Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Special City Commission Meeting 5/24

What a day this was for me! It had been a busy week with work and Wednesday afternoon I chaired the Land Development Regulation Advisory Board (LDRAB) meeting. I really wanted to attend the special City Commission meeting that was called to discuss:

A. Discuss Legislative Duties and Accountability

B. Discuss amending the Commission's Rules and Procedures

Well, I got out of the LDRAB meeting, had to run a quick errand in the opposite direction and ended up in Lake Worth around 4:30 p.m. The first person I saw outside City Hall looked like she had seen a ghost - staring blankly into space, cigarette slowly burning down around her fingertips. I asked her how bad it was - the meeting, that is. She said it was "pretty bad" and she gestured towards her neck in sort of a hangman's way. Then she told me that Commissioner Vespo had all but mentioned my name during his "tirade" on the City Manager.

This came under the topic of department heads not living within the City and how the policy/ordinance was not being adhered to. He referred to the Community Development Director and how another very viable candidate that lived in the City was passed over for someone who lived out of town. And then, so no one would have any doubt who he was talking about, he said that the person who was passed over was now Chairman of the Planning and Zoning Board. All that is true, but it is important to know some of the additional details – and why not here and now?

I submitted an application to the City soon after Ed Breese left the City (early retirement -
don't get me started on that). Wendy Newmeyer, the City's former City Manager was just leaving too - at almost the same time. She had wanted to hire me right away after Ed Breese left, but I said that it would be important for me if I was going to "lead" that I really needed to be hired my the new City Manager. Paul Boyer came on as manager and one of the first work items for him were to fill the various department head positions and senior staff that had taken the early retirement plan.

I hadn't heard anything for a while and I started to inquire. Come to find out, they were about to re-advertise the Community Development Director's position due to a "lack of qualified candidates".

I'll let you ponder that one for a while.

Apparently, my application package had been lost between personnel and City Hall. I guess it was finally found. (One wonders sometimes, doesn’t one?).

So, I get a call for an interview and during the interview Mr. Boyer said that he was ready to offer the position to me. I paused and said, "You know...I just don't like the appearance of this. Here I am, Chairman of the Planning and Zoning Board - the only one that would have been interviewed and the only "qualified" candidate." I told him that he could make his own decision, but that if I was going to "lead", I would need to be on a firm foundation and that I would like to pulled for a pool of eligible and from other qualified candidates. And, most importantly, I want someone in that position that is the best for the City of Lake Worth. If that was me, fine - if not, at least we got the best one and I would have an opportunity to work with him/her in making the City a better place. The position was re-advertised and they eventually interviewed three candidates (if memory serves), one of them being Sharon Jackson.

We all know how this story ends and I am not one bit sorry. My ten year stint was coming to an end with DJT and I was thinking about going into business for myself anyway. That has turn
ed out to be one of the best decisions of my life! And, one of the considerations was that if I were to be paid City staff, then my political opportunities with the City were extinguished.

It really is funny how it ended up with Sharon Jackson interviewing and taking the position. Sharon and I worked together - in the same department and sometimes on the same stuff - when I was with the City of West Palm Beach- something that seems like years and years ago (maybe because it is).

Anyway, back to the commission meeting. I get in the building and everyone's faces looked drawn, sour and somber. It was during public comment on Commissioner Vespo's motion "to terminate the City Manager's contract without cause..."

Much of public comment revolved around the need for continuity and the feeling tha
t no one really was at the helm. Much was also made of the news that Mr. Boyer has applied for an open City Manager position in the Town of Stuart. The "train going down the track" analogy was used quite often - but then Mr. Boyer later pointed out that there has to be a "track" going in some "direction" for the train to work. The question was asked, by more than one resident, that if the action happened, he didn’t see the City having a “Plan B” or really an idea of where we were all headed, especially with an administrative leadership vacuum.

I eventually took a seat in the back row - had been in the hall. The vote was taken and it was 3-2, with Commissioner Lowe and Commissioner Vespo voting for the termination and Commissioners Burns, Jennings and Mayor Drautz voting against.

Then Commissioner Lowe made a plea for accountability - to which Mr. Boyer asked how they (staff) could be accountable if they didn't know for what he and the staff, department heads, are to accountable. There was general agreement that the Commission needed to conduct a visioning exercise in the very near future. There is just such a communication/action gap between the City Commission and the City Manager. This apparently also involves phone calls going un-returned from the City Manager to some members of the Commission.

The next item of business concerned the order of items on the agenda – particularly focusing on the appropriate place for public presentation. Discussion, and the eventual motion, called for the re-ordering of the agenda so that public comment for non-agendaed items would come later in the agenda (as shown below).


There was also discussion and eventual approval of a “card system” for public comment. This is the way many other municipalities conduct public comment portions of an agenda. It is a good verifiable way to identify people speaking and their place of residence, as well as registering their position, for or against, the item being considered. It also allows those might be hesitant to speak in public to record their comments in writing, to be read into the record by the Clerk or the person running the meeting. Concern was expressed about timing of submittal of the cards (the Commission settled on the need for them to be submitted before the subject agenda item) and whether or not it would stifle public comment or create an “un-friendly barrier” for public participation.

It just so happened that a stack of the cards used at the some of our Planning and Zoning Board meetings were in the plastic box on the back wall. I handed the yellow card to Commissioner Vespo so that he could pass it amongst the other Commissioners. I told them it is not something we use all the time, but when we “pack the house” it is handy to maintain order and that with the items the Commission has been dealing with and the amount of public comment associated with them, it was a good idea to use a “card system”.

Wow, that was a longer entry than I expected. Hope you all are still awake!

"Political advertisement paid for and approved by Wes Blackman for Commissioner – District #3"

Affordable Housing Task Force Meeting 5/22

Really a good meeting - couldn't stay for the whole agenda - but the Task Force really made some progress. How they are drafting the ordinance is a little odd in that they are not reacting to a draft ordinance, but trying to combine the best aspects of other ordinances from other municipalities (Palm Beach County, Florida and the entire nation). What they are doing is making individual motions which indicate the general direction that they want to proceed. Through this, they will direct staff to write an ordinance that will then go before the City Commission (with a stop, I assume, at the Planning and Zoning Board) for ultimate approval.

One important item that I found out more about today is one that Commissioner Nadine Burns raised at the task force meeting that she had gathered from the Palm Beach County Issues Forum - made up of various elected officials. Palm Beach County is putting together their own workforce housing ordinance and it was her impression that the target, per County Commissioner Warren Newell, is that all of Palm Beach County - including the municipalities - would be covered under this ordinance. This would be for residential projects over 50 units. At the meeting, I was thinking that surely if that was the case, Lake Worth could still put together its own ordinance and it would apply to projects under 50 units.

Well, at the Land Development Regulation Advisory Board meeting today, which I chair, the subject of the County's workforce housing ordinance was brought up. I raised the concern that I had heard this would be more of a County-wide Ordinance - including the municipalities. Everyone assured me that this was not the case. The issue relates to the Traffic Performance Standards ordinance, which has been in effect for many years within municipal boundaries.

Currently, the Palm Beach County Traffic Performance Standards ordinance regulates residential projects west of I-95 - projects east of I-95 have an exemption which dates back to the beginnings of the ordinance. This was meant to encourage residential development in the eastern part of Palm Beach County - home to most of the 37 municipalities within the County.

The change proposed by this PBC workforce housing initiative would still exempt projects from the County's traffic standards with a "workforce" housing element to them - I believe they are also using the 20% figure - the same as our fair City is considering through the Task Force's work. However, if there is a purely "market rate" housing development within a municipality, it would be subject to the PBC Traffic Performance Standards Ordinance.

Obviously, work is on-going in both cases and more will be known soon as the final products take shape. But, I do have it on good authority that the County's workforce housing ordinance will not reach the "regional government" hand of Palm Beach County within the boundaries of Lake Worth, threatening its "home rule" authority, but would affect market rate housing through the Traffic Performance Standards ordinance.

I'll keep you informed. The Land Development Regulation Advisory Board will have a special meeting sometime in July to review the various aspects of the County ordinance.

"Political advertisement paid for and approved by Wes Blackman for Commissioner – District #3"

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Public Participation Encouraged!

First of all, I want to thank all of you for your positive comments related to the creation of this "Blog". As we get into review of the various Master Plan documents products: Comprehensive Plan, Evaluation and Appraisal Report and the supporting Land Development Regulations - I think it will become a helpful tool in discussing and refining the documents that will lead the City down its path of future development. To think that the City of Lake Worth will have a coherent set of land development regulations astounds the mind. Well, at least mine for now - I think others will most definitely see the benefits over time.

One of the more important reasons that I started this "Blog" was not just to help get my word out - but to provide a way for you to offer your comments. As we all know, time is limited during public meetings and this may be a way for you to publicly comment as you would in a meeting - only on your own time, in the comfort of your own home, the library, the coffee shop - where ever you can find access to a computer and the Internet.

Just click on the comment button and "go to town". I am going to try to be very "light" with my editing - but if things get towards the objectionable realm, then I will crack down. We'll see how it goes. If you do comment, please refrain from personal attacks and try to remain focused on the good of the City and our community. It should go without saying that we should treat others as we wish to be treated. So, with that said, please govern yourselves accordingly.

But, most importantly, don't forget to make it fun and interesting.


"Political advertisement paid for and approved by Wes Blackman for Commissioner – District #3"

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Harvard University Graduate School of Design Executive Education

I just signed up for the following course:

OFU: Owning the Future: Urban Housing and Mixed-Use Development
07/31/2006 9:00 am - 08/01/2006 5:00 pm George Gund Hall, 48 Quincy St. Cambridge, MA

In 2003, I attended a similar two-day course taught by Robert Gibbs on Retail Centers and Downtown Retailing. It was a great symposium, nice excuse to get away to Boston for a while too. I thought this session would compliment the results of our City's master planning exercise nicely.

In fact, the City is looking at having a join meeting between the City Commission, CRA, Planning and Zoning Board and members of the SAC on July 26 or 27th to review the first product from our consultants. I understand that this will include proposed changes to the Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Regulations. I hope that we get the drafts in plenty of time before the meeting so that everyone has time to review everything thoroughly before the meeting. Remember the discussion about the Zoning in Progress Ordinance? That took something like 11 P&Z meetings to get through. So, me thinks that we will be having a lot of extra meetings through the end of the year - which is all good and needed. We can never have enough public input!

"Political advertisement paid for and approved by Wes Blackman for Commissioner – District #3"

Affordable Housing Task Force Meeting 5/15

I had been wanting to attend the City of Lake Worth Affordable housing Task Force Meeting for a while now and I was able to find time last Monday night to attend. It is a little confusing in that the Affordable Housing Task Force meets at the same time as the Electric Task Force - at 5:30 p.m. in the same building. In case you want to attend either, the Affordable Housing Task Force meets in the Conference Room - the smaller room adjacent to the Commission Chambers - and the Electric Task Force meets in the larger Commission Chambers.

Now, I am not one that usually likes to point things like this out, but the item that appears on agenda "New State Legislation Discussion with City Attorney" does not mention which legislation, what Bill #, etc. Ironically, Annabeth Karson is a member of this committee. So, just so that we are sure what this item is referring to, I provide the link to the actual Bill (HB 1363 - 2006) for reference. The link below is the agenda for that meeting:

HB 1363

Affordable Housing
Provides for disposition of county property, municipal property, & state lands for affordable housing; decreases the age and increases the income threshold required for eligibility to defer ad valorem property taxes; authorizes district school boards to provide affordable housing for teachers and other district personnel; creates the Community Workforce Housing Innovation Pilot Program, etc.

As the Task Force reviewed the above legislation,, one of the provisions included the encouragement of accessory dwellings in single family residential areas. There was much discussion about the prospect of this change for Lake Worth and some of the implications. Right now, the City's "single family" districts restrict development to just that - single family residences. There was discussion on how this could be regulated so that owner residency in one of the structures could be assured (homestead designation?).

An interesting sidelight to this is that at the Planning and Zoning Board meeting on May 17, Linda Mahonney (member of the Affordable Housing Task Force) was in attendance and Peter Timm (a mainstay at most public meetings in Lake Worth). An item appeared on our agenda that concerned the re-establishment of a multiple family dwelling after its demolition - in the City's "SF-7" zoning district. The essence of zoning is that, over time, all structures and uses will come into conformance with the underlying zoning district - that is that "non-conforming uses" and "non-conforming structures" through attrition, will eventually fall in line. Unfortunately, we couldn't help the property owner in this case due to the above principle. However, I did mention that there is hope, mentioning the State legislation discussed at the Affordable Housing Task Force meeting in that accessory residential structures in single family district may be encouraged.

Under public comment, Peter Timm got up and nearly went off at the prospect of this and I referred to the discussion held the previous Monday at the Affordable Housing Task Force meeting. I assured him that it wasn't City-policy - yet, but that it was something that was discussed at the meeting. After that, I think that Linda Mahonney took Peter Timm out in the hall to give him the low-down.

Funny, no?

By the way, I think the Affordable Housing Task Force is doing great work and it really makes sense for a group to just look at this topic and make recommendations on how the city can help promote and provide affordable housing opportunities in our community.

Oh, and let me know if the links work. I am still a little new to this. If they happen not to work, you can still cut/copy and paste them into your browser and get to them that way.


"Political advertisement paid for and approved by Wes Blackman for Commissioner – District #3"