Martino: Council once again demonstrates dysfunction during District Park discussion

I have attended most of the regularly advertised Palm Beach Gardens City Council meetings since the baseball stadium fiasco surfaced in 2013. The functionality of the City Council as a body at these meetings is often chaotic and dysfunctional. The most recent September 18th City Council meeting was no exception. It had a sparse agenda with the approval of the 2015 budget as its highlight item. Except for the passionate leadership exhibited by the Mayor to lower the tax rate, the budget process and discussion was an episode not to be proud of.

However, the first issue on the agenda for discussion was a District Park Presentation on property owned by Palm Beach County off Central Boulevard. I prefer to focus on it…

  • A Councilperson, whose initiative should be applauded and appreciated, gave a professional and informative power point presentation concerning the property owned by Palm Beach County on Central Boulevard as to its possibilities for its use as a district type park. This is the same property that was involved in the baseball stadium fiasco.
  • Three options were presented for consideration; a) County to build and maintain a District Park using a County bond referendum; b)  lease with County for City to build, operate, and maintain; c) City purchase land from county to build, operate, and maintain.
  • As the other Council members’ entered the discussion not much of substance was added to the presentation.
  • With little thought or concerns that this property is in the middle of a residential area of some 1900 homes, with no discussion about comprehensive planning, with no recommendation advanced from the City Manager or the Recreation Administrative staff, with no evidence of counsel from the Recreation Advisory Board, with no Public input or discussion, a haphazard decision was quickly reached by the City Council.
  • Without a formal motion or vote that I could ascertain, the City Council instructed the presenting Councilperson to advise County officials that the County should retain ownership of the property and assemble a multi-purpose District Park at its expense funded by a future referendum.  In addition to Palm Beach Gardens, this District Park which would exist in the middle of Palm Beach Gardens and would be open to use by all residents of other municipalities, such as, Riviera Beach, Lake Park, North Palm Beach, Juno Beach, and Jupiter, as well as, all County residents.

How and when the presenting Councilperson is to advise County officials of the City Council’s option preference was not discussed. I would have presumed that a formal Resolution of City Council policy would have been discussed as it is a professional, correct, and recognized communication method to convey business decisions between various levels of government, but regrettably that methodology was not considered.

About the above issue, one thing I am certain of, clearly this City Council has erred again. In my opinion, the wrong option was chosen. The City of Palm Beach Gardens did not need a major league spring training facility and major league baseball stadium on the Central Boulevard property and it certainly does not need a County District Park in this particular residential location, either. From my perspective, the best of the three options is the City should negotiate for the outright purchase of the property and then comprehensively plan its use to suit the residents of Palm Beach Gardens.

Still further, a comprehensive recreational sports field study should be immediately undertaken and shared with the public. It should identify today’s participation rates and short term field needs and provide a path to correct deficiencies. The study should recognize, categorize, and quantify, tomorrow’s participation and sports field anticipations, as well. If a study exists, where is it, what is in it, and how does it cure the sports field deficiencies?

My advice, if you are listening City Council, is stop making deleterious decisions on the spur of the moment and by the-seat-of-the-pants.


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