Wednesday, May 15, 2024

New Parking Rules for Delray and More on the County Commission Race

It’s been 10 years in the making, but Delray Beach may be ready to approve new downtown parking rules.

The plan got a first hearing at the May 15 city commission meeting and likely will be on the June 5 meeting agenda. With the exception of Mayor Shelly Petrolia, the commission seemed supportive, and Petrolia wasn’t that far behind.

The 99 spaces on Atlantic Avenue between Swinton Avenue and the Intracoastal Waterway would cost $2 per hour with a maximum time of 2.5 hours. The city would enforce that from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. during the week and from 9 a.m. until 6 a.m. on the weekend. Downtown merchants had asked that the city delay enforcement in the morning so people could make quick stops. Those spaces would turn over quickly.

In the area closest to Atlantic Avenue—one block to the north and south between First Avenue and Fifth Avenue—rates and hours would be the same as on the avenue. Farther away, however, street parking would be free. The maximum would be three hours during the week and four hours on the weekend.

On surface lots, parking in the 408 spaces also would be free, with a two-hour maximum during the week and a three-hour limit on the weekend. The 272 garage spaces all would cost $5, with a three-hour limit during the week and a four-hour limit on weekends.

There would be no overnight parking in the garages, which the staff report says would free up room for downtown residents’ cars. Drivers also could not move their vehicles to other free spaces in the same zone and restart the clock. Most fines would be $35.

Other changes would shift enforcement from the police department to the parking management board and the city manager. The manager also would be able to change fees and enforcement procedures more quickly, thus making the system nimbler and less bureaucratic.

“I think (City Manager Mark Lauzier) did a great job,” City Commissioner Bill Bathurst told me. Because of all the affected parties, Bathurst said, crafting a parking policy “is like herding cats.”

Many of those affected parties have been in Delray Beach for decades. Lauzier has been on the job for less than six months. Yet it impressed Bathurst that as he sounded out people about the proposal, Lauzier “had already talked to them. He really got out and listened.”

Commissioner Ryan Boylston, a former chairman of the Downtown Development Authority, also said he would support the proposal.

“It balances everyone’s interests as much as possible. And, really, after this long it’s time to make a decision and then adjust if we need to.”

Earlier versions projected roughly $2 million in net revenue to the city. Under this version, the city would receive nearly $1 million for the rest of 2018 and about $1.4 million in 2019.

“But the goal never was revenue, even though we do need revenue,” Bathurst said. “It was about better management, getting people where we want them and when we want them.”

Bathurst wants the city to better inform drivers—perhaps by adding signs—where they can find parking.

“Sometimes lots are 75 percent full and people don’t know.” Still, he agrees with Boylston that the commission should approve the rules and await the results. IPic may open late this year and Atlantic Crossing is under construction. A decade seems long enough to wait.

(Photo of downtown Delray Beach provided by the Delray Beach Downtown Development Authority)

The Match Point lawsuit

Delray Beach has hired a new law firm to handle the city’s lawsuit against Match Point.

The previous city commission had wanted the lawyers to amend the complaint against the promoter of the annual pro tennis tournament and use a different strategy. But the firm—Weiss Serota Helfman Cole & Bierman—disagreed.

So the new commission has retained the Fort Lauderdale office of Gray Robinson. City Attorney Max Lohman said the new lead lawyer is John Herin. No hearings are scheduled. The city wants to get out of the 25-year contract that a previous commission approved in 2005, saying that the agreement has become too expensive and is too restrictive. The commission says that contract was wrongly awarded without seeking bids.

Census numbers in

Everyone knows that Boca Raton and Delray Beach have been growing. Growth certainly will be an issue in Boca Raton’s Aug. 28 special election. Now the numbers are in from the Census Bureau.

Between 2010 and 2016, Boca Raton’s population increased from about 84,400 to an estimated 98,150. That increase of 16.3 percent reflects the additional residents from multi-family projects downtown and in the northwest areas that the Great Recession delayed and have been going up for the last five years.

Meanwhile, Delray Beach went from about 60,500 residents to nearly 69,000. That’s a jump of nearly 14 percent. As in Boca Raton, new multi-family projects have been a key factor in drawing new residents.

And the county’s changes

While Boca Raton and Delray Beach have been getting larger, Palm Beach County has been changing.

Between 2000 and 2016, the county’s non-white population increased from 29 percent to 43 percent. Other large counties had similar increases. The county’s over-65 population rose just two percentage points.

For perspective, the Census Bureau classifies Palm Beach as a suburban county. The average size of suburban counties in the United States is 160,000. The average size of all counties is 101,000.

Quiet zones

Boca Raton held a symbolic news conference Wednesday morning to announce that the quiet zone on the Florida East Railway corridor—meaning no more train horns—would take effect just before midnight.

Consider the event more of a campaign appearance for Mayor Scott Singer. He’s running in the Aug. 28 special election to complete the term of Susan Haynie. Gov. Scott suspended her last month after she was charged with seven counts of public corruption.

County commission race

Robert Weinroth
Robert Weinroth

As expected, the Republican Party of Palm Beach County will run an establishment candidate against Robert Weinroth for the county commission.

Michael Barnett told The Palm Beach Post that he would challenge Weinroth, a Democrat who withdrew in January from his reelection campaign for the Boca Raton City Council. Susan Haynie had been the preferred GOP candidate in District 4 and was the likely successor to Steven Abrams before her legal problems.

Boca Del Mar resident William Vale, a political newcomer, had filed paperwork to challenge Haynie in the Republican primary. I’m told that the GOP approached term-limited state Rep. Bill Hager, who said he’s too busy with his job as an expert witness regarding insurance litigation. Barnett is the county Republican chairman.

Though most issues before the county commission are non-partisan, party leaders often get very involved in campaigns. Of the commission’s seven members, five are Democrats. Abrams and Hal Valeche are the Republicans. District 4 includes Boca Raton and most of Delray Beach.

Qualifying for the race begins on June 18 and ends on June 22.

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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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