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.


One Response to “Former Mayor Martino Asks Penetrating Questions about the Stadium”
  1. Pat Hughey says:

    Mr. Martino has spoken very clearly of concerns many Palm Beach Gardens residents would like to have public answers for. The suggestions made should prove helpful as this discussion proceeds. Thanks, Mr. Martino.

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