By Jane Smith
Delray Beach officials took the high road when responding to the second amended complaint filed by the Atlantic Crossing developers in federal court for the Southern District of Florida.
The response, filed Dec. 14, kept to the legal issues of the complaint and why it should be dismissed. Many, the response said, were not ready to be heard, failed to state a cause of action or follow proper procedures when suing a municipality.
“The city is contractually entitled to require a connector road between Northeast Seventh Avenue and U.S. Highway 1 and to demand reconveyance of the abandoned alleys when the plaintiffs fail to meet the conditions of their agreements,” the city’s response said.
The complaint had alleged the mayor and two commissioners had wanted to stop the project from being built.
The proposed $200 million Atlantic Crossing sits on 9.2 acres at the northeast corner of Federal Highway and East Atlantic Avenue in the city’s downtown. The project, developed by a partnership between Ohio-based Edwards Companies and Ocean Ridge resident Carl DeSantis, will contain 356 luxury condos and apartments plus 80,000 square feet of restaurants and shops and 79,000 square feet of office space.
“We are reviewing the city’s filing and will respond in the court. We are confident this matter will proceed, and we’ll continue the legal process until our property rights are secure,” Don DeVere, Edwards Companies vice president, said.
“At the same time, we are always open to working with the city to reach an amicable settlement. Toward that end, we’ve already submitted an application for a site plan modification that would include an access drive from the core of the project at Northeast Seventh Avenue to U.S. 1, and are working with the city to confirm a timetable to complete that process. If we can obtain approval of this application, we could then settle all of the issues in the lawsuit with the city.”
The Planning and Zoning Department received the amended site plan and is reviewing it to see whether the connector road will mitigate traffic concerns the City Commission had, said Tim Stillings, department director.
The plan contains the same road configuration that the city’s traffic engineering consultant, Rob Rennebaum of Simmons & White, reviewed in June and deemed “just slightly better” than the two-way configuration that could create “internal conflicts in the central core.”
In the meantime, the other partner, DeSantis, sent a letter Nov. 27 to a group of Delray Beach residents appealing to them “to stand with us and ask city commissioners and staff to facilitate these steps so that we can get underway.”
When his spokesman, Jeff Perlman, was contacted about the letter, he sent this response for property owner CDS International Holdings via email: “Since City Hall has been reluctant to settle, it was time to go directly to the people. The fact is Atlantic Crossing was approved by the Delray Beach City Commission two years ago, but has been held up at every turn since then, even though it is fully compliant with the city’s land use regulations and requires no variances or waivers.”
The developers sued the city in June, claiming the city has not issued a site-plan certification that was approved in November 2013 and affirmed by a previous City Commission in January 2014.
The case was moved to federal court in October when damages sought by the developers rose to $25 million.
The lawsuit has a late May trial date in federal court in West Palm Beach with U.S. District Judge Donald Middlebrooks. It also was assigned a federal magistrate, Dave Lee Brannon, who can help arrange settlement or mediation discussions. A pretrial conference is set for May 25.