Why We Need to be O "Leery" About a Cove Parking Garage - 04/03/09
This article was almost titled "Why a Parking Garage Will Never Be Built at the Cove." I believe that a garage will not be built there any time soon because of the cost and the questionable benefit. Private investors would run away from this in a split second, if anyone suggested private financing. Mine may be the minority view, however.
A parking garage in the Cove Shopping Center seems almost inevitable if you believe the talk. Just about everybody thinks we need more parking to accommodate not only the stores and restaurants, but the people who use the Cove parking lot to park and go to the beach. We don't have land to expand parking on the ground. So a parking structure, as they like to call these buildings, is the only the way to go. But wait! It may not be all that simple.
We've been talking about a parking garage in the Cove for at least ten years, maybe longer. Certainly since before any serious discussion was had on ways to improve the shopping center itself. Five or six years ago, the city moved its focus away from a parking monstrosity on the beach -- because voters told the city they didn't want a parking monstrosity on the beach -- to a parking garage in the Cove. It awarded the design contract to Bill Gallo. The garage design soon became a parking garage with retail space beneath. Keep the concept of air rights in mind.
If it is so obvious a need, why wasn't the Gallo project, or some other design, ever built? In a word: cost. A five story garage in the Cove will cost millions -- at least $15 million. Just who is going to pay for this? Will we hear the same questionable deal that was proposed with the commercial garage at the beach?
So, as the revived discussion continues, it will become a debate. Some will oppose the garage because of how it will look in just about the only place it can be put. That happens to be the land owned by Mike O'Leary, partner in the famous MOP group (it's famous to people who know the history of beach redevelopment), which just happened to own the land on which the commercial parking garage in the beach business district was to be built.
The proposed deal there, secretly negotiated by then city manager Larry R. Deetjen and MOP, involved air rights -- a public-private partnership that would have the city finance a parking garage to be built over retail space.
Based on what we heard at the workshop on March 31st, this appears to be where we are headed at the Cove. O'Leary would grant air rights to the city to construct a parking structure over retail establishments or restaurants he would own, using revenue bond or other public monies.
Now this might sound like a good plan, but it may not be a good deal for the city. If private investors thought that a garage has profit potential, they would build it themselves. But they know it will be a loser from the git-go. Why? Because the parking garage will be competing with free parking. No one is going to park in the garage if there is free parking available in the lot. And, most of the time, there is. You can bet your bippy that the parking garage, if built, will be mostly empty most of the time. It will not generate the revenue needed to pay off the bond that finances it. The only person who comes out of this deal with change in his pocket is the owner of the land.
The public needs to keep their collective eye on this one. O'Leary is cozy with people at City Hall. "Friendship" sometimes obscures business sense. Remember how certain city officials were ready to jump headlong into a similar pact with O'Leary on the beach and an even more outrageous deal over the pier restaurant.
Correction. The O'Leary investment group did not own the land at 120 N.E. 20th Ave. (now known as the USA Parking Garage), but held a 50-year lease on the property executed in June, 2001.
The New London Case - 06/30/05
Homeowners in Deerfield Beach are understandably concerned about the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Kelo v. New London. The majority embraced a broad interpretation of the concept of "public use" as it pertains to a state's power of eminent domain.
People who own property within a redevelopment district may have special cause for concern because the fact that the houses targeted in the New London case were to be taken pursuant to a comprehensive plan for redevelopment was a supporting point in the Court's opinion. (It was not a random taking.)
Presumably, properties in a CR area would be of greatest interest to developers and public development agencies, although the decision can be applied conceptually to almost any property within or without a CR area, as well as to personal and intellectual property.
The New London, Connecticut, case set off a wave of editorial criticism and calls for legislation. Property rights advocates hoped that the Court might go in a different direction with this case because the constitutional limits on the use of eminent domain for economic development, if any, had been obscured by the evolving "public purpose" doctrine.
Addressing the Supreme Court decision, Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist stated that Florida law affords greater protection of property rights than Connecticut. "Under Florida law, only if property is designated as a blighted area can it be taken through the extraordinary power of eminent domain for redevelopment, and then only if it would primarily serve a public purpose."
Crist said that "eminent domain is not available in Florida if the benefit to a private party is the paramount purpose of the project. While it is usually true that every new business, manufacturing facility or industrial plant will provide some benefit to the city in which it is located, under Florida law these benefits to the public are not sufficient by themselves to allow for the taking of private property. [emphasis added]
"Florida law allows for the taking of private property for redevelopment purposes only where there exists a substantial number of deteriorated structures, economic distress or danger to life or property, as well as other additional requirements. In short, an area must be proven to be 'blighted' before government can begin the process of taking private property for private redevelopment."
States have the inherent power to take private property for a clear public use, such as roads, schools and parks, which are generally publicly-owned facilities. Roads, education, parks and water supply are legitimate governmental functions. "Public purpose" became the key phrase as the Court held that eminent domain could be used to acquire rights-of-way for public utilities and railroads, which are usually privately owned entities in the United States. It was the only practical means. There have always been tensions in constitutional law between the needs of commerce and personal liberties.
"Public purpose" was further extended when governments got into slum reclamation. Redevelopment of blighted areas could serve a public purpose, the courts said, even when the property would eventually be transferred to another private owner. An example of this would be slum converted to affordable housing that could be purchased by low-income people.
The only thing that distinguishes the latter example from the New London case is that the reclamation in New London was not of a slum, by any common definition, but a well-kept middle class neighborhood; and not for the specific benefit of the residents of the neighborhood, but for the building of an upscale hotel project. Local officials decided this served a "public purpose" because it would create jobs and additional revenues for the city.
The prevailing jurisprudence holds that the definition of a slum or blighted area is a legislative determination, not a matter for the courts. There is no constitutional basis for saying that a tenement slum in an urban area is a slum and that Deerfield Beach is not.
So once the Supreme Court allowed cities to use eminent domain to reclaim "slum" areas, it opened the door to virtually any project aimed at economic development. States and local authorities had the power to decide what projects would be useful to their jurisdictions. Moreover, there is no operable constitutional distinction between a scum-bag slum lord and a hard-working middle class person like Mrs. Kelo -- both own property that local governments decided could be put to better use for the "public good."
Those who defended the rights of property owners in the New London case argued that there are valid distinctions based, for example, on the probability that the hoped-for public benefits would actually occur. Obviously, the prospects for any reclamation project or any project for which property is taken for a clear public use, let's say a road, are different from a business venture which entails most of the usual business risks. Unless a public road goes from nowhere to nowhere, there is a good chance the road will be used by the public. But the supposed public benefits of building a hotel on Kelo's land is less assured. Unless the hotel is profitable and sustainable as a business, the projected economic benefits will not be realized and Kelo and her neighbors will have been deprived of their homes for no actual "public purpose."
The fact that no such distinctions apparently exist in federal constitutional jurisprudence does not mean that states and local governments cannot establish limits on the use of eminent domain for economic development or, for that matter, for clear public uses. Furthermore, what are "permissible" uses of eminent domain and "abuse" of the eminent domain authority is partly a matter of public perception which may be a catalyst for political action. In the end, the Kelo v. New London decision notwithstanding, voters can remove local and state governments that are perceived as abusing the rights of citizens.
The only reason that Mrs. Kelo is facing confiscation of her property in New London and a property owner in Hollywood, Florida, is facing condemnation proceedings against his building to make way for a condominium project in its CR area, is that redevelopment plans have been made which may require, and political authorities in those towns are willing to use, eminent domain to implement them. Redevelopment plans in New London, Hollywood and Deerfield Beach were not brought down from a mountain engraved on stone tablets by messengers of God, but were drafted and approved by elected public officials.
When the CR plan was developed for Deerfield Beach and the CRA established, there was little vocal public opposition to it, but there could have been. CRAs are supposed to be created for the reclamation of "blighted" neighborhoods plagued by crime and disease (i.e., slums), and the main beneficiaries of redevelopment, as we understand the law, are supposed to be the residents of the neighborhood. Was this a description of the beach area?
The public had no direct say-so in the approval of the CRA plan, but acquiesced. This is probably the history of most of the CRAs established in the beach towns.
On the other hand, many people like what has happened in the beach area partly as a result of the CR plan. They've given little or no thought to how beach residents have been affected or to the long-term implications of short-sighted policies for the rest of the community. It has yet to be seen whether the decision in the New London case or the Hollywood matter will galvanize public opinion in a different direction against aggressive government-sponsored redevelopment whose success depends on strong-arm tactics, such as direct confiscation of property or confiscatory taxes.
There is a clear difference between a land use change which occurs "naturally" by the forces of economics and redevelopment that is politically inspired and enforced through instrumentalities like the CRAs.
This having been said, there may be ways to protect the rights of homeowners whose houses are in harms way. Citizens' Bills of Rights could be incorporated into local charters, or into state laws and constitutions, prescribing limits to eminent domain authority by local redevelopment agencies. Redevelopment policies could be reformed so that the use of eminent domain is not part of the plan and, of course, pro-development officials who support eminent domain to achieve narrow economic development goals or special interests could be put out of office.
Most of the redevelopment which has occurred since 1999 in Deerfield Beach could have happened without a CRA or CR plan, anyway. Eminent domain has not been used, so the issue of using it in the way seen in the New London case is hypothetical. Still, we can think of possibilities based just on the known plans for the CR area in Deerfield Beach.
The Reason Foundation is a "nonpartisan public policy research [group that] promotes
choice, competition, and a dynamic market economy as the foundation for human dignity and progress." Its stated "mission is to advance a free society by developing, applying, and promoting libertarian principles, including individual liberty, free markets, and the rule of law." The Reason Foundation has produced a useful study of redevelopment policy entitled Eminent Domain, Private Property, and Redevelopment: An Economic Development Analysis. The authors are
Samuel R. Staley, Ph.D. and John P. Blair, Ph.D.
As suggested on this web site, public redevelopment policy which sets its sites to changing land uses in an area is a form of central economic planning. Central planning, whether its purpose is to direct land uses or the production of goods, is an economic system not consonant with "choice, competition, and a dynamic market economy." It should come as no surprise that when redevelopment authorities operate under a sort of Hegelian idealism in which political institutions become indispensable instruments of progress, property rights are redefined and subjugated to larger social goals. This is in essence what has happened in the evolution of eminent domain law. For this reason, the Kelo v. New London decision may serve as a kind of wake up call and stimulate reform in the way local and state governments approach the issues of growth and redevelopment.
Staley and Blair's paper for the Reason Foundation recommends that urban policymakers "focus on the achievable, not grand visions for change, transformation and redevelopment" as a step toward reformation of redevelopment policy. This web site would take this idea further and propose that the city get out of redevelopment altogether and refocus on the fundamental responsibilities of municipal government to protect the health, safety and welfare of the community.
Staley-Blair recommend other reforms in public policy which include:
-Providing leadership that is focused and transparent to create accountability.
-Respecting the rights of all citizens, not just those able to access the political process.
-Encouraging voluntary and incremental redevelopment to build a strong foundation for future development by securing property rights for a broad-based citizenry and business community, not those with political access to economic development initiatives.
-Rigorously evaluating blight determinations to limit the arbitrary and often capricious use of eminent domain to serve narrow public and private interests.
These reforms are consistent with the recommendations on this web site for ethics reform, a Citizens' Bill of Rights, and new leadership at City Hall. A couple of points:
In a previous article we wrote: "The key is political reform at two levels. First, a new set of public officials must be brought in who are not influenced by developer and other special redevelopment interests and are willing to take a more balanced or modulated approach to this issue." Second, we stated, "structural reforms" are needed in the CRA and city government.
The conventional wisdom is that the CRA cannot be abolished at this late date and we have adopted this position for the time being, but not necessarily for all time. However, we believe that the administration of the CRA as part of a process of structural reform, including the direction of planning and policy, could be shifted away from developers and special interests to the welfare of the citizens most impacted by the activities of the CRA. We have suggested that structural reform include "Creation of [a] representative body of citizens most directly impacted by new construction at the beach [not to include developers]. This body cannot legally be vested with control of the CRA, but its findings, determinations, and recommendations must be given considerable weight in practice by city officials and the city commission."
We have also recommended "Impact analysis of all proposed construction, requiring all proponents to mitigate directly the impact of their projects as a pre-condition to approval."
Our proposal is not for a House of Lords but for a simple committee of residents who live in the CR area who would evaluate how a proposed construction would impact the neighborhood. We believe that if proponents were required to show how they would mitigate adverse impacts at their cost, it would change the economics of redevelopment enough that developers would be less inclined to plan "overdevelopment" projects and more inclined to conform to the established guidelines.
Reforms along these lines and as suggested by Staley-Blair will not occur, however, without new leadership in city government with a different orientation on the issue. The March, 2005, election resulted in three new faces on the city commission, but not necessarily a dramatic shift in philosophical position with respect to beach redevelopment and other reforms like a code of ethics. The city manager and the mayor form the "pro-development" axis in city government of which Mr. Trinchitella was a member. Gonot has been pro-development generally and Popelsky was also, as a Planning & Zoning Board member. These terms are a bit nebulous, but by "pro-development" we mean a public official or board member who is willing to give considerable latitude to developers in their proposed schemes, resulting in what some people call "overdevelopment."
This web site has eschewed the term "anti-development" because it is not accurately descriptive of any position in the debate. What some people want is development to occur within a reasonable set of rules established to protect adjacent residents and the community as a whole. They want to give citizens a voice in major decisions, to the extent they are interested, especially when city-owned property is involved. They want the rules or guidelines to be stable and not subject to change merely to accommodate a project. They hope that twenty or thirty years from now Deerfield Beach, the beach area itself, will be a nice place to live and to go and not a row of empty storefronts and burned out restaurants.
But the elections of 2005 and the events that occurred after the installation of the new commission with respect to the city manager show how difficult it is to achieve the new leadership and needed reforms which will make it less probable that the city will engage in the future in the type of actions we saw in New London, Connecticut, or in our neighbor Hollywood, Florida. It is clear that the business-developer sector is still the most influential political faction and will no doubt exert extraordinary effort and pressure on the commission to keep Mr. Deetjen as city manager.
Given Deetjen's political style and unprofessional behavior, as well as his inclination to operate secretly, significant reform is not achievable. Within this commission term there will be efforts to reinstate term limits and enact a code of ethics, but these initiatives cannot be assured success if the "pro-development axis" continues to hold sway over the commission.
On the other hand, the impact of redevelopment and the evolving jurisprudence redefining property rights in favor of powerful developer interests could stimulate more political action and citizen initiative for reform. Over the past few years, political action by citizens has been effective in Deerfield Beach.
Pete's On the Beach - 05/01/04
Is the new plan for the fishing pier just a dumb business deal on the part of city officials or is there more to it than that? Some citizens think so and have urged law enforcement agencies to take a look at the scheme. At the minimum, it appears that there may have been "sunshine" violations, as public contracts are required to be negotiated openly. Even now, it is very difficult to draw out all the "facts" relevant to the proposal.
This is an outline of the plan: Take the pier parking lot, the only place for patrons to park; a portion of a public street that provides access to the beach; and a section of beachfront away from the people and kids of Deerfield Beach and give it to a Boca Raton restaurateur for a fraction of the potential market value of the property.
Pete Boinis gets to use this public land for 54 years and Deerfield Beach gets another "upscale" restaurant that most citizens neither want nor need.
As the approval process moves along, a clearer picture is emerging of a plan for the city-owned pier restaurant far grander than any previously proposed.
Before Boinis unveiled his proposal for a new restaurant on the city property connected to the International Pier before the Community Appearance Board and the P & Z, little was known by the public except that Boinis had teamed up with the city's contractual pier restaurant operator to develop a new idea.
In typical fashion when city staffers and City Manager Larry Deetjen are involved, and we are convinced they are deeply involved, the public was kept in the dark as long as possible in order to stifle what is now certain to be considerable opposition from members of the public. There are still lots of questions to be answered. Lots of questions.
One of the most important questions, of course, is what would be a fair deal for the city if it really needed this plan. As it now stands, it looks as if this would be a sweet, sweet proposition for Boinis and his partners. Paying around $12,500 a month, the developer will be able to build and operate a restaurant on city land that could easily gross that much or more in a day. He or his assigns would enjoy this privilege for more than half a century.
The Boinis proposal is the latest entry in the master puzzle to commercialize and redevelop the beach area for the profit of developers and private investors. The first step was the proposal six years ago to redevelop the Main Beach Parking Lot, which is the largest facility on the beach for parking, for commercial use.
After voters rejected the first proposal for the parking lot, the city established a community redevelopment agency for the beach area and proposed a new scheme of measuring permissible commercial densities on the beach. Technically, this scheme, known as a "regional activity center," would reduce overall densities, but would enlarge considerably the area in which commercial development could take place, thus facilitating such development. The RAC proposal is at the county level awaiting approval, but is in stasis. The county Planning Council has advised the Board of County Commissioners not to allow further RACs on the barrier island. Meanwhile, coastal cities, including Deerfield Beach, are fighting county oversight of development and trying to nullify the county's power to review development plans in the state legislature.
On top of the CRA and RAC proposal is the traffic plan for the beach area, recently adopted by the commission and integrated into the county Long Range Transportation Plan. Taken together with the RAC, this is clearly a plan for expansion of the commercial district and the development of a commercial strip that would extend from the North Beach Pavilion to Hillsboro Boulevard.
In the past few years, Capellini and the city commissioners have given developers almost everything they asked for and now want taxpayers to repair the damage done by excessive and poorly planned development by "realigning" the roads in the beach area. The commission has routinely ignored the city codes which define such things as how much of a parcel of land a new building may occupy. The result is oversized buildings that come right up to the road without the usual setback. Along A1A, this means it would be almost impossible to widen the road in the future without considerable destruction of property on the east side of the road.
At the minimum, this is bad planning which has ignored vocal public concerns and simply refused realistically to consider the impact of development projects on traffic congestion for which there would be no practical solution. In the Boinis situation, supporters claim that the proposal will have no discernible impact on traffic or parking in the beach area. Common sense says otherwise.
When there was a public outcry about the parking garage proposed by a private investment group for the beach area because the plan exceeded the floor-to-area ratios, the commission changed the rules to accommodate the developer. Under Deetjen and Capellini, the commission will stop at nothing to make sure developers get what they want.
The commission has defied the will of the people. They plan to go ahead with a public parking garage on the beach and other projects even though voters time and time again have rejected development of city property. In three separate referendum elections, voters have said they don't want overdevelopment of the beach area.
Now comes the proposal for the pier restaurant by Pete Boinis.
Boinis has formed a limited liability company called Deerfield Pier LLC whose registered address is 7940 Glades Road, the same as Pete's Restaurant in Boca. John Boinis, who is president of Pete's Restaurant, developed the troublesome J.B.'s on the Beach, which is two doors north of the pier site. (For whatever difference it makes, plan supporters are very adamant that John, not Pete Boinis, was the man behind J.B.'s.)
Why do we say "troublesome?" Because J.B.'s on the Beach has been one of the main factors in increased traffic congestion along A1A. No provision was made for parking. Patrons are valeted to the parking lot across the street. Parking for employees was never considered until after construction of the site. Now Pete Boinis is set to make the same mistake at the pier.
The International Pier is city property and no one has a right to build on that land if it is not in the public interest. Boinis is not the legal pier restaurant operator and would not be denied any due process rights if his proposal is rejected.
The city commission is poised to grant a long-term lease of this, one of our most valuable public assets, to Pete Boinis for much less than it is potentially worth. Boinis is asking for a 54 year lease term.
Boinis proposes to pay rent to the city of $150,000 per year. The first proposal known to the public was that Boinis would pay $100,000 per year. This property has a potential market value of millions, judging from the worth of adjacent properties. It would be interesting to know how much this land will be worth in 2060 and how much $100,000 or $150,000 will be worth 54 years from now. (One estimate is that the rent that Boinis and his successors will be paying in the final years of the lease would be around $1,500 2004 dollars).
The proposed restaurant is almost twenty times the size of the fast-food eatery at the pier. It would seat 449 people.
Some opponents of the pier proposal argue that the current restaurant operator, who is the partner in the Boinis deal, is effectively in default, having failed previously to develop the site in accordance with his ten year old lease. Yet the city has not sought to terminate the lease and go out for bids on a new deal.
Instead the city has allowed Pete Boinis to enter the picture, without any competitive process. This investor has, in effect, taken over the pier contract without the prior approval of the commission, and without competition from other potential developers or consideration of other possible plans for this site. Of course, most of this was done without the knowledge of the public.
But we doubt this happened without the knowledge of city officials. In fact, we think the city manager and staff, and probably the mayor, have been in on this project from the beginning.
It is difficult to imagine that Boinis developed such an elaborate and radical plan without the cooperation of key city officials. In a case like this, violation of Sunshine Laws is always a concern.
Evidence of city involvement in the planning of this project is what happened in April, 2003. Almost unnoticed, the commission repealed a provision of the city code which required voter approval of any city lease over 30 years.
The "750K" provision of the city charter requires voter approval of any sale, gift, trade, transfer or lease of city property worth more than $750,000. This was what voters added to the charter in the 1998 referendum election. The main purpose of the amendment was to prevent the city from leasing or selling the Main Beach Parking Lot to private investors for commercial development, but it also applied to all public properties, including the parking lot and street next to the pier.
At the same time, a city ordinance, s. 30-156(d), required voter approval of any long-term lease of city property (30 years+) worth over $1 million. Section 30-156(d) also contained a provision applicable to the sale of city property which had effectively been overwritten by the charter amendment. On April 22d, 2003, the city commission repealed subsection (d) and replaced it with the language of the amended charter, s. 7.09(2).
The pier restaurant concession is a specific exception to s. 7.09(2). However, the code still would have required voter approval of a lease of the pier restaurant and/or the adjacent land if the term were over 30 years and the value over $1 million. Keep in mind that Boinis is asking for a 54 year lease on all the land west of the pier, including a portion of the street. His proposal is not a short-term concession contract of the type contemplated in the exception to the 750K charter provision.
Thus, the repeal of subsection (d) a year ago made it possible for the city to negotiate a long-term lease of the parking lot adjacent to the pier with Pete Boinis or someone else without the inconvenience of an election, which Boinis and city would probably lose.
Was this action merely a "technical correction" of an ordinance that had been partly superseded by a charter amendment, which coincidentally worked to the advantage of Pete Boinis? Or was it part of a plan of which the city manager had full knowledge and worked out with Boinis behind closed doors?
In an article that we posted on this web site in April, 2003, we predicted: "The repeal of subsection (d) would pave the way for a long-term lease of the parking lot adjacent to the pier for a big, full service pier restaurant on city land without having to submit the matter for voter approval."
Another convenient thing happened last year. The fire. You may remember that the city had already approved a site plan for an expanded restaurant submitted by the legal pier operator. For whatever reason, the operator did not move ahead with his plan, and prospects that it would ever happen faded. Then, just as the subject of an expanded restaurant was heating up again, a mysterious fire damaged the restaurant. The restaurant was then closed until March of this year, but reopened after an inexplicably long time and almost at the same time as the Boinis proposal surfaced.
It was also conveniently discovered just after the fire that much of the building attached to the pier, including the restaurant and bait house, was in disrepair, something that would cost taxpayers to fix. This was announced to the commission by the city manager several months ago. As part of his proposal, Boinis has said he will repair the bait house structure. However, the proposed lease provides that Boinis will be reimbursed by the city for any improvements he makes to the pier property in the form of a rent credit.
Then, there is the new traffic scheme for the beach, which was recently adopted by the commission. The details of this plan, which includes a "circulation loop" to redirect the flow of traffic, are outlined elsewhere on this web site.
One aspect of the new restaurant proposal, which was a surprise because it was never mentioned in any of the previous discussions about the pier restaurant and created considerable confusion at the outset, is the closure or partial closure of N.E. 2d Street connecting A1A to Ocean Way. This street provides public access to the beach and also to the main entrance of Howard Johnson's. It has not yet clear what the plans are for Ocean Way south of the pier, if it were no longer usable as a road for vehicular traffic. But this innocuous sounding proposal could be as significant as the "circulation loop."
The consultant who drew up the traffic plan says he did not know about this at all. We half believe him, but the fact is that his plan for the three lane road which would extend from Hillsboro Boulevard to the North Beach Pavilion (or thereabouts) fits perfectly into the closure of 2d Street at this location. It also provides another piece of the puzzle as to what Deetjen and the city want to do with this area of the beach front.
Very soon, we expect the city may also propose the closure of Ocean Way between the pier and Hillsboro Boulevard, converting this into a pedestrian mall that would front on new commercial/mixed use and/or restaurant development between Howard Johnson's and Hillsboro. We already know that Rettger's Resort wants to build a mixed use project that would include a restaurant. What about the vacant land just south of Rettger's? This commercial strip would be serviced by the new three lane road on its west side, which would also front Boinis' new pier restaurant, Ocean 234, J.B.'s and other commercial or mixed use development on the west side of A1A across from J.B.'s and the North Beach Pavilion.
Taken in this context, then, what appears at first to be an over-the-top proposal for the pier restaurant, seems to fit right into a larger plan for a commercial strip extending along the beach front from the North Beach Pavilion to Hillsboro Boulevard, and serviced by a new three lane road which would provide a common turn lane for easier access into the commercial establishments.
Also, don't forget the parking garage proposed for the Main Beach Parking Lot. This would anchor the south end of this commercial strip and make up for parking lost along Ocean Way, if it is closed, and also parking spaces lost by the destruction of hotel parking lots necessary to implement the plan for the "circulation loop."
Thus it appears that the pier restaurant proposal by Pete Boinis may accommodate an even larger plan, cooked up by the city manager and Mayor Capellini, to bring substantial commercial development to Deerfield Beach.
It will not be easy to defeat this proposal. We believe that at least three, or possible four, of the commissioners are already committed to this plan. Four votes are required for adoption.
Thinking Outside the Box - 10/10/02
Almost every city on the coast of Florida has established a community redevelopment area and is pursuing aggressive development policies in collaboration with developers and land speculators to transform their beach areas into hell holes of commercialization and high-end condo properties. As Deerfield Beach residents know only too well, along with this comes redevelopment politics, in common parlance known as corruption. There are exceptions.
A case in point is Surfside, Florida, a small town located near Miami and Miami Beach. It is an affluent town compared to Deerfield Beach, with a medium income of around $51,000. Surfside has about 5,000 residents and occupies less than 1/2 square mile on the barrier island. As such, it would certainly be an attractive target for high-end development of the type underway in our beach area.
Voters in Surfside have chosen to preserve the town's environment over excessive development. The official web site explains the community's redevelopment philosophy:
"Special interests that profit from overdevelopment push for publicly funded
infrastructure projects and zoning changes that serve to facilitate more and
more development, and the cycle continues. Overdevelopment is spiraling out
of control in Southeast Florida.
"In some municipal and county jurisdictions, economic development for the
few often outweighs the best interests of the many -- the people. Meanwhile,
Surfside has consistently stood as an example of how a municipal government
can reject special interests and succeed in focusing upon the continual
protection, enhancement and beautification of a community. We remain
steadfastly dedicated to those policies and principles and all municipal
decisions, plans and operations are governed by a commitment to properly
balancing individual rights and the community's interest in its overall
present and future."
This sounds a lot like what we have been writing here. Next time you stroll down Deerfield Beach or drive along A1A, compare what you see with what has happened in a city (albeit a smaller one) which has a different stance on the subject of redevelopment.
As stated on its web site, Surfside has been consistent in implementing its comprehensive plan and zoning ordinances. Town officials have denied all requests and proposals for exceeding the limitations of the municipal zoning code. In the past decade Surfside officials have not granted a single variance for height or density of buildings. On the other hand, the town has approved many new projects within the code and in keeping with the character of the neighborhood and surrounding area. In fact, the renovation and redevelopment that has occurred has actually resulted in overall density decreases, according to town officials!
Redevelopment not only alters the physical appearance of an area, but also may impact the political landscape as well. Deerfield Beach residents are well aware of this; and the corruption of city administration seems to extend to other issues also. Surfside officials, on the other hand, have tried to insure that the public has adequate opportunity to be heard in all decisions regarding the city's future development. They have conducted numerous public hearings and workshops on issues of comprehensive planning, zoning, and municipal codes.
Mayor Paul D. Novack and the town commission have set March 16th, 2004, as the date of a referendum election. Voters will be asked to approve a charter amendment that development density and building height cannot be increased without voter approval. Surfside officials state that any consideration, at any time in the future, that may allow for an increase in the density or height of buildings would be a fundamental and substantial change in managing growth for the future of the town. Surfside’s leadership also recognizes, advocates and supports the value of public participation in such crucial activities.
They say that public participation in decisions relating to these issues will lead to more informed, more representative, more transparent, and overall better decisions. The future of Surfside, like other communities in Florida, depends upon its land use and planning decisions. For these reasons, the commission has proposed the charter amendment that will give citizens the choice of whether they wish to reserve to themselves the final authority to make any fundamental decisions regarding the future of the town’s zoning limitations. Self-evident is the fact that the charter amendment would tend to protect the town's policies against arbitrary changes by future commissions.
[Note: the referendum was passed by a vote of 1055 for and 98 against.]
Surfside stands out as a place where public officials are committed to the needs of the community over the greed of developers. Voters in a number of towns have forced their city governments to adopt regulations limiting the height of buildings that can be built near the coast. The most extreme measure we know of is Treasure Island, where voters have reserved to themselves the authority to approve a project over 10 stories and requires that any such project must receive the approval of at least 50% of the registered voters.
Treasure Island (2002)
Deerfield Beach (2002)
Cocoa Beach (1996, made more restrictive 2002)
Bay Harbor (2001)
Miami Beach (1997)
Surfside (1991, restrictions placed in town charter 2004)
This list comes from articles by Fred Grimm in the Miami Herald, November 24th, 2002, and March 16th, 2004 and information from the Miami-Dade County Supervisor of Elections.