Friday, August 12, 2011

The 8/12/11 City Manager's Report...

...mentions nothing about the Office of the Inspector General finding no basis for Ms. McNamara's complaint regarding the CRA.  The links to the right (inoperative on this copy) are from last week's report. Interesting that we are just now finding out about all these past due accounts and I know that we have gone through at least two collection agencies in relatively recent history.

Former commissioner Jennings appointed to Lake Worth planning board

Click title for Press Release Willie's report on last night's board appointments - oops, he left off Mr. Panagioti Tsolkas' appointment to the Community Relations Board. Hmmm.  Very flattering picture of Ms. Jennings -taken at the same time of her last PBP fluff piece.

Click here for the "applications" for board membership.

Click here for the Palm Beach County Ethics Commission Training Video...

which every appointed and elected official has to watch to be in their role.  The City of Lake Worth makes it a requirement to watch to maintain your official status.  The link will bring you to the page and choose the video link at the top of the list.

Comments received during the day 8/12/11 are now up...

FYI - been traveling all day and many comments were waiting. I appreciate your patience :)  Things might be hit or miss for a few days...

When is Lake Worth's Transition Team making their report?

WPB Mayor’s Transition Team Presents Findings
When: Friday, August 12, 11 AM
Where: Chamber of Commerce of the Palm Beaches, 401 N. Flagler Dr
The Mayoral Transition Team consisting of residents and business professionals will present their findings regarding city operations to Mayor Muoio at this important event.

Perhaps Patricia Fitzpatrick, Patricia Oliphant, or Pearl can enlighten us? God in three persons, blessed trinity.

Former Commissioner Cara Jennings appointed to Planning and Zoning Board

Look for boarding houses to be made legal in single family zoned neighborhoods - coming to a street near you soon!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Inspector General News - left as comment on previous post...

We have just been informed by the Office of Inspector General that they have withdrawn and closed their investigation into Dee McNamara's complaint against the CRA. Her allegations that the CRA has wasted NSP funds and overpaid for properties purchased was found to be without merit. Peter Timm filed a similar complaint with HUD, which after an audit was also found to be without merit. I hope this will finally put to rest any and all claims that we at the CRA have failed to properly administer the NSP Program. In fact, the average price paid is approximately 15% below appraised value whereas HUD only requires that we pay 1% below appraised value. It would be nice if the LW Herald would run this story, since its allegations were used as evidence in the investigations.

Cary Sabol,CRA Chair 

Embracing our neighbors!

GENESIS, SWA, FAU and United Way invite you to
August 20th 2011 9:00am
623 Royal Palm Drive Lake Worth
                                    Caring enough about our community to make a difference

Contact Event Captain Mark A. Parrilla 561-201-2851 with any questions.
 Great Community Service hours opportunity! 

Boca Raton officials weigh selling golf course wouldn't think that Boca Raton would seriously be looking at this option. Hearing the generally un-supportive discussion during a recent City Commission work session, you have to wonder if this has crossed anyone's mind here. I know it was a big rumor that our golf course was soon to be developed with high rise condos during the boom period.  It was probably used during various campaigns to instill fear in likely voters.  Click title for link. Click here for video. From the Sun-Sentinel article:

Selling park land would be unprecedented for Boca Raton, which has spent years developing one of the most extensive parks systems in the region, said Dennis Frisch, vice chairman of the city Parks and Recreation Board and chairman of the Greater Boca Raton Beach and Parks District.

"Municipal parks and recreation are key to a great city, and having a municipal course is usually the best way new people can get into the sport," he said. "But, it's really a perfect storm of problems. Golf's popularity is waning just as the economy is waning."

Current revenues from the city's two golf courses — the championship course on Glades Road, west of Florida's Turnpike, and the executive course in Red Reef Park — aren't covering operating expenses, but they're staying afloat using previous years' revenues, Assistant City Manager Mike Woika said.

Possible alternatives to the "pedestrian" water taxi...


Ferries with Rooster Tails
Just some out-of-the-boat suggestions for the BCE.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Press Release Willie's distant cousin??

Lake Worth to mull bringing trolley service back to downtown, beach, college

One of Press Release Willie's best works - this prompted me to send the e-mail shown in the previous post. Can we ever have an article that does not mention Southend-on-Sea? By the way, here is that city's website. Click title for link to article.

Transit Link between Beach and Palm Beach State College

I heard on the news this morning that Mayor Waterman and Vice-Mayor Mulvehill are planning on instituting a transit link between the beach and Palm Beach State College.  That prompted me to send this e-mail to the Commission and the City Manager reminding them of a group of transportation planners that I brought to Lake Worth in 2007.  They produced a report and a PowerPoint which summarized their recommendations - and happens to include the same sort of transit link being talked about now.  This study was done at no cost to the city.

West Palm Beach adopts tax on nuisances

Our neighbor to the north comes up with a good idea, with enthusiastic support from residents. Do we have the will to do this here? Click title for link to article.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Devaluing of Lake Worth...

It is well known that Lake Worth experienced the largest decrease in property values of any of the 38 municipalities in Palm Beach County, including the unincorporated area, over the past four years.  The overall decrease throughout the US, Florida and south Florida in particular, can be laid at the feet of what is now being called the Great Recession.  The supply of money for housing led to a glut of new residential units in the marketplace nationwide and regionally.  While Lake Worth added some units, what new housing stock that was added here was dwarfed by the amount added by other Palm Beach County municipalities like West Palm Beach, Palm Beach Gardens, Wellington and western areas of the county.

One factor that I have recently identified that continues to contribute to Lake Worth relative under-performance when in comes to property tax value is the lack of information and the lack of certainty in the marketplace.  Much like the downgrading of our nation's credit-worthiness in the eyes of institutional investors based upon the political gridlock in Washington, D.C., Lake Worth is a victim of its own sort of gridlock.

Remember back seven or so years ago when we embarked upon our master planning and visioning process?  The intent was to incorporate the community's vision into what it wanted Lake Worth to look like in the future.  This vision would then lead to a newly adopted Comprehensive Plan and ultimately a new zoning map and zoning code - in the form of land development regulations - that would allow that vision to become a reality.  At least $1.5 million has been spent on this effort to date and only this year were we able to say that we had a complete Comprehensive Plan that was found in compliance by the Department of Community Affairs - the arm of the state that used to regulate such things.  Since Governor Scott got into office, the entire department has essentially been dismantled and now communities are much more independent on how they chart their growth and development or "sustainability" than they were before.  But that is another story.

Meanwhile, the hands of time keep circling the clock and the pages keep flipping on the calendar.  What is currently known as the Lake Worth zoning code, and what the world can find on Municode, is not consistent with its Comprehensive Plan.  Other communities, generally speaking, do not face this inconsistency.  What this does for people that have money to invest in real estate or want to open a new business in Lake Worth is that it leads them to other communities that do not have this issue.  The market abhors uncertainty.  That's why the investment community was concerned about the inability of the United States to raise its debt limit to pay for it obligations.  There is now a "hangover" effect of this throughout the world about what was once considered a 100 percent safe investment.  That standard probably was never true in Lake Worth, but the principle is similar.

Like I said, time passes.  Recently, I was made aware of a colleague of mine who had a client that showed some interest in Lake Worth as a place to invest money in real estate.  In fact, there were about three individuals that contacted him for more information about what was possible on certain pieces of land.  I am not aware of the particulars of any of these, but the first step in determining whether or not to go forward with the investment of time and money is finding out what is possible to build on a given  piece of property.  Lenders are also interested in this information, as are insurance companies and other financial interests.  They want to make sure, with some certainty, that their investment will be safe over a reasonable period of time.  With this disconnect between the Comprehensive Plan and the city of Lake Worth's land development regulations, that uncertainty can never be made certain.  These people and entities with money then look elsewhere to put their money - places which can provide that certainty.

In my colleague's case, he was asking for a zoning map to be made available on the city's website - which one is not - no great surprise here.  A zoning map is available from the city, but it hasn't been updated for three (3) years.  So any information gathered by my planner colleague would have to carry that disclaimer.  This is how our Community Development Director responded to his suggestion to putting the zoning map on the website and the status of the map/re-write of the land development regulations:

I love your suggestions and would like very much to provide the information you desire on our city website.  Unfortunately, our current zoning map has not been updated recently.  What is available on the website is what we have.  Sad but true.  We will be providing a new zoning map and future land use map when we complete our Land Development Regulation process, which should occur by the end of the year.  At this time, I cannot justify financially the expense of developing an updated zoning map when we will need a new one in just a few months.  Please do stay in touch and we will be happy to accommodate your needs as best we can.  Thank you.

William WatersAIA, LEED AP, NCARB
FL AR#94136 & FL ID#5745
Community Development  Director
City of Lake Worth
1900 2nd Avenue North
Lake WorthFlorida 33461

These are some animated responses from a local land use attorney after being told of the foregoing and how it amounts to a de facto moratorium on redevelopment:

This practice is consistent with the Housing Code, which no one can have because the version of the Standard Housing Code they are using has been out of print for a decade or so, and, in addition, is copyrighted. So if you want one, you can't even buy it from the publishers. There is something fundamentally and deeply offensive to the principle of due process of law when you can be prosecuted for violating a law you can’t read.

No one reads their own code. Please consider LW Zoning Code sec. It's absolutely clear: zoning changes are not effective until mapped. That suggests to me that they should not be issuing permits for sites that have not had their zoning amendments mapped. (Permits once issued incorrectly in violation of the code would probably be protected by the principle of equitable estoppel, since the error is entirely on the side of the City & the permittee is an innocent victim of municipal incompetence.)

They can't enforce the LDR rewrite as "law". If they are, it's an illegal moratorium. By the way, the Burt Harris Act was just amended to tighten up the conditions for a moratorium -- e.g., max. 12 months.

In case you are interested, here is a link to the zoning map for the City of Greenacres, which is easily found on their website. I happen to have a small project going on there at the present time. I challenge you to look at websites of other cities in Palm Beach County and see how easy it is to find such elementary information.

In the meantime, those with money will invest it elsewhere and we will keep bringing up the rear of Palm Beach County municipalities.  The race to the bottom continues!  This is not unique to my fellow planner - it is something that would be felt by any planner or any person interested in Lake Worth.  What about all those people in Southend-on-Sea?

Make sure you check out the discussion of solar photo-voltaic panels...

...under the power outage thread.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Electric Light Orchestra - seems to have trouble getting someone on the phone too, hmmmm

Power was out again this morning...

...for about 40 minutes.  It's becoming a Sunday ritual.  It seemed to be a widespread outage according to most people I've talked to.