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."