I will open with a special greeting to our Jewish residents; it is the season for the Jewish High Holidays. 

  • At sundown of September 18th, it is Rosh Hashanah (or Jewish New Year). The celebration continues for two days. So, L’shana Tova (Happy New Year).

  • Seven days later, being on sundown the 27th is Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), the holiest of all Jewish holidays. It is observed by a 24 hour fast. To our Jewish residents: may your fast be easy and your day blessed.   
Interim News Update
Turning to Town business, a number of very important issues were discussed at the September 14th Budget Hearing, Special Commission Meeting, and Commission Workshop. Below I will report briefly on each topic discussed.

  • In the first of two formal Budget hearings, an operating millage of 6.3500 was approved.  This has been the Town operating Millage rate since 2002, except the bubble and bust years of 2007 - 2014. The debt service millage was maintained at .4290. The total budget revenue is $5,377,248. Included in this amount is $150,000 from the designated reserve (money set aside for specific projects). Expenses are $5,377,248. This amount includes $68,175 which will be added to the unassigned reserve. If you have any questions regarding the budget, please call Town Treasurer and Administrator, Wendy Wells. 

  • In the Special Commission meeting that followed the Budget hearing, the Commission authorized the expenditure of up to $37,279.48 to cover the cost to install additional conduit for the Comcast phase of the undergrounding project.  Comcast requires a conduit run down the full length of Ocean Drive. The plans drawn by the Town consulting engineer did not include conduit from Edwards to Inlet, nor did it include conduit run to nine (9) multifamily dwelling units on the southside of Inlet Way. The missing conduit is required for Comcast to complete their project. Comcast will be absorbing part of this cost. The money approved is the Towns’ portion of the cost. The amount expended to remediate the deficiencies in the consultant engineer’s plans will be billed to the consultant’s firm. Whether or not they pay the invoice remains to be seen. Viking will also be installing two (2) conduit runs they overlooked. This will be done at their cost. When this work is complete, Comcast will be able to complete their portion of the project.

In the regularly schedule September Workshop, the following items were discussed:

  • Professional Engineer and Drainage specialist and former Town Commissioner, Lisa Tropepe gave a presentation on the new, updated FEMA flood zones and their impact on the Town. The bottom line of her presentation was that while other barrier island communities have a severe negative impact by the new flood zone designations, Palm Beach Shores has not. Our flood zone designations remain largely unchanged.  Essentially, everything to the east of the 300 block of Town is not in a flood zone and some homes in the eastern part of the 300 block are also not in a flood zone. The flood zone map she prepared is available for review in Town Hall. This is important because it has a major impact, positive in the case of our Town, on insurance rates and building drainage codes. In the days ahead we will be reviewing the Town drainage codes to ensure they reflect the new reality and are not overly burdensome.

  • Frank Zizzamia and Janet Kortenhaus presented a plan to bring the financial impact of the Community Center to breakeven status. (The cost of operating the Community Center is negative by approximately $40,000 and in the years since it has been in service it has broken even or better only two years.) The concept presented was to contract with a professional event planner; have them pay a fixed minimum monthly amount for the right to host events in the Center. There would be carved out for dates the Center is used by the Town and its related civic groups; and there would be special (low) rates for Town residents who wanted to schedule events. There also could be a financial upside for the Town based on the earnings of the event planner. To add more pizzazz and cache to the Center, it would be renamed the “Shores Club.” The Sullivan and Mills room would remain so named. The Commissioners agreed that Frank and his team should continue to flesh out the concept and bring a full proposal to the Commission for discussion and vote.
  • Site plan approval fees were reviewed and discussed. Town code calls for these fees to be fully paid by the applicant. Since 2016, the cost over and above the $200 application fee has not been billed back to applicants. To date in 2020, the town has had 21 site plan approval applications paying a fee total of $4,200. Town expense related to the processing of these applications is $39,747.84, or a deficit of $35,547.87.  The consensus of the Commission was that commercial properties (zoning Districts C & D, including the marinas) should pay the full cost of their applications. District B, which is quasi commercial should pay 75% of any cost over and above the application fee and District A applicants should pay 50%. Town Staff will immediately process the billing for the commercial properties, which constitutes a large percent of the current deficit. The code will be adjusted to reflect the reductions for the other districts. (On a related note, The Town is in the process of simplifying and clarifying the application form and process, which reduces processing costs, particularly for single-family home application.)

  • A draft Ordinance regulating the use of storage PODs was reviewed.  The Town Code is currently silent on this subject.  A copy of the draft code is posted on the Town website. In summary, PODs would be authorized aon no-cost permit basis for 30 days, renewable for an additional 30 days. Placing of PODs would be restricted to driveways behind the front property line (not in the 10 foot right of way).  One Commissioner favored forbidding the placement of any PODS in Town. While all shared this sentiment to a certain degree, the consensus was that PODs should be allowed on a restricted basis. The draft ordinance will be voted on first reading at the 29th September Commission Meeting.

  • In 2019 two new police SUV interceptors were purchased. When Town policing function was turned over to the PBSO, ownership of these vehicles was not assumed by PBSO due to the fact they had outstanding liens placed on them.   (The Town borrowed the funds to purchase these and several other vehicles.)  One of the SUVs was turned over to the Fire Department to be used as the Chief’s vehicle. The old Chief’s vehicle, a ten-year-old Tahoe, was turned over to code enforcement for use. The K-9 SUV was to be sold, but there have been no buyers as a K-9 unit. So, the options were to sell the vehicle at a loss and pay the remainder of the outstanding loan, or sell the Tahoe and turn the former K-9 vehicle over to code enforcement for use. The consensus of the Commission was to keep the SUV and sell the Tahoe. That is what is being done.

  • Several residents have suggested that the Town charge some sort of dog tax to cover the cost the doggie bags provided gratis by the Town. (The annual dog bag cost is $4,760)  This discussion was short. The Commission was unanimous in the view that not providing gratis doggie bags would be miserly. Subject closed.

  • As a follow up to an early workshop discussion concerning District C building code, a draft ordinance increasing the maximum height allowable from 42 above grade to 46 feet above grade was discussed. The concept is to eliminate depressed parking, which is highly vulnerable to storm surge flooding, with street-level parking. The additional 4 feet in height, compensates for the loss of the four-foot depression. In the way of background information: when the current 42 foot/depressed parking code was adopted in 2007, the old 40-foot grade-level parking was left in the code. Since the new code was adopted there have been five District C development projects: Cannon Sport, Inlet Point, my house at 236, The Addison, and Ocean -18. All four condo buildings used the 42 foot/tuck under code. The Cannon Sport and Inlet Point applications led to code adjustments. Both had requested variances to be able to build a modern building.  The last building built using the 40-foot code was Inlet Beach Club built back in 1988.) The issue under discussion was whether or not the 4-foot height increase exceeds the referendum threshold. If one uses the old, obsolete 40-foot code, as the baseline, a building height using street-level parking, a building that is 46 feet high, as envisioned in the new draft code, is an increase of six feet, which exceeds 10% and trips the referendum requirement. So, the debate is which code to use, the old 40-foot code which does not allow enough height to build a modern building with a 10-foot ceiling, or the modernized 42/tuck-under code. The debate is about 24 inches. The Town Attorney has opined that the Charter language is clear – the height increase cannot exceed 10% of the maximum height allowed, and that is 42 feet. There was no Commission consensus on the topic. Suggestions were made that if the new height were approved, reduced density, and increase (25 to 35 foot) rear setbacks should be required. There is some urgency to resolving this issue as a proposal has been made to build three five-unit condo buildings, one each on 150, 200, and 206 Inlet Way.  The developer has buyer commitments for five and possibly seven of the proposed units and wants to start construction immediately. We need to hear from residents on this issue – good or bad idea. I support the change and am of the opinion that it would be good for the Town. It would: facilitate classy development of old outdated units that could become a breeding ground for mischief; it would be a source of new revenue – up to $100,000/year; and it might incentivize other new development or modernization of old, outdated buildings. Please let us know your thoughts. As you think about this, please keep in mind that back in 2007 it was the developer request that drove the modification of the District C code to current values.  

  • And finally, the revised updated parking code was reviewed. After first reading, several residents point out that the language could be interpreted as forbidding parking in driveways and paved parking areas in District B which extends into the 10 foot right of way. The new language was clarified to make it clear that the above parking was not included in the restrictions.

I apologize for the length of this update, but we covered a lot of ground over the 2:45 minute meeting, and to reiterate, in these days of COVID-19 restrictions, detailed emails are the best way to keep folks fully informed.