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.



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