Next City Council Mtg on Thursday, February 4th at 7PM

The next City Council Meeting will be this Thursday, February 4th, at 7pm in City Hall. The agenda is quite short so unless there is much Public Comment or new additions, it shouldn’t be a long meeting.

Presentations: Will include Florida League of Cities’ recognition awards to Mayor Jablin and City Council Member Russo for their years of service.

Consent Agenda includes:

  • Resolution 13, 2016 gives a utility easement to Seacoast for construction, operation and maintenance of underground water lines on 40th Terrace North.
  • Purchase award for Comprehensive Generator Maintenance Service – for the City’s 16 stationary and mobile generators for a contract value of about $194K for 5 years. This contract was competitively bid.

Public Hearings and Resolutions:

  • Ordinance 2, 2016: 2nd Reading and adoption of the Budget Amendment for Fiscal Year 2016, which passed 5:0 on first reading.
  • Resolution 7, 2016: A Miscellaneous Mirasol PCD Amendment allowing for the installation of a 50′ tall flagpole and an 8’x12′ Flag at the Clubhouse. This was approved by PZAB in December, 2015 with a 7:0 vote.

There are no items listed for Council Discussion or City Attorney Report.

The agenda (with links to full detail) can be found here. Check the agenda to see if any additional items have been added before the meeting.

North County Neighborhood Coalition Hosts PBG Candidate Forum

PBGWatch to co-host Council Candidate Forum 2/25

Join us for an evening of in-depth discussion of city issues with the candidates for the March 15th election in Group 4 at the Gardens Branch of the County Library. With two of the three incumbents facing challengers this year, it should be a lively discussion.

Protest Planned before Term Limits Hearing at Courthouse

Tomorrow, January 22 at 9:00 AM is the next step in the Palm Beach Gardens Term Limits saga.

In 2014, city voters approved retroactive term limits (2 three year terms) for City Council, forcing Joe Russo to retire this year, and several more sitting members to leave in 2017.

Vice Mayor David Levy however sits in a grey area of the new law. Serving his third term in 2012, he resigned from the Council to run unsuccessfully for County Commission, but then was elected back on the Council in 2013. Term limits passed in 2014. His interpretation of the ordinance is that the clock reset in 2013 and he is in his first term.

Taking a different approach, Sid Dinerstein, former PBC GOP Chairman and a member of the term limits committee filed suit claiming Levy is ineligible to run. Kevin Easton, a candidate for Levy’s seat and also a member of the committee, has joined the suit which goes before a judge tomorrow at 9:00 AM.

Michael Peragine, a past Council candidate himself and the Chairman of the term limits committee, is organizing a protest in front of the courthouse in West Palm Beach for tomorrow at 8:30 AM.

For more information, see Sarah Peters entry in the Palm Beach Post Blog: Palm Beach Gardens term limits group to protest before vice mayor’s hearing

Avenir, Body Cameras and IAFF Contract Highlights of a Busy Council Week

The first order of business in the Regular City Council meeting was to complete the approvals for Avenir (Ordinance 4, 2016). City Attorney Max Lohman told the Council that ex-partes must cover the time-frame from 2013 until the present. All described several meetings with residents, applicants, emails, etc. except for Council Member Russo who said that he spoke with the owners prior to their purchase of the property. Since he felt that the size and issues surrounding the development could result in litigation, he specifically chose to not speak to anyone associated with the applicants nor residents. After presentations by Avenir and staff, 10 people made public comment including Karen Marcus who strongly encouraged that the City and Avenir work closely with SFWMD asap to design the water flow with Mecca Farms; Kimberly Rothenberg – stating that the City of West Palm Beach remains opposed and that the project is not viable without State Route 7 which they plan to block; Beth Kigel who continued ‘part 2’ (from the previous night) of her statements on the future of smart transportation technology. The ordinance passed 5:0 after brief discussion regarding State Route 7.

January 7, 2016

Two residents of Shady Lakes – Barry Mendelewicz and Cathy Beamer, spoke in opposition of the planned extension. In response, City Manager Ferris gave a report on the status of outreach. Here is a timeline from the City’s website.

Sarah Peters of the Palm Beach Post summarized the meeting. Resolution 9, 2016 provided funding for the implementation of Body Cameras for the Police Department. Chief Stepp made a presentation describing the steps involved, and a timeline leading to a full implementation by July-August 2016. He also described initiatives with the PBC Clergy Alliance, among them: Overall policy review, Plain Clothes policy and Human Diversity Training. All public comment was supportive of the City’s response and actions in the aftermath of the Corey Jones shooting. Council Member Russo, in his comments stated that it was important to make sure that everyone feels safe in Palm Beach Gardens, and that Corey’s impact, even though no longer with us, was to effect significant change. Mayor Jablin praised all involved.

Also of note was the Collective Bargaining Agreement reached with the IAFF.  

Transparency Breaks Down in Avenir Approval

By many measures, Avenir is a “big deal”.

Development of the Vavrus Ranch, the last major undeveloped parcel within the PBG City limits, has been years in the planning. Starting with plans for the “Biotech Village”, when Scripps was expected to rise on adjacent Mecca Farms, proposals for the site, whose current zoning allows for about 400 ranchettes, have been as high as 10000 units. Opposition based on environmental concerns, infrastructure burdens and the traffic load on Northlake Boulevard have worked to help shape the plans of the current owner, Landstar Development Group, into a quite remarkable design.

The plan, which accounted for 3735 dwelling units (plus 250 units of workforce housing), puts the entire northern portion of the property into conservation, enabling a flow-way connecting wide swaths of open land, provides land to the city for recreation and economic development, and builds enough commercial facilities to capture upward of 25% of the traffic that would be generated by the housing units as well as that now originating from the Acreage. Furthermore, the developer provides land and funding to widen Northlake Boulevard from Beeline to Avenir, and will build a connector road between Northlake and Beeline Highway, further distributing the traffic.

City staff worked closely with the developer and agreed to a solid plan that was approved 7-0 by the Planning and Zoning Board, placing it before the City Council last night with the strongest support of any project of the last few years. Projects like this don’t come around very often, and it was an opportunity that needed to be embraced.

As you probably know, the Council voted 5-0 to approve Ordinance 3,2016, which modified the comprehensive plan, changed the land use designation of the site from RR10 and RR20 to Mixed Use Development (MXD), and relocated the Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) to include the property. This was a good thing.

The process for approval though was something else.

After 90 minutes of developer and staff presentations of the very detailed plan, and three hours of public comment on the specifics (about 50-50 for and against), Mayor Jablin led off the discussion by reading a statement. The gist of the statement was that he had reached a “deal” with the developer to reduce the size of the project to 3000 units (plus the 250 workforce housing units) in return for his support. This means that in effect, several years of detailed planning, give and take with staff and the public, and the bulk of discussion at this meeting, were all thrown aside in favor of a “back-room” deal, negotiated out of the public view, with no opportunity for involvement of Council, staff or public.

It was hard to tell if the rest of the Council knew this was coming. David Levy, who had been a staunch critic of the project said he could support it at 3000, but would have voted against it at the higher number. The other three council persons seemed to imply they would have supported it either way, which if true, meant the project could have been approved without the last minute “deal”.

For Rosa Schechter and the Avenir Team it is definitely a win, as their project can move forward, but an outside observer could almost conclude that the Mayor had held a gun to their head. After quite a few years of watching the Council interact with Developers, we have never seen an approval done this way. It made a mockery of the public process, and is somewhat reminiscent of the backroom dealings around the baseball stadium.

We are happy for the Avenir team that their project is being approved, but the process leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

Martino: Avenir, a Project Whose Premise is Promise

Having reviewed all publicly available documentation proposals and more recently attending the Palm Beach Gardens Planning and Zoning meetings I find the Avenir development would and should be a welcome addition to the City of Palm Beach Gardens. As a member of the City Council of Palm Beach Gardens and Mayor at the time that these 4700 acres were annexed I am satisfied that Avenir, as presently proposed, more than ratifies my vote and expectations for their development.

Avenir is a French word that means “future” and that’s what this project’s proposals speak to, the future. It’s a proposed project that has matured and improved by listening to the public’s concerns and the City planning staff’s suggestions. It’s a proposed project that attempts to, and often does, offer solutions. In my mind, it’s a proposed project whose Premise is Promise.

Avenir’s premises to relieve and divert traffic on Northlake Boulevard by offering a new collector Road from Northlake Boulevard east to the Beeline Expressway; by becoming a destination hub for the western communities through the development of commercial, office, and corporate space that will enhance opportunities for jobs, for shopping, for professional and medical life necessities fostering the curtailment of some traffic trips east and west on Northlake Boulevard; by capturing within Avenir confines a portion of its own traffic are new and welcome promises that should be enthusiastically embraced.

Avenir’s premise to preserve the environment by permanently deeding over to the properly designated governmental entity nearly half of Avenir’s 4700 acres for environmental preservation creating an opportunity to connect approximately 100,000 acres of conservation lands from the east coast of Florida to Lake Okeechobee is, to my knowledge, without precedent. Its premise to set aside 100 acres for economic development; deeding 50 of those acres directly to the City; to enter into a public-private partnership to entice a suitable corporate tenant; to reduce residential densities to under 1 unit per acre; to donate 130 acres for public use are all significant and remarkable developer promises.

In my opinion, Avenir’s Premise for Promise will allow it to take its place among the elite communities of Palm Beach Gardens and Palm Beach County. The Gardens has been fortunate to have attracted developers who not only offered great product but where committed to make the City a better place for our existing, as well as, new residents. It is my intuition that Avenir Holdings’ owners and developers offer that same promise.

I admire Avenir Holdings courage to listen and its willingness to make changes based on what it hears. I respect its tenacity to succeed. The only hurdle left is for the City of Palm Beach Gardens and Avenir Holdings to take today’s Premise of Promise project proposals and make them tomorrow’s future realities.

Next Regular City Council Mtg on Thursday January 7th at 7PM

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


  • Presentations by the principals of Palm Beach Gardens Elementary School and Palm Beach Gardens HS outlining programs for the upcoming school year.
  • Presentation on Honda Classic Economic Impact

Consent Agenda includes:

  • Several Resolutions
  • Purchase Award for Roof Repairs at City Hall, Lakeside Center and the Public Works Building, competitively bid, in the amounts of $286K.

Public Hearings and Resolutions:

  • 2nd Reading and Adoption of:
    • Mary Circle Commercial Rezoning and Approval of the development of a new 3560 square foot Office Building
    • City initiated request to update the Capital Improvements Element of the Palm Beach Gardens Comprehensive Plan
  • Resolution 1, 2016 – approving a request by Taco Bell America to demolish the current Taco Bell on Northlake Blvd and replace it with a new one.
  • Ordinance 2, 2016 – First Reading – Budget Amendment for Fiscal Year 2015
  • Resolution 6, 2016 – Approving and Ratifying the Collective Bargaining Agreement with the IAFF for Fiscal Years 2015-2016, 2016-2017, and 2017-2018.
  • Resolution 8, 2016 – Amending the 2015-2016 Budget to fund the increase in personnel costs as a result of the Collective Bargaining Agreement: $818K from the Budget Stabilization Fund.
  • Resolution 9, 2016 – Amending the 2015-2016 Budget to fund the cost of the body worn camera program for the Police Department, including training – $262K, also from the Budget Stabilization Fund.

There are no items listed for Council Discussion or City Attorney Report.

The agenda (with links to full detail) can be found here. Check the agenda to see if any additional items have been added before the meeting.

Special City Council Meeting on Avenir – Wed. January 6th at 7PM

There will be a Special City Council Meeting on the Avenir Development on Wednesday, January 6th at 7PM.

The agenda can be found here and is comprised of:

  • Ordinance 3, 2016 Avenir: Large-Scale Future Land Use Map and Text Amendment
  • Ordinance 4, 2016 Avenir: Rezoning and Master Plan Approval and associated Resolution 4, 2016 (Avenir PCD Mixed Use Development Master Plan) which will have to be voted on at the Second Reading/Hearing of Ordinance 4, 2016.

Expect the meeting to be very well-attended by both supporters and opposition to the development. We covered the December PZAB meeting regarding Avenir where the items passed 7:0.

Martino: Shady Lakes Dr Extension Short-Sighted and Punitive

Shady Lakes Drive, to extend or not to extend, that is the question. It was respectfully addressed by the residents of the Shady Lakes development at the December Palm Beach Gardens City Council meeting. The residents came with a reasonable portfolio of suggestions which were presented under the gun of the 3-minute public comment rule imposed by the City Council. Upon conclusion of the Shady Lakes residents’ comments, the Mayor proceeded to chastise the concerned residents. After the Shady Lakes residents had gone home, the City Manager presented a report which reasoned in favor of the Shady Lakes Drive extension.

Hopefully, I am wrong, but as of now it is my opinion, the Mayor and City Council, hiding behind the facade of,” it’s a safety issue”, have concluded that the extension of Shady Lakes Drive from PGA Boulevard to 117th Street North is a done deal. The City Council has allocated the money in the City’s budget and, apparently has instructed the administration to make it happen. But why?

The proposed Shady Lakes Drive extension does not comport with the history of the Shady Lakes Planned Unit Development (PUD) ordinance. Shady Lakes is a secluded neighborhood development of single family homes. The development is north of PGA Boulevard, neatly tucked behind the Gardens of Woodberry development, quietly and purposefully “hiding” the homes from the noise and clamor of PGA Boulevard. To gain access to Shady Lakes a short entranceway drive, now called Shady Lakes Drive, was established by the PUD ordinance. This entranceway extends from PGA Boulevard, just to the west of the FPL substation, north to the Shady Lakes development entrance. Due to insufficient right-of-way, particularly at the substation, and for safety and a variety of other substantive reasons the entranceway drive was never contemplated to extend further then to the entrance of Shady Lakes.

It is difficult to ponder that “safety” will be enhanced by changing an entrance driveway into a cut-through collector road with insufficient right-a-way. Forcing an entranceway into a cut-through collector road does not solve the “safety” issues of failed planning promulgated by the City and School Board concerning the vehicular traffic, school buses, and child pick-up concerns of Timber Trace Elementary and Duncan Middle Schools. Remaking an entrance driveway into a road will not provide significant benefit to the Tennis Center or the City Park multi-use fields. Providing for an evacuation alternative in the rare instance of when one is needed can be accomplished without turning an entrance driveway into a cut-through collector road creating safety issues in other areas of the City where none now exist.

The proposed Shady Lakes Drive extension will cause significant problems for other established neighborhoods. As an example, PGA Plat #2, or Garden Isles as it is known as today, is south of the Shady Lakes development. Its collector roads are Larch Avenue and Hickory Drive. Hickory Drive, on the south side of PGA Boulevard, lines up with Shady Lakes Drive on the north side. By extending Shady Lakes Drive the City may be enticing traffic to leave Military Trail, turn west onto Larch Avenue, turn north onto Hickory Drive, cross PGA Boulevard at the traffic light, and head north to 117th Street North. With the extension of Shady lakes Drive this route is further encouraged because of traffic difficulties at the PGA Boulevard intersections of Military Trail and Central Boulevard.

From my prospective, the extension of Shady Lakes Drive is short-sighted and particularly punitive to the Shady Lakes neighborhood. It is not the solution to the set of “safety” problems that the City is attempting to fix. The proposed extension compounds the problems and exports them to other areas of the City.

The answer to the “safety issue” problems of 117th Street North, the Tennis courts, the City Park, the schools, and the County owned property recently considered for the “baseball fiasco”, is a comprehensive plan for this entire section of the City. It should and must encompass interlocal cooperation and planning between the City, the County, and the School Board covering all issues of concern.

The City Council should be a consensus-builder, a facilitator, but not an antagonist.