As a next step in West Palm Beach’s mobility study, city planners are reaching out to merchants and other downtown groups for their ideas on easing downtown parking problems.
According to the Mayor’s Office, city planners recently met to discuss availability and affordability of parking downtown. They are evaluating policy changes to manage demand, especially during events and tourist season.
Consultant Sam Schwartz, retained by Alta Planning + Design, which is conducting the mobility study, is completing an initial report on parking. The report summarizes the existing situation, best practices in parking management, alternative transportation options, how many parking spaces are available, demand, and what downtown residents and business owners said.
Word that Mayor Jeri Muoio’s staff was moving ahead with a plan that could put an office tower near the waterfront sent city commissioners’ phones ringing this week.
Commissioner Paula Ryan said she’d fielded 700 emails on the hot-button issue. The mayor said she also had a folder filled with inquiries.
Problem was, the commission hadn’t been filled in so there wasn’t much they could say on the matter — the mayor’s Development Services staff had been treating it as an administrative matter* at this stage and planned to bring it to the commission in the months ahead, after going through the Planning Board and Downtown Action Committee.
That’s going to change.
At Commissioner Shanon Materio’s request, Muoio this week agreed to schedule a mayor-commission work session on the plan, which would allow developer Related Cos. of New York to build a 25-story office tower on a site near the waterfront now limited to five stories.
It was Related that came up with the idea, but the city took the ball and ran with it, citing a shortage of first-class office towers with which to attract employers.
Since spot-zoning — changing the zoning to favor a specific parcel, even if at odds with current zoning — isn’t Kosher, Related proposed that the city create a whole Okeechobee Boulevard business district that would include its site near the First Church of Christ, Scientist.
Materio said the point of her request was to slow the approval process down a bit, so commissioners, the city’s policy-making body, can have a better sense of where the administration is headed before the plan goes to the other boards.
“We have no idea right now of what is being put together,” she said.
*Note: The Mayor’s Office objected to this characterization. Here’s what spokeswoman Kathleen Walter said in an email Wednesday:
“Your blog post states, ‘the Mayor’s Development Services staff had been treating (the Related Cos. project) as an administrative matter.’ That’s not accurate. To clarify, the City has not been treating it as an administrative matter. The City’s Development Services Department stated from the very beginning that the changes that the City was going to require were the creation of a new zoning district and a comprehensive plan change. Neither of these requirements is an administration matter, and public input is required. The matter requires a formal review by the Downtown Action Committee, the Planning Board, and two public hearings with the City Commission. In an effort to publicize and receive input on these proposed changes, the Development Services Department held a workshop on April 12, 2017 with the Downtown Action Committee and on April 18, 2017 with the Planning Board. Both of these meetings lasted approximately four hours, and the City received a lot of public input. The meeting agendas are publicized and shared with board members and commissioners to inform everyone of what is being discussed in each of these meetings.”
The city is inviting small business owners, including minorities and women, to a program on how to benefit from the city’s 1 percent sales tax increase.
Frank Hayden, the City’s Director of Procurement, is hosting a free workshop from 4-6 p.m. on Thursday, June 8, at the Pleasant City Recreation Center, 501 21st St.
He will explain updated programs created to encourage more engagement among small, minority- and female-owned businesses and the city’s streamlined processes for businesses to get certified.
Hayden will be joined by Mark Parks, West Palm’s CFO, who will outline the city’s funding sources for new contracts; Kevin Volbrecht, director of Engineering Services, and Susan Burglund, Engineering Services project manager, who will talk about engineering opportunities with the City’s Comprehensive Improvement Plan Project; and Poonam Kalkat, director of Public Utilities, who will provide details on water and wastewater projects. Guests can talk to city representatives one-on-one, following the presentations.
“The City has its funding in place now, including funds generated from the 1 percent sales tax, and projects ready for bid,” Hayden said. “We are excited to share the most recent details of our upcoming projects.
A recent Disparity Study showed a need for greater inclusion among women-owned and minority-owned businesses on certain types of work available from the city.
In 2016, the Procurement Department introduced new programs to help small business enterprises be more competitive in the city’s bid process. Hayden has set a goal to increase the number of small businesses certified by the City by 5 percent annually and to increase the number of dollars spent with certified businesses by 5 percent annually.
“We’ve streamlined the paperwork to make it simpler and less time-intensive,” Hayden said.
To learn more about West Palm Beach procurement opportunities in the areas of goods and services, construction and professional services, visit www.wpb.org/procurement or call 561-822-2100.
Airport and FAA officials offered sympathy but little solace Thursday to residents blasted by PBIA overflights when President Trump is in town.
Thirty-three people showed up to express concern about how the buffer zone established by the Secret Service to keep planes from flying over Mar-a-Lago has resulted in extra noise for people who live in Flamingo Park, El Cid and other historic neighborhoods to the north.
Some at the Citizens Committee on Airport Noise (CCAN) meeting live under the normal flight path, roughly over Southern Boulevard. They said they’d like to see flight paths spread out even under ordinary circumstances, so that they don’t bear the full burden all the time.
The FAA tower chief said there’s little he can do for now, but promised to contact those farther up the federal food chain to see how soon they might be allowed to make adjustments without first having to do years of studies. County Airports Director Bruce Pelly said he would contact airlines to see that they follow whatever noise reduction procedures they can.