Set-aside waivers on the agenda for October 3rd PBG Council Meeting

The October City Council meeting  will held this Thursday, October 3rd at  7pm at the city hall.  It is not a very long agenda but does have two key proposed ordinances that you should review and which are .pdf attachments to this email.

Ordinance 16, 2013 has returned to the agenda with modifications and now added to the agenda is Ordinance 19, 2013 which coupled with Ordinance 16, 2013 allows the City to waive the 25% environmental set aside for government developed projects meeting one or more of the stated criteria.

Modification proposal in Ordinance 16, 2013 states:

“The City shall provide for relief from the requirements of this policy for publicly owned lands upon which environmentally significant lands and/or listed species are located through the Land Development Regulations.  Any such regulations shall establish criteria that the proposed public development must meet in order to qualify for relief from this policy.”

and from Ordinance 19, the criteria:

“The City Council has the authority to grant waivers based on the specific criteria set forth in Section 78-158 of the City’s Land Development Regulations (LDRs). The proposed amendment allows the City Council to waive the City’s 25% environmental set aside pertaining to viable uplands for publicly owned lands. In order to provide relief, the request must satisfy one (1) or more of the following criteria in addition to the requirements of the existing waiver criteria contained within Section 78-158:

(1) The proposed development fulfills a critical government infrastructure need.
(2) The proposed development will have a substantial and beneficial economic impact through revenue generation and job creation.
(3) The request demonstrates that granting the waiver will result in a development that makes a significant contribution to the city’s recreational and/or park space needs.

The subject petition is being processed concurrently with a City-initiated Comprehensive Plan amendment (Ordinance 16, 2013), which is a proposed amendment to Policy of the City’s Comprehensive Plan. Ordinance 16, 2013 establishes that the process for receiving a waiver from the City’s 25% environmental set aside requirements is done through the LDRs.”

One could ask – what is driving the need for these modifications?  Is it the Stadium?  Is there another project coming up?  Couldn’t almost any government project fit under criteria 1, 2 or 3?   Why should criteria be waived for government projects when developers are required to provide mitigation when getting waivers?  I don’t know the answers, do you?

Some other ordinances on the agenda are:

  • Second reading of Ordinance 17, 2013 – regarding rezoning for the Chase Bank to be located near the intersection of PGA Blvd and US 1
  • First reading for Ordinance 18, 2013 – a voluntary annexation of the land formerly housing the Capital Lighting Building and parking lot
  • Resolution 53, 2013 – Art in Public places modification for Waterford Hotel – also located near the intersection of PGa Blvd and US 1

The short form of the agenda can be found here and the long form here 

We get the government we deserve – and it’s up to us to watch what they do.  Hope to see you there.

Public Comment dominates an otherwise short Final 2014 Budget Hearing

The Final Budget Hearing on September 19th went smoothly, as expected. So too did the 2nd readings on the 2013 budget update, and the changes to the Investment Policy.

More interesting were the topics brought up during Public Comment.

Polly Taormina  from Sun Terrace at the Oaks, spoke about the subdivision’s reroofing project which she believes is being done improperly and not in accordance with the Master File. City Administrator Ferris directed several managers from the City to meet with Ms. Taormina immediately after her comments.

Barbara Grossman spoke about 7/50 and Agenda 21 – wanting the Council to have a workshop or discuss this regional planning concept, stating that the public isn’t knowledgeable about what’s going on in the county.

Vito DeFrancesco picked up where he left off at the prior agenda meeting – stating his concerns about the proposed Stadium and Ordinance 16, 2013. He’d read in a Houston paper, that Palm Beach Gardens is very close to a done deal on the Stadium – yet there is nothing in the upcoming document on PBG accomplishments in 2013 about the Stadium. He felt that the City would be the developer and as such, would have a conflict of interest in deciding the Ordinance. He wants to see everything that has done to date on the Stadium and has received nothing to date from his records request. Vito felt but couldn’t prove there were Sunshine violations and that City money has been spent on exploring the stadium, despite assurances that there would be no impact to residents. Councilman Russo took strong issue with any claims violations of Sunshine law, stating that he has seen no plans. He also took issue with the Council being classified as developers. He said it was no different than exploring any park and that looking into this IS THEIR JOB. There is nothing to tell the public yet because there is nothing to say yet.

City Watchers – continue to monitor what is said about the Stadium and Ordinance 16, 2013 when it goes back on the agenda at the October 3rd City Council Meeting. See  a summary of the discussion on the ordinance at the September 10th meeting.


Final 2014 Budget Hearing plus City Council Meeting on September 19th at 7pm

PBG will have what might be expected to be a fairly short City Council meeting on Thursday September 19th at 7pm at City Hall.

The primary purpose for this second meeting is the Final Public Hearing for the 2014 Budget. Also on the agenda is 2nd reading of Ordinance 13, 2013 which amends the 2013 budget for items already voted upon, and Ordinance 14, 2013 adopting modifications to the City’s Investment Policy. Neither ordinance was controversial on First Reading and both passed 5-0. The Consent Agenda consists of two items – approval of August’s City Council Meeting MInutes, and Resolution 60, 2013 “Partial Release of Three (3) Existing Easements and Acceptance of a Utility Easement from Palm Beach County to Facilitate a Northbound Right-Turn Lane on Alternate A1A onto RCA Boulevard to be Contructed by Palm Beach County”

Here are links to the short form of the agenda and the long form (which is only 75 pages long).

September Council – from Budget to Domestic Partner Benefits

2013-2014 Budget

Key on the September 10th Palm Beach Gardens City Council meeting was the First Budget Hearing on the 2013-2014 budget. Allan Owens, Finance Administrator took the Council through an easy to follow presentation highlighting actions taken and economic factors that improved the City’s financial picture. These included:

  • 2nd year in a row that property values increased
  • Proactive dealing with both Police and Fire/Rescue pensions
  • Strong reserves position

The Budget Oversight Committee, chaired by Dr. Mark Marciano also stressed that they were satisfied with the budget and its diversification and he congratulated the city on our improvement in the Fitch Bond Rating.

An other point made by staff was that ad-valorem taxes, while still the largest source of revenue, are a smaller percentage than in most of the other municipalities and that our revenue stream is appropriately used for intended purposes. An example made earlier in the evening was that funding for Bridge Refurbishment comes entirely from Gas Tax revenues.

The council was pleased with the presentation. However Mr. Russo, looking at the 5-year outlook, suggested that should inflation or increased valuations pose tax increases on the residents, that Operating Millage be brought down accordingly. The 5-year projection showed flat operating millage and a downward trend in debt millage. The council was in general agreement with Joe’s comments and the budget passed 5/0.

Final millage is “a proposed operating millage rate of 5.7404 mills and debt millage rate of .1733 for a total tentative rate of 5.9137 mills for fiscal year 2013/2014” and “the proposed rate exceeds the roll-back rate by 2.4%”. The final budget hearing will be on September 19th at 7pm.

Ordinance 16, 2013

This proposed Amendment to the Comprehensive Land Use Plan resulted in quite a bit of discussion. Natalie Crowley, Director of Planning and Zoning, presented a city-initiated proposal to exempt all government-owned/publicly-owned lands from the requirement to set-aside 25% of the upland property for conservation. Palm Beach Gardens in unique in the County for already having over 40% of total land dedicated to conservation. Ms. Crowley argued that the city of Boca Raton and Palm Beach County have similar exemptions and it would make handling government development for the public good easier.

Vito DeFrancesco spoke very skeptically about this proposal. He suggested that the amendment was driven by the proposed Stadium, and was concerned that the currently wooded land – across from two schools, would be cleared for such a project. He also believed that the proposed site might have been purchased under a bond that required that the land be wooded in perpetuity.

Council discussion ensued. Mrs. Tinsley was strongly against the proposed amendment. She argued that it is easier to make an exception or mitigation to a proposal to avoid the 25% set-aside than it would be to try and force the 25% set-aside if exempted. The council may not share views toward land management in the same way in the future. She would be amenable to changes that would keep the requirement but allow for waivers. Mr. Levy also had problems with the proposal. Mr. Russo, while not opposed, would not vote for it if 2 on the council had issues. After further discussion involving all the council and the City Attorney, it was decided to table the amendment until October 3rd.

This ordinance warrants watching and comment by the Public at the October meeting.

Benefits for Domestic Partners

At the end of the meeting, City Manager Ferris brought up providing additional benefits for Domestic Partners/Same-Sex Marriage employees. Some benefits had been provided since 2007. Mr. Ferris suggested that cost to the city would range from $50-$100k on an annual basis, and that the government (labor law) has strict definitions and criteria for domestic partnerships and for children of such partnerships. All on the council felt that the City’s economic situation had improved sufficiently to allow for this expansion and asked Mr. Ferris to come back with a plan.

Other topics for the evening included:

  • Bridge Refurbishment – of the City’s 7 bridges, 4 were built in the 50’s and 60’s and need to be upgraded to meet FDOT standards. First on the list is the bridge on Lighthouse Dr in 2013, and next is Allamanda – which will be done in the summer of 2014 – since the bridge will have to be closed. All bridges will be completed by 2017.
  • 40th Terrace/Sunset Drive – Possible utility plans were shown, some of which may necessitate land acquisition or right of way for roadway and easements. Eminent domain would only be used if owners wouldn’t deed land for the easements. The current schedule is unchanged from last time it was shown; in Nov-Jan a meeting will be scheduled with the homeowners with final costs.
  • Passed were Gardenia Isles 2nd reading, proposed modifications to the investment policy, and the first reading of the proposed Chase Bank on US 1 passed.
  • The City Golf Course is on schedule and budget with a soft opening targeted for mid-November.
  • The Green Market will open on October 6th.

September City Council Mtg and First Budget Hearing on Tuesday 9/10 at 7pm

The first of two City Council meetings in September will be held next Tuesday, September 10th at 7pm at the city hall.  Key on the agenda is the first of two budget hearings.  The final budget hearing will be held on Thursday, September 19th at 7pm.

Besides the 2013-2014 budget, and 2nd readings on several items, there are new topics, among them:

  • City Manager Report – a presentation on the Bridge Refurbishment Program
  • Ordinance 13, 2013: The Council in June authorized golf course improvements, construction of new Fire Station #2, plus Fire-Rescue vehicles leased/purchased which have been already received.
  • Ordinance 14, 2013 would implement changes to the PBG Investment Policy
  • Ordinance 16, 2013 amends the Comprehensive Land Use plan  which will exempt all publicly owned lands from the requirement to preserve 25% of native upland plant communities.

  “A review of the Land Development Regulations for the City of Palm Beach Gardens reveals multiple references and citations for the application and implementation of the goals, objectives, and policies within the Comprehensive Plan. However, while the preserve area requirement cannot specifically be waived and/or publicly held lands are not exempt, there may be other options available that will allow compliance with the Code and still meet or exceed this standard of development. The proposed text amendment will exempt land owned by the City or other government entities from the upland preservation requirement.”

  • Ordinance 17, 2013 – which would allow rezoning to permit a Chase Bank near US1 and PGA Blvd – now defunct Wendy’s, previously Miami Subs location zoned fast-food.

The short form of the agenda can be found here and the long form here.