Auto dealership rezoning denied for second time near Place Au Soleil

By Jane Smith

The Delray Beach Downtown Development Authority moved closer to its takeover of the Old School Square campus in November when city commissioners gave the DDA $25,000 to run the Cornell Art Museum.
“It’s a short-term agreement,” City Attorney Lynn Gelin said at the Nov. 15 City Commission meeting. It will terminate when the overall deal, called an interlocal agreement, between the city and the DDA is signed. The larger deal will cover the entire campus with its five venues: the Pavilion stage, the Fieldhouse, the Cornell, the Crest Theatre and the Creative Arts School.
Known as the heart and soul of the city, the Old School Square campus is mired in a lawsuit filed in November 2021 by the former operators.
The new overall agreement with the DDA is expected to be ready in December.
The Cornell deal began on Nov. 16 and calls for free admission to the museum.
Exhibits will be a collection consisting of a Surfing Florida display, a historical retrospective of the campus and Delray Beach, and a Love Delray art exposition by local artists, DDA Executive Director Laura Simon wrote in a Nov. 21 email to The Coastal Star.
The prior tenants criticized the Cornell deal in a Nov. 16 email blast, saying the DDA was a taxing authority, “which means that you as a taxpayer will be paying 100% of this cost.”
Simon said she had not heard that criticism.
“We have a big job to do and are staying focused on moving forward,” she wrote. “We are also moving forward with establishing a [nonprofit] arts foundation to collect donations from those who want to contribute to the campus directly, just as it was originally intended back in 1987.”
The former tenant, the Old School Square Center for the Arts, continues to hold events that raise money for scholarships and mentoring, but not for the buildings because the city owns them. Its lease ended in February.
In October, the organization held LunaFest, featuring films for and about women, at the iPic Theater in downtown Delray. Nearly 400 people attended the event, which raised about “$50,000 for arts and cultural programming for local youth in our community,” according to an Oct. 19 Old School Square Facebook post by the organization.
“We are NOT back in the buildings, but we are continuing our mission to bring arts to Delray by supporting one of our partners,” the organization’s board wrote in a Nov. 5 email blast.
The city’s Community Redevelopment Agency board agreed on Nov. 17 to enhance the Old School Square campus lighting by spending up to $10,000 on lights.
In other news from the Nov. 15 commission meeting, commissioners:
• Denied for a second time the rezoning of property on the east side of North Federal Highway next to Gulf Stream’s Place Au Soleil neighborhood. Property owner John Staluppi Jr. wanted to put a Hyundai car dealership there.
The 11 people who spoke during the quasi-judicial public hearing opposed the rezoning, including former City Commissioner Gary Eliopoulos, who said the 8-foot wall separating the dealership and the Gulf Stream residents would limit air circulation. The other 10 live in or represented the town of Gulf Stream.
When land use attorney Bonnie Miskel gave the presentation for Staluppi, she stressed that North Federal was the preferred location for auto dealerships in the 2020 update of the city’s comprehensive plan. That point was hammered home during witness cross-examinations by Beth-Ann Krimsky, a partner in the Greenspoon Marder law firm in Fort Lauderdale.
The commission vote again was 3-2 against the rezoning, with Commissioners Adam Frankel and Shirley Johnson supporting the rezoning.
• Approved a nearly $1 million budget amendment to cover increased payroll costs to police after new collective bargaining agreements were signed at the Oct. 25 City Commission meeting. The expenses will be offset by an unexpected $990,000 increase in the state sales tax revenue.
• Approved a fee increase for the first time in six years at the recently renovated city marina on the west side of the Intracoastal Waterway south of Atlantic Avenue. The fees for people who want to live aboard their boats at the marina increase from $23 a linear foot to $29 a foot for city residents and to $33 a foot for non-residents. For people who want only to dock at the marina, the fees rise from $22 a linear foot to $26 a foot for city residents and to $30 a foot for non-residents.
The day rate stayed the same for city residents at $60, but it increased 25% for non-residents, who will pay $85.
The marina makeover cost about $4.6 million, including consultants’ fees. The work included 23 new floating docks, a raised sea wall, drainage and lighting improvements and installing Wi-Fi.

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