Monday, April 15, 2024

Big issues on Delray’s docket this week

Big votes in Delray

The members of the Delray Beach City Commission will earn their salaries this week.

The commission will deal with two major issues, both of which will affect the city long after they depart. That goes not just for Adam Frankel and Al Jacquet—whom term limits will force them out this March and in March 2017, respectively—but for Cary Glickstein, Jordana Jarjura and Shelly Petrolia—all of whom could be serving for at least another five years.

Let’s look at the issues in the order the commission will take them up. In terms of importance, the first probably matters more, but not by much.

Land regs

At its regular meeting Tuesday, the commission considers the latest and perhaps final version of new Land Development Regulations for the Central Business District. In plain language, those are rules for what downtown Delray Beach will look like.

This needed update has been 15 months in the making. It is the product of many meetings among residents, developers —who sometimes are one and the same—business owners, city staff and the city’s consultants at the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council. It is on the agenda with changes in response to commissioners’ questions and priorities. When I asked Planning and Zoning Director Dana Little if he thought the regulations were in the “home stretch”—sorry for using a horse racing metaphor after the Super Bowl—he answered, “I do.”

As in Boca Raton, development is the most emotional issue in Delray Beach. For all the criticism of downtown building in Boca, though, Delray residents may be even fiercer in their desire to protect their “village by the sea” as development has made that village a place that draws people from far beyond Delray’s borders.

One priority was to keep downtown Delray walkable and attractive, even with all the restaurants. The proposed regulations address that priority down to the smallest details. Example: Sidewalk cafes would have to be at least 5 feet from the road, not just 2.5 feet, and the owners would have to provide at least a 6-foot pedestrian path.

One headline for most residents will be new limits on height for buildings along East Atlantic Avenue. The regulations would create the “Atlantic Avenue Limited Height Area”— 125 feet to the north and south on Atlantic from Swinton Avenue to the Intracoastal—where buildings would be limited to 38 feet and to three stories. Elsewhere, the limits would be 54 feet and four stories.

Little believes that most people will focus on height and density. But those cover only a few of the 64 pages in the proposed regulations. “Some good things,” Little says, “won’t make headlines.” He says the changes would make things easier for smaller property owners and developers who weren’t building restaurants while maintaining “the historic nature” of downtown.

A major change is the near-elimination of the bonus program allowing extra height and density if developers meet certain conditions. By approving the proposal, the commission then could create bonus programs designed to achieve certain goals in certain areas, such as additional office space. “That is not unreasonable,” Little says.

The changes are contained in three proposed ordinances. Two would repeal the current regulations and replace them with the new rules, and make all the regulations consistent. Another would make the area along the Florida East Coast Railway track a fourth downtown “subdistrict” rather than a separate area. The proposal needs at least three votes tonight. There would be a second vote in two weeks.

Commissioner Shelly Petrolia is pleased with what she has seen. “They did what we asked,” she said Monday. Regarding the limits on and near Atlantic Avenue, “Someone may challenge it,” Petrolia said, “but it would be worth the challenge.”

Mayor Cary Glickstein said the changes would “provide clarity to everybody,” meaning residents and developers. A better bonus plan would “give a better understanding of what the public can expect in return” for more height and density. One area to target, he said, would be Federal Highway after the makeover is done.

Little says, “It is a testament to Delray Beach that every foot matters.” The proposal, he adds, is not formulaic. “It is tailored to this time and place.” Fifteen months of patient effort seem to have paid off.

Trash-hauling

On Wednesday at 9 a.m.—probably after little sleep—the commission will convene in a special meeting to rank competitors for Delray’s trash-hauling contract.

Two weeks ago, the commission had been asked to approve the ranking of an appointed selection committee. Then came the release to commissioners of emails that might have revealed a violation of the bidding rules. Because of that and other questions, the commission voted to issue its own ranking.

City Attorney Noel Pfeffer and City Manager Don Cooper investigated the emails. Last week, they concluded that there had been no intentional violations but that there were “potential incidental violations regarding an email inadvertently sent to a City employee and a mass mailer addressed to a City Commissioner from one of the proposers.” Translation: No harm, no foul.

The conclusion was not surprising. The most plausible theory is that a Waste Management employee thought that she was emailing the company’s lobbyist, whose email address is very close to the address of a city employee who was not involved in the trash contract.

Still, there are some humorous details in the rambling, sometimes redacted emails. Example:

In December, with the bid process underway, Waste Management sponsored a float in Delray Beach’s holiday parade. A Parks and Recreation employee advised sponsors that no one could throw candy from the floats. “Can we hand out candy with drivers beside the float?” asked a Waste Management employee. Yes, handing out candy would be OK.

The interesting aspect is that the emails revealed Waste Management’s dealings with Mary and Kevin McCarty, once a Delray Beach/Palm Beach County power couple, and some of their political allies. The McCartys went to prison on corruption charges from when Mary McCarty served on the county commission. Mayor Cary Glickstein called the email “somewhere between inadvertent and stupid” that has “no material impact” on the commission’s decision.

The impact, though, may be on Delray Beach’s image and how the city appears to do business. Glickstein referred to the “cast of characters orbiting” the contract decision, “working on the assumption that something extraneous is going to matter,” as opposed to the quality of the company’s bid. “It’s insulting.”

Commissioners will hear 15-minute presentations from each of the five companies, after which there will be 30 minutes for questions. The hope is that there will be few questions lingering after the city awards the contract, which is the city’s largest and could run for 12 years.

New face in the race

Delray Beach has a second city commission election on March 10. Ryan Boylston filed last Friday to run against Shelly Petrolia in Seat 5. According to the company’s website, Boylston is owner and CEO of Woo Creative, a Delray Beach marketing consultant.

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You can email Randy Schultz at randy@bocamag.com

For more City Watch blogs, click here.About the Author

Randy Schultz was born in Hartford, Conn., and graduated from the University of Tennessee in 1974. He has lived in South Florida since then, and in Boca Raton since 1985. Schultz spent nearly 40 years in daily journalism at the Miami Herald and Palm Beach Post, most recently as editorial page editor at the Post. His wife, Shelley, is director of The Learning Network at Pine Crest School. His son, an attorney, and daughter-in-law and three grandchildren also live in Boca Raton. His daughter is a veterinarian who lives in Baltimore.

Randy Schultz
Randy Schultz
Randy Schultz, a native of Hartford, Connecticut, has been a South Florida journalist since 1974. He worked for The Miami Herald until 1976 and for The Palm Beach Post from 1976 until 2014, where he served as managing editor and editorial page editor. Since 2014, he has written a politics blog, commentaries and other articles for Boca magazine. His writing has earned first-place awards from the Florida Magazine Association and the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors. Randy has lived in Boca Raton with his wife, Shelley Huff-Schultz, since 1985. His son, daughter-in-law and their three children also live in Boca Raton.

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