Next City Council Meeting on Thursday, November 3 at 7pm

The next City Council Meeting will be this Thursday, November 3, at 7pm in City Hall.  There are some new items in addition to those previously on the canceled October agenda.  There will be a second City Council meeting on Wednesday November 16. Note: Last on the Agenda – during Items for Council Action, Discussion is Staff’s Presentation and Council Discussion on the I-95/Central Blvd Interchange. This subject has a lot of public interest and concern. If it is not moved to earlier in the meeting, please stay for the entire meeting or watch the discussion streaming/archived on-line.


  • Former Mayor/Council Member David Levy will be honored for 12 years of service. This was discussed at a prior council meeting.
  • City Attorney Lohman will make a presentation on Sober Homes

Consent Agenda includes:

  • Resolution 81, 2016 – Approving and ratifying Article 28, Salary Plan of the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the Service Employees International Union (SEIU)/FloridaPublicServices Union (FPSU) and the City of Palm Beach Gardens, reflecting a 6% wage increase for Fiscal Year 2016-2017.  
  • Purchase Award for the City’s Property and Casualty Insurance. Self-insurance was considered but the City decided to continue with conventional coverage for the next 5-year term and to consider self-insurance again in the future. The contract was openly bid and was awarded to the current vendor for about $4.5 million over 5 years, with option to renew for another 5-year term.
  • Purchase Award for Emergency Purchase of Mosquito Control Chemicals in the amount of $250K. The chemical is sole sourced by the vendor.

City Manager Report – no details listed

Public Hearings and Resolutions:

  • Ordinance 10, 2016 is first reading of a Voluntary Annexation of a 96.80-acre parcel located on the north side of Northlake Boulevard approximately three-quarter miles east of Coconut Boulevard, adjacent to the City’s Sandhill Crane Golf Club.
  • Ordinance 11, 2016 and Resolution 68, 2016 is first reading for approval of amendments to master plan and planned unit development (PUD) for Prosperity Oaks (aka Brookdale) to allow for the addition of a 39-bed Memory Care facility on the property.
  • Ordinance 14, 2016 – Amending the City of Palm Beach Gardens’ budget for the fiscal year beginning October 1, 2015, and ending September 30, 2016.
  • Resolution 63, 2016 is for a request for a third tenant wall sign on south elevation of Building D in Legacy Place, for the new Newk’s Eatery
  • Resolution 65, 2016 is for a request for site plan approval of a 40 acre commercial retail center in Alton, including a grocery store, fitness center, a home improvement store, a gas station with a carwash, a variety of general retail uses, restaurant uses, a restaurant with drive-through (major conditional use) and a financial institution with a remote drive-through.
  • Additional Resolutions for appointments to the Planning, Zoning and Appeals Board, the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board,and the Art in Public Places Advisory Board.

Check the agenda to see if any additional items have been added before the meeting here.

Martino: Sober Homes Should be Addressed by the City Council

Do you know what a Sober Home is? If you don’t, you should. The chances are if you live in a single family neighborhood in Palm Beach Gardens you do, or probably soon will. Sober Homes are group homes for people who are recovering from addiction issues, such as, drug and alcohol abuse. While living in the Sober Home these people, who come from all over the country, have stringent rules they must follow and may undergo periodic drug testing. These “homes” are locating in residential neighborhoods at an increasing pace and can pose various and different problems for these neighborhoods.

Sober Living Homes, as they are also known, is a creature that surfaced from an amendment to the Federal Fair Housing Act passed by Congress in 1988 to protect persons with disabilities and families with children and from the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) which mandates “for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities” enacted in 1990 by Congress. The ADA more or less recognizes addiction as a psychiatric disabling illness. As a compassionate society we must recognize the disease of drug and alcohol addiction and the devastating effects it has on the individual, families, friends, and the community as a whole. However, the combination of these Acts with their amendments, mixed with the bureaucratic interpretive rules that have been written, and add to this associated State legislative and bureaucratic activities, and you have a formidable governmental shield for what is now a National multi-billion dollar industry. Big government, big business and big money, can and often does, lead to fraud, abuse, and bigger societal problems.

For local County and Municipal governments these Federal and State Sober Home mandates present a growing problem of significance. How do local governments maintain the integrity of their neighborhoods, the esteem of their property values, the safety and protection of their residents, the essentials of their governing Charters, and their basic Home Rule powers? The governance of these quality of life issues need to be balanced with the needs of the disabled protected by these Acts. That is the challenge and it’s a daunting one. It’s not an easy task but it’s doable. I would propose a more proactive approach by the City Council of Palm Beach Gardens then is currently being pursued. The following are suggestions …

  1. As a local government the City Council should recognize and admit there is a problem and give it a public airing. Identification of Sober Home locations probably would be a good start, if not already available. Possibly, the assimilation of a data base would help to prevent over concentration in any one particular neighborhood. Neighborhood concentration is detrimental to the existing residents, as well as, it defeats the goal of localized non-institutional integration back into society of the addicted because the concentration suggests a semblance of institutionalization. The City Council should request staff to research the problem and report back with interventionist solutions that are non-discriminatory. Consideration of other, Local, State, and National resolutions that have proven successful may be useful. Keep our Federal and State elected officials informed of the City’s concerns and efforts while continuing to insist on their cooperation to lessen the fervor of the problem. Continue the conversation with monthly workshops, updates, including public participation, until reasonable solutions have been realized.
  2. To address the problems Sober Homes may present, the City Council should modernize, update and reform all zoning codes, not just single-family areas, by carefully crafting amendments that apply equally to able and disabled people alike. Parking codes, health codes, and safety issues should be updated with equality as the goal while considering Sober Homes in the equation. Zoning code definitions should be reviewed, refreshed, and new ones created, if needed. The Acts discussed above do not preempt local zoning laws but they do prohibit discrimination against persons with disabilities, thus, the importance of code equality for both able and disabled persons.
  3. Third, work with other local municipalities and the County. Encourage them to take similar steps concerning Sober Homes. This will prevent the problem from being passed on to another jurisdiction. Request the County and State League of Cities organizations to take more vocal stances on the Sober Home issue and to lobby with more emphasis of the urgency of the problem while continuing to research for solutions.
  4. Fourth, Sober Homes have economic value and economic consequences, also. The City Council should consult with the business community in seeking solutions. Business oriented organizations, such as, the Chamber of Commerce, the Business Development Board, and the Economic Council could be valuable resources for ideas that can contribute to solving the Sober Home issues. Another positive resource could be the Palm Beach County Task Force that was created to brainstorm for solutions to make Sober Homes’ community assets rather than liabilities.

These are my opinions and suggestions on the burgeoning Sober Home issue. I am sure there are many others. I would encourage the Palm Beach Gardens City Council to give concerted effort to this issue promptly.

Martino: IG – Take a Closer Look at Palm Beach Gardens!

On September 20th the local section of the Palm Beach Post ballyhooed the following headline…

Palm Beach Gardens

Inspector General Report


City didn’t record some meetings concerning $4.5 million project.

Well, Mr. Inspector General you might want to take a more in depth look at the Gardens. In my opinion, this is business as usual in Palm Beach Gardens. Transparency is not a virtue or a basis upon which this City Council and its administration practices its authority. As one who regularly attends the once per month Palm Beach Gardens City Council meetings I marvel at the lack of respect and concern exhibited for open government. My sense is that our Council-Manager governance has become subservient to a form of “shadow government” that is exercising power beyond the scrutiny of the public.

Underscoring the above, one only has to study the 2013-14 “baseball stadium fiasco” where the City promoted a $100,000,000 stadium in the middle of prime single-family neighborhoods and the City Council claimed to know nothing. How about the surprise disappearance of 300 units from the Avenir development which was never adequately discussed in public and then its approval? The Shady Lakes Drive extension debacle and its contract cost confusion raise perceptions of silent maneuverings. There is the little matter of the City’s Palm Beach Gardens Municipal Golf course name change to the Sandhill Crane Golf Course without a public meeting or supposed City Council knowledge. The City’s website was renamed without benefit of a public discussion. More recently, both a park and pavilion, City property owned by the taxpayers, were named for sitting City Council members without public notice or meeting. Not for public consumption agenda reviews, development reviews, budget reviews, and who knows what other reviews, are held presumably with individual Council members, where and when is a mystery, choreographed by an unidentified whom, with what questions asked and answered, and with what records kept, is all unknown.

Is there “ill Intent” involved, I hope not. But is there “intent”, I think so. Over the last ten years or so the incumbent heavy City Council has meticulously constructed a crafty façade, a false front government, to give the appearance of transparency, but it is an opaque front. Charter changes have been deceptively presented as good for the City but have put distance between the public and its right to information and participation. Regularly scheduled workshops concerning important developments and City problems have been eliminated. Policy making seems to have matriculated into the realm of the City Administration and away from the dominion of the City Council.

From my perspective, transparency is a fundamental necessity for good government but the City Council of Palm Beach Gardens does not practice it. A City Council that meets together only once per month with its residents in a public meeting is not fostering communication. A City Council that regularly affirms important decisions with little discussion with its constituency and then casts 5 to 0 confirmatory votes is not promoting accountability. A City Council that regularly alludes that all their questions are asked and answered in some clandestine manner is not demonstrating openness. In my opinion, this protocol is not the definition of transparency but it best describes the City Council of Palm Beach Gardens attempt at it.