The Coastal Star

Delray Beach: Residents voice reactions, seek to delay two development plans

Please Note: According to Delray Beach City Clerk, Chevelle Nubin, there is a 1:00 p.m. Special City Commission Meeting scheduled for November 2, 2012, at City Hall, in the First Floor Conference Room to consider the deferral of the Atlantic Plaza II Conditional Use Item to November 13, 2012.

To clarify the October Coastal Star article on the Atlantic Plaza II project:
Edwards Companies and local private equity firm CDS International Holdings, owned by Carl DeSantis, are joint venture partners on the Atlantic Plaza II project. Mike Covelli of Covelli Design Associates and local developer Bill Morris are consultants on the development team.

 

By Margie Plunkett
    
Atlantic Plaza II, a $200 million mixed use development west of the Intracoastal Waterway, and a separate shopping center project at Linton Boulevard and Federal Highway came before the Planning and Zoning Board in October — accompanied by a crowd of residents anxious about what changes could be in store for the city and their homes.
    The Board ultimately approved both requests by 4-3 votes and moved them to the next step — Commission, but not before lengthy discussions wore into the night.
    Both projects were scheduled on Commission’s Nov. 6 — Election Day — meeting, prompting residents to push for the meeting or both the issues to be rescheduled.
As of Oct. 30, City Clerk Chevelle Nubin said the items could not be reset because they had been advertised.
    If not rescheduled, commissioners have the option, if they wish, at the Nov. 6 meeting to continue the Atlantic Plaza issue, a conditional use request. The Delray Place item is a first reading, which, if approved Nov. 6, would have a second reading and public hearing at Commission’s Dec. 11 meeting.
At press time the meeting agenda had not yet been set. Residents can watch for any agenda changes at www.mydelraybeach.com.
    Atlantic Plaza II, which lost some interested residents when unrelated earlier discussions at October’s Planning and Zoning meeting pushed it later into the evening, had returned to the board to talk about incorporating resident and board comments from the September meeting.
    The project abuts Veterans Park and asked for density greater than the city permits, with 50 residential units per acre as compared with the allowed 30 units. The 442-residential-unit project, with common areas and pools for residents, featured three- to five-story buildings and also asked for relief from height restrictions.
    The development is planned with 82,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space as well as 80,000 square feet of class A office space.
    Jeff Edwards of developer Edwards Companies showed renderings to describe what pedestrians would see from the ground, in an attempt to mitigate building height. “Some of you would say, ‘You’ve obscured all the big buildings with trees.’ I’d say that’s exactly right,” Edwards said.
    The developer made concessions on height, moving five-story buildings that overlooked the park to the other side of the project at Atlantic near the Intracoastal, encouraging thanks from some residents at the public hearing. Residents also remained concerned that the residential density would cause traffic, drainage and other problems.
    In addition, Edwards moved pools out of a central common area, creating a space for the public rather than limiting it to the development’s residents. And the developer will also contribute $150,000 to buy a downtown trolley.
    “These developers have really listened and made the changes requested,” said Christina Morrison a Realtor and unsuccesful city commission candidate. She remained concerned, however, about the density and asked particularly about the truck traffic in and out of the development.
    “We would be putting a lot of people, traffic and cars in the middle of town,” said Bob Ganger of the Florida Coalition for Preservation in Delray Beach. “I’d much prefer design that came in with more open space. This is a dense area. I think the density could be reduced back to what was originally approved.”
    Another resident, Jack Malone, said the development isn’t in keeping with the character of the town. “The project is out of scale for our town,” he said. “We’re a fun, small town — it’s what gives our town the vibe that we have. This overwhelms our town.”
    The board approved height and density requests for Atlantic Plaza II, on the condition that at least one building be LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified. The Board is advisory;  it makes recommendations to the commission.
    In the separate Delray Place development, just west of the Intracoastal on the southeast corner of Linton Boulevard and Federal Highway, the developer, Retail Property Group Inc., requested a zoning change to allow a commercial shopping center — a departure from the office space previously allowed for the site.
 While the board had issues with the site plan, it voted to recommend the zoning change.
    The center would feature both retail and restaurants. And while some residents of the neighboring Tropic Isles waterfront community were excited to have a center they could reach by foot or bike, others protested that the back of the center and a row of restaurants were only a few yards from their homes and would change their lifestyle as well as their property values.
    Economic development officials spoke in favor of the project. “We’re in a process of revamping and revitalizing certain sections of the community,” said Economic Development Director Vin Nolan. “This is a spot that should be commercial retail.”
    Resident Michael Young was concerned that there would be “delivery trucks right outside my front doors.” He and other residents decried the route of the truck traffic, which would have to cross a lane of traffic to exit left on one side of the center. And on the other side, the trucks would have to make a U-turn to enter.
    Sherri Crichton and her mother spoke on behalf of her brother against the shopping center plan. Crichton said her brother lost his voice to ALS. “My family grew up in Tropic Isle. It’s an incredible place. You’re here in multimillion homes on the canals. It feels like a piece of bliss. To think that you’d have to close your windows and stay inside.”
    Days after the meeting, resident groups continued a push for cancellation of the Election Day commission meeting or delay of the two items, noting that both items would generate lengthy discussions and a repeat of the late night Planning and Zoning meeting.
    “It is clear to us that a strong majority of affected residents have concerns about (Atlantic Plaza II) that need to be vetted personally and directly to our elected officials,” wrote Ganger and Kristine de Haseth in a letter to Commission from the Florida Coalition for Preservation.
    The Coalition further asked commissioners to “take your time and carefully consider both immediate and longer term implications of the core decision you face — whether to increase project density at the very center of the Atlantic Avenue Downtown Corridor.”
A group of about 50 residents, including from the neighboring Barr Terrace condominium, met Oct. 30, listening to remarks on Atlantic Plaza by mayoral candidate and former Planning and Zoning Chairman Cary Glickstein, amoung others, according to John Pappas.
Many had attended both Planning and Zoning meetings about Atlantic Plaza. The outraged neighbors felt like they were being left out of the process, Pappas said. They feared the city will proceed with a project that will have long-term negative effects without doing due diligence, he added.
“Residents were very upset to learn that the next important meeting by the city commission is to be held on election night when residents would prefer to stay home and watch the returns,” Pappas said. “Everyone had questions concerning traffic, parking, and how it will affect the surrounding neighborhoods. They feel like they are being railroaded and this project is on a fast track. Most important they feel as if City Hall is not listening.”
The residents weren’t alone in drumming up support for their view.
Developer Bill Morris, who works on behalf of developers Carl DeSantis of CDS International and the Edwards Companies circulated an email asking supporters to come to the Nov. 6 commission meeting.
“Having supporters present will be crucial,” the email said. “We have been meeting with the neighboring homeowner groups to share facts, do our best to address concerns, and stress the importance of the project to enhance the vibrancy and sustainability of our Village by the Sea.”        

Atlantic Plaza II as it would appear at the corner of East Atlantic Avenue and Northeast Sixth Avenue.  Rendering provided

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Tags: atlantic plaza II, delray beach, density, downtown, height, meeting, protest

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