Monday, April 6, 2015

[UPDATE] 7th Ave. S road proposal and other road improvements in City of Lake Worth

[UPDATE: The new road proposed for 7th Ave South will once again come before the City Commission tomorrow night:
The City has done everything they can to address concerns of residents and here is the new proposal: a one-way street west with a 6' multi-use path. This will be a very interesting item. Back on October 28th, 2014, I wrote the following about this topic:]

For many years past commissions in Lake Worth have neglected or postponed investment in the southwest part of the city. This area is known as District One (represented by Vice Mayor Scott Maxwell). This is not to say that other areas of the city have not been neglected, but this area stands out over others. On the October 7th City Commission agenda, the final steps in improving road rights-of-way that had never been improved—ever—were finally being funded through long-unused Community Development Block Grant monies. The present commission led by Mayor Pam Triolo and City Manager Michael Bornstein, when learning of this money available, went to work to find how this CDBG money could be best utilized. The federal money, channeled through Palm Beach County, sat there through previous City Commissions. The city had to re-assure the County that it did intend on using this money after being dormant.

A series of four neighborhood presentations by Public Services Director Jamie Brown, an assessment completed by the county and DOT, four previous discussions at public commission meetings, and lengthy discussions with neighbors in the area near 7th Ave. South were all accomplished while Commissioner McVoy was in office, taking in everything that was happening and thought to have been keeping tabs and displaying tacit approval of what was going on. Not until nudged by his narrow group of supporters, did he protest about the lack of community engagement and need for more planning and study - prior to the money being spent. Money already simmering on the back burner for years.

From the minutes of the October 7th meeting: "Commissioner McVoy commented that there was a lot of support in the community for greenway; however, he [Commissioner McVoy] said he did not know if the 7th Avenue South neighborhood had any input." McVoy's observations are dishonest and untrue.

Here is the link to the minutes of the October 7 city commission meeting from the agenda on the October 21 city commission meeting. The subject matter begins on page 17.

The crowd at the city commission meeting on October 7 included former commissioner/Anarchist Cara Jennings, Anarchist Panagioti Tsolkas. Former Commissioner Jo-Ann Golden (and Cara-clone) had her comments read into the record in absentia, a petition was presented from "23 mothers in the area", and neighbors claimed they had no idea a road was being proposed. (At this point you may want to re-read the second paragraph above.) Some neighbors had become accustomed to having 7th Ave. South their private park for walking dogs, a playground for children, their neighborhood "green" space, etc.

The need for a road on 7th Ave. South can be demonstrated quite easily. Following is a map and some pictures of the area in question.

The map above shows the new La Joya Villages project, 6th Ave. South (a major thoroughfare), the FEC tracks, and it's relationship to what would be an improved road along the 7th Ave. South right-of-way. This improvement can alleviate congestion and give the neighborhood improved access, as a reliever of traffic on 6th Avenue South (called a "demilitarized zone" by Commissioner McVoy during the meeting due to its lack of safe pedestrian crossings north and south of the roadway). Having a 'greenway' (no vehicular traffic) on 7th Ave. South doesn't solve the problem. Some neighbors suggested a traffic light at 6th Ave. South and 'F' St. Having a traffic light that close to the FEC tracks is problematic and would likely not be approved by the county.

Now let's examine some pictures of the area in question:

La Joya Villages, currently under construction, is a new residential development at the southeast corner of 6th Ave. South and 'F' Street. Along with the new road proposed new water lines and drainage will be addressed. Note that 7th Ave. South is not an "avenue" at at all; it is a neglected dirt path overgrown with foliage and littered with trash and debris. It is not the Garden of Eden some would have you believe.

There was concern expressed at the meeting about the excessive width of the new road. It was thought that the paved area of the street would contain 12 foot travel lanes. Recent evidence and research suggests 10' lanes are safer because they encourage lower speeds and increased driver awareness, especially in urban areas where walkability is important.

It turns out, in the actual plans shared with me by Jamie Brown, the city has designed the vehicular lanes at 11 feet. This was done in order to accommodate 4 foot bike lanes on either side of the road, and a sidewalk on one side of the road. See below:

Some time in the near future (I am told in November), another meeting will be held with the neighbors about the 7th Ave. South road construction. This will be the fifth neighborhood meeting. I will do my best to be there and record the meeting for those of you interested in these proceedings. On a final note, the tactic employed by Commissioner McVoy, Cara Jennings, and Panagioti Tsolkas on October 7 is not a new one. Some of the faces have changed but the tactic is an old one us veterans of Lake Worth politics have seen many times. One of the desired outcomes of this tactic is to cause anger and frustration by elected officials and staff - usually at the last minute, after multiple opportunities to be tuned into the process earlier. Thus we are left with a spectacle of finger-pointing and "how could you let this go so far" verbiage. All this to spend long dormant monies that could improve this area of the city.

Let's hope this next meeting is productive and compromise is not something to avoid. Two words of advice: stay calm.