Saturday, May 24, 2008

Utility Bills - Now Payable On-Line!

Click here for link.

Just signed up and paid my bill. Once you sign up - make sure you have your account and sequence number (on your bill), you are good to go. Also a lot of information available about past payment history, utility usage, etc.

This is a big help.

Links to Various Planning and Redevelopment-focused Websites

I spent most of the day yesterday in Boca Raton (in the City's fantastic public hearing building) at a seminar called "Planning Challenges of the Twenty-First Century: Effective Planning in an Anti-Government Environment." You'll be seeing a few posts related to the information I was able to gather there. One of the speakers (Gary Rogers, Executive Director of Community Redevelopment, City of Lauderdale Lakes) provided the following links to planning and related sites focusing on redevelopment. You may want to check these out or save them in your "favorites" for future reference:

American Planning Association

Broward Housing Partnership

Congress for New Urbanism
Florida Redevelopment Association
Google Maps (Satellite & Hybrid)

City of Lauderdale Lakes (where the speaker was from)

Planetizen - The Planning and Development Network
South Florida Regional Planning Council

Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council

State Road 7/US 441 Collaborative

Urban Land Institute
Public Officials Design Institute
Enjoy! I will be looking these over to see if there is anything worth highlighting more on this blog. I already found a great, recent Powerpoint on CRAs and the changing role in redevelopment - very interesting. That is found on the Florida Redevelopment Association website.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Adrian Munsey's "The Lost Sheep" - Possible Choice for City of Lake Worth Anthem? -

Building Department Closure.

This e-mail is through the City's Tropic Mail:
The Building Department will be closed on Wednesday and Thursday, May 28th and May 29th, from 8:00 a.m. to noon for training.
I have heard from a reliable source that this is to review all recent (not sure what the time limit is) sign permits issued by the City's Building Department. There are apparently a number of sign permits in the system, including the one below related to Kilwin's, that have run afoul of Marc LaFerrier's interpretation of the sign code.

I hear that if any were found to be issued by the City, reviewed and stamped approved, even installed and successfully inspected, that don't meet the Code as interpreted, they will be cited by Code Enforcement and made to remove/correct the problem at their expense. This will also be done at the expense of processing current building permits for the general public and further burden our Code Enforcement department.

So, if you have had a sign permit approved recently, BEWARE!

Time to follow-up on the Mayor's campaign promise to call him if you have a problem with City Hall. Let me know how that goes.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Meet Jo-Ann Golden, District #3 Commissioner:

I wish that I decided to stay a little longer at the City Commission meeting last Tuesday. The following item happened to be discussion of whether or not to waive rules so that the decision to purchase Palm Beach County water could be reconsidered. The impetus for this was the item under the "Presentation" section of the agenda offered by Commissioner Golden. The following is exactly how the item appeared on the agenda. The memorandum offered as back-up by Commissioner Golden appears above.

But you ask, Wes, there isn't anything mentioned about the water agreement with Palm Beach County, how did the Reverse Osmosis plant come up for discussion again? And the memorandum offered by the Commissioner as back-up says that there is "No Program Impact" and "No fiscal impact" and "No alternatives are being offered", what gives?

You ask excellent questions. The above was the Trojan horse which started out simply enough as an elementary presentation on elements that make for good decision making, something that the Commissioners, Mayor and City staff need to be schooled on for sure. That was about 1/5 of the "Presentation". By the way, individual items under "Presentations" time-limited by the rules that govern City Commission meetings - meaning that they are limited to 10 minutes. There is also no discussion allowed by the public following presentations.

Mayor Clemens, who later in the meeting seemed hamstrung by the rules in allowing additional public comment and comment after Commission deliberation, chose not to enforce the 10 minute limitation in this case. And, based on the publicly advertised agenda, when the discussion started slipping into the benefits and lack of information provided related to the decision to purchase County water or go with our own Reverse Osmosis plant, he chose to sit on his hands and allowed the presentation to continue even though what was being talked about was not advertised. Then he nearly came unglued later in the meeting (the part that I missed) about how this was brought up again. But, he had the power to control the meeting and didn't. Hmmmm.

The original decision to go with the County water option happened at the April 15th meeting. Under Robert's Rules of Order, a previously made decision can only be called up for reconsideration through a motion by a member of the prevailing side of the question. Hence the reason for the Trojan horse. City Attorney Karns further refined that to be only possible at the same meeting.

Commissioner Golden ultimately proved unsuccessful in her attempt to get the item back on the agenda for reconsideration, and the vote failed 2-3, with the Mayor along with Commissioners Vespo and Lowe voting against it.

Now, all that being said, our decision making process is flawed, Mock-Roos (the City's engineering firm that drove the RO decision) does not deserve the "Contract for Life" that it thinks it has with the City, our procurement of professional services needs a major overhaul, and the City will need a reliable (and economically palatable) potable water supply in the future. But the decision has been made and we have to live with the consequences.

Perhaps if Commissioner Golden had started out her administration engaged in real attempts at reform of the decision making process, perhaps this would not have been the result as we would now be a year along in the reforms. Perhaps her negotiation of the lucrative City Manager's contract, with liberal requirements for being physically in City Hall and no real need (ha!) to respond directly to the public, could have been better directed so that we had a more responsive senior staff able to gather the appropriate information for such an important decision. Instead we get another display of minority rule in the City of Lake Worth.

Other questionable actions by Commissioner Golden so far in her term include:
  • Putting the Compass lease back on the agenda after she voted in favor of it, with a room full of saber rattling supporters, without informing anyone directly from Compass about the item being on an upcoming agenda. This coming from a project manager of a non-profit that leases a City building, who has been asked time and again to produce financials of the non-profits' operations by the City Commission when they act to extend the lease.
  • Presenting a "script" in the form of a tape-recorded message in her own voice as she sat on the dais regarding our electric utility and possibilities to exist FMPA - which was obviously prepared by someone else without disclosing the name of who that someone was, even though everyone knew who it was. Disingenuous at best.
  • Attempting to wrestle control of the CRA Board and bring it under the Commission's already over-burdened purview. She was the LEAD Commissioner in this attempt and called another surprise meeting without advising CRA board volunteers of the item being placed on the agenda. See quote above from Commissioner Golden's campaign materials.
  • Also related to the CRA, not recognizing any possible perceived or real conflict of interest as it relates to her own non-profit Community Development Corporation and the Commissioner being a policy maker for the CRA.
  • Saying "I will put a "Cop on the Block" in her campaign literature as we find ourselves deep within a crime wave and a budget crisis that has trouble funding existing levels of policing.

Three Day All-time Record for Blog Visits!

Excerpts from Structural Report on Beach Buildings - dated March 2001

Re-post: This is ANOTHER bumping up of this post in light of the question I asked at Tuesday's City Commission meeting. The excuse given for not having a new structural report was the equivalent of "the dog ate my homework". Personally, I didn't think we needed another report prepared by a new structural engineer, as this one seemed fairly complete and from a reputable party. The story is that the City engaged a new structural engineer and now they can't be found, dropped the ball, etc?

This is still a very important matter. Can we please find a way to make sure that public safety is being addressed and protected?

In the year 2000, the City Commission appointed the Beach Steering Committee. This committee was made up of mostly Planning and Zoning Board members, but was expanded to include members of the community at large. Two that I can remember off the top of my head were Peter Timm and Doug McIntee. There were others. The Committee was formed after the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council initiative which included a visioning session and charettes, resulting in a master redevelopment plan for the beach. The Committee's charge was "fine-tuning" the master plan, with an emphasis on making it practical to build, determining costs and educating the public.

The Committee's work led the way to the ill-fated general obligation bond issue of 2002. The decision to go ahead with the bond issue referendum was rushed and eliminated what I, and many on the Committee, thought was the most important part of the Committee's work - public education regarding the project leading up to the bond issue. Timing was bad too since it coincided with someone's view being blocked by mangroves, but we'll leave that story for another day. I think the bond issue, which would have funded a City-run redevelopment project at the beach, lost on a "no" vote of 63%, if memory serves me correctly. Looking at the situation we have before us today, many have come to believe that a successful City bond issue to fund beach improvements would have been the best way to go, but that was not to be.

The first charge of the Committee was to determine the existing physical state of the Casino building. We agreed that the public would want to know about the condition of the existing building and whether it could be rehabilitated or not. The City Commission engaged the services of a structural engineer to assess the condition of the building and excerpts of the report appear below.

Why is this important to review now? Besides being one of the most important works encouraged by the Beach Steering Committee, it talks about a building that is still with us today - with all of the same environmental conditions present that were there six years ago.

Just because some choose to attack the current structure and plan for redevelopment of the City's beach, doesn't stop the passage of time. Just look at the recent pictures that I took of the condition of the building. These are not just "cosmetic" problems; they are evidence of processes taking place deep within the building that we can only see manifestations in certain places. Those places are "open sores" in clear public view. More importantly, they represent possible public safety hazards as they are in areas where the public congregate: i.e. the line for John G's restaurant.

The City was accused at the time for not making repairs to the building and putting barricades up leading up to the bond issue as a way of promoting passage of the bond issue. When the referendum failed, the City undertook a series of cosmetic repairs. However, evidence of those repairs is no where to be seen now in three critical areas. These are highlighted by the color photos in this post.

The point here is that we need to do something. We have an opportunity to achieve our goals in the public/private partnership that City has with Greater Bay. In the meantime, we still need to protect the public and either barricade these problem areas or repair them, hopefully for the last time. Remember, the existing Casino building will be one of the last things taken down as part of the proposed phasing plan.

You can click on any one of the images and they will be brought up in another window. You can also right click on the image and "save image" to your hard drive for future reference. I also have a .pdf copy of the full report. If you would like me to e-mail to you, please contact me at

The above excerpt is of interest as it discusses the original Casino building in relation to the post-WWII addition/remodeling which we see today.

Look at the first paragraph in the excerpt above. It is so important, it bears repeating here in bold type: "The type and severity of conditions identified during our investigation vary from location to location, but the extent and quantity of damage is significant. The immediate concern with the deterioration of the reinforced concrete elements is the advanced state of deterioration, especially along the eastern facade, here the public has unrestricted access. The potential for concrete to dislodge and fall from the spalled or deteriorated areas is extremely high."

The photos below indicate the three areas that are all easily visible along the building's eastern and northern edges. Arrows indicate cracks that emanate from the exposed areas.

Please encourage our elected officials to address this issue in the interest of public safety.

Update: I brought this issue up under public comment at the City Commission meeting last night (7/17). I followed up by e-mailing the Mayor and Commissioners a copy of the report and the above pictures.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A little levity...

Slideshow: College Park Sidewalks

College Park is known for some of the worst sidewalks in the City. The one in front of my house (a corner lot) is an example of some of the poorest in the area. Today while walking my dogs, I noticed some numbers made with thick yellow chalk on some of the worst sections, but not on all, only on Pennsylvania. There were some across the street too. Is this part of the City's inventorying of sidewalks that need repair or replacement?

Short Summary from Last Night's Meeting...

I stayed for most of the meeting and left just before discussion on the revisiting of the RO/County water decision. These are the highlights:
  • Commissioner Golden's presentation on the decision making process of the Commission ended up being a "canned" Powerpoint presentation decrying the decision to go with County water. Might be worthy of examining, but could we have truth in authorship here? It was obviously prepared in large part by Bill Coakley - it was not "Golden's Report". Please call it what it is.
  • All consent items were approved.
  • Peter Timm endorsed Mary Lindsey for the District #2 seat. I didn't know she was running. Is she?
  • "For the Children" lease was approved.
  • They will be looking again at reforming Public Comment - the length and positioning of public comment on individual agenda items. Expect this on a future Commission agenda to include a review of the rules and existing code related to public comment. The Mayor thinks that his new policy has been "wildly successful". From the tone of the Commission and public's comment, it is likely that we will at least be offering our comments after the Commission discusses an item, not before.
  • After a lot of confusion about the maximum square footage allowed in the Beach and Casino future land use designation, the three related items passed by the expected 3-2 vote.
  • The Casino Building structural report is not yet available. According to staff and the Mayor, the original structural engineer "cut and ran" and they had to get a different one. Does this sound remotely true?
  • I did confirm with Marc LaFerrier that he is leaving to become Miami-Dade's Zoning Director and will start in about three weeks.

North "L" Street

This was posted under "Life in Lake Worth". I moved it here as it might be overlooked.

I moved to Lake Worth from Boynton a couple of months ago. I have always liked the "vibe" in Lake Worth and have been happy with my decision. It's a great town.

Yesterday when I was coming home the police had "raided" the house next door. It appeared that they were taking away two women. A masked police officer (undercover no doubt) was talking to another resident of the house. I over heard the words, crack, prostitution and "we're watching you".

I knew the people next door were "up to no good" and the house is a run down mess.

While it is unsettling to have a "bust" occur next door, I am delighted to see some action and applaud the officers involved.

I love my new hometown, I like my other neighbors very much. I have a handicapped daughter who lives with me half the time. She loves to walk downtown and see the puppet show and listen to all the great music. I want her to be able to enjoy all of this with me.

I suppose we can be mad about the police situation, however we should be more upset about the criminals that infest such a great town.

Yesterday's raid has spurred me to become more active. This town is too good to give it over to addicts, prostitutes and thieves!

Life in Lake Worth

This is a copy of an e-mail forwarded by Maryanne Webber:

Dear Maryanne and Bruce, My husband Vincent and I have owned our house at 1102 N. Golfview Drive for 22 years. After we retired in the year 2000, we became Florida residents and divided our time between Lake Worth and Norwalk, Ct. (7 months down South and 5 months up North).

We saw Lake Worth go from a seedy old town to a vibrant fun place. We are now devastated over what it has become. Friends from other places are skeptical about visiting us, especially at night, because of everything they read in the papers.

Last Winter our home was broken into in broad daylight. Vinnie had been home less than an hour before to take a shower after a round of Golf. Since our car was in the garage, there was no way to tell if anyone was at home. They could have surprised him in the house and who knows what might have happened.

Fortunately, he remembered to turn on the alarm. However, it took the police over twenty minutes to get to the house. The thief - or thieves- knowing they had plenty of time, ransacked the house and got away with many of our valuable possessions. We never got our things back or found out who did it because,we are sure, no one ever bothered to try to find out. In fact, we never heard one word after we filled out the report.

Since then we have fortified our home like it was Fort Knox, keep our valuables in a safety deposit box and are never as secure and comfortable as we were before. We tried to sell the house for a while but, of course, could not. We know the housing market is bad, but no one would buy in Lake Worth even if it were not.

Thank God your son is all right. We are all relegated to live in fear and look over our shoulders. Something must be done. Please feel free to forward this letter to anyone you wish.

Sincerely, Marie Grillo


Monday, May 19, 2008

Beach and Casino - Future Land use Plan Change and Amendment to Comprehensive Plan

Three items appear on the City Commission agenda Tuesday night related to the beach. One is a Stipulated Settlement Agreement with the Department of Community Affairs (DCA), the State of Florida agency that oversees all local government Comprehensive Plans. Then there are two other public hearing items for Ordinance 2008-09 and 2008-10: these are for the creation of the Beach and Casino Future Land Use designation and for assigning that designation to the beach property.

But you ask, Wes, I thought we had done this already last year? The answer is “Yes”, this was passed last year by the City Commission. Whenever an amendment to the Comprehensive Plan is made, copies of the Ordinances are sent up to Tallahassee for review by the DCA. DCA sends back a letter to the City saying whether or not they find the amendment “in compliance” or “not in compliance” with the Comprehensive Plan, applicable State Statutes and Administrative Codes.

Part of the analysis one does when you create a new Future Land Use designation is to look at the most intense development scenario possible under the new designation. In order to perform that analysis, you determine what the density and intensity of that development could be. In this case, assumptions on water use, traffic generation and other impacts were based upon the maximum square footage possible. That was based upon the square footage of building anticipated by the Greater Bay group – 64,714 square feet.

That number serves as the determinant of the "Floor Area Ratio" - the amount of building you can have in relation to the size of the property. Assuming that the beach property is 18.6 acres, that translates into a "Floor Area Ratio" of .08 - a very low number.

At the time of second reading last year, the studies had been done for traffic and water, along with other impacts based on that allowable development. That was presented before the Commission and it passed with the familiar 3-2 vote. The Commission acted with knowledge that this limit was in place and there were studies supporting that level of development.

However, as I reported before, the version of the Ordinance that went up to DCA didn't contain the following highlighted language.

The key line added related to maximum square footage, as discussed. The other items were added that parallel language in the Beach and Casino Zoning District - which is locally determined.

Staff made a mistake and did not send up the Ordinance with this language. So DCA is a stickler for detail and wouldn't look at the traffic report or other data since they thought there was no limit to the amount of square footage on the property. Now what could play more into the hands of the people that want to derail any kind of improvement to the beach than this error? Not much. In fact, the following people joined in as Intervenors in the DCA "Not in Compliance" action:
Do those names look familiar? Two of the names are associated with a separate lawsuit regarding length of the lease on the beach and other items in the development agreement - the other two are involved in the Sunset lawsuit, along with petition signature gathering effort related to a referendum on the Beach and Casino Future Land Use and Zoning designations.

So next time someone asks you why isn't anything happening at the beach, read off these four names. They will be there at every turn to stop redevelopment of our beach park. Until then, we will look at the same sorry, dog-eared facilities.

It's also a lesson that sloppy staff work gives opportunities for people to insert themselves into a process to further their political aims.

Don't be fooled when they make a big deal about the traffic impact and the water impact of the beach redevelopment - it only became an issue when the wrong documents were sent to the State of Florida. Now we have an all clear, but for the lawsuits. Chat with the people above regarding the status of those.

For now, please go and enjoy our nicely refurbished pool. Just know that the State of Florida is fine with this land use plan change and amendment to our Comprehensive Plan.

PBC Cultural Council Activities

The Palm Beach County Cultural Council has recently posted/published its May/June calendar which includes a wide array of activities and special events at wonderful cultural locations countywide such as:

Guided tours and shark feedings at Sandoway House in Delray Beach

Ride and Remember” trolley tours sponsored by the Spady Cultural Museum and the Delray Beach Historical Society.

WOW! “Wings Over Water” event featuring an interactive show with over 20 trained birds at the Palm Beach Zoo.

In addition, many of the county’s local cultural organizations offer workshops, classes, and lecture series. For more information, please contact the Palm Beach County Cultural Council at 561-471-2901 or visit their Web site at Don’t forget to ask them about the “CultureCard” program that provides discounts and specials with many of the area’s cultural organizations/events.

A Plea for Help

Below is a copy of an e-mail sent to our City Commissioners and Mayor this morning by Bruce and Maryanne Webber:

Dear Mayor and Commissioners;

In the very early hours of Sunday morning our son David was held up at gunpoint in his apartment at 616 Lucerne Avenue in downtown.

He had been home about an hour after coming home from attending “The Police” concert at the Fairgrounds in West Palm Beach. He was inside his apartment and then went downstairs to check his mailbox, came back inside to get a drink of water when there inside his front door was a man with a gun pointed at David’s head demanding all of his money.

David told the man he didn’t have any cash and that the only money he had was $300.00 and that was in the bank. The man had the gun at his head and told him to take him to the nearest ATM machine.

They walked down to National City, David withdrew the cash, gave it to the man and the man left with the cash.

At this time we are very thankful that our son is physically ok. We are also very angry. Let’s face it; it could have turned out a LOT worse.

All our safety is at risk, this could have happened to any one of us with fatal results. Without adequate police protection our city is a crime zone.

With all the violent crime going on the police do not have the man power or the time to deal with the gangs, the prostitution and the drugs. The criminal element knows we are vulnerable.

Our Police Dept. is understaffed, overwhelmed, and underpaid. Commissioner Vespo has made a power point presentation illustrating why it is so imperative to go with the PBSO.

At the last commission meeting residents form South J Street were begging all of you to do something.

There is something to be done… NOW. These next 60 days are supposed to be the negotiations with the City of Lake Worth and the PBSO. We are pleading with all of you to be on top of this and to get the deal sealed. Our city’s residents need help and we need it now and you, our representatives, are the only people who can get us the help we need.

Please please turn these negotiations into a contract with the PBSO. It is the only chance we have to save the lives of our families and keep our homes and streets safe.

Bruce and Maryanne Webber

Marc LaFerrier

Heard from separate and reliable sources that he has been appointed to the Planning Director's job in Miami-Dade. No confirmation or word on when he is leaving.


Sunday, May 18, 2008

Items on this week's City Commission Agenda - 5/20

This week's City Commission meeting agenda has a few items of interest. I've highlighted those items on the above agenda that particularly interest me. You can go to the City's website by clicking here. Click on the items of interest to you and you will be directed to the back-up information, if available. I will be doing a separate post on the items related to the Beach and Casino future land use designation, amendment to our Comprehensive Plan and the Stipulated Settlement Agreement with the Department of Community Affairs - much ado about not so much, but more on that later.

This week is one where the pledge is led by District #2 Commissioner Cara Jennings. She will start by saying, "I pledge allegiance" and then go silent for the remaining part. An uncomfortable moment to be sure perpetrated by one of our elected government officials.

Under presentations, Scott Fox, Executive Director of Compass, Inc. will give an update on the move to the former County Senior Citizen's center. I bumped into Scott last night and he will be giving a timetable of expectations for preparing the building for occupancy, etc.

Commissioner Golden is going to make a presentation regarding, "The Process of Decision Making by the City Commission." Bring the popcorn for this one - it has the potential for being a tear-jerker, cliff-hanger or a Greek tragedy - or a mix of all three.

John Paxman, Chairman of the Planning, Zoning and Historic Resource Preservation Board will make a report on the activities of the board over the past six months.

The next item of interest is the last one on the Consent Agenda. It concerns a contract with LaRue Planning and Management services to supply staff for the Planning, Zoning and Historic Preservation Department. This has been an arrangement that has gone on for sometime now since City Manager Bob Baldwin has come on the scene. This will formalize the previous arrangement through a year-long contract with the firm. Money for this is coming from the unused portion of the budget dedicated to two (2) unfilled positions in the Department. The proposed contract appears below:

Note that this will cost the City $156,000 per year for the equivalent of one person working 20 to 30 hours a week - not a full time position - at $100 an hour! There are questions about background as it relates to historic preservation and design. The other part of the back up talks about who the City went our for proposals and received three responses. Then those firms were ranked and LaRue (the one already being used by the City) was selected as the top firm. This was done by a "selection committee" - I am sure only made up with staff. On May 12, they met -"...the date and time of which was publicly noticed...". Reference is made to Section 3-102 Competitive Sealed Proposals, under the City's Procurement Code. We have assurance that this has been reviewed an approved by the City's Purchasing Manager.

The only item in the City Code related to procurement, that I could find, was the following:

So, first of all, if there is a Procurement Code - it should be somewhere in the City's Code of Ordinances and it should be used uniformly - especially as it relates to Civil Engineering services - i.e., Mock Roos. I would also like to hear about how this meeting was publicly noticed.

But, besides that, let's examine the impact of staffing a planning department by an outside firm. With whose loyalties does the person assigned the task to work for the City lie, the City of Lake Worth or their firm? Are we getting someone as knowledgeable as we could find through advertising the availability of those existing positions?

Staffing levels of this department have been, and most definitely are now, inadequate for the City the size of Lake Worth. Through this contractual position, we have the equivalent of a half-time to 2/3 time person plus one planner, a secretary and a director. The director is in charge of the entire Community Services department, which includes the Planning, Zoning, Historic Preservation department, the Building Department and the Code Enforcement Department. Thus, we have an over-burdened staff that is spread amongst two many areas competing for their attention. MORE BODIES AND BRAINS are needed here and hiring an outside firm is not the way to do it.

Under New Business, Commissioner Golden is bringing up the public comment policy, but is not showing her cards in the back-up material about what she is recommending or which items of the policy will be discussed. I am hopeful that the City Commission will go back to allowing comment after each individual agenda item and after discussion by staff and the City Commission. As a compromise, this could be a minute per item, instead of the previously allowed three minutes per item, as a way to still move along the meeting. Also, comment should be allowed on items that concern individual members of the public on Consent Agenda matters. If anyone wants to comment on an item, that item should be automatically pulled. I'd also like to see the "blue cards" be dispensed with and only used if there is an unusually large crowd present to address an individual item. We should also require anyone that addresses the Commission to give their street address and state their full name prior to commenting publicly.