Saturday, May 26, 2007

Truth Matters - Next Show Tuesday, May 29 8 to 9 p.m.

Due to the Memorial Holiday weekend, we will be postponing this week's Truth Matters show on Lake Worth until next Tuesday. Hope to chat with you then.'

Have a safe and healthy weekend.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

News: Transit Traffic on the FEC (East) Railroad

There is a whole bunch of news to report as it relates to the potential for transit on the FEC railroad tracks. FDOT has completed the first phase environmental impact assessment for the project. See cover of report below:

Please click here for access to the project's website - FAQ section.

Funny how things happen. I bumped into Kim Delaney from Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council last Wednesday at the Lake Worth Lagoon Symposium. We had met a couple times before when I was chair of the Planning and Zoning Board about the prospect for a Transit Oriented Development project in Lake Worth - at the Seaboard Rail tracks (west - where Tri-Rail and Amtrak trains run) and for the Florida East Coast tracks (east - only freight traffic). I asked about the status of the FEC transit project and she talked about the study that had been completed (above). This is the first tier report and another more refined report is in the process of being prepared now.

She said that she was disappointed that Lake Worth didn't score higher in relation to other communities in terms of priority for transit and is working for the priority to be raised. She said that intuitively, everyone acknowledges that Lake Worth should be a high priority stop on this transit line, given our grid street pattern, historic interest, beach, entertainment, etc, but that isn't reflected in this initial study.

Below are the sections of the study that she was referring to: (remember - images can be brought up larger in another window by clicking on them)

The selected pages here tell a couple of interesting tales about where the City of Lake Worth stands in the "municipal marketplace" within the South Florida region. They also highlight the importance of a Community's Comprehensive Plan as it relates to priority setting for federal, state and private grant funding and how it's important to keep the Comprehensive Plan current as new issues arise and priorities shift.

For example, the table above indicates that among municipalities within Palm Beach County, Lake Worth is "Transit Supportive but no policies and/or implementation" as compared to West Palm Beach or Delray Beach. The good news here is that the draft EAR based amendments for our Comprehensive Plan have a new future land use designation for "TOD" - Transit Oriented Development. Look at the end of this post to see the specific language. Furthermore, the text above indicates that the most effective areas are those that "focus their economic and redevelopment efforts around or in anticipation of greater transit mobility." It then mentions the existence of CRAs (Community Redevelopment Agencies) and brownfield designations (our entire CRA is a designated brownfield) along with housing and commercial growth as parameters that contribute to the framework for greater transit use.

Sometimes it does one good to look in the mirror and get an unflinching assessment of how you are appearing to others. Well, that's what these tables do as it applies to the City of Lake Worth in relation to other municipalities in the three county region. I consider this report to be an un-biased assessment of where Lake Worth stands in existing and future redevelopment trends as it relates to residential growth - and the prevalence of service, industrial and commercial employment. The tables read from bottom to top - smaller to larger communities and right to left - density of the specific attribute. Lake Worth is identified as a mid to large community with moderate to high residential density. Note that Lake Worth is not underline, which would indicate that Economic Research Associates (authors of the study) did not think that Lake Worth would experience a rate of relative growth in the upper quartile as compared with other communities in the corridor. Ladies and Gentlemen, this is not an example of over-development.

More telling are the other tables related to different types of employment. Lake Worth has a small to mid-size concentration of service related employment. This category can be office workers to your corner barber. Lake Worth has a "low" service employment density - which puts us in a category with Lake Park and Lantana - both of which are projected to increase service employment significantly over time. In this way, Lake Worth is under-performing to its potential - both of the other communities are significantly smaller than Lake Worth and do not have the amenities and quality of life potentials that Lake Worth does. This is where we have to self-analyze and ask why are we under-performing in relation to our potential.

I think we are seeing an awakening of this service employment category. Perhaps those that prepared this study did not take into consideration the amount of office space currently proposed or under construction - the Vive Verde building(s), the Promenade at the southeast corner of 2nd Avenue and Federal and other potential projects.

Below are excerpts from our draft Comprehensive Plan language that address the Transit Oriented Development future land use designation:

By adopting this future land use designation, we move Lake Worth's priority up the list in relation to other municipalities - expediting the time that we will have a station or stations within the City. If we do not adopt language such as included in the draft, then we limit ourselves in relation to other communities that are competing for the same dollars and people that we are. We are in a competitive marketplace and for the sake of our future place in the regional economy, we have to make sure that we have the regulatory framework in place to encourage transit and transit oriented development.

This cannot be another way for those that want to keep Lake Worth down to deny our rightful future as a green City - environmentally and economically speaking. It concerns me when Commissioner Jennings proclaims that higher density along our corridors, in proximity to the FEC railroad should be kept lower. Doing so diminishes our chances for a successful regional mass transit alternative. Instead, she says that people are only going to drive their cars and they won't use mass transit - so its useless to try. This coming from our most environmentally progressive Commissioner.

Let's hope that as this progresses through the review and approval process (first meeting at the Planning and Zoning Board on the EAR based amendments to the Comprehensive Plan will be on June 6th) that a rational and strategic vision will prevail.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Ribbon Cutting for New Pump Station - June 5 10:00 a.m.

Thanks to June Evans, resident of the Bryant Park neighborhood who sent this to me. I guess this means that the project is finished. Personally, I would like to know how much money was paid to Mock Roos, the number of change orders (caused by either the City or Mock Roos), etc. Not sure that we will ever know. Would the City even have the answer given the state of our finance department?

Another pet peeve of mine regarding this project is that it is an example of the City going ahead with a major project on City property, within our premier waterfront park and next to a residential neighborhood and the City administration - during the Boyer era - went ahead with the project without presenting it before the Planning and Zoning Board, even though required by law. The following is from our City Code: and authority.
A. The duties and authority of the city planning and zoning board shall be primarily to suggest plans for the arrangement of the city with reference to its general improvement, growth demands, and the extension, improvement and changes in public utilities and city works; also with reference to transportation, streets, alleys, sidewalks, highways, waterfronts, seawalls, docks, wharves, public buildings, parks, playgrounds, city-owned property, and other such matters as may be of a municipal nature or lawfully under municipal jurisdiction. However, the duties and authority of the city planning and zoning board shall not include any matter which is the responsibility of one (1) or more other city boards, unless the city commission specifically refers such matter to the planning and zoning board for recommendation. The city planning and zoning board shall be designated the local planning agency, pursuant to chapter 163, Florida Statutes. The planning and zoning board shall review and recommend to the city commissionon all changes to the comprehensive plan and zoning ordinance.
Again, another flower put at the base of the statue called "The Importance of Process". I will be going to the event. Hope to see you there.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Update on Items from the Lake Worth Lagoon Symposium

I talked to Gini Powell with Palm Beach County Environmental Resource Management today and it will be a couple of weeks before the PowerPoint presentations made that were part of the Symposium will be on their website. I really want to use some of the images here to show what is going on with the clean-up. There were so many interesting historical pictures from Tom Twyford's presentation on fishing in the lagoon - you'll be interested in those too.

Things work-wise are busy now - a good thing - but I am sure to have time by the end of the week to review a report on the FEC Transit study. The report really helps pinpoint where Lake Worth is in relation to other South Florida municipalities. Some good stuff to share. Stay tuned! You might also want to check out my TalkBlog on Lake Worth (see link on right) and listen to the last Truth Matters' show (5/20 - Sixth Show) in the mean time.

Thanks for stopping by!