Residents Win/ Developers Lose

On Sept. 25,2017 the residents won a battle with developer Related, and while residents celebrate Related must be in shock due to the fact elected officials historically have done whatever necessary to insure their projects are approved.
City Hall was filled to capacity and the overflow watched the meeting in the Flagler Room which lasted until 11:00 PM. Many young, not old enough to vote residents wore t-shirts endorsing the OBD (Okeechobee Business District) project and sat in chairs in the commission chambers. When a resident came into the room they were asked which side they were on and if they were in favor of OBD a seat magically became available to them in the packed Commission Chambers.

Related sent residents 3 very impressive and expensive in appearance fliers promoting “One Flagler” and asked residents to check the box if you would approve the project. There was no box to check if you would NOT approve the project. Related’s second flier boasted “Endorsed by 2,500 West Palm Beach residents.” Now would be the time to mention WPB has over 107,000 residents.

The city spent over half a million dollars on a Mobility Study, and it’s not been completed or approved by the City Commission for one project namely Related’s “One Flagler” a 25 story tower on the waterfront, a site residents voted on 2 different occasions the buildings were not to exceed 5 stories.
This was spot zoning at it’s worst.

Rick Greene, Director Development Services, gave the presentation telling residents how great the project would be for the city, followed by a longer presentation by the director of the Mobility Study who gave the presentation the city wanted residents to hear. No downside. Mr. Greene should be made aware he draws his paycheck from the city of WPB and not Related.

“Coalition for Reasonable Development” sent 1 flier which showed the other side of the coin and any resident who rides the Okeechobee corridor would be aware this was the more honest opinion. Here were their Key Observations:
25% of all crashes in WPB occur in downtown.
33% of all crashes in downtown occur along Okeechobee Blvd.
28% of all fatal or serious injury crashes in downtown occur along Okeechobee Blvd.
From 2014-2016, 2,714 crashes occurred in the downtown at a rate of 2.5 crashes a day.

The city has paid even more money for studies on how to correct the traffic situation downtown and sponsor bicycling, walking and taking public transportation to alleviate the situation, while approving more construction in the downtown area.
One project under consideration is the “One West Palm” to be built downtown on Quadrille Blvd; by developer Jeff Greene; (not to be confused by City Administrator Jeff Green). This project will include two 30 story buildings consisting of 209,000 square feet of office space, hotel, and retail, along with 328 luxury apartments. Now here I am assuming that 328 luxury apt’s. would be purchased by couple’s both having their own vehicles. Can you picture these couples dressed in formal wear, jumping on their Schwinn or Raleigh bicycles and traveling to the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts to enjoy a show or Opera Night? May very well get bicycle grease on their tuxes or mink coats.

I have an idea I would share with readers. How about instead of handing developers large tax breaks the city require a one million dollar fee for every floor they build over 5 stories. The project mentioned above would bring an additional 50 million dollars to the city coffers. The city put’s 1/2 into the general fund and 1/2 into a police/ firemen fund to purchase much needed equipment. The city has a fire ladder truck being held together by duct tape and a prayer. I just witnessed a police cruiser where the 4 rims were so rusted out I would be afraid to drive it, and the officer’s computer handle was broken which made it hard to carry. In the city’s lean years the police/fire department gave up benefits to help the city with it’s budget. Well times are better so lets give these benefits back, and give them the equipment they need to get the job done.

In closing I would like to thank Commissioner’s Moffett, Neering, and Materio for listening to the residents and the facts and voting against the OBD. Commissioner Moffett will be running for re-election in March, and I ask voters to remember her vote Monday night. I heard a comment from Commissioner Materio and couldn’t believe my ears. She stated she did not believe Mr Green’s comment that this was not a case of “spot zoning” Good for her and us.
Also a Thank you to Coalition for Reasonable Development along with Citizens for Thoughtful Growth and Preserve WPB Citizens Coalition for their over site, keeping residents informed. Last but not least, the many residents who took the time to call, write and appear before the city commission to let their thoughts and feelings be known. This was a true grass roots endeavor, and you are to be commended for your effort.