Friday, March 9, 2018

When you go to the polls next Tuesday
in the City of Lake Worth. . .

Please remember that. . .

“A ‘minor zoning adjustment’
isn’t always so minor when
it happens next door.”

Election Day in the City of Lake Worth
is in five days, March 13th.

“[I]n 2009, the city had more than 2,200 vacant, foreclosed and abandoned properties. With new codes enacted and enforcement improved, there were fewer than 500 in 2017.”
Quote by the editor at The Palm Beach Post, Tuesday, March 6th, 2018.

“He [District 1 Commissioner Scott Maxwell] has had a strong voice in the issues that have led to the very reasons we endorse [Mayor Pam] Triolo. . . . With the momentum in the city moving strong it is not time to stop the train.
     The work of the past six years is coming to fruition and Maxwell should serve one more term to see the work to the finish.”
Quote by the editor at The Lake Worth Herald, Wednesday, March 7th, 2018.

Yes, it’s true. For some time now there have been individuals and groups formed in the City of Lake Worth that want to create more opportunities for artists to work in their neighborhood — within residential, zoned non-commercial areas — in what are called “home occupations”.

And it’s also true that the City of Lake Worth has done a lot of work to tighten up the zoning codes in the meantime. And it’s also true the City is still hard a work “beefing up” the Code Enforcement Dept. and the zoning codes.

And it’s also true that most people don’t care about zoning until they see a sign go up down the street placed there by the City notifying the public about a meeting coming up at the Planning & Zoning Board or the Historic Resource Preservation Board.

So. Maybe you think ‘home occupations’ for artists is not a good idea. Or maybe you think it is a good idea.

But what if that ‘home occupation’ is detailing cars with an artists’ images and there is not enough parking at the location? What if that ‘home occupation’ is an artist’s music heavy with percussion instruments? Or maybe an artist that uses commercial circular saws or a heavy-duty Sawzall® or uses 20–30 cans of spray paint a day with open trays of paint thinner?

Once again. Next Tuesday is Election Day.

Mayor Pam Triolo and District 1 Commissioner Scott Maxwell have been working diligently since 2011 and 2009, respectively, to tighten up the once terribly-managed and out-of-date zoning codes in this City of Lake Worth left over from a prior administration. But do you have any idea what the challengers will do? Sarah Malega is challenging Commissioner Maxwell and Drew Martin is challenging Mayor Triolo.

As was already stated on this blog several times, Drew Martin will do almost anything to get votes and he doesn’t really care how he does it. But Sarah Malega is a different story altogether. She is a very good candidate and has run a very good campaign. But this Election Day next Tuesday is an altogether different story as well. You’ll be voting to give your choice for mayor and District 1 commissioner a three year term on the City Commission, a very big change from years past.

Make your choices wisely. The City’s zoning codes
are just one thing to consider.

Please take a moment to read the two quotes above from the editors at The Palm Beach Post and The Lake Worth Herald once again. And then scroll back down here and read more about when a “minor zoning adjustment” isn’t always so minor, especially when it happens next door.

The “Official Zoning Map” for the City of Lake Worth:
Use this link to the City’s website for Planning & Zoning, Land Development Regulations, helpful links, contact information and much more.

Once again, there are some in the City of Lake Worth who want to allow artists to do their artwork in a neighborhood “home occupation”. But this is something that will need to be treated with serious deliberation, much debate, and charrettes as well. A ‘charrette’ is a “public meeting in which all stakeholders in a project attempt to resolve conflicts and map solutions.”

Once before there was a major effort to create zoned ‘home occupations’ for artists and one could say that effort didn’t go very well. In fact, it all backfired in a very big way and was probably one of the reasons a former City commissioner, Ryan Maier, decided not to run for re-election and another former commissioner, Chris McVoy, PhD, lost his re-election bid in March 2017.

So as you prepare to go and vote next Tuesday and pick who you think is better prepared to take on the zoning code and that elected official who will be in a position to vote on ‘minor adjustments’ to the zoning code that will most certainly impact your neighborhood in this City. . .

Below is a cautionary tale:

How not to go about changing zoning in a city or town — any city or town in the United States — not just here in the City of Lake Worth.

Below are two excerpts from an article that appeared in The Palm Beach Post in March 2016 titled, “Lake Worth: City of art, artists”, and an executive from the Palm Beach County Cultural Council is quoted:

     “We [the Cultural Council of Palm Beach County] looked at their branding and how they [Austin, Texas] leveraged art and culture to develop their own identify and brand,” ■ said. “That could be used as a foundation for city’s brand strategy.”

and. . .

     That’s how Lake Worth wants to be known. The city wants to allow artists to create in their own homes, which would result in a minor zoning adjustment and to the existing occupancy permit process [emphasis added], said.

The key words are “minor zoning adjustment”.

Now let’s take a stroll back:

To mid-2015, when all hell broke loose.

Despite the City Commission’s work in recent years to tighten zoning ordinances, there was and still is in this City public concern over the talk of expanding the definition and allowing more types of home occupations (what some call ‘upzoning’, which confuses the issue even more), especially as it relates to residential property values, increased traffic, and what role code enforcement would have in all this, to name just a few.

The group called the Lake Worth Artist and Cottage Entrepreneurs (ACE) had been promoting the expansion of home occupations and I met with them in early 2015. You can read about that using this link. What I found interesting about ACE was their goal of engaging the public by beginning a community-wide discussion about changing the zoning to attract more artists to this City.

But, for some reason, that never happened.

Instead what they did is try to gain political support through various back channels but not in a very public way with community involvement. Because of that unfortunate decision, all hell proceeded to break loose.

Part of the confusion was created by comparisons way out of scale to such a small city like Lake Worth. For example, former Commissioner McVoy’s mention of Portland, Oregon (and other large cities) just confused and muddled the issue even further. Then there’s always that special place, the mecca for artists working out of their homes, the beacon on the hill and shining example for home occupation proponents everywhere, Key West.

Just one problem. It’s not true.

It is easy to get carried away with what you think a situation may be in another city. The viewpoint you hold may be influenced by anecdotal evidence, word of mouth, tourism advertising, etc. There seemed to be the expectation that Key West would be a thriving home to people working out of their homes in sort of an artists’ Garden of Eden.

Well, I checked their code and Key West is as strict or moreso than Lake Worth’s when it comes to home occupations in residential districts. So the image that some had of Key West’s residential ‘progressive’ artsy mystique was a myth. It’s also easy to not know what is zoned residential and what is commercial if you are just visiting a town and you don’t have a zoning map with you. How many people carry zoning maps around with them?

There were other possible examples around the nation that could have served as models for home occupations, places more in scale and layout to Lake Worth. But I cautioned everyone back then to not get carried away with romantic notions that may not actually be based in reality. I know that can be a challenge here in the charming little City of Lake Worth.

Another former Lake Worth commissioner, Ryan Maier, was one of those proponents of expanding home occupations in this City. However, prior to being elected in 2015 he had much concern for traffic and congestion in his own neighborhood. How one squares expanding the zoning code to allow more artists (one example) to work out of their homes, having deliveries made, clients visit, and possibly adding employees (without additional parking) didn’t make any sense coming from someone who was already worried about congestion and traffic in his neighborhood.

That is what’s called a “disconnect” and why the public became so worried and confused in 2015 and 2016. Zoning, when it’s discussed and debated in a public way, doesn’t have to be confusing. It can also be a great way to educate and engage the public going forward.

And once again . . .
next Tuesday is Election Day.