Former Mayor Martino’s perspectives on the July 10th City Council Mtg

I attended the July 10th Palm Beach Gardens Council meeting and I was glad that I did. I was pleasantly surprised as I witnessed my nephew’s son, Joshua Wilkes, receive acclaim in conjunction with his other PBG Police Explorers mates. I proudly watched as my son, Steven, reminded the Mayor and City Council that we do have some problems in the older sections of our fair City that require their attention.

I listened to a Council member opine about the Scripps Research Institute and its recent newsworthy problems. It was difficult to follow this conversation and what the member’s conclusions were. Let me offer my conclusion, Scripps has problems. How severe or deep they are we do not know at the moment but we better find out. The North County and our City have a lot riding on Scripps. As I articulated in a recent letter I wrote even though Scripps has met internal hiring expectations the promise of 50,000 local jobs from spin-off companies has been minimal, at best. Local governments have planned development around these spin-off promises, the Briger acreage in Palm Beach Gardens is an example. With all of this in play, plus $579,000,000 in incentives from state and local governments on the line, this “drama” could transition to crisis.

Then there was the normal agenda routine of proclamations, resolutions, public hearings, ordinances for approval, etc. To my surprise there was very little, if any, serious conversation by the City Council as they voted unanimously for all of these items. However, an ordinance banning the sale of dog and cats in the City did generate a lot of comment and conversation by the Public. There were emotional expressions in favor of the ordinance and against its passage. This forced the City Council to express their thoughts which they did and then voted 5 to 0 in favor of the ban.

But the meeting wasn’t over yet. There were still term limits to deal with. When it was term limits turn we again heard the voices of our Council members. It was obvious that the Council members were not happy about this resolution but to their credit all said they did not want to thwart the democratic process and voted to place the term limit proposition on the November ballot if the Citizen Petition drive met all legal hurdles.

The next to last item on the back end of the agenda was the City Manager evaluation. That’s all the agenda identified, evaluation. The City Council did not appear to have any reference materials or forms to fill out; apparently it’s to be a verbal evaluation only. Generally, all of the council members’ comments were effusive in their verbal evaluation and praise for the City Manager. However, the more the members evaluated the more interesting the evaluation became…

1. One council member was more restrained and questioned the City Manager’s communication skills and tied them to the transparency issue that the City is somewhat mired in.

2. Another council member lobbed some softballs at the manager’s performance. Then this member tried to hit a home run by raising the baseball stadium fiasco, defending the City Manager’s role in not being more forthcoming with the public on the issue, and suggesting us residents should believe that due diligence was done. Based on these comments this member would have us believe that the City Manager is the superhero that saved us residents from the disaster that the baseball stadium would have been.

I thought the verbal evaluation discussion was over. All of a sudden a council member sounding like an agent for the City Manager moved to extend the City Manager’s current contract for 2 more years, apparently, until 2018. A second to the motion was made and then discussion ensued. So without regard for the agenda listing only an evaluation, a 2-year extension to the City Manager’s contract had been moved, seconded, and discussion began…

1. The agent for the City Manager, excuse me I meant council person, who motioned the contract extension, commented that our leader, the City Manager (I thought the City Council were our leaders), should be able to stay here as long as he wants. Rambling, this member said, we control the City now but alluded to term limits changing that, we owe it to the City Manager because of his future plans, no one has heard from this man…

2. Discussion from other council members revealed that at least two of them had never seen or read the contract; therefore, they did not know its content or conditions, and a third member said he had not seen or read the contract in a long time.

3. We finally hear from the City Manager and he was not a happy camper. Perhaps, not appreciating the discussion, the City Manager, uttered some incoherent comments ending with a suggestion he did not want to be part of this ”turmoil”, which quieted the City Council briefly.

4. Here comes the agent, I did it again, I mean council person, to the rescue. The agent or council person, take your pick, defends the Manager’s comments by suggesting that they were released “out of emotion”.

5. Finally, the council member who seconded the motion to extend the contract withdrew his second, so the motion dies.

6. Subsequently, the City Council decided to review the manager’s contract for consideration of a 2-year extension at the September City Council meeting.

In conclusion, the City Manager evaluation was by far the most interesting part of the meeting and worth the wait. Hopefully, the City Council will be transparent enough to put the original City Manager contract with all its extensions and additions since its inception, along with the new proposed contract on its web site for the public’s consumption.


Michael Martino



Award winning Police Explorers and Puppy Sale Ban fill the chambers

Thursday’s meeting was a long one; over 3 1/2 hours.  As is almost always the case, all Ordinances and Resolutions passed 5:0 except for Resolution 47, 2014 appointing former councilman Carl Sabatello as 2nd alternate to the Planning, Zoning and Appeals Board, from which Councilman Russo recused himself.  Also Resolution 42, 2014 updating the schedule of fees and charges will be held until the September council meeting.

July 10, 2014

Thus it was surprising to once again see the Chamber filled with people wanting to speak on 2nd reading of the Ordinance 11, 2014 banning the retail sale of dogs and cats in Palm Beach Gardens.  First reading had passed unanimously.  Nevertheless 21 people spoke (10 for and 11 against) – with many heartfelt stories for the resolution, and equally emotional store owners and employees against. When one of the speakers asked those in the audience supporting the ban to stand, it was obvious that most filling the chambers were there for this purpose.

Public comment on other topics included Steve Martino, asking the Council to look at the neglect of the original Plat 1 neighborhoods and asked the Council to commit to act upon it.  Steve Mathison of PGA Corridor gave his thanks and support.  Suzette Navratik requested that a traffic consultant do another study of the PGA Waterfront project area. Doug Frevert wanted to speak against the Church in the Gardens item (opposed to a sidewalk to nowhere), but was missed on that item; he also spoke on behalf of Resolution 48, 2014 thanking the administration for the resolution to preserve the election process.  Iris Scheibl also spoke on the resolution,  thanking staff and requesting that this hole in the process be fixed during the Charter Review.  She also challenged the Council to lower the  millage as the max rate (flat millage)would represent a 6.14% increase.

The annual evaluation of City Manager Ferris had been postponed from the June council meeting.  It was held until the Items for Council Action/Discussion portion of the meeting.    For the most part, the Council members’ comments were glowing.  Mr. Levy did not have any suggestions for improvement, loved how the City had been managed over the last 10 years and said that the millage rate today is lower than it was when Levy was first elected  (Ed. Note: millage rate is not an indicator of City’s revenue).  Mrs. Tinsley suggested that there is always more need for improvement on open communications, transparency, and more workshops like the PZAD one on the PGA Waterfront.  Mr. Russo said that Mr. Ferris took a lot of heat for the stadium fiasco, but that he saw nothing wrong with how it was handled.  He also praised the City Manager’s handling of the Police contract.   Mr. Jablin pointed out that Ferris came in as an interim city manager after the prior one was essentially fired and asked to stay.  He also praised his outstanding staff and their loyalty. Mayor Premuroso praised Ferris’ performance and then listed upcoming challenges for the next year, including the Fire/Rescue contract, Parks and facilities expansion, infrastructure repairs and improvements.  The Mayor also seemed to take offense at clamors for more transparency, but then said they’d be even more transparent.  The discussion took an interesting turn when Eric Jablin proposed an extension of the City Manager’s Contract for an additional 2 years to June,  2018 – primarily because if term limits are imposed, “the council will be wiped out“.  (Watch the discussion here!)  The motion was withdrawn until the contract could be reviewed, and placed on the agenda for transparency and public vote.  Retirement intentions and a succession plan need to be discussed as well.  It will be on the agenda in the first budget meeting in September.

Last on the agenda was discussion of the impact of the Gas Station ordinance recently passed by the Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners with respect to signage on fuel pricing, specifically cash/discount prices.   Cities are subjected to the ordinance unless they take overt action to withdraw and adopt an ‘ordinance in conflict’.  The ordinance will take effect in 1 year after approval.  Kevin Dalton, an owner of 3 gas stations in Palm Beach Gardens raised his objections to the County’s ordinance, describing impacts to him.  This topic will also come back before the Council after Planning and Zoning have a meeting/workshop with the PGA Corridor and gas station owners.

Recognized at the beginning of the meeting were Justin Autwell, awarded paramedic of the year and Robert Pieris awarded firefighter of the year by local organizations.  Amazing young members of the Palm Beach Gardens Police Explorers placed 1st in a regional competition and were honored for their accomplishments.

Traffic and Safety the Overwhelming Issues with PGA Waterfront Project Proposal

The City Council chambers were almost full with residents of Palm Beach Gardens and other affected communities eager to hear the developer’s proposal for the PGA Waterfront Project on the SW corner of PGA Blvd and Ellison-Wilson Road.

Dodi Glas, project agent, handled most of the slick presentation, along with the architect, Bernard Zyscovich. The architect described how the primary and unique inspiration for the design was the 30′ elevation change from Ellison Wilson down to the waterfront – and it was the hill that enabled both the underground parking and a 75′ staircase leading down to the Promenade area and Beach (sic). Much of the discussion focused on various views provided by a preliminary 3D simulation. The Hotel and Condominium buildings were intentionally placed in an east/west orientation so as to not block views or create a ‘hulk’ (my words, not the presenters’ ;-). To their credit – the parking garage view at Ellison Wilson was only 2 1/2 stories high – but the garage was still the first thing one would see when driving east on PGA Blvd from US 1, much like Harbourside in Jupiter.

Promenade View including the ‘beach’

Challenged by the Planning, Zoning and Appeals Board – some of whom did like aspects of the project, were the traffic assumptions, number of trips, handling of traffic turning onto Ellison Wilson from those westbound on PGA, disguising the parking garage, having a hotel so close to a bridge with associated noise. There was also discussion on the Promenade – which is not part of a Riverwalk type of plan but essentially a promenade to nowhere. It was clear that the project as presented was not going to get their support.

Public comment was vociferously against the project. Petitions were submitted by 3 of the speakers – Ms. Karch from NPB with 100, Ms. Navratick, of PBG (of FB Page Save the Rum Bar) with 800 and Ms Harvey of NPBconnect with 1500 petitions all objecting to the project. Former County Commissioner, Karen Marcus, represented Lost Tree Village and voiced the subdivision’s opposition. She also brought historic perspective to the County’s plans for the site – saying that there were already approved plans for the site that more resembled the casual mix found at Sailfish Marina. Many disagreed with the accuracy of the traffic studies – performed out of season and only during selected periods. Others pointed out that in order to avoid the intersection, drivers would find other routes causing traffic impacts elsewhere. The hotel and residence buildings were 10 stories high – so if one found the 5-story Harbourside project objectionable, these would be twice as high! There is so much retail space empty in North Palm Beach and Palm Beach Gardens so others questioned the need for yet more office and retail buildings.

I counted 18 speakers – all given 2 minutes to speak. They came from North Palm Beach, Palm Beach Gardens, Juno Beach, PB Shores and Singer Island, and Old Port Cove.

It is clear that more traffic studies will be required and there will be more opportunities for the public to voice their opinions, even before it comes to the City Council.

A Perspective on North County Development by former Mayor Martino

Of late there has been a substantial amount of North County news much of which affects Palm Beach Gardens. On July 4th the Palm Beach Post featured a front page article concerning “drama” surrounding The Scripps Research Institute in Jupiter, a lead editorial about the proposed Panama Hattie’s development, and a story about a World Wide Sportsman store in the local section. But have no fear the articles suggest, the Scripps “drama” will pass, the proposed “Hattie” development is “good new days for Gardens”, and the World Wide Sportsman store owned by Bass Pro is a “winner”. As an attentive resident of Palm Beach Gardens for 49 years I offer a different perspective.

Scripps problems, as related by recent Palm Beach Post articles, suggest more than just “drama”. A CEO under fire, leading scientists questioning administrative decisions, shrinking grants, a $21,000,000 budget deficit with suggestions it might grow, and apparently little or no communications with state or local officials about any of this, should be considered as more than just “angst”. Even though Scripps has met internal hiring expectations the promise of 50,000 local jobs from spin-off companies has been minimal, at best. Local governments have planned development around these spin-off promises, the Brigger acreage in Palm Beach Gardens is an example. With all of this in play, plus $579,000,000 in incentives from state and local governments on the line, this “drama” could transition to crisis.

The serious side to the “Hattie” situation is more than cocktails, seafood, urban-style development, and “Eastwood Ho!” as the editorial banters about. It’s about the quality of life of the residents that are living in the community today, as opposed to the residents of tomorrow. It’s about common sense when considering the density and intensity of a project on an 8 acre site, proposed to house condo units, commercial office space, a boutique hotel, restaurant space, dock space for 16 boats, and a public promenade. It’s about how this project affects the PGA Bridge, under it and over it. It’s about traffic this project will add to the immediate roadways already approaching capacity, and possibly over it. It’s about the inconvenience this project will cause surrounding neighborhoods as alternate traffic routes are sought to avoid the congestion around this project. It’s about emergency vehicle response times. It is my opinion this project, as proposed, is not “growth…in the right places” as the editorial opines, but growth in the wrong place for all the wrong reasons.

The World Wide Sportsman store could be a “winner”. It is filling vacant space which should enhance the neighborhood. The World Wide Sportsman store is to be located on a 6-acre site on the east side of U. S.1 north of the Palm Beach Gardens Oakbrook shopping center at the troubled intersection of U.S. 1 and PGA Boulevard. The old Carl’s Furniture store was a tenant there. According to the Post article the renovation is to consist of 58,000 square feet of retail space, 5,000 square feet of warehouse and 5,000 square feet of boat sales. It’s a County pocket area, thus, the planning falls into County jurisdiction. If it does not generate more traffic than its predecessors, it could be an asset. Perhaps, a restriction preventing an expansion into a much larger Bass Pro Shop box store should be considered.

If North County is booming, that’s good. But if the intensity of the booming is not controlled, that’s bad.

Editor’s note:  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.



Next City Council Meeting on Thursday, July 10th at 7pm

Reminder – PGA Waterfront Workshop, tomorrow, Tuesday July 8th at 6pm

The next City Council Meeting will be this Thursday, July 10th at 7pm at City Hall.

Here are some highlights:

  • Consent agenda: Resolution 45, 2014 provides a grant/tax refund incentive of up to $36K to Medytox Solutions, Inc., providing the company moves its headquarters to Palm Beach Gardens and creates 60 new full-time jobs.
  • Public Hearings (regular agenda) includes:
    • Resolution 38, 2014 – which sets a proposed max millage for the 2014/2015 budget.  This rate can be lowered at the September budget hearings.  Note that while millage would be slightly lower, this would still represent a 6.14% increase in property taxes!
    • Resolution 42, 2014 which changes the charges and fee schedules for the upcoming year
    • Resolution 48, 2014 –  would allow a Special Referendum to be placed on the November ballot should Palm Beach Gardens Needs Term Limits meet all necessary schedules and petition criteria.
    • Appointments to the Art in Public Places (AIPP) and Planning, Zoning and Appeals Board (PZAB) boards
    • 2nd Reading on several ordinances and associated resolutions including prohibition on dog/cat retail sales, zoning changes, and amendments to the Palm Beach Gardens Police Officers’ Retirement Plan
  • Under items for Council Action/Discussion is the annual City Manager Evaluation – postponed from June’s meeting, and a discussion of Gas Station Signage.

The agenda (with links to full detail) 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.

PGA Waterfront Project – PZ&AB Public Workshop on July 8th – Save the date!

Many of you have expressed a great interest in knowing more about the plans for the PGA Waterfront proposed project, by the developers of Harbourside Place in Jupiter.    The project will be coming before the Planning, Zoning and Appeals Board (PZAB) meeting next Tuesday.  Come early and expect a full house!  Watch the Palm Beach Post  for more details in the coming days.

When:  Tuesday, July 8th at 6pm

Where: City Hall Council Chambers

The project is described in the list of Major Projects on the City’s website as follows:

(PETITION #: CPSS-14-01-000006)
(PETITION #: ANNX-13-12-000007)
(PETITION #: CONC-13-12-000025)
(PETITION #: CPTA-14-01-000027)
(PETITION #: LDRA-14-01-000051)

Project Manager: Peter Hofheinz/Dawn Sonneborn
Project Agent: Dodi Glas
Company: Gentile Glas Holloway O’Mahoney & Associates, Inc
Property Owner: Rocco Cantore, Water Club Associates, Ltd. Chris and Sandra Erneston,
Christopher Doyle

Description: A request for annexation and redevelopment of 7.95 acres of
land at the southwest corner of PGA Blvd and Ellison Wilson Rd. The proposed
development will consist of 150 residential Multi-family homes, a 160 room Hotel,
7,500 square feet of Retail, 35,000 square feet of Office, 32,000 square feet of Restaurant
with outdoor seating, and 30 Marina slips with public and private dockage.






MAY 6, 2014


JULY 8, 2014