Say No to Johns Glades West

Johns Glades West parcel in red near Home Depot and Library. Satellite image and data by Google.

We took a hard look at the Johns Glades West proposal and we’re opposed. The Palm Beach County Commission approved this on April 26th. It might be too late to do anything about it, but we suggest you contact Commissioner Mary Lou Berger.
You can call her at 561-355-2205, or e-mail her at MBerger@pbcgov.org.
Developers plan to build a very dense project on the south side of Glades Road. The front on Glades would be a fairly large commercial plaza including a grocery store, a theater, restaurants and more.

The back part of the project is more disturbing and completely out of character for West Boca. It would include seven five-story buildings with over 450 apartments.

County zoning staff wrongly concluded this fits in with the existing development around it.
“Staff Analysis: The proposed amendment is consistent with the character and development pattern of the surrounding communities, which can be characterized as a built development pattern with higher density and higher intensity.”
This is ridiculous. Yes it’s true that the nearby commercial plazas are similar to the commercial part of the proposal. But neither Westwinds nor Shadowood have housing at all, much less 5-story towers packed with 10 apartments per floor.
Nothing around it would be nearly this dense. Look at this image:
Johns Glades West proposal in context of everything around it. Background image and map data by Google.

The residential neighborhoods to the north, east, and southwest are far less dense with much more greenery. Same with the Jewish Federation campus to the south. Residents of Palma Vista, to the southwest, have legitimately complained about the R2 building (lower left) which will tower over the homes in the northeast end of their neighborhood.
The developer is seeking 12 residential units per acre for the whole 38 acres of the site, but that the county is ignoring the fact that half of those acres would be used for commercial space. So they’re really getting 24 residential units per acre.
There’s no space for trees, grass, etc., allotting less than two acres for a lake. All those hard surfaces with no green space means big stormwater runoff problems.
The apartment complex will consist of over 450 tiny apartments (we estimate an average size of 800 square feet) with minimal amenities. There isn’t even a pool in the plan.
If you’re looking for help from our local “West Boca Community Council”, you might be surprised:

Reading through the details of the submission (see pdf below) we see numerous agencies referencing their ability to handle the project at 300 residential units, with some saying that density would be a problem and others indicating issues. But the proposal is 450+ units, not just 300.
[gview file=”http://westbocanews.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Johns-Glades-West.pdf”]
For one thing, with 300 units it still fails the long range traffic test:

In other words it will create long term traffic problems on Glades Road, Lyons Road, and US-441.
According to the school district it will overcrowd Eagles Landing Middle School, and add a significant burden to both Olympic Heights and Sandpiper Shores. We all know how great the traffic is at Sandpiper Shores already.
Did you realize what the county was allowing to happen? Do you feel that Mary Lou Berger, your representative, communicated sufficiently with you about this?
Before writing this article we reached out to Ms. Berger and Ms. Scarborough. They did not respond.

"Penny" Sales Tax Increase Will Cost You $12,000

wbcc-tax
The average West Boca family of four will pay an additional $12,000 over ten years if the proposed sales tax increase is approved. These estimates follow from the numbers stated by speakers at Tuesday’s West Boca Community Council meeting.
Four speakers addressed the audience (note we covered a similar event in February: Avossa and Berger Speak). First up was County Administrator Verdenia Baker. Substantial details of the plan are available on the One County One Penny website.
Like the three speakers after her, Baker was tone deaf to West Boca residents. In her talk she described how the money that would come to “your area” but a closer look showed she was including all of Boca, Delray and Boynton Beach in that area. She also referred to money going to the City of Boca Raton as in “our area” even though most of West Boca is west of the city lines.
Baker indicated that the total amount of revenue they expect to raise from this tax increase is $2.7 billion. In our analysis, with 1.3 million county residents that works out to over $2000 per resident. For a family of four it’s $8000. With average incomes in West Boca higher than for the county, it translates to roughly $12,000 over the ten years. A typical West Boca family of four will spend an extra $1000 on sales tax in the first year, with the number rising to $1500 or more in later years.
Fifty percent of the money from the tax will go to the school district, thirty percent to the county and twenty percent to the cities.
She described a lengthy list of projects that the money is supposed to go to. We have seen this list before and over half the money goes to projects in West Palm Beach. A very small share will benefit West Boca.
Baker briefly answered questions from us toward the end of the event:

The next speaker was Mike Burke, CFO for the school district. He also described various “needs” in the district. To his credit he started off with a funny joke about the jail and he spoke well. But as with the other speakers he was somewhat tone deaf, focusing on projects far from West Boca and apparently not recognizing the difference between the city and the rest of us.
Our post-event conversation with him is below. It became a little uncomfortable in certain moments but we give him credit for his demeanor and his answers.

As a follow up to this conversation we found the report he mentioned. Contrary to what he said the document does not say that projects will be prioritized by need. That may be the intent but it’s not in there.
[gview file=”http://westbocanews.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Facility_Condition_Assessment_Report_June_1_2016.pdf”]
Also the report’s descriptions do not match the apocalyptic tone set by Superintendent Avossa, Burke and others.

Finding #3: Of the 196 District schools and facilities assessed, the elementary schools are generally in fair condition (average FCI=15.2%), the middle schools are generally in good condition (average FCI = 13.1%), the high schools are generally in good condition (average FCI = 14.9%), and the ancillary facilities are generally in fair condition (average FCI = 23.1%). The overall District FCI average is 15.0%, which is in the “good” range, but borders on the “fair” range, which begins at 15.1%.

Finally with regard to the schools it should be noted that none of this money will go to hiring teachers or paying them more. It’s only for capital projects.
Next up was Sid Dinerstein, a long-time county Republican leader. After the two previous speakers took a full hour or more, Dinerstein was told he would only have 10 minutes. Dinerstein was also ignored when the event host announced various attendees and left him out.
Dinerstein was by far the most animated and interesting speaker of the four. We caught a brief clip of his speech but he had already left when we looked for him to answer questions at the end.

Dinerstein pointed out that the so-called “penny tax” is a 17 percent increase – from 6 percent to 7 percent. He dismissed the claimed needs asserted by the previous speakers and said the school district is “grossly overfunded”.
He suggested that the main needs of the county are really closer to $400 million rather than the $2.7 billion they are hoping to get from the sales tax increase. Dinerstein argued that it would make more sense to do a $400M bond issue with today’s low interest rates.
Dinerstein demonstrated the same disregard for the West Boca audience. Standing within arm’s reach of Ellen Winikoff he advocated for an extension of the Sawgrass Expressway from Broward into Palm Beach County, an idea that is widely hated here in West Boca. In describing the projects he viewed as necessary they all seemed to be in West Palm Beach, so his approach would do even less for West Boca residents.
The last speaker was Dave Kerner, a state representative who is now running for a county commission seat. He claimed (as did Baker) that 25% of the sales tax would be paid by tourists. If true that only adds to the burden imposed by the recently increased hotel tax to pay for a stadium in – where else – West Palm Beach. They seem unconcerned about or unaware of the risk of killing the goose that lays our golden eggs. If you raise taxes on tourism, tourists might come less often. He also repeated Mary Lou Berger’s February threat to raise property taxes if the sales tax increase is not passed.
Some other interesting details from the evening were:

  • The Lamborghini exemption – Baker said that the sales tax is capped at purchases under $5000, so if you buy a Lamborghini you won’t pay extra sales tax on most of that purchase.
  • Kerner and Baker both denied that sales tax is regressive. This is contrary to well established economic studies showing that sales taxes place a higher burden on the poor.
  • Taniel Shant, who is running against Mary Lou Berger, was in the audience. Shant opposes the sales tax increase.
  • In other news there has been some talk about developers buying the Boca Municipal Golf Course (north side of Glades west of the Turnpike) and building homes. Nothing has happened yet.
  • The proposal to build on the farm behind Home Depot is apparently making progress and may possibly resemble Delray Marketplace.
  • A new park or children’s playground has been built in Watergate Estates (aka West Sandalfoot) and will have a grand opening soon.
  • There has been an ongoing problem with trucks parking on swales on 66th Street (SW 66th we think) and PBSO is working to stop that.