Sunday, October 8, 2017

“Destination Lake Worth”, the 2017 “State of the City Address” and historic preservation program here in our City.

Is Lake Worth really “open for business”? Is everybody reading from the same script? 

Are all the City departments and staff on board with the “Mission” and “Vision” going forward?

If you’ve been following the news of late about the City of Lake Worth’s historic preservation program, many have their doubts the City is really “open for business”.

We’re also in the midst of a housing crisis, the need for affordable housing is a concern for every City in Palm Beach County, but do we have some departments and staff here in the City of Lake Worth creating our own “affordability crisis”? Let’s say a young family with one or two kids wants to be part of our vibrant community, live in and be part of a historic district in Lake Worth? It’s an attractive idea for many families.

But are they being squeezed out of the market due to expected home repairs and improvements much more expensive than in places not in a historic district? And a cumbersome process as well with hours of paperwork which few really understand. Greenacres doesn’t have historic districts. Neither does Boynton Beach and a lot of other cities.

Remember, these are people who read the paper, this blog, and maybe heard about what happened at City Hall on August 16th from a Realtor or somebody very concerned about all of this. A lot of people are very concerned.

This is not what we were all expecting after two
very well-attended and well-publicized meetings
at the Lake Worth Casino:

View of the “Destination Lake Worth” event held at
the Lake Worth Casino on October 10th, 2016.
“Destination Lake Worth”, a public forum for property owners and investors. The City is “open
for business” and investment in the City “is a
good idea whose time has come”.

View of Mayor Pam Triolo’s State of the City Address 
on January 1st. 2017.
“It is now time to join together and own a period
of time that will be looked back upon by future generations as one of success, responsibility, accountability and positivity . . . the State
of your City is good.”

It’s not a consistent or understandable City message when on the one hand the City of Lake Worth is “open for business” and on the other hand the public here is, “crying for some type of relief ” from the Historic Preservation program and staff, and then an elected official recently saying about the program, “We need to clean up this mess . . . we have egg on our faces.”

Whether you like it or not, the City’s Historic Preservation program and how the City is conducting business is now an election issue. And a big one.

The problem seems complex, but it’s not at all.

The answer is “Customer Service”. The City’s residents and business community are the “customers” and the City’s job is to provide the “service”. However, in a lot of people’s minds, e.g., the latest kerfuffle over the Historic Preservation program, the customer service model is not working and the residents and business community are not being served properly.

However, there is another much more troubling part of all this no one is talking about. Well, no one is talking about at the moment. And that’s how all this delves into the “housing crisis”. You see, on the one hand the City of Lake Worth promotes itself as an affordable “destination” — more so than the more prosperous coastal communities — but those who wish to live “affordably” in a Lake Worth historic district find that increasingly difficult if not impossible. 

Many families, and especially so Millennials with children (or planning to have a family), are priced out of living in a historic district. And that’s ironic because those who promote historic preservation acknowledge we need future generations to appreciate the history that preceded them. How better to appreciate history than to grow up surrounded by history as a young child?

Take note. Draw your own conclusions: No historic districts have ever been created in any neighborhoods west of Dixie Hwy. in the City of Lake Worth.

And if the Historic Preservation program continues the way it’s going, we never will. Because everyone will know it will bring with it a whole lot of problems and won’t be affordable anyway. So what’s the benefit?

But once again, all of this could have been avoided in the first place if there was a less zealous approach to historic preservation, understanding the City of Lake Worth is much different in many ways from neighboring cities like Palm Beach and West Palm Beach too.

And that’s what is really sad about all this. We never had to get to this point when people are asking me, “How can a city get rid of historic districts?”

Also, besides the aspect of affordability, there’s the issue of safety as well. From NBC5/WPTV reporter Alanna Quillen, “Lake Worth neighbors hit roadblocks in upgrading historic homes against hurricanes”.

LAKE WORTH, Fla. — We still have about five weeks left in hurricane season, five weeks left of fear for some homeowners that a storm may significantly damage or destroy their most important investment. [emphasis added]
     If you think its costly to secure your own home, people who live in homes designated as “historic” face not only cost, but also red tape.
     Anthony Marotta and some of his Lake Worth neighbors want to protect their treasures from hurricanes but history and beauty comes with a hidden cost.
     Marotta, who serves as president of the Parrot Cove Neighborhood Association, lives in a 105-year-old home but because the home has been designated “historic”, he has faced some roadblocks in installing storm shutters.
     “Things that should be very simple such as hardening ones homes against hurricanes, we’re being hamstrung by decisions people made 100 years ago,” he said.