Delray: Protecting residents of sober homes means protecting their neighbors, too
Daniel Lauber gets right to the point:
“In more than 40 years of working on zoning for community residences for people with disabilities,” said the attorney whom Delray Beach is using to craft sober home regulations, “the author of this study has rarely seen such a large number and intense concentration of community residences of any type in a single town of any size.”
Delray Beach has confirmed the presence of 183 sober homes and suspects that there are at least 64 more. Lauber said 183 alone would be high for a city of 100,000 (that’s roughly one-third larger than Delray).
Well-run sober homes would not cause a problem. Badly-run homes victimize their residents as much as the single-family neighborhoods around them. Those in recovery who relapse become prey for drug dealers, which creates the city’s overdose epidemic that has strained the resources of the police and fire departments.
Just last week, Police Chief Jeffrey Goldman announced the arrest of 55 people in the anti-drug Operation Street Sweeper. The department also reported that the city had 49 drug overdoses and six deaths barely through mid-May. From 43 overdoses in January, the total has risen each month, to 75 in April. What a sad irony: things get busier with this scourge as the season ends.
As it turns out, helping those in recovery means helping the city. Mayor Cary Glickstein said, “We seek to ensure that (those in recovery) receive the counseling and treatment they need to achieve long-term sobriety. We seek to prevent operators from dumping expelled residents on the streets just to become homeless and defenseless, falling back into drug or alcohol abuse.”
Bad operators cluster their homes. Lauber notes that this practice creates an unsuitable environment for recovering addicts. I also believe that it degrades neighborhoods. By June, Glickstein hopes that the city’s planning and zoning board will consider an ordinance that would require any new sober home to be at least one block from another—roughly 660 feet. Sober homes also would have to be certified under the new state law.
Lauber writes that, to survive a court challenge, any ordinance must meet three conditions: It must be designed to serve a legitimate purpose; it must achieve that purpose; and it must seek the least drastic action. Lauber believes that these proposals qualify.
The certification change seems especially important. Lauber states that because Florida waited so long to impose any rules, “a key expert estimates that 80 percent of the sober homes in Delray Beach do not comply with the minimum standards that the National Alliance of Recovery Communities has published. Only 11 homes, according to the report, have become certified since the voluntary law took effect two years ago.
Glickstein hopes that the proposals can get to the city commission by July. They come as the county’s sober homes task force has compiled a growing record of arrests. New legislation to crack down on patient brokering will help even more.
Consensus has emerged that what’s good for those in recovery is good for cities. “Our citizens,” Glickstein said, “will understand that in protecting the residents of sober living homes we will protect the surrounding neighbors, neighborhoods and our citizens at large.”
Little ruckus as P&Z board approves Mizner 200
The remarkable thing about the Mizner 200 debate before the Boca Raton Planning and Zoning Board on Thursday night was that nothing remarkable happened.
After the predictable objection from residents of Townsend Place and a representative of Investments Limited, the board voted 5-1 to send the project to the city council with a recommendation of approval. Board member Janice Rustin was absent.
Consider that Mizner 200, in the mind of some critics, resembled the very controversial Archstone/Palmetto Promenade in that it would be very long. Board member Larry Cellon, however, said, “The building process works.” Mizner 200 is on its third or fourth iteration after incorporating suggestions—such as adding townhouses—from the community appearance board that two days earlier also blessed the 384-unit condo project. The developer also agreed to a couple of minor changes that planning and zoning board members proposed.
Perhaps the strongest critics are waiting until Mizner 200 gets to Boca’s elected leaders. The harshest speaker Thursday called Mizner Boulevard “a death trap,” citing no statistics. The planning and zoning board, though, certainly gave the council every reason to say yes.
CRA dodged takeover, but open seats open new concerns
In writing last week about the Delray Beach City Commission’s refusal to take over the community redevelopment agency, I quoted City Commissioner Mitch Katz as saying that he favored public interviews of candidates for the four CRA board seats that open in July. Katz voted for the takeover.
Count Mayor Glickstein as a vote against it. He told me that the change was “unneeded and may thwart good applicants from applying.” Glickstein said commissioners “are free to speak with all board applicants now, and I would expect they would.” Glickstein said he already does so with those “that have a qualifying resume. I’m not sure a public vetting for a volunteer board gets you anything you can’t discern privately, and public interviews for volunteer boards would create a chilling effect for otherwise capable applicants who conclude, ‘I don’t need this.’”
CRA board member Paul Zacks is one of those whose seat opens up in July. He already has applied for another four-year term, and said, “I have not and will not lobby for the appointment.”
Responding to critical comments from city commissioners, Zacks said, “Just because some commissioners don’t agree with some of our decisions does not mean the decisions were wrong. Our board continues to work aggressively and cohesively (unlike the city commission) to redevelop those areas in need.” Zacks said residents of West Atlantic Avenue “who know our work best came out in strong numbers to support the CRA.”
I wondered Tuesday if the resolution to dissolve the volunteer board could come back. Glickstein acknowledged the possibility, but said the “combination of some new board members and new perspectives” might better “continue doing the important work they do. In many ways, the CRA was a small microcosm of what I found at City Hall four years ago—doing business the way it was always done. That worked years ago when the financial imbalance (between the CRA budget and the city budget was negligible, but no longer.”
I’ll have more on this before the commission decides on those July appointments.
Pondering party control of U.S. House
It’s never too early to wonder what role South Florida might play in the mid-term fight for control of the U.S. House. So let’s wonder a little.
District 21, which includes Delray Beach and areas north to Palm Beach, will re-elect Lois Frankel and thus remain Democratic. So will District 22, which includes Boca Raton and the western suburbs and part of northwest Broward County. Frankel got 63 percent of the vote last November. Deutch got 59 percent.
Potential swing seats are north and south. Republican Brian Mast represents District 18, which takes in northern Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast. Republicans Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen represents district 26 and 27, respectively, in Miami-Dade. President Trump carried District 18—which leans Republican—with 53 percent, about what Mast received. Hillary Clinton carried 26 and 27, getting nearly 60 percent in both.
The two issues most in play now are the Republican health care bill, which Trump supports, and Trump himself. Mast and Curbelo voted for the bill. Ros-Lehtinen opposed it. Curbelo praised the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Mast said, “We should never run or hide from the truth.”
Ros-Lehtinen’s victory shows how personality can lead to ticket-splitting. But Ros-Lehtinen is retiring. Expect Mast to emphasize his work on local issues, notably the health of Indian River Lagoon. Democrats must win 24 seats to take control of the House.
FAU’s new #winning football strategy
The South Florida Sun Sentinel recently reported on a smart change in philosophy by Florida Atlantic University about its football team.
As a member of the lower-tier Conference USA, FAU can get a payoff by playing on the road against teams from the five top-tier conferences. The problem is that FAU regularly loses those games. That’s the deal, after all. The Owls got some cash, but they also got three straight seasons of three wins and nine losses. So it’s no surprise that attendance at home has been lousy.
Athletic Director Pat Chun said FAU, under new coach Lane Kiffen, will take less money to play more beatable teams. President John Kelly has tied FAU’s future to athletics—meaning the Schmidt Center—which means that he’s tied the future to football. Students and locals won’t turn out until the team wins more often.
Tri-Rail gets its funding back
Tri-Rail is a big issue in Boca Raton. The Yamato Road station is Tri-Rail’s busiest, and the city favors a second station near Boca Center in tandem with plans for residential development in the Midtown section.
A brief controversy over Tri-Rail’s new operating contract caused Gov. Rick Scott to eliminate Tri-Rail funding from his budget. Fortunately, Palm Beach County Commissioner Steven Abrams—who is vice-chairman of Tri-Rail’s board—and others persuaded legislators that the board had awarded the contract properly.
The compromise that I reported on last month held. Tri-Rail will get its money, but will have to get state approval for any new contract. Tri-Rail won’t need that approval for at least five years. So work can continue on planning for the Coastal Link—commuter service on the FEC tracks.
BRRH to request for rezoning
On tonight’s Boca Raton City Council agenda is Boca Raton Regional Hospital’s request for a rezoning that would allow a 900-space parking garage 100 feet from homes, rather than the current 250 feet. The project, the first of four that are part of the hospital’s new plan, got a favorable recommendation from the planning and zoning board. It would surprise me if the council disagreed.
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