New Urbanism and Diversity the Buzz Words from the 6/5 Meeting

The agenda for the evening was very lengthy and the City Council Meeting ran out the clock at 11:30pm – without a City Manager Evaluation, City Manager Report and final discussion.

June 5, 2014

Different from typical meetings was the very heavy PBG Police presence.  Bags were checked on entry to the building and several uniformed officers were visible throughout the chambers.   Based on the various Agenda items, one can reasonably  surmise that the item with the most public comment, Resolution 30, 2014,  related to the site plan application for the Alton Development (F.K.A. Scripps Florida Phase II/Briger PCD) was the culprit.

Resolution 30, 2014:  This item took the bulk of the evening   Speaking for the applicant, Kolter Acquisitions LLC, was Don Hearing.   He went into very great detail about the site plan, describing how this is a new kind of development for Palm Beach Gardens, representing New Urbanism, discussed diversity in this 360-dwelling non-gated community comprised of town-homes and single-family residences.  (Note:  a quick web search of the terms New Urbanism and diversity will yield many interesting definitions)  Notably different from most developments in our city was the high density of  homes, with all backyards hidden, limited green space, and a lake accessible to all, but fronted by very few of the homes.   Mr. Hearing’s presentation, along with responses by the  Zoning and Planning department spokesman, comments by 13 members of the public and a very long back and forth between the council and Mr. Hearing after the public hearing was declared closed, took almost 2 1/2  hours!  All but one or two of the speakers were from outside the City and had apparently been protesting the development of the Briger Forest for a long time.  They sought no more development in northeast Palm Beach County, lamented the destruction of habitat, animals, and archaeological sites, and claimed the the project violates the law.  Those speaking were polite and were treated with respect – although most did not expect any satisfaction from the Council.  Gardens’ resident Ruth Peeples spoke stating that the development as shown had nothing in the way of preserves, with land being cleared to be replaced with other plantings.  She also objected to a setback waiver which staff had also raised as an issue with the developer.

After the hearing was ‘closed’,  the Council spoke at length about their issues and ideas for more green space, more amenities, concerns about recreational areas being placed far from the residences and across a 4-lane road, and concerns about the setback waiver for a specific 5-unit building, and additional issues.  There was significant back and forth between the very assertive applicant spokespeople who would brook no delay, staff and the Council. Finally, the motion was to approve the resolution with an additional approval of Waiver 6 (which allowed for the setback exception) and a commitment by the applicant to work with staff to add greenspace and amenities.  The vote was 5:0.

A second controversial topic on the Agenda was Ordinance 11, 2014, which adopts new regulations prohibiting the retail sale of dogs and cats (such as in pet stores).  Stores may sell or offer shelter animals or rescued animals gotten from governmental or approved organizations.  The ordinance was presented by Max Lohman, City Attorney and was introduced/requested by Councilman Jablin.   Those making public comment were all in favor of the ordinance, other than the spokesman/attorney, Robert Sweetapple, who represented the only two affected pet stores in Palm Beach Gardens.    Mr. Sweetapple described the impact to the stores, said there had never been an issue in 20 years and said that the ordinance as written would take effect immediately without a grandfather clause, causing severe financial hits to the store owners.  (He also took time to comment on what he considered the embarrassing ‘lets make a deal’ interplay between the City Council and the developers during the Resolution 30, 2014 discussion after the hearing had been closed.  This later resulted in a short but heated interaction between Mr. Jablin from the dais and Mr. Sweetwater in the audience).  Jablin spoke first and suggested that a clause be added giving the store owners time to deal with any existing ‘inventory’.  The rest of the council was in agreement and the resolution passed 5:0 with the addition of 180 day clause.

Todd Engle, City Engineer, gave an update on the PGA Blvd (West) FDOT improvement plans and Resolution 41, 2014 which the council approved on Consent – opposing any total  road closure during construction.  There was public comment and council discussion on safety and security issues, environmental impacts (pro and con) to the water level raising of the C18 Canal.

All other resolutions and ordinances were approved 5:0 with much less discussion.

Congratulations to the hard-working volunteers on the Community Mobile Patrol Program, who celebrated their 10th Anniversary and were honored at the start of the meeting.  Eight volunteers have been there from the start and have relieved the officers of lots of activities that took them off the street.  The volunteers perform a worthy public service.

Also receiving acknowledgement was Km! Ra and the Purchasing Department for receiving ‘Universal Public Procurement Certification Council 2014 Agency Award’.

Next City Council Mtg on Thursday June 5th

The next City Council Meeting will be this Thursday, June 5th at 7pm at City Hall.

There is a very full agenda this week – here are some highlights:

  • Presentation by FDOT on their plans to improve western PGA Blvd
  • Consent agenda: includes a plat change for the Mandel JCC property; a resolution by the Council opposing a complete closure of western PGA Blvd in order to raise the roadway; various purchase awards, and a contract with Mark Fuller to design, create and install 3 proposed artistic bus shelters using AIPP (Art in Public Places) funds previously approved by the Council
  • Public Hearings (regular agenda) includes first readings on: a site plan approval for a 360-dwelling unit town-home and single-family residential neighborhood in the Briger Tract; an Ordinance which would prohibit puppy mills and the retail sale of dogs and cats within the city limits; an amendment to the PGA Corridor overlay to allow for micro-brewery/brew pub; a resolution describing a non-ad valorem assessment collection for the installation of potable water lines in Sunset Drive and 40th Terrace and a resolution amending the city budget for the associated water and street improvements; a resolution re-establishing the Budget Oversight Committee.  There are additional first and second readings on the agenda.
  • Under items for Council Action/Discussion is the annual City Manager Evaluation

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

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