SPECIAL REPORT TO THE MEMBERSHIP DECEMBER 11, 2002
SICA’s STRATEGIC & PHILOSOPHICAL FOUNDATION
Over the past several months a great deal of activity has occurred with regard to development and redevelopment activities which, when completed, will have a significant impact on both Singer Island and the Mainland. The first of these activities is the Riviera Beach re-development plan, which has officially commenced under the direction and control of the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA). The second is the proposed plan to replace the Canopy Palms and establish a new Resort Hotel (RH) District which has generated intense controversy and debate.
This document is intended to report to the membership, the nature of these activities as well as the related actions taken by SICA to best address the concerns of our membership and the residents of the Island, and the needs of the greater community.
A special SICA Member’s meeting has been called to begin right after our regular monthly meeting on December 11th at the Crowne Plaza Hotel at 7:00 P.M. The reason for this second meeting is to hold an open discussion about these issues and the manner in which the SICA Board of Directors, as your representative, has responded to them. It is hoped that the information contained in this report, along with member input, will help develop the consensus needed to better address some very complex issues and help us move forward together in shaping our future.
Attendance is expected to be high and discussion lively. In order to maintain decorum and civility, the meeting will be conducted in accordance with SICA by-laws, which include “Roberts Rules of Order”.
Approximately two years ago, under the leadership of former President John Nevin, SICA began a major shift in strategic direction. This shift would change the approach the organization used to address issues such as the Island–Mainland relationship and City politics. SICA’s Executive Committee believed that a productive and proactive approach needed to be pursued.
The elections of 1999 and 2000 brought new leadership to the Mayor’s office and City Council and also new opportunities for SICA to engage on a more positive level. (It is worth noting that none of the SICA endorsed candidates won in these local elections.) These elections were hard fought and resulted in an increased lack of trust between SICA and Riviera Beach City Government.
In 2001, planning began for designating Mr. Nevin’s successor as President of SICA and for continuing the strategic direction begun under his term. Asked to consider serving, Tony Gigliotti agreed to stand for nomination to the Presidency for the term beginning 2002. Around the same time, the SICA Executive Committee held a meeting at City Hall with the Mayor and the City Manager to try to establish a more constructive and positive relationship with the City Government. A few weeks later, as the result of this meeting, the SICA Board was able to hold a “very positive and productive” meeting with Mayor Brown.
Continuing its efforts to create an open dialogue with the City Government, the Executive Committee commenced a series of breakfasts with newly elected Councilman, David Schnyer. Winning the confidence of a majority of the Officers and Directors, Mr. Schnyer continued to meet with the Officers on a regular basis. In 2002, Mr. Schnyer, already a SICA member, was nominated and elected to the Board of Directors.
In February of 2002, Mr. Gigliotti was elected President of SICA. Since taking office, he and the current Board have continued SICA’s strategic direction as established by Mr. Nevin and the previous Board. Simply stated, this strategic direction is based on the guiding principle that by defining areas of common interest and concern between the Island, the Mainland and City Government, and by creating and maintaining an ongoing dialogue combined with a spirit of mutual respect, solutions to the City’s problems can be found that are to everyone’s mutual benefit.
By adhering to this strategic direction for the past 18 months, SICA has greatly improved its working relationship with City Government. At many levels, with an ongoing dialogue in place, slowly but surely areas of concern are being addressed.
RIVIERA BEACH REDEVELOPMENT PLAN
The redevelopment plan continues to move forward at an increasingly faster pace. In an effort to keep abreast of the Plan and in order to maintain an open dialogue with the CRA Board and Staff, the SICA Board has, to date, held four special meetings with the CRA Management and Staff. The latest of these meetings was held on November 21st. The goal of these meetings is to learn as much as we can about the plan so we can convey information to the membership.
Additionally, we want to present a forum which encourages, as well as enables, public input on potentially impacted quality of the life issues such as design, density, location, traffic impact, desirability, etc. Ultimately, it is hoped that we will be able to provide support for the completion of the plan once it is totally examined.
Also, due to the growing concern over the Canopy Palms project a decision was made to include as invited guests to this meeting, the Presidents from the Yacht Harbor Manor Property Owners Association, Palm Beach Isles Homeowners Association and the Condominium Officers Association of Singer Island.
TOPICS OF DISCUSSION AT THE 11/21/2002 MEETING
•Days Inn site — present plans call for a32-story condo, 5000 sq. ft. Beach club and parking. No hotel. •Ocean Mall site – present plans call for a 19-story condo (100)/ hotel (300) with a 50,000 square foot conference center, promenade shops and restaurants, , and 900 space parking. Property to include present mall and parking lot back to Sands hotel, Buddies, and Max and Edies. •Aquarium – Location not yet final. Naming completed (Perry). Friends of Aquarium formed to raise funds sufficient to build the Facility and provide for endowment. •Beautification of Blue Heron Blvd. — Tree lined, wide boulevard planned for Blue Heron from I-95 to current Ocean Mall/new hotel area, and from the foot of Skyway Bridge north to Silver Beach Road. •Cracker Boy Boat Yard – no final determination yet. Value of yard to local economy and boaters was stressed. Dr. Herisse, Assistant CRA Director, introduced the CRA staff who discussed some elements of the process. He also indicated that the acquisition process is in place and proceeding.
At the end of the meeting, Mr. Gigliotti reiterated that SICA is committed to staying involved in the redevelopment process and continuing to maintain an open dialogue with the CRA Board.
CANOPY PALMS PROJECT & THE NEW RESORT HOTEL DISTRICT (RH) CODE
Over the past three years, the City’s Redevelopment Plan was created and the current Comprehensive Land Use Plan was amended to accommodate the Redevelopment Plan. This was approved by City Council in November 2001. The process to reach this point included numerous public hearings at three levels, including the CRA, the Planning and Zoning Board (P&Z) and the City Council.
The revised Comprehensive Land Use Plan included a new Resort Hotel District (RH) and associated code created for seven parcels south of Ocean Reef Park to the Days Inn site.
Subsequently, during the early summer of 2002, the owners of the Canopy Palms Resort submitted preliminary site plans for a multi-building replacement project. At this time residents of Yacht Harbor Manor and Palm Beach Isles, located across A1A from the Canopy Palms, upon learning of the size of this project became concerned. They immediately began to press the project developer for a reduction in both size and density.
In July 2002, Councilman Schnyer recommended that the developer’s representative meet with representatives of the Yacht Harbor Manor and Palm Beach Isles Associations to discuss the plan and gain their support before formally submitting the application. It is our understanding that at this meeting, the developer offered to beautify the ocean right-of-way owned by the associations along the southern boundary of his property and support was initially and tentatively received from the Associations’ Board and members.
The Planning and Zoning Board held a public hearing in August to address the Canopy Palms project plan. The P&Z was advised by City staff and City legal counsel that the proposed project met all requirements of the City’s Land Use Plan and ordinances. The P&Z reviewed the project and transmitted it to the City Council, with 3 of the 6 votes recommending disapproval.
At the September 4th City Council meeting, the City Council approved (5-0) the site plan application. Additionally, the Council approved the 1st reading of the new Resort Hotel District (RH) code, which allowed the previously permitted density to be doubled. The 2nd reading was scheduled for September 18 but was tabled to allow concerned citizens time to try to negotiate a reduction in both the density and overall size of the project with the developer.
On October 2nd, City Council approved at 2nd reading, the new Resort Hotel District (RH) code by a 4 to 1 vote with Councilman Schnyer dissenting. The Council also passed a 90 day moratorium on accepting any other applications under this new RH code until it could undergo further review by the City staff.
During this period there was intense activity and discussion over the Canopy Palms project. Some Island residents, becoming increasingly concerned, formed a new organization, The Citizens for Responsible Growth for Singer Island, to specifically oppose the project. Apparently, it was learned that the applicable code was flawed and did not properly define certain areas, i.e., what a room is or what a condo unit is. It was further determined that the 1983 MEAHOP (Minority Employment and Affordable Housing Opportunity Plan) ordinance had the effect of quadrupling density when coupled with the new Resort Hotel District (RH) code.
•SICA arranged a meeting with representatives of the Yacht Harbor Manor and Palm Beach Isles Associations to discuss approaches to mitigate the size and density of the proposed project. At SICA’s invitation Councilman Schnyer and City Manager Wilkins attended the meeting. •Mr. Gigliotti called all five Riviera Beach Council members and personally met with four of them to recommend disconnecting the MEAHOP ordinance from density considerations. •Mr. Gigliotti appeared before the CRA and recommended that the public notice provisions of the zoning ordinance be enhanced to include posting of signs, faxing and/or e-mailing agendas to all local home or property association presidents, using the web-site or any other means possible to alert the public. •SICA participated in having the City Council place a moratorium on the remaining (RH) parcels until the flawed ordinance was amended. •At SICA’s request, Mr. Schnyer arranged a private meeting with the developer’s representative to convey the intensity of opposition to the project and request that the developer reduce the size of the project. •SICA mailed notices to all members to attend the October 2nd meeting of the 2nd Reading of the new (RH) district code. •SICA, on October 9, 2002, held a special Board meeting to discuss SICA’s roll in the Canopy Palms Project controversy. The end result of the meeting was the unanimous passing of a motion authorizing SICA to remain actively engaged in supporting a density level that will maintain proportionality, quality of life and balanced growth on Singer Island. SUMMARY
The main problem faced by all involved or concerned with the Canopy Palms project, from elected or appointed officials to citizens is that, according to the P&Z staff and City Council, the project application conformed with the Comprehensive Plan and Land Development code, flawed as they were. Therefore, according to the Local Government Comprehensive Planning and Development Regulations Act of 1985, the plan, as submitted must be approved. Below are two examples from the act which guide the actions of commissioners.
“Each application must be judged against rules and regulations. If it is found that the application meets all the criteria set forth in the rules and regulations, Florida courts have uniformly determined that the development permit must be issued.”
Questions asked by a city commission in its review of applications.
•Is it consistent with the land development code? •Does it meet all the requirements of the land development code? If these two requirements are answered in the affirmative, then the permit should be issued. Notwithstanding the likes or dislikes of a commissioner, the law indicates that when those questions are answered in the affirmative, the discretion of the city commission disappears and the action of the commission is ministerial — that is, it must apply the code and issue the permit.
We are not lawyers, nor are we judges. What we have is a project that no one likes but that appears to be legal, a code that is flawed and does not define a hotel room versus a condo suite, and a 1983 ordinance, MEAHOP, that provides a bonus of doubling density under certain conditions.
Where we could, we have vigorously lobbied and acted to make our case before City Council.
The Board of SICA has elected to avoid litigation on its own or in conjunction with anyone else because as much as we dislike the project it appears, according to the Riviera Beach P&Z Staff, to have met the legal requirements under Florida regulation. To engage in litigation over an issue that appears to have met the legal threshold may invite a counter suit by the developer. Given our recent experience, i.e., our ongoing lawsuit, this is not a risk the Board believes would be in our in our best interest at this time.
Lastly, we believe that continuing to work in concert with the City leadership, the developer and the Citizens Group to broker, if at all possible a suitable compromise, is at this time, the best course of action to take.
In this document we have tried to present clearly, as much information as possible on some very complex subjects. We hope that the December 11th meeting will offer another opportunity for the membership to provide input into setting SICA’s future direction. We look forward to your questions and comments.