Martino: Say NO to the ‘Kool-Aid’

In part due to the overwhelming passage in 2014 of Term Limits the City of Palm Beach Gardens elected five new City Council members. Council members’ faces have changed and the dais nameplates have changed. But so far not much else has changed. The “newbies” promises of change have not materialized. The expectations of term limits have not kick-started the change in governmental style and culture as some expected. That’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it.

Ten months into having five new Council voices the “newbies” sound and act like the “oldies”. A sense of arrogance still permeates the singular monthly scheduled Council meeting. The administration is still “stroking and cajoling” and the “newbies’ seem to like the “Kool Aid” being served. The pledge of transparency is still wanting. The promise to hold regularly scheduled workshop meetings on agenda items remains unfulfilled. The 2018 budget expenditures did not decrease as alleged during the Council campaign but actually increased by approximately 7.4%. Even though 16,000 Gardens registered voters approved the new 2014 Term Limit Law, the “newbies” voted to shatter term limits as mandated, as well as, disenfranchising the registered voters from the democratic election process in Palm Beach Gardens under the pretext and ruse of modernizing the City Charter.

Ten meetings and what innovative and fresh initiatives have the “newbies” offered? What of substance to improve the everyday lives of Gardens residents have they accomplished or even discussed? Unfortunately, from my perspective, there is not much of consequence that I can relate too. For what it’s worth, I would suggest that the Council’s agenda would better serve the residents if it attacked some of the real and everyday neighborhood problems facing a sixty year old City. Permit me to list just a few in no particular order…

  • neighborhood cut-through traffic on streets, such as, Holly Drive, MacArthur Blvd., and Lighthouse Drive
  • Town Hall-Plat 6 Foot Bridge
  • upgrading and code enforcement in City areas that contain multi -family Duplex units as found on the east side of Holly Drive between Ironwood and Lighthouse Drive in Plat 1
  • median landscaping improvements along Alternate A1A from PBG southern boundary to Hood Road
  • influx of sober homes in older neighborhoods
  • discussion of management of Brightline train expected problems and status of upgrading of PBG crossings
  • discussion assessing needs of older original Plats and neighborhoods of the City

So am I being unfair, or overly negative, opining as I do. I think not. I am just reflecting on the obvious. Yes, Palm Beach Gardens is a great place to live and 94% of residents in a recent survey say so. Yet there are issues and problems that need solutions. I have lived in the Gardens for 53 years and it has always been that way no matter who the Council members are.

My advice to the current City Council members is to resist the “stroking and cajoling” and to say no to the “Kool Aid”. Oppose self-serving tendencies and the temptations of the special interests. Reclaim the prerogative of the City Council to create “policy and direction” for the Administration to implement. Generate policy for innovative and fresh initiatives that serve the needs and pleasures of the residents who gave you their trust.

Next City Council Meeting on Thursday January 4th at 7pm

The next City Council Meeting will be on Thursday, January 4th at 7pm.  The agenda includes 2nd reading and final adoption of the 4 ballot questions regarding the City Charter.
  • Recognition of the Gardens Gators for winning the Pop Warner Super Bowl
Consent Agenda: 
  • Resolution 1 2018 and 2 2018 concern agreements with the Supervisor of Elections (SOE) to appoint her (Susan Bucher) to be a member of the canvassing board and to conduct the March 13, 2018 Uniform Municipal Election for the City
  • Purchase Award for Janitorial Supplies and Chemicals – 3 year piggyback/access contract for $210K
  • Purchase Award for Fire/Rescue – Public Education Trailer (a training aid) – $85K

City Manager Report  – no details listed

Public Hearings and Resolutions: 
  • Ordinance 24, 2017 – 2nd Reading and Adoption of the Annexation of Bay Hill Estates, The Preserve at Bay Hill Estates and Rustic Lakes – the voters in the affected communities will have this on their ballot in the March 13, 2018 election.  See the Palm Beach Post article here
  • Ordinance 26, 2017 – 2nd Reading and Adoption – lists all of the March 13, 2018 ballot questions (1-4) related to the proposed replacement for the City Charter;  it includes a subset of the Charter Review Committee report, a list of the 4 questions with modifications shown, and Exhibit A which is the replacement ‘base’ charter.    Ordinances 27A, 2017 and 27B, 2017 is a choice which the Council must make in order to place their choice of language on the ballot for Question 2 regarding Term Limits.  Ordinance 28, 2017 relates to the sit-out provision, and Ordinance 29, 2017 changes elections from Majority Wins (50%+1) to Plurality Wins.  See our summaries of the last two council meetings with respect to the proposed Charter changes: Council Forges Ahead to Change Term Limits and Elections 4:1  and A Workshop at Last!  
  • Ordinances 30, 2017 and 31, 2017 – 2nd Reading and Adoption – are regarding the small scale comprehensive map amendment and rezoning from Public to Industrial for city property located on SW corners of Burns and Ironwood – in preparation for the sale of the property when the new Public Works Building is completed.  Resolution 5, 2018 is a related resolution.
  • Ordinance 1, 2018 – First Reading: An amendment to the Fiscal Year 2017/18 budget to adjust fund balance carryovers to actual amounts; re-appropriate amounts committed from the FY 2016/2017 budget for outstanding purchase orders and open projects.  This also includes transferring $1.8 Million from the Budget Stablization Account for 1. Tennis Center Clubhouse ($1.3 Million) 2. Police Department and City Hall Generators ($425K) 3. Golf Clubhouse Generator ($124K) – After the above transfers are made, the Budget Stabilization Reserve Account will total $1,801,124 in FY 2018, which is a net decrease of $718,658 from the originally adopted budget. Unassigned General Fund Reserves are unaffected and will remain at $23,066,106. 
  • Ordinance 3, 2018 – First Reading:  update the 5-Year Schedule of Capital Improvements (Table 9A) and Summary of Capital Improvements Program for Palm Beach County School Board (Table 98) of the Capital Improvements Element (CIE) of the City’s Comprehensive Plan.  The proposed amendments are primarily housekeeping in nature and will provide for consistency with the current 2017 adopted budgets of the City and School District.
  • Resolution 3, 2018 – Alton Artistry Neighborhood – amendments related to perimiter wall and landscape plans
  • Resolution 6, 2018 –  Exclusive Franchise Agreement for Solid Waste Collection and Recycling Services – with Waste Management as the selected provider, (and otherwise known to the public as the Waste Management Contract) – which is one of the largest contracts the Council decides.  This is valued at $27 Million over 10 years!  The new agreement is for 10 years with no option to renew.  The summary cites the selection committee ranking and the City’s Resident Opinion Survey for rationale.   Here is also a link to the actual Recommendation to Award with background.  

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

Two Budget Hearings result in 7.4% Increase in Property Tax Revenue

The City Council voted to hold operational millage flat at 5.55% at both Fiscal Year 2017/2018 Budget Hearings on September 7 and 25, 2017.  Even for those on the Council who would have liked to reduce property taxes somehow they concluded that it looks worse to residents, and is worse to lower the tax rate now and then have to raise it later. Legislative issues, potential passage of the 2018 ballot question on additional homestead exemptions as well as need for reserves due to storm impacts, all weighed into the debate. See Taxes to rise for many in Palm Beach Gardens from the Post, which covers some of the Council’s rationale.

The Council meetings spanned Hurricane Irma. On the 7th, City Manager Ferris gave a detailed update on Storm Preparation  and then on the 25th gave a summary of the actions taken to recover from the storm and bring the City back to full function as soon as possible.

The September 7th council meeting also passed 5:0 first readings on:

September 7, 2017
  • Ban of Medical Marijuana Treatment Facilities and Dispensaries
  • Moratorium on Micro Wireless Facilities until December 31, 2017 – allowing regulations to be developed consistent with State statute
  • Rearrangement of Floodplain Management Regulations

Also passed were:

  • 2nd Reading and Adoption of Operation of Mobile Food Trucks
  • Art in Public Places resolution for La Posada
  • Approval of FPL Watts Substation on utility parcel at Alton

The September 25th council meeting featured a short presentation by Joseph St. Germain on the 2017 Resident Opinion Survey. The survey can be read in its entirety here  and the Post has a short recap. The survey was quoted in several places in the budget documents to bolster rationale for future action plans.

September 25, 2017

Summaries by the council during Items of Resident Interest raised issues with recent (and expected) actions by the State Legislature that severely impact Home Rule.

Besides the adoption of the Tax Levy and Millage rate and the adoption of the FY 2017/2018 Budget, the council passed 2nd reading on the two ordinances related to the Floodplain Management Regulations 5:0.

The October 12th City Council meeting will feature the recommendations and report of the Charter Review Committee.

Final Fiscal Year 2017/2018 Budget Hearing and Council Mtg – Monday 9/25/17

The next City Council Meeting will be on Monday September 25th at 7pm in City Hall.   This is also the final of two Fiscal Year 2017/2018 Budget Hearings.

Agenda Highlights:

  • Second Reading and Approval of the 2017/2018 Budget and setting property tax rate
  • Second Reading of Ordinances regarding Floodplain Management Regulations
Announcements/Presentations: 2017 RESIDENT OPINION SURVEY – Presentation by Joseph St. Germain, PH.D., President of Downs & St. Germain Research.  The survey was referenced in the Budget document to identify strategic focus areas.  See the survey results here.
Consent Agenda includes:

  • Ordinance 63, 2017 – A request to allow the shopping center at Downtown at the Gardens (DTAG) within Regional Center Planned Community Development to have a total of 36 special events per calendar year that is 24 more than the maximum permitted by Section 78-187 of the City's Code

City Manager Report  – no details listed

Public Hearings and Resolutions:

  • Resolution 58, 2017/Ordinance 19, 2017 – the proposed operating millage rate for Fiscal Year 2017/2018 is 5.5500 mills and a debt service millage rate of .1178. The proposed operating millage rate of 5.5500 is 5.37% above the roll-back of 5.2671 . When combined, the total operating and debt service millage rate proposed for Fiscal Year 2017/2018 is 5.6678 mills, which is .18% below the current year combined rate of 5.6781 mills.  (Note: PBG Watch comment: This millage will raise $59M in taxes, an increase of $4.1M over last year’s $55M, up 7.4%. (Note that we compare the budget figures, not the calculated “rollback rate” which overstates last year’s budget.) The sales surtax provides another $3M windfall each year.)
  • Ordinances 15 and 18, 2017 – 2nd Reading and adoption.  A City-initiated request to amend Chapter 78, Land Development, in order to repeal the previously adopted and now outdated Floodplain Regulations from Chapter 78 and to amend Chapter 86, Buildings and Building Regulations to add the revised Floodplain Regulations. The proposed amendments will provide consistency with the Florida Division of Emergency Management's Model Ordinance.

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

See our article on the Budget and Tabor.

We get the government we deserve – and it’s up to us to watch what they do.  Hope you can make it. If you can’t make the meeting try and watch live-streaming or on-demand.

First Budget Hearing and Sept City Council Mtg on Thurs 9/7

The next City Council Meeting will be on Thursday September 7th at 7pm in City Hall.   This is also the first of two Fiscal Year 2017/2018 Budget Hearings.

Agenda Highlights:

  • First Hearing 2017/2018 Budget and setting property tax rate
  • New Ordinance prohibiting Medical Marijuana facilities in the City
  • Final Approval of Ordinance on the Operation of Mobile Food Trucks 
Announcements/Presentations: None listed
Consent Agenda includes:

  • Resolution 59, 2017 – Ratifying the Collective Bargaining Agreement with the SEIU/FLORIDA PUBLIC SERVICES UNION (FPSU) for fiscal years 2017-2020;   Employees' base salaries were increased as a result of being placed in a new, updated salary plan, effective October 1, 2017.  In addition, all employees will receive a 3 percent increase to base salary effective October 1st each year of the contract: 2017, 2018, and 2019. 
  • Purchase Award for Renewal of Microsoft Enterprise License for 3 years – Piggyback/Access Contract for $417K
  • Purchase Award for Landscaping for the New Golf Clubhouse – Landscape contract is for 1 time $175K – using an existing vendor with the City

City Manager Report  – no details listed

Public Hearings and Resolutions includes:

  • Ordinance 17, 2017 – First Reading and First Public Hearing Adopting the Fiscal Year 2017/2018 Budget..  The proposed budget holds Operating Millage flat at 5.55 mills.  The total operating and debt service millage rate proposed for Fiscal Year 2017/2018 is 5.6678 mills, which is less than the current year combined rate of 5.6781 mills. See our post on the growth of the proposed budget along with a link to the Proposed Budget page.  The second and final public hearing on the budget is scheduled for September 25, 2017. 
  • Ordinance 22, 2017 – First Reading of Ban of Medical Marijuana Treatment Facilities and Dispensaries  – amending Chapter 78 Land Development Regulations to prohibit such facilities in the city.  The staff analysis outlines the rationale for the proposed ordinance.
  • Ordinance 23, 2017 – First Reading of Temporary Moratorium through December 31, 2017 on Micro Wireless Facilities:  on the submittal and processing of applications and the issuance of any permits pertaining to the collocation on existing or the creation of new utility poles in the City-owned rights-of-way to support small or micro wireless facilities for a period ending December 31, 2017. 
  • Resolution 55, 2017 – Art in Public Places for La Posada
  • Resolution 60, 2017 – Approving a FPL Watts Substation site-plan on 5-acre utility parcel in the NE corner of Alton PCD.
  • Ordinances 15 and 18, 2017 – A City-initiated request to amend Chapter 78, Land Development, in order to repeal the previously adopted and now outdated Floodplain Regulations from Chapter 78 and to amend Chapter 86, Buildings and Building Regulations to add the revised Floodplain Regulations. The proposed amendments will provide consistency with the Florida Division of Emergency Management's Model Ordinance.
  • Ordinance 17, 2017 – Mobile Food Trucks – second reading and adoption of the new permit requirements approved on first reading in August

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

The PBG Budget and the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR)

The 2018 PBG Budget raises $4.1M in new taxes, up 7.4% over last year. See the Proposed Budget here.

Prior to the passage of the sales tax surcharge last year, PBG staff had said they didn’t need the money, and if passed, would return some to the taxpayers in a millage reduction. That all changed of course when the full 10 year revenue stream was captured in a bond and allocated to projects starting immediately, including $11M for a new park.

As the new budget is considered, so far only Vice Mayor Mark Marciano, following in the Bert Premuroso tradition, has suggested they consider a millage decrease. The rest, along with staff, plan to proceed for the third year with the millage rate set in 2016 at 5.55.

This millage will raise $59M in taxes, an increase of $4.1M over last year’s $55M, up 7.4%. (Note that we compare the budget figures, not the calculated “rollback rate” which overstates last year’s budget.) The sales surtax provides another $3M windfall each year.

Is this growth in taxes (and expenditures) justified by the growth of Palm Beach Gardens? How much taxation is enough?

In 1992, the state of Colorado amended their constitution to restrict the growth of taxation. Under the “Taxpayer Bill of Rights” (TABOR), state and local governments could not raise tax rates without voter approval and could not spend revenues collected under existing tax rates without voter approval if revenues grow faster than the rate of inflation and population growth. The results of this Colorado experiment are mixed, and TABOR has its pros and cons. (For background on TABOR, see: Taxpayer Bill of Rights ) Population growth and inflation though, would seem to be a way of assessing the appropriateness of the growth of a city budget, at least as an initial benchmark.

Since 2005, the population of Palm Beach Gardens has grown by about 14% to its current 55,637 (est.) Inflation, measured by the consumer price index, was 26%. Taken together, TABOR would suggest a growth in city spending and taxation of about 45%. (see graph below).

Over the same period, ad-valorem taxes grew 69% and total expenditures (budget less debt payment, capital and transfers) grew 54%. Both are above the TABOR line, but note that in 2013, reductions in tax collection had actually returned to the trendline. It is only since then that we seem to be off to the races.

It should be noted that ad-valorem taxes fund only a part of city expenditures, the rest made up from impact fees, fees for services, other taxes, intergovernmental grants, etc. and have varied from 66% of the total in 2005 to about 73% now. That is why taxes and expenses do not track each other on the chart.

So if you trust TABOR as a measuring stick, is this growth in taxation excessive? You be the judge.

Next City Council Mtg on July 13 at 7pm

The next City Council Meeting will be on Thursday July 13th at 7pm in City Hall.

Agenda Highlights:

  • State Senator Bobby Powell – Legislative Session Wrap-Up
  • Set Maximum Millage Rate for FY 2017/2018 Budget
  • Establishing the 2017 Charter Review Committee targeting March 2018 Municipal Elections
  • Annual Evaluation of City Manager
  • Inter-local agreement with Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council for Palm Beach Gardens Station Area – transit oriented development (TOD) Master Plan (on Consent Agenda)
Announcements/Presentations include several recognition items and State Senator Powell
Consent Agenda includes:
  • Resolution 45, 2017 Interlocal Agreement between Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council and Palm Beach Gardens for Palm Beach Gardens Station Area Transit Oriented Development Master Plan. Funding for the grant includes $30K from Palm Beach Gardens.   Public Input will be collected from Sept-Dec. 2017, with a draft plan in 2017 and a Final Master Plan and Report by March 2018
  • Purchase  Award – Operate On-Site Employee Health Clinic – $3.3 Million 5 year contract with option to renew for an additional 5 years – openly competed.  Awarded to Carehome LLC – current operator.
  • Purchase Award – Renewal of Agreement for Dental Insurance – $80K – City exercised option to renew for 3 years.
  • Purchase Award – Construct Prefabricated and Pre-Engineered Metal Building Shell for Golf Cart Storage Barn – openly competed $171K
  • Purchase Award – Mowing and Landscape Services for PGA Flyover and Canal Long-Line Mowing – openly competed, 5 year contract for $1.5 million with option to renew for another 5 years.
  • Purchase Award – Alert and Communications System for Fire Rescue Stations 1,3,4,5 – sole source $250K – to match system installed in Station 2.
  • Purchase Award – Modifications to Johnson Dairy Rd – piggyback/access contract for $303K
  • Purchase Award –  Bleachers Shade Structure for Gardens Park piggyback/access contract for $131K
  • Purchase Award – Emergency Food Catering Services – City exercised option to renew $200K contract
  • Purchase Award – New Tennis Center Clubhouse  Architectural Services – openly competed $220K
  • Purchase Award – Dispatch Consoles for Northcom – piggyback/access contract for $79.7K

City Manager Report  – no details listed

Public Hearings and Resolutions includes:
  • Resolution 46, 2017 – City Initiated Major Conditional Use approval for constructing a 180′ public safety communications monopole at the northern boundary of Lake Catherine Sportsplex  
  • Resolution 41, 2017 – Setting a Maximum Millage Rate of 5.6678 which holds operating millage at 5.5 and with lower .1178 debt service, is less than current year 5.6781.  Also sets first Public Hearing on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017 . (Note – there is no budget detail and the backup material states “The detailed proposed line-item budget will be distributed to Council and the Budget Oversight Review Board under separate cover.”)
  • Resolution 49, 2017 – Establishes the 2017 Charter Review Committee and associated duties and timeline, with the assumption of final report to the Council on Oct. 12, 2017, for Council approval of the Referendum Ordinance on Nov. 2, 2017 and Dec. 7, 2017 for placement on the ballot on the March 13, 2017 Uniform Municipal Elections.  (Note – the last two Charter related votes took place on November ballots in 2012 and 2014!)

Council Discussion

  • City Manager Evaluation

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


Council Eliminates Liaison Role to City Committees and Boards

Following is a summary of the June 1st meeting.   The key policy change that was made was the elimination of council member liaisons to various City boards and committees in Ordinance 14, 2017 described below.

June 1, 2017

Announcement and Presentations:

  • State Representative Rick Roth spoke on several bills – the most discussion with the Council related to the impact on local or home rule by “WIRELESS TECHNOLOGY: Limits local governments from regulating types of equipment known as “small wireless facilities” in public rights of ways that are used for new 5G wireless technology. (HB 687)” which could over-ride local zoning in placement of towers/devices.
  • Marcum LLP, the City’s external auditor, gave the 2016 budget documents rave reviews with a ‘clean opinion’ and ‘no findings’.

Items of Resident Interest and Board/Committee Reports:

Council Member Woods asked the Council (who agreed) to ask that the City Manager have a Workshop by FDOT on the three I-95 interchanges (Northlake, PGA and Central) to inform the public on proposed traffic movement and right-of-way issues in August. Most of the FDOT workshops have been interchange specific which doesn’t get at City-wide issues and traffic movement.

Comments from the Public:

  • John Channing – of the PGA Corridor Association, took over from his brother Joel Channing. He mentioned the 4th Annual Mid-Year Economic Update, given by Dr. Weiss and mentioned a 9/13/17 event to be held at the Embassy Suites on Mobility Around the Gardens
  • Don Mathis – discussed the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) stating an issue with all projects scheduled for the same construction year and referred the Council to WPB or Boca for ideas on how to change this.
  • 3 Employees of Gander Mountain spoke on the imminent closing of Gander Mountain (Travis Holmes, Jon Bagley and Lance B (sorry – he didn’t give address)), the potential loss of 70 to 100 plus (in season) jobs, if the new owner, Camping World is prohibited from displaying RVs outside dues to zoning. They and fellow employees who did not speak, were asked to wait until later in the meeting so the item could be addressed by Council and staff.

City Manager Report:

City Manager Ferris highlighted several recent awards, gave a brief presentation on before/after pictures of the impacts of Code Enforcement and mentoned a city-held event on Weather The Storm (hurricane preparedness) this Thursday, June 8 from 6-8.

Consent Agenda:

Council Member Lane asked that Item D on Consent be pulled for a presentation by Purchasing Manager Km! Ra on Municipal Complex Renovations ($668K). The rest of the Consent Agenda passed 5:0 as did Item D.

Ordinances and Resolutions:

  • Ordinance 11, 2017 second reading and adoption of Specialty Pet Boarding passed 4:1 with Council Member Lane objecting. He pointed out that while the facilities themselves would have to be entirely enclosed, the animals would have to be brought in and out of the facilities and at some point ‘neighbors’ would object.
  • Ordinance 14, 2017 Second Reading and Adoption regarding Procedures to fill board/committee vacancies, modify how absences are handled, and (most importantly,) alter the policy of having Council Liaisons to various Boards and Committees. County Attorney Lohman’s primary position was that the County Ordinance regarding the Sales Tax called for independent boards, and by expanding the City’s Budget Oversight Committee’s role to oversee the handling of the ‘penny’ sales tax, that committee was precluded from having a Council liaison. Don Mathis made public comment declaring the Council Liaison, especially on the Budget Oversight Committee, invaluable. The Council briefly explored having the Budget Oversight Committee divide their meetings into Budget and Sales Tax, with the Liaison only participating in the former. Vice-Mayor Marciano rightly pointed out that the voters, who the Council  represents, would be left out by the lack of liaison. Both Marciano and Council Member Lane reiterated their transparency and value issues from the prior Council meeting. To Mayor Marino and Council Member Woods, the issue seemed clear cut, and the value of liaisons to other boards seemed of lesser import. Mayor Marino compared the City policy to that of Jupiter, who didn’t have liaisons. Council Member Litt was torn, opining that all the input she got favored the continuance of liaisons, but she couldn’t see treating the Budget Oversight Committee exceptionally. With the vote of 3:2 (Lane, Marciano opposing), the Council ‘threw out the baby with the bathwater’ by eliminating board and committee transparency and interaction with our elected representatives while not modifying the Ordinance in any way to allow for interaction with the boards .
  • In passing 5:0 both Resolution 42, 2017 – Opposing Conversion Therapies and Resolution 43, 2017 – Opposing Use of Exotic Animals in Circuses, our new council veered into Social and potentially Religious issues – passing non-binding, opinion resolutions.  Here is the Palm Beach Post’s coverage of Resolution 42, 2017./

Items for Council Action/Discussion:

  • Gander Mountain – Mayor Marino thanked the Gander Mountain employees for staying. Natalie Crowley, Director of Planning and Zoning, gave a recap on the original Gander Mountain zoning (which would not have allowed for outside RV display). She had not yet been formally contacted by Camping World and was willing to work with them through issues, eg with such a display would there be adequate parking. Director Crowley needs to see a plan from the owner before discussions can proceed.  See Palm Beach Post coverage here.
  • Charter Review CommitteeVice-Mayor Marciano had requested a time-line and proposal.  Staff suggested that any proposed Charter changes be on the March 2018 ballot. The Council did not dispute staff’s opinion that the changes could not be on the November ballot, and accepted staff’s comments that August 2018 would be too busy a ballot reiterating the ‘voter fatigue’ meme that was used by staff in 2012 and with term limits in 2014 – not mentioning that both proposals were on the November ballots in 2012 and 2014 respectively, and voter turn-out is largest. 
  • Lastly, Finance Administrator Allan Owens discussed the impacts should the expanded Homestead Exemption to $75K be approved by voters in November 2018. He and the City Manager made the case that had this not passed to be placed on the ballot, perhaps a small decrease in ad valorem tax rate could have been entertained, but now, not so much, by threatening the budget stabilization reserve fund which the prior Council spent down earlier in the year.

Reminder – the July City Council Meeting will be held on Thursday, July 13 at 7pm.

Overfull Agenda Spills Over to Second Day

NOTE: The February City Council meeting will be held on Thursday February 9th – save the date!

The January 5th City Council Meeting had so many topics that two of the most significant items – handling of the expected Sales Tax Surtax dollars and Future Annexation Plans for 26 areas, spilled over until Friday January 6th. Thus some of those 24 or so speakers who patiently waited until the Thursday meeting was adjourned at about 11:20 pm, had to return on Friday.

Thursday’s meeting included:

January 5, 2017
  • Presentation of a check for almost $19K to the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center money raised through the City’s Annual Mayor’s Veterans Golf Classic. The PBG Police Foundation also raised $5K.
  • A short video on the Honda Classic by Ken Kennerly and Andrew George, Tournament Staff. The Honda Classic dates this year are February 20-26. Big news during the week was that Tiger Woods would be participating and sales have gone ‘through the roof’!
  • FDOT’s Scott Thurman, Project Manager for the I-95/Northlake Interchange project, reviewed 3 alternatives. See more details on the project website.
  • Police Chief Stepp and City Attorney Max Lohman gave an update on Sober Homes. The City will participate in State Attorney Aronberg’s Sober Home Task Force. There are regulations that could be customized and implemented by the City that would apply to all rentals but would be useful. The Sober Home hotline for the County is 1-844-324-5463. See Palm Beach Post’s article here.
  • Consent Agenda passed 5:0
  • 2nd Reading and Adoption of Avenir’s Community Development District passed 5:0. Christine Schwartz, resident of the Acreage, spoke against CDDs in general, describing the process as ‘taxation without representation’.
  • Ordinances 1 and 2, 2017 were amending and rezoning what will be Trevi Isles – a 12.5 acre parcel on the North side of Hood Road immediately West of the Turnpike. Mayor Tinsley recused herself as her husband has done work with the developer. Residents and representatives of the Eastpointe community immediately adjacent to the west of the parcel spoke against the development. Eastpointe is not a part of the City. Some of the comments made were: Hood Road safety and traffic, that when the City annexed the parcel it was to be left as wetlands, issues about drainage where Eastpointe’s drainage system and Trevi Isles would be separate. The Council voted 4:0 to pass.
  • Ordinance 3, 2017 was the annual Budget amendment reconciling 2016 to 2017 realities. The amendment moves $4.5 million out of the Budget Stabilization Reserve Account with $3.67 in new, not previously discussed spending on Sandhill Crane Golf Course, Clubhouse and a Golf Training Facility.  Council Member Premuroso praised the Finance team on their handling of the Budget however thought that the Council should wait until after the election to allow the new Council to decide on new spending out of the Budget Stabilization Reserve Account. Mayor Tinsley felt similarly that some of the bigger items not currently in the Budget should be delayed. However Vice Mayor Jablin, Council Members Marino and Woods were in strong agreement that the decision should be made by the current council, were thrilled with the golf course improvements and the item passed 3:2.
  • Ordinance 4, 2017 – The Annexation of Osprey Isles, Carleton Oaks, Star of David Cemetery and West Palm Beach Fire Station #8 will be on the March 14, 2017 ballot so that the residents of those communities can vote on the issue.
  • Ordinance 5 established new responsibilities of the Budget Oversight Review Board to include the Sales Tax Surtax and passed 5:0.
  • Resolution 4, 2017 amending the site plan for Gardens Mall will allow the new Cooper’s Hawk Winery and Restaurant in the area between Macy’s and Sears including outdoor seating. Resolution 7 will allow the development of a gated townhome community and specialty grocery in the area of Midtown at the Gardens just East of Shady Lakes. Residents from Shady Lakes expressed their concerns about traffic and safety in an area already difficult to traverse. Both resolutions passed 5:0.

Friday’s meeting covered the two remaining agenda items:

January 6, 2017
  • Sales Tax Surtax – Resolution 12, 2017 on the discussion of a formal policy and plans on the spending of the expected revenues from the infrastructure Sales Tax Surtax passed in November, 2016. The revenue is expected to be about $35 million over 10 years, however the Council and staff, in less than 3 hours, eagerly and unanimously approved plans to borrow, and spend $30 million in less than 3 years. Many people came out in support of the spending on the park plans, and only two people, Council candidates Joe Russo and Kathryn Gettinger expressed caution. (Editorial comment: When one considers how much time has been spent in past meetings on details of signage, wall height and plantings for various projects, the lack of debate or discussion seems breathtaking.) For more details on the meeting see the Palm Beach Post coverage here.
  • Annexation Study and Policy – Last on the agenda was Resolution 13, 2017 – a very long and detailed study of future annexation areas. Twenty-six areas were analysed for potential annexation with the policy whenever possible to be Voluntary (such as the Balsamo property annexed last year); enclaves of 110 acres or less through interlocal agreements (eg with the County), and Involuntary Annexation – such as the Carlton Oaks et al annexation approved in Ordinance 4, 2017 above. “Annexation is part of the City’s sustainable growth strategy. It is a tool to increase the City’s revenue, compact boundaries, utilize tax dollars in most efficient way, and to provide better services for residents.” There was public comment from two individuals – one had suggestions for better itemizing the benefits to annexed businesses and homeowners; the second speaker was the Village Planner of North Palm Beach. A few of the areas listed were also overlapping with future annexation areas of North Palm Beach. Discussions to resolve those overlaps were started in 2010 but were not resolved. The speaker submitted a letter from North Palm Beach to resume those discussions, as well as a letter from Karen Marcus who was unable to attend on Friday. The Council gushed over the report and plan and passed it 5:0.

First 2017 Council Meeting on Thursday, January 5th at 7PM

Happy 2017! The next City Council Meeting will be this Thursday, January 5, at 7pm in City Hall. There are quite a few items on the agenda covering a broad range of subjects so be prepared for a lengthy meeting. (Note – Ordinance 3, 2017 and Resolution 12, 2017 should be of significant interest and concern to those running for the Council in the March 14 election).

Announcements/Presentations includes an FDOT presentation on three alternatives for the I-95/Northlake Blvd and I-95 and PGA Blvd interchange modifications.

Consent Agenda includes:

  • A Purchase Award for 2017 Model Year Vehicles for the Fire Rescue Department, Information Technology Department, Public Services Department, and Unified Services Department as replacement vehicles. This is a piggyback with the Florida Sheriffs Association (FSA) Contract for the purchase of Model Year 2017 Motor Vehicles and is in the amount of $273K.
  • Agreements with the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections to conduct the March 14 elections and as a member of the canvassing board, as done in prior elections.
  • Approval of an agreement with the Children’s Healthcare Charity, Inc. for the 2017 Honda Classic PGA Golf Tournament to provide a public safety grant for off-duty Police and Fire Services and related staff services, and the use of specific portions of Mirasol and PGA National Parks for various parking facilities and general operations.

City Manager Report – lists an update on Sober Homes

Public Hearings and Resolutions:

  • First readings of Ordinance 1 and 2, 2017 regard Kennedy Homes requesting a Large-Scale Comprehensive Plan Map Amendment to change the future land use designation of a 12.50-acre site from Residential Low (RL) to Residential Medium (RM), capping the gross density of the site to 50 residential units. The property is located on the north side of Hood Road immediately west of Florida’s Turnpike; and rezoning of a 12.5-acre site from Residential Low Density-2 District (RL-2) to Planned Unit Development (PUD) with a Residential Medium District (RM) underlying zoning to allow the development of a 50-townhome residential subdivision for a community to be called Trevi Isle.
  • First reading of Ordinance 3, 2017 – This budget agenda item combines several actions. First, it adjusts the starting balance for 2017 to reflect the realities of 2016 – a normal occurrence. Second, and more significantly, it allocates the excess revenue collected last year (1.9M) and the reduction in expenses (2M) to new spending in 2017.  (Note – if the money were to be left in the stabilization fund, it could be used (along with expected sales tax revenue) to reduce millage in the 2018 budget. By allocating it now to new spending, they would deny the Council that will have 3 new members after March 14 the opportunity to decide what to do with the money.)
  • First reading of Ordinance 4, 2017 – A request to annex an area of contiguous, compact, unincorporated real property commonly known as Osprey Isles, Carleton Oaks, the Star of David Cemetery of the Palm Beaches, the vacant commercial parcel and the WPB Fire Station #8. The 284.20-acre parcel is bounded on the west by the City of Palm Beach Gardens’ Sandhill Crane Golf Club, to the north and east by Conservation lands (the Loxahatchee Slough), and to the south by Northlake Boulevard. Upon adoption of the Ordinance by the City Council, the City shall forward the Ordinance and referendum language to the Supervisor of Elections to prepare for a referendum of the registered electors within the proposed annexation area. The City shall hold the referendum on annexation at the next regularly scheduled election, March 14, 2017. A majority of votes cast by registered electors residing within the annexation area is required for the referendum to pass.
  • First reading of Ordinance 5, 2017 which would dissolve the existing Budget Oversight Committee and replace it with the Budget Oversight Review Board and provide additional powers and duties, including the review of proposed operating and capital improvement budgets, the review of spending plans, the provision of recommendations to City Council, and oversight of the expenditure of the One-Cent Sales Surtax funds. On November 8, 2016, Palm Beach County voters approved a ballot issue to enact a One-Cent Infrastructure Sales Surtax to pay for acquisition or improvements to public infrastructure. The City of Palm Beach Gardens’ estimated share of the tax over ten (10) years is $35.6 million.
  • Resolution 4, 2017 modifying the site plan for Gardens Mall for 10,000 square feet of leasable square feet for the Cooper’s Hawk Winery and Restaurant and 940 square feet of outdoor seating space. The tenant space is located on the second floor on the south side of the mall in between the anchor tenants Macy’s and Sears department stores. The proposal includes 202 seats in the interior restaurant and 48 seats on the outdoor patio. The main entrance of the restaurant will be inside the mall.
  • Resolution 7, 2017 is a petition by Ascend PGA Midtown, LLC requesting a Planned Unit Development (PUD) Amendment for Midtown PUD to allow the development of a 63-townhome residential subdivision and a 25,344-square-foot specialty grocery. The property is located on the north side of PGA Boulevard, immediately east of Shady Lakes Drive. The proposed tenant for the building is Earth Fare, specializing in health foods. The new residential subdivision is to be called Pointe Midtown. The subject development will also contain a 13-building, 63-unit residential townhome development, and one (1) clubhouse structure.
  • Resolution 12, 2017 outlines the Proposed One-Cent Infrastructure Sales Surtax Projects, and recommends funding the projects via the issuance of a Not-to-Exceed $30,000,000 Capital Improvement Revenue Bond, Series 2017. Other alternatives are discussed. (As with Ordinance 3, 2017, the schedule of the actions needed to accomplish the bond is completed by end of February 2017 – denying the new Council elected in March the ability to influence the decision).
  • Resolution 13, 2017 Acceptance of the “Annexation Areas of Interest Study” for future annexation areas and directing the City Manager to implement the “Annexation Study” as policy guidance for the annexation initiative that is consistent with Chapter 171 , Florida Statutes.

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

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