Friday, November 24, 2006

Gateway Zoning District - 11/21 City Commission Meeting

Well, it's Friday. I just had my favorite at Rotelli's tonight - spaghetti and meatballs - and now I'm seated in my courtyard with the tiki torches burning. A real nice tropical night. There's some jasmine in the air too. Anyway, time to catch up on the some of the week's happenings.

You might want to grab a refreshing beverage, as this entry may be a long one.

It was a rather light City Commission agenda last Tuesday. The "meaty" item was the Gateway Zoning District 1st reading regarding a change in maximum density from 20 (with a possible City Commission bonus of 10 additional units an acre for public benefit) to 30, with the same bonus provision - bringing the total allowable up to 40. The Commission ended up turning it down on a vote of 3-2, with Lowe, Jennings and Drautz in the majority.

Now, how did we end up passing this way again? It was only early this year when the Gateway zoning district was established along 6th Avenue South and 10th Avenue North.

Let's go back to the whole Gateway initiative that has had a life span of at least 3+ years. This really represented a joint effort between the Planning and Zoning Board and the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA). We worked together to improve the appearance and the long term economic viability of the area along both of our major east/west roads leading from I-95. The CRA portion was primarily the physical improvement of the right-of-way and we see the result of the first phase of that coming to a completion now in the form of our 6th Avenue South improvements.

The Planning Board's task was to create a regulatory framework in terms of a new zoning district that would buffer the interior neighborhoods along these major thoroughfares, encourage the assemblage of smaller lots into larger parcels, provide incentives for the redevelopment of the corridor with increase density (the former zoning as capped at 7 units to an acre, but the district allowed a mix of uses which included professional office) and provide design standards and limitations. These limitations really represented a "form based" zoning district - unique in the City and growing in popularity nationwide - that allowed for some predictability in the types of structures allowed in the district.

If you really want to get into the "nuts and bolts" of the district, you can go to, look up the Lake Worth Code of Ordinances. Under Zoning, Chapter 23, you will find the regulations for the Gateway zoning district.

One of the major features of the zoning district is that it allows for greater height along the 6th and 10th Avenue frontages, along with the possibility of commercial uses on the first floor. The allowable height and the variety of uses is increasingly restricted as one goes further north and south in the blocks that line both avenues, creating a transition to the surrounding residential neighborhood. Height along the avenues is a minimum of two stories, with a maximum of three. A total of five stories are possible, if granted by the City Commission for the provision of certain public benefit items.

At the time that the Planning Board made its original recommendation (about a year ago), we had a protracted discussion regarding what the maximum allowable density along these corridors. I must say too that the creation of the Gateway zoning district was a subject of many of our meetings and the CRA as well - over at least a three year period. Likewise, much effort was made to educate the public in other forums regarding the creation of this new zoning district and the public improvements to be undertaken by the CRA.

Back to our story: After much discussion, the Planning Board was really torn between allowing 20 or 30 units to an acre, with the bonus of 10 units an acre possible. As I remember, we erred on the side of 30 units to an acre in order to provide the greatest incentive for redevelopment and realizing that there were other significant controls on development that would limit the intensity of development.

When the ordinance reached the City Commission, the Commission elected to reduce our recommended to a max of 20, with the possibility of an additional 10. This was done at the urging of the CRA chairman - who later indicated he misspoke. The motion passed and the Gateway zoning district became part of the zoning code.

When I heard the news, I thought to myself, "Well, at least it is in place. We'll see if it works and apparently others had similar concerns regarding the density at 30 units to an acre." Again, our recommendation had much to do with providing the most incentive for redevelopment of the corridor. The long and short of it was, I was o.k. with it at 20 units to an acre and so was the rest of the Planning and Zoning Board.

Then, along comes the CRA meeting of May 23 where they asked that a letter be sent to the Planning and Zoning Board regarding the need to increase the allowable density to 30 units to an acre in the Gateway district and address the allowable commercial uses so it included a broader selection. All in the purpose of creating incentives for the redevelopment of the corridor.

The item eventually land back on our Planning and Zoning agenda where we re-affirmed our original recommendation, after compelling testimony from the chair of the CRA and other members of their board. I know that I respect the recommendations of the CRA, as do other Planning and Zoning Board members. This really helped to re-confirm our original thinking regarding the density.

In between, there was a joint workshop meeting between the Planning and Zoning Board, the CRA and the City Commission on the issue - with Commissioner Jennings asking most of the questions.

So, it ended up at last Tuesday's City Commission meeting. There were more questions from Commissioner Jennings and things got a little "testy" between the Commissioners, as explained in today's Lake Worth Herald. I spoke briefly during public comment and recited the general history of the discussion and the establishment of the district. The Chairman of the CRA was not in attendance. And after public comment, the vote ended up what I reported before - a 3-2 denial of the change.

I am essentially left with the same feeling as before. We have gone through an elaborate public process which established a new redevelopment zoning district along our major east/west corridors. Everyone involved also made the decision that this could go ahead independent of the master plan process as it preceded it and was worthy of enacting prior to its completion. I am also o.k. with the density where it is and has been, although there would be more incentive for redevelopment with a higher allowable density. We also have to keep in mind that eventually there will be a passenger transit option for the FEC (eastern) railroad tracks and that will rely on additional density along the corridor to be viable.

It is something that we will have to monitor and will end up addressing if needed in the future. That is what a community in tune with the needs of the public does: keep the zoning code as a living and breathing document that can change over time and reflect the desires of the community in the process. And, what we are left with is the result of a very open public process - this is not where one really jumps for joy over the actual result, we should just all be satisfied that the public process has produced a worthy result.

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

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving...

I'd like to wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving. I plan to enjoy the feast with a group close friends later this afternoon. Here is an assortment of Thanksgiving prayers and sayings that help convey the meaning of this special day:

For each new morning with its light,

For rest and shelter of the night,

For health and food,

For love and friends,

For everything Thy goodness sends. - Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

Do not get tired of doing what is good. Don't get discouraged and give up, for we will reap a harvest of blessing at the appropriate time. - Galatians 6:9

We give thanks for unknown blessings already on their way. - ritual chant

Once, when my feet were bare, and I had not the means of obtaining shoes I came to the chief of Kufah in a state of much dejection, and saw there a man who had no feet. I returned thanks to God and acknowledged his mercies, and endured my want of shoes with patience - Sadi, The Gulistan

On Thanksgiving Day we acknowledge our dependence. --William Jennings Bryan

Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our thanksgiving. --WT Purkiser

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

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Check Out the Campaign and Public Meeting Calendar

After some experimentation, I was able to include a calendar as part of this blog. It rests right at the bottom of the page. You can reach it by scrolling down, using the navigation bar at the side of the window. The calendar will let you know where I am and what I am generally doing. I plan to put fundraiser information, what neighborhoods I am walking and when, etc. I've also included the public meetings that I plan on attending. My time on the Planning and Zoning Board is growing shorter by the day. If you want to see me in action, you really should check out our meetings in December. As I am running for office, I will need to resign from the Board before the qualifying period.

As always, let me know if you would like me to speak at your neighborhood association or civic group. You can get a sense of my general availability by referring to the calendar.

Oh, and this afternoon I worked with Jim Stafford on the preparation of my campaign graphics for literature and yard signs.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are about to go "live"!

Thanks a bunch and see you in the movies!!

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

Monday, November 20, 2006

Dwight D. Eisenhower

A sense of humor is part of the art of leadership, of getting along with people, of getting things done.
Dwight D. Eisenhower

An intellectual is a man who takes more words than necessary to tell more than he knows.
Dwight D. Eisenhower

I can think of nothing more boring for the American people than to have to sit in their living rooms for a whole half hour looking at my face on their television screens.
Dwight D. Eisenhower

I would rather try to persuade a man to go along, because once I have persuaded him he will stick. If I scare him, he will stay just as long as he is scared, and then he is gone.
Dwight D. Eisenhower

In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.
Dwight D. Eisenhower

May we, in our dealings with all the peoples of the earth, ever speak the truth and serve justice.
Dwight D. Eisenhower

There is nothing wrong with America that the faith, love of freedom, intelligence and energy of her citizens cannot cure.
Dwight D. Eisenhower

When you appeal to force, there's one thing you must never do - lose.
Dwight D. Eisenhower

When you are in any contest you should work as if there were - to the very last minute - a chance to lose it.
Dwight D. Eisenhower

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.
Dwight D. Eisenhower, From a speech before the American Society of Newspaper Editors, April 16, 1953

A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.
Dwight D. Eisenhower, Inaugural Address, January 20, 1953

What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight - it's the size of the fight in the dog.
Dwight D. Eisenhower, speech to the Republican National Committee, January 31, 1958

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

Where's the 2005 Audit?

50 plus days late and counting. If there's bad news, it's not going to go away. Any longer and it will just make the whole matter worse. The line from the staff is that it's the auditor's fault it's late. This sounds less and less plausible with each passing day. The latest word is that it will be coming out today.

The City has already had to make up payments to the pension fund. Any longer and we move closer to losing state funds.

We are again left with the perception being fostered that the City has something to hide. This is no way to build trust in City government. Good or bad, let's see it so that we can deal with it.
Please, no more of ths:

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