Michael Martino – More Questions on the Stadium Proposal

Editor’s note:A full week ago, a letter with detailed questions from Mr. Martino was delivered to the City Manager and other staff and all members of the City Council. As of this date, he has received no answer.

Palm Beach Gardens, Florida 33410
November 12, 2013


It appears as though the Palm Beach Gardens $100,000,000 stadium complex issue is not going to disappear any time soon. The November 7th City Council meeting did little to mitigate the lingering shadows that have been cast across the process that is being promulgated by the City to promote this stadium complex.

The owner of a local flooring business, Michael Martino was a member of the City Council from 1974-1993 and served several terms as Mayor. He also was President of the Palm Beach County League of Cities from 1991 to 1993.

For almost one year the City has tried to keep this stadium complex in the shadows and a secret. City officials have withheld information from the public hiding behind a debatable state statute that they claim gives them a right to “confidentiality”. A baseball team owner who is instigating for this stadium complex to be located at a site in a residential neighborhood says that the stadium deal is “95%” complete and “need only a final vote of the Palm Beach Gardens City Council”. Yet the residents of our City know little to nothing about how we got here or why.

It is a fact that the City has held one public presentation on October 16th to market this stadium complex a full year or so after the City was initially contacted. Also, the City has hired a public relations firm at the cost of $60,000 to be an advocate for the preferred site for this stadium complex which is in the middle of residential neighborhoods. However, what is troubling and not publicly clear is if either of these two instances was authorized by the City Council.

To this date the City Council has not scheduled an advertised meeting at City Hall to discuss their policy intentions with the City’s residents concerning the stadium complex. In fact, highlighted in a recent City brochure sent to the attendees of the October 16th presentation the City has publicly advised that it has no future public meetings planned. This pronouncement was reinforced by a public statement issued by the City Manager through an assistant. I ask why?

Though not advertised as an agenda item the stadium complex issue enticed a standing room only crowd to the November 7th City Council meeting. The meeting permitted three minute public comments which allowed concerned business representatives and residents to express their pro and con concerns about the stadium complex proposal. The discourse by all was thoughtful, dignified, respectful, and blended with the right tenors of emotion. But when the City Council did not include itself in the commentary the process became merely perfunctory.

After all comments from the public were heard the Mayor and City Council members each offered remarks. The Mayor spoke to the economics and financial aspects of the stadium complex essentially saying they need to be examined and how the process needed two or three more months to unfold. Those observations provoke simple questions. After 18 months why doesn’t the City Council know about the financial and economic aspects of this stadium complex? How was a decision made to present this $100,000,000 stadium complex as a City initiative without necessary financial information being part of the decision process? Why spend $60,000 to hire a public relations firm to market a stadium complex to the residents without knowing how or if the City could afford the stadium complex?

In lieu of the proposed site which is in the middle of residential neighborhoods, a resident offered alternative City site locations for the stadium complex. A council member dismissed the alternatives as out of hand because the suggestions were too far west in the City, they would produce urban sprawl, and present traffic problems. However, that council person did not offer any suggestions to counter the proposed site in the middle of residential neighborhoods. My questions to that council member are… Does not the current site endanger the quality of life of the eastern area of our City and introduce “neighborhood sprawl”? Will not the traffic impacts be just as detrimental to the eastern area of the City and probably more so?

Another council member sermonized to the residents that the only place they were getting their information from is the newspapers. Should not that lecture be given to the City officials who claim “confidentiality”? Why didn’t that council member offer answers to the many questions the residents have presented so we would be better educated?

A council member spoke about transparency concerning the stadium issue. I agree transparency is necessary. Answering the questions raised in my letter of 11/5/13 would be a good start. A City sponsored brochure and an assistant to the City Manager says no more public meetings are planned which does not engender transparency. Again it is my contention that the City Council should hold a long overdue advertised scheduled meeting at City Hall concerning the stadium complex sooner rather than later. In this commentary, perhaps, for more transparency this council member should have answered the following questions. When will the City Council schedule an advertised public meeting at City Hall and answer the residents’ thoughtful and necessary questions concerning the stadium complex? Did the City Council choose the proposed site? If not, why not? Who did the site selection for the city if not the City Council and why?

Still another council member opined concern for the residents having “a lot of angst”. The “angst” that the residents may feel will be remedied only when the Mayor and City Council quickly repudiate an obviously poorly chosen and inappropriate site location for this stadium complex. When and how will the City Council cure the “angst” of the city residents?

In my opinion all of the above dialogue, questions, debate, discussions, attempts at public relations, baseball owners’ preferences, and so forth, are important but subservient to a fundamental question. That question concerns itself with selecting a responsible site location for the proposed stadium complex. The City should not move forward on the stadium complex until the site location question is first answered. All forward momentum can and must wait until after the easiest and simplest $100,000,000 question is…




Are you For or Against the proposed site for the stadium complex off Central Boulevard?

Mayor Premuruso –       For____Against____

Vice-Mayor Jablin –      For____Against____

Councilperson Levy –     For____Against____

Councilperson Russo –   For____Against____

Councilperson Tinsley – For____Against____


Michael Martino

Palm Beach Gardens Celebrates Veterans Day

Several hundred people turned out for the annual recognition of Veteran’s Day at Veteran’s Plaza.

Mayor Bert Premuroso introduced the officials on the platform, which included the City Council, CD18 Congressman Patrick Murphy, Representative Pat Rooney of Florida House District 85, and County Commissioner and formal Gardens Councilman Hal Valeche.

The Mayor then recounted a brief history of Veteran’s Day. Prior to the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in June of 1919 which formally ended World War I, an armistice that effectively ended the fighting took effect at 11:00AM (Paris time) of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918. That is the day which we celebrate as Veteran’s Day.

The Police and Fire Honor Guard, carrying flags of the United States, the “MIA” flag, Florida, and the Gardens Police and Fire departments then marched into view, along with the Police ceremonial rifle team who later fired off a three shot salute prior to the playing of Taps.

The Palm Beach Gardens High School Chorale “Pizzazz” sang the National Anthem and other patriotic songs.

The event was sponsored by the Palm Beach Kennel Club.

Stadium prospects draw large crowd at November Council Meeting

The published November 8 Council agenda was light – only a couple of project approvals and some board appointments. Yet opposition to the proposed baseball stadium in the city from residents who live in close proximity to the site has been growing, complete with petition drives organized efforts by homeowners associations. Word got around that they would bring their case to the council this month during “Comments from the Public”.

The council chamber, which holds 150, was filled to capacity, with an overflow crowd in the foyer, long before the meeting got started at 7:00pm. After receiving over 40 cards from people who wished to speak, Mayor Bert Premuroso arranged them in alphabetical order and gave everyone their 3 minutes – stretching the discussion past two hours.

Positions of the speakers was mixed. By the end, over 50 residents had their say with about half in favor of the project and half against. Of those against the project, many from the Shady Lakes and Bent Tree communities adjacent to the 117th site, most said they did not oppose bringing baseball to the Gardens, but did not think the location was workable. Traffic, impacts to the children who live in the neighborhood or attend the two adjacent schools, noise, bright lighting, crime, drug and alcohol use and other concerns were raised by a succession of speakers. The proliferation of red shirts in the crowd and strong applause for these speakers, as well as the 400 signature petition presented to the council are all evidence of a strong and growing opposition to the perceived plan.

Supporters of the proposal included a varied group representing business interests (PGA Corridor Association), baseball interests (manager of Roger Dean Stadium, people associated with the Marlins, coaches and officials of local sports, people connected in some way to city or county parks and recreation, the executive director of the PBC Sports Commission), and others who pointed out the economic benefits that could ensue from the stadium. Given the advance warning of the opposition speakers, this parade of boosters was clearly organized.

There is much excitement about the project from its boosters, but also a rather disturbing attitude of “we can’t let a few thousand people in a small part of the city get in the way of this great project!”. While the opposition is clearly coming from a “not in my backyard” perspective, the boosters willingness to reject their concerns in favor of “the greater good” suggests trouble down the road.

Toward the end of the comment period, County Commissioner Hal Valeche, himself a former Gardens Councilman, took the microphone to point out that the county has not taken a position on this project yet and is waiting to see what the city proposes. He pointed out that two of the boosters – Roger Dean manager Mike Bauer and Sports Commission director George Linley, who are county employees, were not authorized by the county to speak in favor of the stadium.

A few of the speakers who were not either for or against the project, pointed out that there are still a lot of unanswered questions, particularly about the finances, and both sides should curb their enthusiasm until more details emerge. Former Mayor Michael Martino, who was present but did not speak, has sent the council a multi-page list of questions that need to be addressed by the council in a workshop. The questions address transparency, finances and the implications to the Comprehensive Plan. (See his questions on PBGWatch HERE.)

The Council listened intently to these two hours of comment and took the concerns of the nearby communities seriously. Mayor Premuroso stressed that the project is in its very early stages and although it is appropriate to consider the effect on baseball in South Florida, the council will do nothing to jeopardize the city’s finances or top notch credit rating. Joe Russo, noting that the uncertainties surrounding the project are causing people “a lot of angst”, said we are “not going to save baseball at the expense of Palm Beach Gardens”. Marcie Tinsley listed transparency as a key goal in anything they do, and suggested that the purchase of the 82 acres from the county should be considered regardless of whether the stadium project happens. David Levy indicated his opposition to selecting an alternative site in the west (eg. near the airport or Avenir) and thought the purchase from the county should be considered, even if just for local sports fields. Eric Jablin compared the neighborhood concerns to the way he felt when the airport was constructed near his home in PGA National – there are ways to make it work. He stressed that the teams and the city are not yet close in the negotiations. He also said “trust us” but verify.

At the end of the session, Joe Russo suggested that we can’t leave this hanging and wants to see a full set of facts on which to make a decision by year end. He asked City Manager Ron Ferris to step up the talks with the teams and the county and try to meet that time line.

Former Mayor Martino Asks Penetrating Questions about the Stadium

Michael Martino sent a letter to the Palm Beach Gardens City Council on November 4th, 2013, along with a long list of questions that he feels need to be addressed about the Stadium.   You can read his cover letter here.

The former Mayor and City Council member separates his questions into 3 categories – Transparency, Comprehensive Planning and Financial, and then has a series of suggestions.  These are all worth reviewing and we residents should challenge our current council to consider and respond to the points made:

Transparency Questions
1. It has been reported that the Houston Astros’ owner, Mr. Jim Crane, first contacted the City about the stadium complex 18 months ago, approximately April of 2012. If that is true why hasn’t the City Council had a publicly advertised meeting to discuss this major policy issue?
2. If the City Council has not publicly discussed it’s interest in this very hyped stadium complex, why would an astute, obviously very successful businessman and owner of the Major League Baseball franchise known as the Houston Astros, infer that the Astros’ plans to move their spring training facilities to Palm Beach Gardens are “95 per cent” complete and “need only a final vote by the Palm Beach Gardens City Council”?
3. According to newspaper articles discussions have been held between certain unknown city officials and major league baseball officials. Who were these city officials?
4. Has the City Council established policy at a publicly advertised meeting to instruct the city administration to pursue a stadium complex to house major league spring training facilities in Palm Beach Gardens? If no policy concerning a stadium complex for Palm Beach Gardens has been discussed or established by the City Council why did the City hire a private public relations firm to market a stadium complex? Who authorized the expenditure? Was the request to hire a private public relations firm publicly advertised? If the City Council has not publicly stated a policy to pursue this massive stadium complex, who has or is directing the city administration to do so?
5. Assuming the private public relations firm that is marketing the stadium complex was hired and is working for the City where are the funds coming from and what is the contract costs and how is it structured? To what degree, if any, are city employee man hours being used to support this public relations firm?
6. Who prepared and paid for the preliminary sketches and information that have been used in various presentations by city representatives as reported in newspapers? Who prepared and paid for the site plans and various other information boards for the October 16th public meeting? Are these available for the public to peruse?
7. Who authorized the presentation of said stadium complex to the public at the Doubletree Hotel on PGA Boulevard on October 16th and what was the cost? Did the City Council either individually or collectively review this presentation prior to this date?
8. 82 acres of land purchased with bonds for recreational and cultural use off Central Boulevard owned by Palm Beach County is being considered in consort with some 35 acres of adjacent city owned land for said stadium complex. When did the City Council publicly discuss purchase of the County land for a stadium complex?
9. I believe the City is declaring “confidentiality of records” under Florida Statute 288.075 F.S., which exempts 119.07 (1) F.S. and Article I of the State Constitution, the Sunshine Law. I would argue that Section 288.075 is not pertinent to the stadium complex issue. However, that debate is now not necessary because…
a. In 288.075 F.S. section (2) Plans, Intentions, and Interests, paragraph (b) states “… in this state is confidential and exempt from s. 119.07 (1) and s. 24 (a), Art. I of the State Constitution for 12months after the date an economic development agency receives a request for confidentiality or until the information is otherwise disclosed, whichever comes first”.
b. The City and the Houston Astros’ owner, Mr. Jim Crane, have been both been publicly vocal about their Plans, Intentions, and Interests and according to reports the City was contacted about this stadium complex over 18 months ago.
10. In a recent mailing I received thanking me for my attendance at the October 16th presentation it states “the City has no future public meetings planned”. Hopefully, there are no private meetings planned. I strongly urge the City Council to hold an advertised Public Hearing very soon to announce to their intentions concerning this massive stadium complex development. The residents deserve to know your policy positions both individually and collectively.
These are just a few of the many questions that have been raised. There will be many more.

Comprehensive Planning Questions
1. Does the City of Palm Beach Garden’s Comprehensive Plan consider, recommend, or speculate that a stadium complex of the magnitude and massiveness that is being considered should be located in the city?
2. Regardless of how well planned and built a stadium complex may be, or how many safeguards are promised or legislated to protect the neighbors, if it’s located in an area of the city that is not appropriate, the question remains how does a stadium complex enhance the quality of life for the immediate neighborhoods and for all of the residents of Palm Beach Gardens?
3. The land under consideration for this stadium complex is in the middle of predominately planned residential neighborhoods, in close proximity to the City’s tennis complex, and very near the desirable and first rate educational facilities, known as Timber Trace Elementary School and Watson B. Duncan Middle School. 82 acres of the site under consideration is land purchased by the County for cultural and recreational considerations. Those considerations could, would, and should blend and harmonize with the existing residential neighborhoods. Will a stadium complex of the magnitude proposed stretch those considerations beyond their limitations?
4. With existing development already in place in this general neighborhood, development approved but not yet built, and future considerations for development under the guidance of the City’s existing comprehensive plan, is it not questionable whether this same neighborhood can handle the stress of a massive stadium complex?
5. Recently the State Department of Transportation reported that an interchange to I-95 is being considered in the same general neighborhood of the proposed stadium complex which further complicates an already complex situation. Should this interchange not be planned and coordinated with a regional approach to the vehicular traffic needs generated by all the existing and planned growth for this area of the city? If the stadium complex becomes a reality should its traffic consequences not be a part of this conversation?
6. As suggested by the stadium complex site plans and information presented at the public presentation on October 16th I question the planning for traffic concerns in the immediate area and neighborhoods. I also am not satisfied with, or perhaps I did not fully comprehend, the City’s approach to alleviating the regional traffic concerns this major addition to this area of the city will cause.
7. Traffic performance standards will be further taxed by the year-round use and magnitude of this stadium complex. As the City requested and the County granted when the Mirasol Development was approved, traffic performance standards may have to be suspended, waived, or ignored at many of the city’s major intersections. PGA Boulevard and Military Trail is only one example.
These are just a few of the many questions that have been raised. There will be many more.

Financial Questions
1. Assuming the City will own the stadium complex, all royalties, incomes, expenses to pay for and build, to operate, and to maintain, to insure, etc., are responsibilities accrued to the City. Is the City prepared for these huge fiscal requirements? Is the City prepared to be a landlord to the degree that this stadium complex will demand?
2. It has been reported and presented by city officials that the financing for the stadium complex will come from two sources, the State of Florida and a Palm Beach County tourist tax known as the “Bed Tax”. Assuming a bond of some kind would be the financial instrument to underwrite the stadium complex will these funding sources be sufficient without the full faith and credit of the City or any portion thereof being exposed? Are there any “strings” attached to these funding sources? What will be the consequences for the City if these funding sources do not measure up to expectations in the future? As an example the “Bed Tax” will undoubtedly fluctuate with the condition of the national and local economies. As referenced to me at the October 16th meeting, another concerning example is that the state funds will be disbursed over a 37 year period, so, without stringent safeguards I find this troubling for future city fiscal responsibilities.
3. How will the city pay for the 82 acres under consideration for purchase from Palm Beach County for this stadium complex? Is it possible to fold the cost of the 82 acres into the financial instrument that will be created to fund the stadium complex?
4. How will the City be reimbursed for the portion of the 35 acres it is giving up to the stadium complex site? How will the City be reimbursed for the improvements it may lose that exist on the City owned 35 acres? Is it possible to fold the costs of the City owned 35 acres into the financial instrument that will be created to fund the stadium complex?
5. A natural disaster, such as, a hurricane could prove to be catastrophic both in a physical and financial way. How will the stadium complex be insured and how will those costs be paid for now and into the future?
6. I strongly support the City Council members desire to not use ad valorem taxes for this stadium complex now and in the future. To keep a no tax pledge for any good reason, however, will be difficult. This City Council and future ones will have to be vigilant, creative, and tough. As an example, I would speculate that the no ad valorem tax pledge has already been tarnished with still more ad valorem monies being contemplated according to the information given to me at the October 16th presentation. The City has incurred costs for the public relations firm, city employee man hours, and the site plan and presentation materials used at the October 16th presentation. In an answer to a question I posed concerning how the City contemplated paying for the County’s 82 acres I was informed that the non ad valorem recreational impact fee accounts and the City’s reserve accounts which are ad valorem funds, were possibilities. Also, answers to questions about future fund sources for maintenance and other extraneous costs sure to be incurred received fuzzy responses. How will this City Council ensure that no ad valorem taxes now or in the future will be used to supplement the fiscal needs of this stadium complex?
7. A funding source which we have not heard from is the two baseball organizations that are mentioned as the other interested parties in this stadium complex proposal. I would point out according to a respected news organization that of the 30 major league baseball franchises the very motivated Houston Astros are the 16th most valued franchise at $800,000,000. The other less vocal team considering this stadium complex is the Toronto Blue Jays valued at $950,000,000 which is 12th on the value list. Together the two teams suggested market value is $1,750,000,000. That is a lot of digits and zeroes! Will these financially well off organizations be asked to finance any portion of this stadium complex?
These are just a few of the many questions that have been raised. There will be many more.

Suggestions for Consideration
1. Find another location with less existing neighborhood intrusiveness for this stadium complex.
2. If the City Council determines its policy should be to continue with the present site selection then a complete and thorough review of all the major facets of the proposal for the stadium complex needs to be accomplished which should include but not be limited to site planning, regional and neighborhood traffic concerns, all safety aspects for immediate neighbors, adequate buffering for immediate neighbors from all noise, lights, etc., financial and contractual aspects, purchase of the County land, and so on.
3. I would suggest that the planning strategy for the overall acreage being considered for the stadium complex development be treated similar to a Planned Community District (PCD) as PGA National, Ballen Isles, and the Gardens Mall developments were. In my opinion this will better accommodate and integrate all of the infrastructure needs, such as, drainage, roads, sidewalks, environmental concerns, etc. The stadium, practice fields, and other development parcel considerations could then be considered as individual Planned Units of Development (PUD) inside the PCD. Even though they are already built and in place the two schools, the City’s tennis complex and park, should be considered as existing PUD’s inside the PCD also. This type of planning approach may allow for more interest and creativity to the development, as well as, make it safer and less intrusive to the neighborhood. In my opinion the site plans which were displayed to the public lacked the Gardens imagination. Again I stress the need to plan for the regional affronts this complex will cause to this area of our city.
4. Municipal services, such as, police and fire protection, public works maintenance requirements, etc. must have a place in the overall plans for this stadium complex.
5. Speaking to the internal traffic needs of this complex, my approach would be to segregate the impacts…
a. Abandon any consideration of linking Shady Lakes Drive with 117th Court North or any new road under consideration, if there is one. No access from PGA Blvd. should be considered.
b. Development plans should include two ingress and egress accesses from the site onto Central Boulevard with signalization if deemed necessary. A new ingress/egress access road should be planned on the north side of the site to primarily serve the stadium.
c. I would suggest major improvements to 117th Court North to accommodate the existing schools, tennis facilities, city recreation areas, and proposed new practice fields.
6. External traffic considerations I would suggest may be needed are…
a. Coordinate site requirements with planned I-95 interchange in this region of the city
b. Intersection improvements at Central Boulevard and Hood Road
c. Intersection improvements at Central Boulevard and Military Trail
d. Intersection improvements at Alternate A1A and Hood Road
e. As feasible and possible provide for road improvements to Hood Road and Central Boulevard as needed and required.
f. Improve other major intersections which may be affected by the stadium complex, such as, PGA Boulevard and Military Trail.
g. PGA Blvd. from Military Trail west to possibly the western most entrance of PGA National may receive stress from this stadium complex that will require improvements of some sort. Of particular concern would be the Turnpike Interchange area from Central Boulevard west. The ingress and egress into commercial developments and existing residential developments, such as Ballen Isles, Old Palm, PGA National and Mirasol, may require some improvement considerations.
h. Undoubtedly other roads that will be used to traverse to this stadium complex, such as, Military Trail, Hood Road, Central Boulevard, and possibly Alternate A1A in some areas, will need improvement considerations.
i. Again I stress the need to plan for the regional traffic and transportation offenses this complex will cause to this area of our city.
Please accept the above as my suggestions in the constructive way they are offered.

Next City Council Meeting is this Thursday, November 7th at 7pm

We hope you had a chance to attend the Open House on the proposed Stadium.

November’s City Council meeting will be held this Thursday, November 7th at 7pm at City Hall.  It is possible that many people will be attending to comment about the stadium during “Comments by the Public”.  If you are on facebook and haven’t read recent articles related to the stadium – we’ve linked to several on the PBG Watch facebook page.

The agenda  is not a long one – there are several resolutions on the Consent Agenda as well as proclamations.  One item on the Consent Agenda (Resolution 68, 2013) involves a Borland Center request for 20 additional events in the next year.  If you live in one of the adjoining communities – take a look at it and make public comment if you have any issues.

Also on the agenda is 2nd reading of Ordinance 18, 2013 which is the annexation of the Capital Lighting property and 1st reading of Ordinance 20, 2013 which will allow for a CVS to be located at the NE intersection of Northlake and Military Trail.  Appointments will also be made to various boards:

  • Recreation Advisory Board
  • Art in Public Places Advisory Board
  • Planning, Zoning and Appeals Board
  • Budget Oversight Committee

The full agenda can be accessed here  – with each section linked individually.

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