(Source: Jennifer Sorentrue The Palm Beach Post, Fla. (MCT) — A North Flagler Drive neighborhood opposed to a 450-unit unit condo planned just west of the Intracoastal Waterway is alleging the project violates West Palm Beach’s long-standing growth rules and should never be put to a vote.
After a series of delays, city commissioners are expected to vote today on The Related Group’s proposal to build two condo towers of 21 and 20 stories on roughly 5 acres along North Flagler Drive. Two commissioners — Keith James and Kimberly Mitchell — have expressed support for the project, saying it would spur economic development in city and improve the north end.
But leaders of the Northwood Shores Neighborhood Association argue that the project, between 42nd and 44th streets, violates the city’s comprehensive plan, a blueprint for development. The comprehensive plan, they say, prohibits more than 164 condo units from rising on the property.
West Palm Beach spokesman Elliot Cohen declined comment on the association’s allegations, saying that the city is instead focused on negotiations between nine neighborhoods and The Related Group. City commissioners delayed a decision on the project last month and urged the developer to continue to try to reach a compromise with the neighborhood groups.
The project was set aside in December after commissioners said they couldn’t support 23- and 22-story towers with 506 units.
“At this point we are just looking to see what the Related Group comes back to the city with,” Cohen said. “We would like to see what the revised plan is.”
The Related Group did not return a call for comment Friday.
At issue is a policy that allows the city to let developers build more units for “the efficient use of land” and projects with “innovative designs.”
The Northwood Shores residents allege that city leaders are using the policy to get around their own growth rules, which cap the number of condos allowed on the project to 32 units for every acre of land. The current proposal would create 88 units per acre.
“Our contention is, if it violates the comprehensive plan, how can you even consider it?” said Lon Sabella, president of the Northwood Shores association. “We are thinking perhaps it just slipped through the cracks. Maybe they were not fully aware of the seriousness of it violating the comprehensive plan.”
The city’s planning staff has recommended the commission deny the project, saying that is “out of character” with the surrounding neighborhoods.
“While parking meets the minimum criteria, and the traffic concerns have been addressed, the proposed increase in residential dwelling units has produced a project that is significantly larger in density, scale, and mass than any other project in that area,” city planners wrote in a memo to the commission.
In 2005, during the housing boom, the city had approved The Related Group’s plan to build a 150-unit luxury waterfront condo building at 4400 N. Flagler Drive, with Donald Trump as a partner. The plan fell apart when the real estate market crashed, and Related came back last year with the plan to build less expensive condos. It also promised to give the city $1 million, possibly to subsidize the construction of a grocery store in the north end.
Carl Flick, a planner who lives in the Northwood Shores neighborhood, says nearby residents are not responsible for the developer’s “bad investment.” He fears the proposed project will overburden nearby roads and make it impossible to park in the community.
“The citizens shouldn’t bear the brunt of poor planning,” Flick said. “That is their problem.”
IF YOU GO
What: West Palm Beach City Commission meeting
When: 5 p.m. today
Where: City Hall, 401 Clematis St., second floor
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