Updates: Atlantic Crossing, iPic, Ocean Breeze & More

Atlantic Crossing news

Atlantic-Crossing

The Delray Beach City Commission could approve a new settlement offer Wednesday night in the Atlantic Crossing lawsuit.

In January, Atlantic Crossing’s developer—Edwards Companies, of Columbus, Ohio—had agreed to a proposed settlement. But the commission hadn’t discussed the offer as a group. Commissioners had questions, and didn’t like the answers from the city’s legal team.

This new offer comes after a roughly 90-minute discussion among commissioners and the city’s lawyers. This time, the roles are reversed. If the commission approves, the city would offer the settlement to Atlantic Crossing, which would have until March 16 to decide.

Like the first version, the new proposal would return a two-way access road to Atlantic Crossing from Federal Highway—Northeast Sixth Avenue. As in the first version, Atlantic Crossing would drop all claims against the city. Edwards has been seeking $40 million in damages.

The new version, however, would require specific improvements to minimize the traffic impact from the project, which Edwards would build on the two blocks west of Veterans Park. During discussion in January of the previous settlement proposal, nearby property owners asked for these improvements.

Atlantic Crossing would have to pay $175,000 toward a shuttle bus for the area and build a bus shelter on Federal Highway. The developer also would have to pay for traffic signal upgrades on Northeast First Street—the north side of the project—Atlantic Avenue and Northeast Seventh Avenue, which would be the main entrance, and between Federal Highway and Veterans Park.

In addition, Atlantic Crossing would be responsible for traffic calming projects to help the Marina Historic District. The developer would have to finance beautification work on Federal Highway, allow sidewalk cafes only on private property—and maintain a wide public walkway through any cafes—and provide a plan for the valet parking operation. After the project is built, the city would evaluate whether Seventh Avenue at Northeast First Street should remain closed—as it would be during construction—or should reopen with traffic calming.

From the commission’s standpoint, this proposal better incorporates the settlement details into the development agreement. The city would not make Atlantic Crossing pay for improvements to Veterans Park. Both sides could stop paying lawyers on a case that comes with uncertainties for the city and Edwards.

Timing is an issue. If this proposal doesn’t stick, there will be a new commission after the March 14 election. The commission can’t undo the December 2012 approval of Atlantic Crossing, but the settlement could make the project more compatible.

Scheduling notes:

The Delray Beach commission will meet in that unusual Wednesday session because:

  • Next Tuesday, the usual meeting day, is Palm Beach County Day in Tallahassee. Elected officials like to attend.
  • The next Tuesday after that, March 14, is the city election. The commission doesn’t meet on that day.

Ocean Breeze purchase meeting

After months of delay because of scheduling conflicts and disagreements, the Boca Raton City Council and the Greater Boca Raton Beach & Parks District will hold a joint meeting at 4:30 today in the city’s community center.

Good timing.

Though the city and district have several issues, the sole topic is the district’s planned purchase of the Ocean Breeze golf course at Boca Teeca. The meeting is set for an hour, before the regular council meeting, and there’s much to discuss about Ocean Breeze.

Most important: Lennar’s offer of $24 million. That figure is far above any other appraisals of the property. There had been hope that Art Koski, the district’s executive director, would present an analysis of why he supports that price. But district board chairman Bob Rollins told me Monday that he doesn’t expect the material to be ready for today’s meeting.

Rollins said the district could absorb the $24 million purchase price, plus perhaps as much as $12 million to upgrade the course, and operate Ocean Breeze without raising its tax rate or sacrificing other projects. Rollins bases his conclusion on a review of the numbers by Merv Timberlake, the city’s former finance director whom the district has used as a budget consultant the last two years.

“I believe that (the district) could run a profitable venture,” Rollins said. The county-owned Osprey Point course, Rollins said, does 100,000 rounds a year, compared to 50,000 rounds at Boca Raton’s western course. Both are 27 holes. So is Ocean Breeze.

All the district wants from the city, Rollins said, is for the council to post a bond that would enable the district to spread out its costs over 10 or 12 years. The city did that when the district bought Sugar Sand Park and Ocean Strand.

If Rollins seems eager, however, two other district board members are more cautious. Craig Ehrnst—who will miss the meeting because of a ski trip—said, “The whole process seems rushed.” Steve Engel said of the $24 million figure, “I’d have questions, too, if I were on the city council.” Though he agrees with Rollins that the numbers seem workable for the district, “The big question is whether we would have enough cash flow until the course opened.”

Councilman Robert Weinroth hopes to get from the meeting “some idea of what (the district) is willing to do about acquiring Ocean Breeze. Why is it worth $24 million? Is that a proper use of funds?” City residents also pay the district’s tax. “I’m eager to hear how it’s going to work.” Though Weinroth has been the council skeptic, he’s “excited at the prospect” and “won’t get in the way of the train” if the proposal seems credible.

Councilman Jeremy Rodgers wants the same clarity. He calls Lennar’s price “ludicrous if there’s nothing to back it up.” He has consistently supported the acquisition of Ocean Breeze, but any deal “should not just serve Boca Teeca.” The community opposes residential development of the course, which has been closed since last summer. Scott Singer also wants an explanation of the price.

At last week’s district meeting, Koski defended the Lennar offer, but he did not provide material to support the figure. Mayor Susan Haynie would like “some insight” into why Koski supports spending $24 million. Haynie also will ask the city’s legal staff to confirm whether the council must approve the district’s decision, even if the council believes that the price is too high.

It will be a very packed hour.

De Hoernle Park

At the city council meeting that follows the Ocean Breeze discussion, Singer will bring up a resolution that seeks to resolve the dispute between the council and the district over Phase 2 of the athletic field at de Hoernle Park.

The two sides could address this issue and others in a new master agreement for operation of parks within the district. The city and district approved a new agreement on beach restoration work, but the larger one remains undone.

Ipic update

As the Delray Beach Community Redevelopment Agency tries to close on the sale of property for the iPic project, the two sides are negotiating over another element of the downtown project.

That is the agreement for the shared parking garage. The project, to be built where the library and the chamber of commerce once stood, would displace nearly 100 public parking spaces. So 90 spaces would be available for public use on lower levels of the garage, with the other spaces accessible through a gate to higher levels. The spaces would have meters, from which the city would get the revenue. The CRA would get the increased property tax revenue from Fourth and Fifth Delray.

It was envisioned from the start that iPic and the CRA would share operations and maintenance costs for the garage. The negotiations are over who pays how much. As the CRA board heard last week, iPic wants the CRA to contribute roughly $115,000 each year. The CRA’s consultant, PMG Associates, believes that the agency should pay $75,000.

Either way, the CRA would come out ahead. PMG estimates that the project would generate almost $400,000 from property taxes during the first tax year, which would be 2020 if the project opens in 2019. If the CRA agrees to an incentive program for iPic, the net to the CRA would drop to about $316,000.

Obviously, though, the agency should not overpay on the parking agreement. CRA board member Paul Zaks said in an email, “As with most negotiations, I expect both parties will find a middle ground that neither is totally happy with, but both can live with. We’ll know soon.”

Frankel makes a statement

U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, who represents Delray Beach and areas north of the city, has made a political statement with her choice of a guest at tonight’s congressional address by President Donald Trump.

Frankel will bring Fort Pierce resident Sherry Riggs, a 55-year-old woman who has told Frankel that she is alive only because of the Affordable Care Act. Trump has voted to repeal the 2010 healthcare law, though he has offered no specifics. Congressional Republicans and some GOP governors are urging caution on repeal.

According to Frankel’s office, Riggs moved to Florida from Michigan. Because of a divorce in 2015, she lost her health insurance. Riggs has a pre-existing heart condition. After Riggs obtained coverage through the Affordable Care Act marketplace, she required two surgeries, one of them an open-heart procedure. A Frankel staffer said Riggs remains unable to work but is recovering.

At a Monday news conference, Riggs said, “The Affordable Care Act saved my life twice and it continues to save it every day. I don’t know what I would do without it.” Repeal of the law would be “very frightening.”