with height in the downtown area of West Palm Beach.  There were questions from Lake Worth's legal staff about the legality of our referendum in March.  Are we going to getting a ruling before we step off that cliff?  Click title for link to article.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Edgar Allan Poe

“There are moments when even to the sober eye of reason, the world of our sad humanity may assume the semblance of Hell. ” 


"I thought we were always going to get the facts before we jumped to conclusions."

From 1955 - part of the human condition...

Malcolm X

"I've had enough of someone else's propaganda. I'm for truth, no matter who tells it. I'm for justice, no matter who it's for or against. I'm a human being first and foremost, and as such I am for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole."


"Ignorance of each other is what has made unity impossible in the past. Therefore we need enlightenment. We need more light about each other. Light creates understanding, understanding creates love, love creates patience, and patience creates unity. Once we have more knowledge (light) about each other, we will stop condemning each other and a United front will be brought about."

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Black Elk

‎"The great law of peace: All things are our relatives; what we do to everything we do to ourselves. All is really ONE."

BEWARE the white car! A nostalgic look at traffic safety, before texting and cellphones...

Last night's Historic Resource Preservation Board meeting (12 12 12)

I'd like to take time to highlight some of the items that appeared on our agenda last night.  It served as a reminder of some of the many unique features and historic resources that we have in our city.  You can certainly not call Lake Worth commonplace.  You can click here to reference the entire back-up material for the meeting.  I must commend city staff for the thorough preparation for the meeting and how it was obvious that they took much time with the individual applicants to make the process as painless as possible.

The Gulfstream Hotel appeared on our agenda last night.  Not related to anything that might make a significant step to reviving the hotel, but so that new cellular equipment could be added to the "tower" portion of the hotel.  The application was submitted by a representative of Sprint and will allow them to install "4G" service - an upgrade over what is available now in the area.  Since this dealt with wireless communication, the FCC was involved in licensing and federal regulations kicked in so that review was required by the State Historic Preservation Officer - since the hotel and the service area included National Register historic districts.  Our staff also pointed out the the hotel itself is individually listed on the National Register - something that has been in place since 1983.  The other two individually listed resources on the National Register are the City Hall Annex building and the Osborne School.

In case you are wondering, the official height to the top of the parapet wall of the Gulfstream is 72 feet.  and there was no news from the owner regarding the status of the hotel or any future plans related to the property.

The board approved the request which will allow the new equipment to be installed but required that a visual barrier be placed around the area of the tower where these new 17" x 17" x 3" modules will be installed.

Another important downtown property appeared on our agenda.  The owners of the Hummingbird Hotel on the southeast corner of K Street and Lucerne Avenue requested approval for modifications related to converting the building into a restaurant/bar with a rooftop dining/bar area.  The Hummingbird Hotel was built around 1921, and in its most recent operation as a hotel was referred to as a "European-style hostel" by some and a "flophouse" by others.  It has been vacant recently.  The proposal would eliminate the second floor of the building entirely, which would created a large open, high-ceiling area for dining.  A rooftop stair tower would be constructed to provide access to the roof area - which would not exceed 30 feet.

As a sidebar, let's talk about this 30 feet limit - which is the de facto height limit in Lake Worth now since anything over 30 feet requires some sort of "community benefit."  Well, guess what - we don't have that mechanism in place with the land development regulations yet and there is some question exactly what form that mechanism will actually take.  So that means even if someone wanted to build a 45 foot tall structure in this part of the downtown, there is no approval mechanism in place to allow that to happen.  Just something else to put in our collective pipe to smoke on for a while - but not for too long.

The board approved the various modifications - which were modest and minimal - it would be difficult to really tell what changes were made to accommodate the new use of the building.  There are still issues related to whether or not the existing windows with shutters will be used or new impact windows will be installed.  Also there might be a concern from the Building Official (which the city is in the process of hiring someone right now to fill that role on a permanent "in house" basis - someone with experience in a coastal community with a lot of diverse architecture according to William Waters) about whether one stair tower from an assembly occupancy on the roof is sufficient for emergency egress.  I am sure that we will see the project again as it moves forward - which was also part of the condition of approval given by the board last night.  One more thing - the sign that has the neon "HOTEL" was determined to be a "character defining feature" and will be treated as a nostalgia sign, as defined in the code, and it was given special protection in another of the conditions of approval.

Here are some of the plans related to the Hummingbird property.  Click or hover for larger image.

This is/are the proposed elevation(s) - you can see the required safety rail added to the roof - which will be black with a glass panel below.  Also note the stair tower to provide access to the roof.  The board approved a slightly different roof treatment for the stair tower - more of a parapet, flat roof.
We also considered and approved modifications to a property on North Lakeside that had an existing two story house with an attached "bomb shelter" that was constructed in 1961 - a relic worthy of preserving from the Cold War era.  The property owner attended the meeting and plans to carry out the improvements to the property as time and resources permit.  We wished her well in the process.

The last item under new business tore at the heartstrings a bit.  The subject property was on South Lakeside - about 300 feet deep and 50 feet wide with Intracoastal frontage.  There was a small one bedroom, one bath cottage near the water that had been under the same owner for many years.  The last owner was a centenarian who recently died and left the property to his granddaughter.  The request was for demolition of the structure, consideration of its possible relocation and whether or not there was an economic hardship facing the owner should the board not approve the demolition.  There was also a request for new construction, with some conceptual plans for a new structure in which the granddaughter and her family would live.  The board postponed consideration of the new construction, but ended up determining that there was an economic hardship present.  Much documentation was presented with the application showing severely deteriorated conditions of the structure.  Its "improvement" value as determined by the property appraiser's office was all of $3,400!  Bringing the structure "up to code" would be an enormous task costing over $200,000 - and relocation would add to the cost and one would still have to deal with the deficiencies present in the building.

Lisa Maxwell, who many know that are active in the Lake Worth political scene, lived next door to the property, only recently moving to the College Park area.  She wrote this letter in support of the granddaughter's efforts to maintain ownership of the property in her family and allow her to build a new house on it.  She had gotten to know her former neighbor well over the years.  It is worth a read.  So, it was a melancholy decision to allow the demolition as it did represent a part of Lake Worth's history and early development, but - this time - practicalities and the future won over pure preservation.  The board asked that the design of the new structure somehow reflect a hint of what was there before.

If you want to hear and see any portion of the meeting, the video is up already on the city's website. 

Press Release from the PBHRC: Palm Beach County Property Appraiser Adopts Domestic Partnership Tax Equity Program

(West Palm Beach, Florida) --  Palm Beach County Property Appraiser Gary R. Nikolits, CFA, is implementing a policy to offset the additional taxes paid by employees who elect to provide health insurance to their domestic partners.  The action was taken upon the request of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council.

The  Palm Beach County Human Rights Council, a non-profit organization, has been the prime mover for domestic partnership benefits in Palm Beach County for more than two decades.

The new policy, which goes into effect in January, provides employees who elect to insure their domestic partners with a tax equity reimbursement aimed at mitigating the impact of the additional imputed income tax.

Under current federal tax laws, opposite-sex married employees with employer-provided family health insurance are not taxed on the value of that coverage.  In contrast, all unmarried employees with domestic partners are subjected to additional federal taxes, since the value of domestic partner health insurance is taxed as income to the employee.  As a result, employees with domestic partners pay more federal taxes than married opposite-sex employees.
"There is a disparity between the benefits received by married couples and those received by domestic partners," said Nikolits.  "This new policy will level the playing field for both married couples and unmarried couples who are in long-term committed relationships.  It is an issue of fairness."
"Federal legislation to amend the Internal Revenue Code to end the taxation of health insurance benefits provided to domestic partners was first introduced in 2003 by Florida Senator Bob Graham,"  said Rand Hoch, President of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council.  "However, little  progress has been made in Congress since then."

"Leaders such as Property Appraiser Gary Nikolits know it is unfair to wait for Congress to pass a  law to ease the tax burden on employees who insure their domestic partners," said Hoch.
Nikolits is the first elected constitutional officer in Florida to implement a tax equity program.  His office has offered domestic partnership health insurance since 2004.

This past week, TD Bank announced that it will begin offsetting the tax burden that its employees pay for domestic-partner benefits.  Other private employers who have implemented similar programs include American Express, Apple, Bank of America Corp.,Cisco Systems Inc, Corning, Facebook, Goldman Sachs, Google, Kimpton Hotels, Microsoft, Morgan Stanley and Yahoo!

"The trend in private employment is to implement tax equity programs for employees who elect domestic partnership health insurance coverage," said Hoch.  "However, in public employment, only Cambridge, Massachusetts, Hallandale, Florida, and now, the Office of the Palm Beach County Property Appraiser Gary Nikolits, have taken steps to address this tax inequity."

As a result of the efforts of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council since 1992, domestic partnership heath insurance benefits are  offered by the municipalities of Delray Beach, Jupiter, Lake Worth, Wellington and West Palm Beach, as well as by Palm Beach County, the Palm Beach County School District, the Port of Palm Beach, the Palm Beach County Health Care District, Palm Beach State College, the Children's Services Council, Palm Tran, Seacoast Utility Authority,  the Solid Waste Authority and all five of Palm Beach County's constitutional officers.

"We are optimistic that during 2013, at least a half-dozen other public employers in Palm Beach County will follow the lead set by Property Appraiser Nikolits," said Hoch.

City should match Hacienda with nearby redevelopment site - Tampa Bay Times

Another city in dire financial and economic straits struggles with a vacant hotel property.  Click title for link.  Most poignant part of the article as it relates to Lake Worth:

"Patched leaks and a fresh coat of paint won't hurt, but more significant hurdles must be overcome. The city's demographics of owner-occupied homes, personal income and local property values are troublesome as is the overall redevelopment budget that now requires subsidies from the city's general fund. Essentially, there are few dollars to offer economic incentives to a developer. And the immediate population lacks the disposal income levels desired by higher-end retailers/service providers."

Agnes M. Pahro

"What is Christmas? It is tenderness for the past, courage for the present, hope for the future. It is a fervent wish that every cup may overflow with blessings rich and eternal, and that every path may lead to peace.”

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

After watching this video, you will indeed have seen it all...

The Collier County Sheriff's Office released its annual holiday safety video, and this year they set the "Safety Style" message to the tune of the viral music hit "Gangnam Style."

Say it ain't so...

Monday, December 10, 2012

All Aboard Florida: Passenger service on Florida East Coast Railway - South Florida

Click title for link to article regarding the status of the "fast" train between Miami and Orlando.  The article gives more detail on crossings and other changes than I have seen before.

Editorial: Don’t flush money down new sewage plant |

Click title for link to the PBP editorial.  The City Commission has a special meeting today at 4 p.m. to discuss this issue, along with the internal auditor position.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Short Videos from the Lake Worth Holiday Parade 2012

The GINORMOUS GARAGE - 17th Avenue North and D Street

If you attended or listened to last Tuesday's (12 04 12) City Commission meeting, you heard concern expressed regarding this new building at the southwest corner of 17th Avenue North and D Street.  Commissioner McVoy echoed a comment raised by the public regarding the size of the building and how it is out of place in a single family neighborhood.  He gave assurances, as did City staff in attendance, that this indeed met all of the city's regulations and that it was all legitimately permitted.  To be fair, Commissioner McVoy seemed miffed at this interpretation. Hearing this, one would think that a building such as this could be built right next door to your quaint and charming single family house in one of our neighborhoods in the city.  As a result, fingers were pointed at the "code" being the problem and that this 'loophole" will be addressed when we finally get around to officially adopting a new set of land development regulations.
This is the existing "single family residence" that pre-dated the large, windowless garage building on the property. It is considered the "principal use" and the "principal structure" in this single family zoning district.
Although difficult to see from this angle, the two buildings are not touching and are separated by a walkway.

Being a certified urban planner for the past 30 years and having been on the Planning, Zoning and Historic Resources Preservation Board (PZHRPB) - when the two boards were in a combined state - right here in Lake Worth for eight years, I questioned the assertion of all who spoke to the issue that this did indeed meet all code requirements and regulations for a single family zoned property.

For those unfamiliar with zoning, some of the concepts may be new or confusing, but I will try to enumerate my findings after looking at the existing zoning code and a bit of information on the property itself.  It is my firm opinion that this building should not have been issued a building permit.

 Below is some basic public information on the property available from the Palm Beach County Property Appraiser's website:
The above is the current aerial that appears on the Property Appraiser's website showing the property in the state it was before the large garage building was built.  You can see the existing structure in the western part of the property with a large open area to the east.

The above shows additional detail regarding the existing building.  He we find that the existing building was built in 1931 and it has a total square footage of 1,183 square feet and under "Description" at the bottom of the page the letters "SFR" appear - which translates to single family residence.   We also are shown that the property is .1722 acres - and it appears that it is a 50 x 150 lot.  It is also a platted lot of record - meaning that it had its 50 foot with before the code was adopted that required 75 feet of minimum property width.  It is a "buildable lot" for the principal use of a single family residence.
This sheet above shows some additional detail and here we see the "Use Code " as "0100 SINGLE FAMILY and that the zoning district is SF7.  Single Family 7 is the existing zoning for the property and it is a zoning district that is applied to around 2/3 of the property within the city limits.  It is the most restrictive, besides Public Recreation and Open Space, that the city has.  That means it allows the least principal uses by right - meaning that no special approval is required - but the number of permitted uses is the most limited.

Click here for the regulations contained in the city's zoning code for the Single Family 7 zoning district.  If you don't believe these regulations are really the city's regulations, you can go to, look for Florida, Lake Worth and click on Chapter 23 - Zoning.  Then find the link to SF7.  It might be helpful to create another window for the regulations so that you can refer to them as you read this.

Before we go much further, this is how "principal structure" and "principal use" are defined in the city's zoning code:

Principal use: The use which constitutes the primary activity function or purpose to which a parcel of land or building is put.
Principal structure: That structure on an individual lot that is dominant in size and which houses the principal use.

Before the new garage was built, the small residential structure was both the principal use and principal structure on the property.  Note that a "principal structure" is one that is "dominant in size" and it houses the "principal use."  It is also part of the planning paradigm that you cannot have more than one principal use on a property, the exception being mixed-use commercial or residential developments. Clue number one why the garage should not be permitted here is that it is actually a permitted accessory structure and use within this zoning district, but this garage DWARFS the principal structure..  Here the the definitions from the zoning code related to "accessory use" and "accessory structure."

Accessory use: A use customarily incidental and subordinate to the principal use and located on the same lot with such principal use.
Accessory structure: Any detached structure which houses an accessory use which is customarily incidental and subordinate to the principal structure. All accessory structures erected in residential districts shall be no more than forty (40) percent of the gross floor area of the principal structure excluding prefabricated approved metal storage buildings totaling no more than one hundred forty-four (144) square feet.

So, if you multiply 40% by the square footage of the existing principal building, you end up with the maximum size of an accessory structure on this lot, given the 1,183  square footage of the existing single family structure, of 473 square feet.  THIS IS AS LARGE AS ANOTHER BUILDING ON THIS LOT COULD BE...PERIOD.

Besides the principal uses permitted by right in the SF7 - one (1) single family structure, "essential services" - which is a catch all category for the following:
Essential services: Public and private facilities related to electrical, water, sanitary sewer, storm drainage, solid waste, telephone, gas, and cable television selection and distribution systems serving the city, including single pole transmission and distribution lines, underground lines, conduits and pipes, pumps, transformers and other equipment, and appurtenances thereto, and necessary protective enclosures not designed to be occupied by employees; and public safety facilities such as fire, ambulance and/or police stations. In addition, this category shall include the City of Lake Worth or the Lake Worth Community Redevelopment Agency constructing and maintaining publicly owned parking facilities in the PO/MF 20, PO/MF30, MIC-1, MIC-2, HIC-1, HIC-2, and CAC zoning districts or in any districts in which transitional parking facilities are allowed.
No one has represented that this is a "public safety facility" such as the types indicated above.  This would be the only possible "out" that would allow this sort of building within this district.  If it is, then I am wrong and you can quit reading now.  One would assume that public ownership - state, county or city - would be required to meet the definition of "public safety facility."

Also allowed as a principal use are Type 1 Group Homes - which are also subject to their own additional regulations.

Given the gigantic size of the new garage in relation to the existing single family structure, it now the principal use and structure on the property - WHICH IS CLEARLY NOT ALLOWED IN OUR SF-7 ZONING DESIGNATION.

Since many people here fixate on height - the maximum height of an accessory building is 15 feet.  I didn't measure this building, but it may exceed this limitation.  And if it does, someone may have considered it a principal structure or use - which they can't BECAUSE GARAGES ARE NOT ALLOWED AS A PRINCIPAL PERMITTED USE IN THIS ZONING DISTRICT.

Clearly, a mistake was made here and someone is not owning up to it.  Either that or it is a public safety facility - which I highly doubt.

And, lest we have any doubt that this building should not have been permitted, the last line of the SF-7 district says this:  "Location of accessory buildings, pools, etc.: Accessory buildings, pools and similar structures shall not be located between the main structure and a public street."

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Contradictions, controversies and consequences...

If you go through the videos that I posted from the 12 04 12 meeting, I believe you will notice some telling contradictions and talk about long standing controversies coming to an end.  During questions after the status report by the Planning and Zoning Board, Commissioner McVoy made a clear point that there is no rush to complete the re-write of the land development regulations.  This is part of the Master Plan process that began nearly eight years ago.  It has come to the point where there is really no development activity in the city - as we learned in the Planning and Zoning Board's presentation.  According to the chair of that board, they really don't have anything to do right now, other than review a variance request for a fence and other small items.  Due to the city's delay in the re-writing of the regulations, Lake Worth has become known for its regulatory uncertainty.  No one with money to invest will come here and willingly place that money at risk as the outcome cannot be predicted.

Commissioner McVoy, and others at the meeting, pointed out the large garage building being built at 17th Avenue North and D street.  This building is going up in a single family residential district and it is clearly out of scale with other buildings around it. According to staff, it is perfectly within what the present code allows.  This is the same code that has been in a state of limbo for eight years.  I will address the building in question in another post - and the staff's interpretation that it meets all city regulations.  So, according to Commissioner McVoy's thinking, we need to make sure not to hurry through the review and preparation of code language in our land development regulations so that we don't allow these sorts of things in single family neighborhoods.  I agree, but is eight years rushing it?  And if there are such blatant loopholes in our existing regulations - isn't it about time we fix them?  In my first assessment of the situation on this particular property and after I looked at the applicable code language, I have my suspicions about whether or not a building like this is allowed - but then again more on that later.  I would also point out that Commissioner McVoy lives about two streets south of this building and the structure exists on a major road through his neighborhood and one would think his concern might have been raised a little earlier had his observational skills been more highly developed.  Perhaps these are the same skills that allow him to ignore derelict vehicles parked in front of his house - one just doesn't know.  He also made a point - and it was a theme running through the entire meeting - how these new regulations must have broad support from the public.  How high is that standard and will we ever be at that point when everyone knows everything included in these new regulations and is somehow "in support" of them?  In the past, this "standard" has been used as a reason to keep moving the goalposts farther and farther away so that we end up never really getting anywhere.  It seems that it goes on to this day.

Then we heard the further lamentations of Commissioner McVoy related to the settlement of the Greater Bay lawsuit against the city.  The issue came up on second reading of amending the budget to allow for the $1.6 million payout due December 14th.  It appears that "it doesn't sit well" with Commissioner McVoy that we are just paying someone that the city didn't like, whose project "didn't have the broad support of the public" - (sound familiar?)  to just "go away."  He failed to acknowledge the errors or his role in creating a cloud over the project that would not let it go forward, despite Commissioner Maxwell's attempts to remind him that it wasn't the project that was on trial - it was the way the city handled the breaking of the contract done by Commissioner McVoy''s allies on the City Commission at the time.  The Commission later decided it was a good idea to have a workshop (sometime later in January) on the "whys" behind the settlement and a review of the evidence produced during discovery - this would include e-mails, portions of blogs, statements made by sitting City Commissioners - that was detrimental to the city.  Commissioner McVoy remained mute when asked by Mayor Triolo whether his "no" vote on the settlement meant that he was willing to have the city risk anywhere between a $7 to $20 million settlement had the case gone to trial and be subject to a jury ruling.  In essence, he didn't want to admit that he and his accomplices could have cost the city more money or even led to the eventual settlement in favor of the plaintiff.

Apparently Commissioner McVoy and former Commissioners Golden, Mulvehill and Jennings were content to keep paying what amounted to "hush money" to the city's attorneys hired to defend the case.  Former City Manager Stanton attempted to perpetuate the myth that the Greater Bay lawsuit had no merit and would eventually be dismissed - or result in a small settlement.  I seem to recall that Stanton floated a $300,000 settlement offer at the time that went no where.  No - all of the above were content to let the $800,000 and more keep going to attorneys, keep asking for delays and ask for more witness depositions - all to keep the truth about the city's case out of the headlines and never to let that happen near an election period.  It was truly unfortunate that news of the settlement came just a week after this most recent election cycle.

Let's talk again about what "this broad based community support" means.  Does it mean gross misrepresentations of the truth spread by those in power or by those that want to be in power to an otherwise uninformed electorate?  Of course there would be broad based community support against the sale, or "give away" of our beach property - none of which were contemplated by the Greater Bay version of the beach redevelopment project.  Do I need to post the Mulvehill video again about how she saved the building and kept the hotels from being built on the beach?  People tend to believe what an elected official says.  Have some people lost all sense of shame enough so that serial fabrications of the truth become commonplace and unquestioned?

There was another matter - currently going through the mediation process - that also, according to Commissioner McVoy, concerned a large number of people in the southwest area of the city - that is the Sunset property.  The whole matter is now enjoying its eighth birthday and it would be nice to have the sum total of the amount of money that has been used to defend the city in this matter.  I will not re-visit all the gory details here, but you can search this blog for "Sunset" and there should be enough to give you a background of the basics involved here.  There was a petition drive performed by members of a political action community called "Save Our Neighborhood, Inc."  It wanted the repeal of the land use and zoning designation given the Sunset property when it was annexed into the city.  This was to be done by referendum.  The petitions were delivered to the city and the city didn't act on them.  Thus we heard a shameless plea for reimbursement of the PACs expenditures - totaling some $5,200 - by the city since that represented a waste of contributors money for the effort.

The letter was signed by attorney Lesley Blackner - who not-so-coincidentally was the leader of the Hometown Democracy movement that led to Amendment 4 being placed on the ballot.  It would have required all changes to Comprehensive Plans through out the state of Florida to be approved by local referendum - not unlike the petitions being circulated related to the Sunset property.  This whole Sunset issue became a "case in point" of how the citizens weren't being represented and direct democracy was the only solution to out-of-control development.  The measure was soundly defeated in the November 2010 election cycle.  But that still created ample opportunity to misrepresent the project to the public.  No mention was made that while the "nominal" land use and zoning designation could allow up to 80 units on this property - there was a development agreement required to be record with the land that any project there could not exceed 40 units - half of what would be permitted otherwise.  This was part of the compromise struck eight years ago.  But some people cannot stand - even abhor - compromise and instead chose this to showcase the need for "Hometown Democracy."  I have always wondered whether or not Ms. Blackner's in-kind contribution in the form of legal services was ever accounted for in the PAC's treasurer reports.  Perhaps someone could be so kind as to point out where this is?

The bottom-line is that a pack of lies spread by seemingly well-meaning people - in unofficial and official capacity - eventually will cost the city real money - beyond the cost of time, which has its own negative implications.

When can we start sticking to the truth?  I do not have high hopes - pun intended - that the truth will be adhered to in the run-up to the special March election on building heights in the downtown.  But, we can always wish.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Lake Worth votes to approve commissioners’ travel without... |

This became such an issue after Commissioner Mulvehill's two week trip to Bonn, Germany for the ICLEI conference.  Can we all just behave like adults and get on with the city's business?  This from the article, click title for link.
Following that discussion, City Manager Michael Bornstein developed a policy that allows him to approve trips, noting that politically charged debates over travel were not worth the commission’s time.
“It turned into a political fracas every time,” Bornstein told commissioners. “The money is budgeted. You should be allowed to travel.”
Note that foreign travel is still to be brought before the public at a Commission meeting.

More surveillance cameras going up in Lake Worth |

Willie's on a tear - two articles in a 24 hour period.  Click title for link.

Glimpses from last night's City Commission meeting 12 04 12

Commentary to follow.

Lake Worth Library gets $10,000 anonymous donation |

This was mentioned by City Manager Bornstein during the WPBR program where he took the Mayor's regular place on her show and chatted with John Szerdi.  Worth a listen (previous post) if you haven't heard it yet.  Click title for link to PBP article.

America's 50 Worst State Legislatures | Mother Jones

Worth a read...Florida is identified as the sixth worst state legislature in the nation - for some rather good reasons.  Also interesting is North Carolina's attempt to outlaw sea level rise.  Click title for link.  I guess we get the government(s) we ask for.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Today's Lake Worth Adventure - A happy story!

For a while now, we have been noticing water bubbling up along my southern property line.  We had already checked with the neighboring property to see if it was part of their sprinkler system that was leaking - turned out not to be.  I checked my property survey and it did show a 5 foot utility easement that straddled the property line.  I thought that it could be part of an old water line.  The water feed to the house comes off Pennsylvania Avenue to the west.

Today, while walking Mars, I looked into the backyard and lo and behold I saw what looked like a sprinkler head going off by the fence.   See below:

So, I called water utilities.  Someone answered right away.  I told them my address and what was happening and they said that it was probably an old water line and that this happens quite often.  I asked if they would have to remove the fence or anything major and he answered that most times that was not the case.  He asked if I was home or going to be home to let someone in the backyard - I said yes.  He said that they would send someone out in 10 minutes.
Ten minutes later, two trucks showed up.  The first guy there looked over the situation, stuck his hand down into the ground where the leak was coming from and said that it was a 2" line that had broken.  It turns out they were able to do all the work all by hand and within about an hour, they left having fixed the leak.  I went in the backyard and you couldn't even tell they had been there.  So, the moral to the story is that if you notice something like this, do not be afraid to call it in.  The city has professional people that can respond quickly and get the job done.

Thank you City of Lake Worth!

Keeping Out the Kardashians

Zoning meets reality television - some interesting theories discussed in this article.  They apparently found a place to "live" in a north Miami area neighborhood.  Click title for link.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Lake Worth gift certificates for the Holidays?

This is Bay City, Michigan's way of getting a little extra money in their coffers.  I wonder if any go unspent?  This was posted originally on FaceBook.