The Coastal Star

Delray Beach: Commission postpones vote on Atlantic Crossing settlement

The view of the proposed Atlantic Crossing looking southeast from the corner

of Northeast First Street and Northeast Sixth Avenue shows residential and related amenities.

Rendering provided

By Jane Smith
 
    The long-delayed Atlantic Crossing development will remain in limbo for another few weeks while Delray Beach city commissioners get more details on the settlement offered by the project’s developer.
    At the Jan. 24 City Commission meeting, elected officials and homeowner association representatives were hopeful that a mediated settlement would be approved.
    The deal would end nearly two years of costly litigation that started in state court in June 2015, when the development team sued the city for not approving its amended site plan. The lawsuit was transferred to federal court, where the $25 million-plus damage claims were denied in July, and then the case returned to state court last fall.  
    Commissioners postponed voting on the settlement until they know more about the 2013 site plan and 2011 developer’s agreement that provide the basis for the deal.
    “Shame on me for not knowing the details that go back to 2011,” Mayor Cary Glickstein said at the meeting.
    As of Dec. 12, the city had paid nearly $374,000 for legal services with the Weiss Serota Helfman Cole & Bierman firm of Fort Lauderdale. The firm represents the city in the lawsuit filed by the developer.
    Jamie Cole, a named partner in the law firm, said the settlement included the addition of a two-way road that connects northbound Federal Highway with Northeast Seventh Avenue.
    “All of the conditions from the 2013 site plan are included, but none from the 2014 amended developers’ agreement because that was not approved,” Cole said.
    The next day, Glickstein wrote in an email, “While the proposed settlement would have ended the litigation, it left wholly unaddressed a myriad of public and commission concerns regarding significant on-site operational issues.” Parking and traffic issues would need to be considered during construction and as a completed project, he wrote.
    Those details are usually included in a developer’s agreement to provide clarity for the developer, city staff and public, the mayor wrote. He wants to see that type of agreement attached to the settlement.
    “What was submitted for our consideration was a proposed settlement agreement ambiguously tied to a 2011 developer’s agreement that relates to a different site plan,” the mayor wrote.
    At the commission meeting, Glickstein directed City Attorney Max Lohman to meet with planning staff and create a timeline of what was agreed to and when, then hold a closed meeting where commissioners can discuss the settlement with Cole and his colleagues.
    Lohman did not know whether all that could be done in time for the next commission meeting on Feb. 7. As of press time, the closed meeting had not been scheduled.
    Even so, Glickstein wrote, “I think it was helpful for the developer to hear that the proposed settlement is, in principle, acceptable provided it is linked to a developer’s agreement.” Linking the agreement to the settlement would reflect the most recent site plan changes and many of the additions from the 2014 draft agreement, he wrote.
    The changes would include at least a $500,000 contribution to improve Veterans Park and provide traffic calming for the Palm Trail neighborhood, just north of Atlantic Crossing. Traffic calming for the Marina Historic District on the south side of Atlantic is included in the 2013 site plan.
    At the meeting, Commissioner Mitch Katz pointed out that the site plan shown depicted Veterans Park with improvements.
    Dean Kissos, chief operating officer of Atlantic Crossing developer Edwards Cos., said in an email: “It is disappointing to have yet another delay after working in good faith, devoting substantial time and money, to reach a proposed settlement by again providing the city what it requested.
    “While we were hopeful to reach an amicable resolution, we will continue to pursue our rights in court to obtain the final approvals we previously earned and to make Atlantic Crossing a reality.”
    The 9.2-acre mixed-use project is planned at the northeast corner of Federal Highway and Atlantic Avenue.
    When finished, Atlantic Crossing will contain 343 luxury condos and apartments plus 39,394 square feet of restaurants, 37,642 square feet of shops and 83,462 square feet of office space.
    The $200 million project was proposed by a partnership between Ohio-based Edwards Cos. and local resident Carl DeSantis. Edwards bought DeSantis’ share in June for $38.5 million.
    Atlantic Crossing began in 2008 as Atlantic Plaza II before the recession. Fast-forward five years and Edwards was brought into the project, which was renamed Atlantic Crossing.
    Meanwhile, the state court lawsuit continues.
    A hearing was scheduled Feb. 2 on the city’s motion to dismiss two of the developer’s damage claims that the city says are identical to the ones denied last July by a federal judge. The next day the judge was to hold a status hearing on the city’s motion to dismiss most of the remaining counts. A trial on those issues is set for the period of Feb. 13 through April 7.
    In addition, the developer’s attorneys continue to subpoena residents who objected to the project and joined a civic group to work for what they considered responsible development.
    At the Jan. 24 commission meeting, resident Kelly Barrette said she was asked to produce records, including private emails, which mentioned Atlantic Plaza, Atlantic Plaza II and Atlantic Crossing. The attorneys are seeking items back to 2008. “That’s legal intimidation against private citizens for getting involved in a civic group,” said Barrette, who has announced she is running for a seat on the City Commission in March.

Delray Place South
drops appeal
 Lohman said the Delray Place South developers withdrew their appeal of a denial by a city board.
    In late October, the city’s Site Plan Review and Appearance board had denied the project’s site plan. The 30-year-old center sits on the east side of Federal Highway just south of Linton Boulevard, between Eve Street and Tropic Boulevard.
    Its site plan featured a cross-cut connection from Delray Place, home to Trader Joe’s, across Eve Street, into the 22,089-square-foot Delray Place South.
    The plan also called for a five-lane gateway on Tropic Boulevard. It would be achieved by reducing the 20-foot median to 14 feet and creating three exit lanes going west onto Federal.  
    In late December, the developer’s attorney had requested another delay until the April 4 City Commission meeting. But the commissioners had already agreed to a two-week delay and denied that later date.

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