Avenir Passes Key Milestone

The Planning, Zoning and Appeals Board (PZAB) voted 7:0 to recommend approval of the 3 Avenir items on the agenda.  Sarah Peters of the Palm Beach Post summarized the meeting here.

The Council chambers were quite full.  Many in the audience supporting the massive project sported Avenir ‘badges’. Most of those making public comment however were opposed to the project on traffic, density and environmental grounds; it was interesting also that most of those in opposition were NOT residents of Palm Beach Gardens. Sustainable Palm Beach County, Everglades Law Center, 1000 Friends of Florida, the NCNC and residents from the Acreage were among the groups represented.  In all we counted 17 folks speaking against approval as presented, 5 for and 1 raising concerns but not taking a position. The Economic Council of Palm Beach County provided their support via a letter, and the North Palm Beach County Chamber of Commerce also endorsed the project.  Additionally 23 comment cards were submitted into the record but cards were not read allowed so it is unclear what positions were held.

Also interesting to note in the history of the tract, were the 7500 residential units envisioned for the property during the 2003 Scripps/Mecca Farms proposal.   It was clear that staff had invested a huge amount of time working with the owner/developers and the Avenir project has evolved significantly over the two years that it has been active.   Major changes and concessions have been made even since the last public workshop, and the project achieved Traffic Concurrency approval from both the City of Palm Beach Gardens as well as Palm Beach County.


The Regular City Council Meeting will be held on Thursday, January 7th.

Public Comment Dominates the Agenda

Two disparate but important topics plus an item culled from Consent Agenda took much of the first two hours of the meeting on a very rainy evening.

Eight members of the public spoke eloquently about their concerns regarding lack of progress on the Corey Jones investigation (Michelle Maiden, Derrick McCray, Dorothy Lowery, Monica Roundtree, Mami Kisner, Megan Cadet (sp?), Natasha Clemons, Rae Whitely). There were over 30 folks representing Corey’s family and friends. While the speakers praised and/or thanked the Council and staff for the firing of ex-Officer Raja, and for meeting with them on topics like Policy and Procedures, body cameras and an accountability review board, many issues remain. After saying Mr. Raja couldn’t be fired last month, why was he three weeks later? Several echoed the question – who was responsible and accountable for permitting Officer Raja to work in plainclothes? Was he even on duty that night? Why was the family not contacted for about 12-13 hours? City Manager Ferris replied briefly saying that the City can’t jeopardize the investigation; that they turned over the investigation to the Sheriff within 60 minutes. He tried to assure the public that if anyone was found by the investigators to have behaved inappropriately, action WILL be taken. The City is accelerating work on body cameras, and looking at the idea of the review board. Mayor Jablin called a quick break so attendees not wanting to remain for the rest of the meeting could clear the chambers.

December 3, 2015

The Shady Lakes Drive extension brought out a contingent of about 20 residents. Vito DeFrancesco led off the comments, suggesting a parallel roadway to 117th Ct to relieve congestion. Four other speakers echoed alternative proposal(s): Katherine Beamer, Jim Jaramillo, Randy Kerr, Christine Kerr.  It was clear that the residents had done some research to try to come up with solutions. Mayor Jablin had done his homework too:  he essentially personally attacked 2 of the speakers, who had no venue to respond, by pointing out that in a petition from 2008  those individuals had signed in favor of the Shady Lakes extension – although they didn’t live in Shady Lakes at the time. He then said it was ok when they didn’t live there but now it wasn’t. The Mayor cited past experience with objections to Kyoto Drive, and said the residents will be much happier with what the City does if they work with staff instead of objecting. The residents left the room prior to the City Manager report, where Mr Ferris showed a project plan chart showing construction of the extension beginning by the summer, and summarizing meetings with neighborhood associations.

Also speaking during public comment was Joe R. Russo thanking the City for its involvement with the Big Heart Brigade.

Pulled from the Consent Agenda (which passed 5:0) was Resolution 64, 2015 regarding North County Airport. Mayor Jablin gave an update on negotiations that had occurred over the last year or so. George Gentile, Rick Sartory and Carl Creedon all spoke in favor of the resolution that may allow for a contract Control Tower at some time in the future; Sal Faso of the NCNC expressed concerns that there is no date for such a tower, that the demand for a runway extension could be questioned and that many safety issues still remain. After a brief discussion the Council passed the resolution 5:0.

Ordinance 14, 2015/Resolution 65, 2015 Mary Circle Rezoning Ordinance: Resident Terry Brady from Garden Oaks said that building on the empty lot will make traffic worse in an area already bad due to school buses dropping off children right there. Robert Hanley reiterated the traffic issues  and said that school uses that lot for parking, and park on Mary’s Circle during functions. Planning and Zoning Director Natalie Crowley addressed the concerns, saying that many of the issues are related to enforcement of the nearby day care center and the applicant meets all requirements and will take care of maintenance/mowing of land across the adjoining canal. After some discussion by the Council, the item passed 5:0.

Resolution 56, 2015 – City Clerk Patricia Snider listed modifications, additions and communications fees (for turning on ipads) to the agreement between the Supervisor of Elections and the City, for 2016,  made unilaterally by SOE Susan Bucher. The SOE will entertain ballot questions ONLY on the August primary election ballot on case by case basis with cut-off date of June 20 at 5pm ; NONE on November ballot. Charges and fees are undefined by Bucher and will be invoiced after the election. Deadline for the contract is December 15th. Council Member Tinsley asked “How do we budget for this?” Snider replied that for City elections she can give the details to the penny – but the SOE has no such details. Tinsley: Charging for turning on an IPAD is ludicrous! Tinsley also had a big problem with providing this blank check.  She said that the Term Limits PAC had every right to put their items on the ballot, and had to sue the SOE to get it on the ballot but the SOE billed the City for the lawsuit, and had threatened to not do future elections if the City didn’t pay the $7,901 for the lawsuit immediately. More discussion on what to do? City Attorney Lohman did a public records request for the SOE 5 year budget in electronic form; it was sent in paper rather than electronically and the City was charged over $200 for the public records and being given 2nd notice for the payments. Lohman proposed having the contract document amended the way the City wants the contract, and also giving the Mayor authority to sign the modified agreement, and giving  City Attorney Lohmann permission to sue the SOE over the public record charges for not providing the records when requested and not providing them electronically. Should SOE Bucher refuse the modifications, the Council will vote on it in January; they can always have an emergency meeting if necessary to approve further contract changes in December.

All other Public Hearing Ordinances and Resolutions passed 5:0. Presentations were made by the Principals of Howell Watkins Middle School, William T. Dwyer H.S. and Allamanda Elementary schools.

SAVE THE DATE – City Council Special Meeting on AVENIR – Wednesday January 6 at 7PM in Council Chambers.