By Larry Barszewski
Delray Beach officials have decided they won’t be writing new rules for people wanting to have beach yoga classes or other activities on the beach. They say everything needed is already on the books.
In April, the city halted early morning “sunrise” yoga classes and evening “full moon” classes that were being offered by Pedro Luna on the beach near Atlantic Avenue, saying they weren’t permitted. Since then, while city officials have reviewed beach event policies, beach yoga class participants have come to City Commission meetings and requested the classes be allowed to return.
At the commission’s July 11 workshop, Assistant City Manager Jeffrey Oris told commissioners that the city can address yoga classes and other beach activities through existing policies. The result, basically, is that the city could operate any of the activities through its Parks and Recreation Department and have people register for the classes through the department.
“If there is for instance a yoga instructor that we either get through an RFP or they propose doing something, we can then tell them here’s where you’re going to do it, here’s the days you’re going to do it, here’s the hours you’re allowed to do it, here’s how large it’s allowed to be. We control every aspect of it in that way,” Oris told commissioners.
“The other thing about doing it this way is, if the commission chooses, if we want to do yoga, we don’t have to do CrossFit or any other event if we don’t think that that’s appropriate,” Oris said, ensuring that “the use of the beach is relaxing and enjoyable for all.”
Vice Mayor Ryan Boylston said he likes the proposed approach to regulating beach activities.
“It doesn’t really look like there are any steps to be made by us. It looks like those steps are in place,” Boylston said. “What’s now important is that we properly communicate and put those documents together so it’s really transparent on what the options are when it comes to our beach.”
Commissioner Adam Frankel was concerned about enforcement, given how the city’s no-dogs-on-the-beach rules have been ignored.
“Every weekend I go to the beach and I see dogs on the beach. Every weekend. Not only do I see dogs on the beach, but I see dogs going to the bathroom on the beach and the answer is kicking sand over it, that’s how they clean it up,” Frankel said. “Enforcement is really the problem, and I think we’ve kind of tasked our lifeguards with responsibilities that kind of aren’t in their purview.”
Frankel is not keen about allowing more activities on the beach.
“I think there’s areas in the city where people can do their CrossFit classes or yoga classes. Veterans Park is great, Old School Square park is great. There’s plenty of areas, but the beach we’ve kind of maintained as a quiet area. To me, and this is just me, if we open it up to one, we open it up to all,” Frankel said. “We have an award-winning beach and I’d like to see it maintained the same.”
Oris told commissioners enforcement is doable. Currently, weddings of up to 25 people — without seating, tables, archways or other wedding accessories — are allowed on the beach without a permit. Other casual beach gatherings of that size that aren’t commercial enterprises could similarly be allowed, he said.
For classes run through the city, the city could hold the instructors to account for following the rules.
“What happens if we allow a 50-person yoga class and there’s 55 people there? Our enforcement is the contract with the instructor,” Oris said. “You violated the rules. You can’t do this anymore. We’ll find someone else who will follow the rules.”
Luna, contacted after the meeting, said he was “optimistic” that something would be worked out to allow his classes to return.
“I am just working on figuring out who I need to talk to with the city to allow the gatherings to continue on the beach,” Luna said. “To what capacity, I don’t know, how does it work as far as number of people. … I’m OK with however it shakes out, as long as we’re permitted to gather.”
The city was still working on what would be allowed, Oris said in an email to The Coastal Star.
“If the city chooses to provide such classes or partner with an instructor to do so, location, hours, frequency, size and other such details would need to be worked out so the activity would not interfere with anyone else’s enjoyment of the beach, protection was afforded to the dunes and turtle nests, lifeguards were on duty, and the activity happened when the beach is open,” he said.
Tax rate to drop
At the commission’s July 11 meeting, commissioners set a preliminary property tax rate of roughly $6.50 ($6.4982) for every $1,000 of taxable value, which covers the city’s operating tax rate and voted debt tax rate.
While the city’s proposed combined tax rate is about $0.17 per $1,000 lower than the current combined rate, it is still considered a tax increase since the city will end up collecting more taxes due to rising property values.
The city’s property valuation has increased 13.69% from last year’s valuation, bringing it to $16.4 billion. The amount of property taxes collected is expected to increase 10%, or $10.3 million, which could raise a total of $113.3 million.
The proposed rates are a “not-to-exceed” cap that can be lowered but not increased during public hearings scheduled for Sept. 5 and 18. The average owner of a home with an assessed value of $500,000 last year, who has a homestead exemption, would pay $21 more in city taxes this year if the proposed rate is adopted. A similarly valued non-homesteaded property would pay $240 more.
The general fund that pays for the day-to-day running of city government is proposed at $184.3 million for the 2024 fiscal year that starts Oct. 1. That’s a 9.2% increase of $15.5 million from the current general fund budget.
Some of the projects in the city’s $108.4 million capital improvement budget include:
• $2 million for renovating the north end of City Hall, where the building division is located.
• $5.5 million from the recreation bond issue approved in March, which will include money for public restrooms, tennis stadium enhancements and locker room renovations, athletic field lighting, beach access improvements, new beach showers and fountains, and structural repairs to the main beach pavilion.
• $4.15 million from the public safety bond issue approved in March, which will include money for a space needs analysis, planning and design for the police headquarters and Fire Station 112, and storage and locker room improvements for Ocean Rescue.
• $100,000 from the beautification fund for the maintenance of city medians.
In addition, the city has started building up funds to pay for future debt service for the construction of a water treatment plant. The city’s contingency fund for the new plant is being increased $6.7 million in the proposed budget.
A follow-up budget workshop is planned for Aug. 15.