Sunday, December 13, 2015

Why didn't The Palm Beach Post identify who Laurel "Skippy" Decker is? A material fact the public should have been told

Fanning the flames of hysteria, fanciful speculation, and unfounded fear of "the real developers".
Check out the letters to the editor that are published today (Sunday, 12/13) in The Palm Beach Post. The second one down the page is from none other than Laurel Decker, the former chair of the Respectful Planning PAC that was behind the referendum on allowable height in our City Charter. Perhaps the turnover is such at the Post that they miss such important details. They could have also said she was the one that sued the City to recognize the results of the election held in March 2013 on the height issue. The tragedy (pun intended) is that the vote was made "null and void" by the state legislature which outlawed all such referenda that ultimately would result in a change to our Comprehensive Plan or our future land use map.

She could also be described as one who still does not respect state law when it comes to land use regulation. And, another accurate description would be that she was responsible for the request to withdraw the lawsuit when looking at the sort of resources it would take to continue a challenge. No doubt also a strategic decision due to its small chance of success.

But the Post didn't let its readers know any of that. One could say that she would tend to see the glass as half empty, than half full, as it relates to the Gulfstream Hotel. Well, guess what! The hotel is empty. It's not even half full. The "flipping" that the always-bubbly and vivacious Laurel suggests would actually be more likely if the re-zoning didn't go through but some people can't see that far ahead—they're fixated on other things.

The cheerful Laurel, a CPA of some renown, is quick to point out that, yes, the hotel which is on the National Register of Historic Places can indeed be torn down. And left to Laurel and her friends that is what would most likely happen. What was striking in the testimony and public comment given at last Tuesday's (12/8) City Commission meeting on the matter, was how little the plight of the Gulf Stream Hotel was discussed. It is one of an endangered species of historic structures. If actuaries, kin to CPAs, developed predictions for the expected life spans of historic hotels from this era they would be tragically short. The Pennsylvania Hotel in downtown West Palm Beach is just one local example. And check out this Eliot Kleinberg article on the same hotel.

In some ways I blazed the trail in writing letters to the editor regarding the preservation of historic preservation locally. The letter below is from 1994 by Yours Truly while the Pennsylvania Hotel was still standing:
And while you are at it you might want to check out the fate of this historic Florida hotel which came down just this year.

The threat is real to the Gulf Stream hotel. That's why we should not take lightly the fact that we have this historic hotel in Lake Worth's downtown. Time is long past and the silly nonsense has gone on for far too long from people like Laurel Decker. The least we should do is support the redevelopment of the property so that the hotel can be preserved, open once again, and contribute to the City's historic narrative.

Laurel, and others like her, lack that passion.


Anonymous said...

The paper can say they didn't know Skippy was part of the lawsuit but that is ludicrous. Skippy can say she forgot to tell the paper which is ludicrous. And the paper can print a clarification and that will never happen. All this over 20 feet of building height. Sad. Very very sad.

Anonymous said...

20'. Less than the length of one and a half MINI Cooper cars. When there are buildings 65' or taller all around the vacant property. She said in her letter the hotel has struggled financially for years and it has. She's a number cruncher, she should know and I bet she does, the reason it's struggled for so long is because it needs to add more guest rooms, more event rooms, more resort services area and more off street secure parking to be competive in the south FL hotel marketplace. By fighting to limit the square foot development opportunity you all but guarantee it will never be financially sustainable. That was their hope all along. Why? That's the $64,000 question. Why would someone who lives west of Dixie Hwy. who sees what neglected and abandoned properties all around her home has done to property values and the LW's tax base.

Russ said...

Leveling the beautiful old Belleview for upscale condos... inclusion on the NRHP is proof that our history isn't as valuable as developer dollars when it matters. Especially for a waterfront property everyone coveted for just that: expensive housing. I'm sure that just like the WPB commission, Pinellas couldn't say no to a substantial bump in tax revenue, but at what REAL cost? Glad you brought up the Pennsylvania, which along with several other properties was doomed from the time CityPlace was touted as manna for West Palm. That project destroyed some of the best residential architecture left close to downtown. There was a better way, but money beats vision every time. And WPB didn't (and from what's happened to Northwood still doesn't) have it.

So, here's what COULD end up where the Gulfstream is if the nay-sayers get their way:

Sure, limit the new construction to 65'... but it won't have a bit of soul.

Anonymous said...

Haven't you said the exact same thing on FB Wes, that the historic designation doesn't really protect the property. I thought I had read that on one of the FB debates. If there is protection by that designation, can you describe it.

Said anther way, isn't Laurel (sadly) correct?