Thursday, November 23, 2017

Good news, reason for optimism: Par-
rot Cove meeting last Monday about City’s Historic Preservation program.

But first, on another timely topic, there will be a Joint Workshop between the Planning & Zoning Board and Historic Resource Preservation Board next Wednesday, Nov. 29th at 6:00 in City Hall to address changes to the City’s Land Development Regulations (LDRs). I’ve been told the backup material for board members hasn’t been supplied yet. There’s a lot of material for these volunteer board members to look over, so hopefully they’ll receive this backup material as soon as possible and have enough time to study it all.

Now back to last Monday’s meeting
at Parrot Cove:

The guest speaker at the Parrot Cove Neighborhood Assoc. meeting last Monday night was Mr. Mark Stivers, the Asst. Dir. for Planning, Zoning, and Historic Preservation. I was unable to attend this meeting but received several reports from citizen/reporters that were in attendance.

It needs to be noted one of the reasons for this meeting is because of the City of Lake Worth’s ordinance, “Section 23.5-4 Historic Preservation”. This is a new ordinance to address public concerns about the administration of the Historic Preservation program and passed unanimously at first reading on November 7th; second reading is coming up on December 5th.

The most surprising thing about the Parrot Cove meeting was the topic of “opting out” of a historic district never came up.

Although brought up at the Commission meeting on Nov. 7th that would suggest the public is more focused on fixing the Historic Preservation program, getting the City to do it’s responsibility: Make this program work for everyone and of course, “Customer Service” needs to be a high priority of City staff as well. A resident or business owner with property in a historic district thinking they can just fill out a form and check the “I want to opt out” box just confuses and muddles things even more, plus no one really knows for sure if there is a way to legally “opt out” of a historic district. That’s a matter for the legislature and the courts to decide.

Anyway. . .

A group of about 50 people came out on a Monday night, which says something in itself. This meeting at Parrot Cove lasted about an hour and Mr. Stivers began by introducing himself and his role with the City for about fifteen minutes. What followed was a “decent exchange of ideas” with the public, I was told, for the rest of the hour. The public is still clearly frustrated and impatient, wanting to get things moving in the right direction faster, but Stivers said, “That’s why we’re here today” and that he’s still finding out about how things used to operate and to make the changes necessary going forward. This is a bureaucracy remember and bureaucracies have never been known to act in a swift manner.

Stivers told the crowd he is forming his own vision for the future of the City’s Historic Preservation program and many of the public pointed out, as has been pointed out over and over again, the biggest issue is “consistency” and “decision-making” at the staff level.

A reminder, second reading of “Section 23.5-4 Historic Preservation” is coming up on Dec. 5th.

Following first reading at the City Commission on Nov. 7th, an excerpt below from this blog, something for the electeds to consider:

Related to the changes in the historic preservation ordinance, I couldn’t help but notice a few things. First and most glaring, Pamala Ryan, a senior associate lawyer for City Attorney Glen Torcivia gave the presentation for the City’s Community Sustainability Historic Preservation Dept. I can’t recall anything like this ever happening before.
     The staff at the Historic Preservation Dept. should have been out front in the lead taking the questions and “slings and arrows”, not an attorney. Someone on the dais should have at least questioned why this was the case last Tuesday [Nov. 7th].

So the message can be summed up this way, we have “Known Knowns” and some “Known Unknowns” and we’ll have to trust for now the Historic Preservation staff is going to do what they said they’re going to do, because if they don’t the public message will most certainly be,

“We want to opt out”.

As mentioned on this blog, the very surprising recent news from Charleston, S.C. needs to be kept in mind about a “huge shift in our mindset” with regards to historic preservation in Charleston. And Hurricane Irma’s track predicted early on up along the Florida east coast brought with it a renewed call to speed up a “shift in our mindset” as well how the Historic Preservation program is being administered here in the City of Lake Worth.

For example. . .

To read the news segment which includes an embedded video produced by NBC5/WPTV reporter Alanna Quillen from Sept. 29th following Irma click on this link:

     Marotta, who serves as president of the Parrot Cove Neighborhood Association, lives in a 105-year-old home but because the home has been designated “historic”, he has faced some roadblocks in installing storm shutters.
     “Things that should be very simple such as hardening ones homes against hurricanes, we’re being hamstrung by decisions people made 100 years ago,” he said. [emphasis added]

and. . .

     Marotta said people are spending thousands of dollars on costly upgrade requirements, permits and push back from the board on what you can and can’t do.
     “There are people in favor of the historic program but they just want it balanced better to where the costs are so high and the challenges aren’t as great,” he said.