Gardens approves new police contract with 6 percent raises

The Palm Gardens City Council will honor the police officers shot in Dallas at its meeting Thursday.
The Palm Gardens City Council approved a new agreement with the police union Thursday night.

Palm Beach Gardens officials voted 5-0 Thursday night to approve a new, three-year contract with police employees that grants six percent annual raises.

The agreement also boosts the minimum and maximum salaries for all positions by 3 percent in the first year of the contract, which will make Palm Beach Gardens more competitive in recruiting with similar departments in Palm Beach County for recruiting, Human Resources Administrator Sheryl Stewart told the City Council.

Councilman Bert Premuroso said officials should be appreciative of compromises police and firefighters made in previous years to get the city in a strong financial position. That, in turn, has allowed the city to make the adjustments that will make Palm Beach Gardens emergency personnel among the best-paid in the county, rightly so, he said.

“It’s certainly not taken lightly what they had to change and sacrifice over those years to really make it a team effort for our city to be successful,” Premuroso said.

The city made changes to police and firefighter pensions a few years ago to save millions of dollars. Police under the current contract earned 2.5 percent yearly raises. The new agreement takes effect Oct. 1.

Other provisions include 5 percent assignment pay to employees who are assigned to the traffic, K-9 or community involvement units or SWAT team. Community involvement officers and SWAT team members get no extra pay under the current agreement, while K-9 officers get monthly stipends and on-call pay.

There are 131 police officers, sergeants and communications operators in the Police Benevolent Association who are covered by the new police agreement, Stewart said. The total cost of the agreement for three years is about $2 million.

Gardens officials settle lawsuit over Avenir votes

The site of the Avenir development, to the north of Northlake Boulevard and the east of Coconut Boulevard, Wednesday, March 2, 2016. (Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)
The site of the Avenir development, to the north of Northlake Boulevard and the east of Coconut Boulevard, Wednesday, March 2, 2016. (Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)

The Palm Beach Gardens City Council unanimously voted Thursday to settle a lawsuit a West Palm Beach resident filed challenging approvals for Avenir.

Gary Alexander, who lives in the Ibis community across from the future development, on June 3 filed a complaint in Palm Beach County Circuit Court alleging Palm Beach Gardens should have posted signs on both Northlake Boulevard and Beeline Highway with the time, date and place of a City Council hearing about Avenir. Avenir Holdings intervened in the suit.

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The City Code doesn’t require such details be posted on signage at the property, according to Palm Beach Gardens Attorney Max Lohman, who said at a May 5 Council meetings that the postings were proper.

Alexander’s objections surrounded the notice for the meeting, during which officials rezoned 4,763 acres and the development’s master plan. The plan allows for 3,250 homes, 1.94 million square feet of office space, 200,000 square feet of medical offices, 400,000 square feet of commercial development, a 300-room hotel and a 55-acre public park at the property on the north side of Northlake Boulevard.

Vito DeFrancesco, a resident of the Shady Lakes neighborhood in Palm Beach Gardens, questioned why a provision of the agreement says it’s a private record that shall not be recorded in the Public Records.

The clause means the document won’t be recorded in the Public Records of Palm Beach County, which are maintained by the Clerk of the Circuit Court, Lohman and Avenir attorney Brian Seymour said. It doesn’t change the settlement agreement’s status as a public record of the city that’s maintained by the City Clerk.

Under the terms of the settlement, Avenir will recommend Palm Beach Gardens form a committee to review its charter and that Alexander be made part of the committee if he applies. The city agrees to consider establishing such a committee, including making Alexander a member if he applies and meets the qualifications.

Palm Beach Gardens will consider whether the time, date and location of a hearing should be included on signs at properties where development is proposed, according to the terms of the settlement.

After Alexander gets a copy of a letter Avenir is to deliver to the city recommending him for a charter review committee, he will drop the lawsuit with prejudice. That means he can’t file any other suit or claims he was denied due process, as he alleged in the June 3 complaint.

Avenir agrees to pay Alexander the $420 cost of bringing the lawsuit. Neither Palm Beach Gardens nor Avenir admits to the allegations in the suit.

Gardens to settle lawsuit over Avenir vote

This courtesy rendering shows what the shops and restaurants could look like in the Avenir development.
This courtesy rendering shows what the shops and restaurants could look like in the Avenir development.

Palm Beach Gardens officials are scheduled to vote Thursday to settle a lawsuit related to the 3,250-home Avenir development.

Ibis resident Gary Alexander filed a complaint June 3 in Palm Beach County Circuit Court in which he alleged the city should have posted at both Northlake Boulevard and the Beeline Highway signs that included the time, date and place of a City Council hearing.

Alexander’s objections surrounded the May 5 meeting at which Council approved rezoning 4,763 acres and the Avenir master plan. He asked the court to void the City Council votes.

Palm Beach Gardens in a court filing last month countered that Alexander never argued the city’s approval was inconsistent with the city’s comprehensive plan, as required by Florida law to challenge a local government decision.

City Attorney Max Lohman said during the meeting in May the property was properly posted. Neither Palm Beach Gardens nor Avenir Holdings admits to wrongdoing under the terms of the settlement.

Avenir Holdings intervened in the lawsuit. Under the terms of the settlement, the developer will recommend Palm Beach Gardens form a committee to review its charter and that Alexander be made part of the committee if he applies.

Palm Beach Gardens will review whether to require the time, date and location of a hearing should be included on signs at the properties where development is proposed, according to the terms of the proposed settlement.

The city will consider establishing a charter review committee for which Alexander will be considered as a member if he applies and meets the qualifications, according to the proposed settlement.

Avenir will pay Alexander the $420 cost for bringing the lawsuit under the terms of the proposed agreement.

In addition to houses, the Avenir master plan includes 1.94 million square feet of professional office space, 200,000 square feet of medical office, 400,000 square feet of commercial development, a 300-room hotel and a 55-acre public park.

 

Gardens gives OK to changes for Avenir development after negotiating fewer homes

Ken Tuma, principal of Urban Design Kilday Studios, speaks on behalf of the Avenir development during a hearing before the City of Palm Beach Gardens Planning, Zoning and Appeals Board Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015 in Palm Beach Gardens. (Bill Ingram / The Palm Beach Post)
Ken Tuma, principal of Urban Design Kilday Studios, speaks on behalf of the Avenir development during a hearing before the City of Palm Beach Gardens Planning, Zoning and Appeals Board Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015 in Palm Beach Gardens. (Bill Ingram / The Palm Beach Post)

Years of give-and-take have gone into drafting plans for the proposed Avenir development on the city’s western edge, but the newest concession wasn’t revealed until late Wednesday night.

Just before the City Council vote, which occurred around 11:15 p.m., to give early approval to changing the property’s land-use designation and moving an urban growth boundary, Mayor Eric Jablin announced he negotiated with the developer to once again reduce the number of houses in the project.

Jablin said he persuaded Avenir Holdings to plan for 3,250 homes instead of 3,985. Of those 3,250 homes, 250 homes are pledged for affordable/workforce housing. Plans at one time called for as many as 7,600 homes, which Jablin described as “totally unrealistic.”

One of the main concerns about Avenir has been traffic. Officials and the city’s planning staff said if Avenir isn’t developed, the volume of trips it’s been allotted will be used by other projects that have no benefit to the city.

“That, by itself, does not justify my support,” he said.

What does is the concessions Avenir Holdings has made. In addition to workforce housing, the developer has pledged to dedicate more than 2,000 acres to conservation, provide up to 50 acres of land for corporate headquarters and build a north-south connector road from Northlake Boulevard to the Beeline Highway.

Jablin’s announcement of the concession came after more than three hours of presentations from Avenir Holdings’ consultants, Palm Beach Gardens’ planning staff and the public. The last proposal before the most recent reduction in size called for 3,735 single-family homes and 250 multi-family ones.

Steve Mathison, an attorney for Avenir Holdings, said he has no doubt the developers will hold true to their word.

“In all these years of representing projects all the way from The Gardens Mall to BallenIsles to PGA Commons to Landmark at the Gardens, I have never encountered a developer more committed to do the right thing and honor their commitment to the city,” he said Thursday.

Councilwoman Marcie Tinsley said she preferred the Avenir plan to the alternative – “ranchettes” developed individually over time. She said Avenir is a good plan she’d be proud to see in the city and described it as “an environmental home run.”

City Council voted 5-0 to give initial approval to the land-use designation change, but officials postponed a vote on rezoning to Thursday’s 7 p.m. meeting. They ran up against an 11:30 curfew on conducting business. Once approved, both measures will be sent to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity for review.

Vice Mayor David Levy and Councilman Joe Russo said they’d like to see more communication between the developer, neighborhood associations and Sustainable Palm Beach County before the measures come up for final approval.

Officials will be able to take a final vote, likely in the spring, after the state review is complete.

 

Palm Beach Gardens officials to talk Avenir development

Ken Tuma, principal of Urban Design Kilday Studios, speaks on behalf of the Avenir development during a hearing before the City of Palm Beach Gardens Planning, Zoning and Appeals Board Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015 in Palm Beach Gardens. (Bill Ingram / The Palm Beach Post)
Ken Tuma, principal of Urban Design Kilday Studios, speaks on behalf of the Avenir development during a hearing before the City of Palm Beach Gardens Planning, Zoning and Appeals Board Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015 in Palm Beach Gardens. (Bill Ingram / The Palm Beach Post)

Palm Beach Gardens officials will start the new year deliberating on a proposed development that could drastically alter the city’s future landscape.

City Council will consider measures related to the Avenir development at a special meeting 7 p.m. Wednesday at City Hall, 10500 North Military Trail. Here’s what’s included in the proposed development spread across 4,763 acres north of Northlake Boulevard and south of the Beeline Highway:

-3,985 dwelling units: 250 multi-family, 3,735 single-family

-1.8 million square feet of professional office

-200,000 square feet of medical office

-400,000 square feet of commercial

-a 300-room hotel

-20 acres of agriculture

-a 55-acre park

-a 60-acre 15 civic/recreation parcel

-a 15-acre police/fire/city annex parcel

-a 15-acre school site

City officials are considering a large-scale change to the city’s comprehensive plan, moving the urban growth boundary and rezoning. The proposed measures will require two readings. Officials will also review the Avenir master plan and development standards. 

Avenir Holdings has proposed dedicating as many as 50 acres to the city to accommodate as much as 500,000 square feet of economic development. Palm Beach Gardens could use it to lure corporate headquarters. Representatives of the Northern Palm Beach County Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Council of Palm Beach County have spoken in support of the proposal.

However, environmental advocates, an airport official and neighboring residents continued to say their concerns hadn’t been addressed. Dan Weisberg, the recently retired director of Palm Beach County’s traffic division, said at a December meeting that some of the traffic improvements called for are impossible to build.

The city’s Planning, Zoning and Appeals board unanimously voted last month to recommend City Council approve the proposed measures.

Palm Beach Gardens officials to consider Avenir plans

The edge of the former Vavrus Ranch land, now the Avenir development. It is a 4,760-acre site in Palm Beach Gardens. The developers hope to build on part of the land and conserve the other part. Brianna Soukup / Palm Beach Post)
The edge of the former Vavrus Ranch land, now the proposed Avenir development. It is a 4,760-acre site in Palm Beach Gardens. The developers hope to build on some of the land and conserve 2,426 acres. (Brianna Soukup / Palm Beach Post)

A development on Palm Beach Gardens’ western edge that’s been years in the making may be approaching the finish line in the approval process.

The planning, zoning & appeals board will consider the proposed Avenir development on the former Vavrus Ranch north of Northlake Boulevard 6 p.m. Tuesday in the City Council Chambers, 10500 N. Military Trail.

Representatives of the Northern Palm Beach County Chamber of Commerce and Economic Council of Palm Beach County spoke in favor of the plans at a workshop in October. Residents of neighboring communities and North County Neighborhood Coalition President Sal Faso, however, said plans for additional development in the Northlake Boulevard corridor will only worsen traffic congestion.

Plans include a regional connector road from Northlake Boulevard to Beeline Highway through Avenir to allow commuters to avoid the intersection of the two. The development should reverse the flow of some cars going east for services and employment, Planner Ken Tuma said at the October workshop.

Everglades Law Center Senior Staff Counsel Lisa Interlandi has said the proposed connector road would negatively impact the environment, and traffic effects are widespread.

Plans call for the dedication of 2,407 acres to conservation, according to the most recent city documents.

City Council will also hold a special meeting about the development Jan 6.

Read more about the latest version of plans for the development here.