By Jane Smith
The fate of the stalled Atlantic Crossing project is back in federal court.
In early April, the Delray Beach City Commission rejected the project’s modified site plan that added a driveway and redesigned the valet area into a circular path from a horseshoe-shaped version. The plan also called for improved contrast for the two loading docks and a pedestrian crosswalk moved north in the project to increase its safety.
The changes, though, were not enough to satisfy commissioners Shelly Petrolia, Mitch Katz and Mayor Cary Glickstein. The federal lawsuit, filed by the developers against the city, was on hold while the modified site plan was reviewed. The stay was lifted and motions soon were entered.
The day after the city commission requested two alleys be returned to the city from Atlantic Crossing, the city filed a motion April 20 to dismiss the developers’ third amended complaint. Many counts, the motion said, failed to state a cause of action or were not ready to be heard. The developers have until May 9 to file a response. The case has an October jury trial date.
“The re-introduction of a connecting road has been nothing short of tortuous,” Glickstein said when explaining his vote on April 5. “To the developer, you missed the opportunity. You strayed from an atmosphere of cooperation when you said you can’t and two years later you said you could. In the interim you only crystallized the palpable mistrust the community felt towards you and the project that led to this drama tonight and all the avoidable time, money and now a federal lawsuit.”
The proposed Atlantic Crossing sits at a major intersection — the northeast corner of Federal Highway and Atlantic Avenue — in the city’s downtown. It lies just west of the Intracoastal Waterway with Veterans Park in between.
Instead of becoming a jewel, it’s turned into a dead zone with dark green construction screening around the west half of the project.
Sitting on 9.2 acres, the complex, developed by a partnership between Ohio-based Edwards Companies and Ocean Ridge resident Carl DeSantis, 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.
Before explaining his reasoning, the mayor lauded DeSantis, saying he “has always been a gentleman to me and has contributed significantly to the betterment of this community and many others, something he’s not received credit for or sought.”
Atlantic Crossing plans also call for an underground garage.
Traffic issues remain at center of dispute
The modified site plan contained a connecting road that would lead into the garage from Federal Highway and provide a westbound exit to Federal. City planners called the road a driveway because it is only 12 feet wide and doesn’t have setbacks, limiting pedestrian and bicyclist access.
The driveway also has a problematic turning radius for vehicles exiting the garage. The turning radius was deemed barely acceptable by city-hired engineering consultants, another reason cited by the mayor for his decision.
The driveway looks like an alley when it needs “equal dignity to a real street,” said Derek Vander Ploeg, the Boca Raton architect who drew the plan for the project when it was called Atlantic Plaza II before the real estate recession.
Back in 2008, the project was slated to include 202 residential units and 110,000 square feet of retail space with 1,160 underground parking spaces on 8.9 acres.
Architects loathe shaving space off their buildings, but they can do it to create a real street, Vander Ploeg said. Regular people care more about streetscapes than the actual buildings, he said.
When he designed Atlantic Plaza II, he included a deceleration lane on Federal Highway, an item that the current mayor would like to see to mitigate traffic around Atlantic Crossing.
“I hope for the city of Delray that something can be done,” Vander Ploeg said.
Don DeVere, vice president of development for Edwards Companies, said, “Once again, the commission majority decided that they would rather litigate than work together and follow their own rules. They missed this opportunity to resolve the issues and allow this important project to move forward.”
He went on to say that approving the modified site plan would “have continued settlement discussions to provide additional benefits to the neighborhood and to eliminate the city’s risk of damages, estimated at up to $40 million. Mayor Glickstein and Commissioners Petrolia and Katz decided they didn’t want to take that path, but chose to litigate instead.”
The development team 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. In the fall, that lawsuit was moved to federal court.
At the April 5 City Commission meeting, Vice Mayor Al Jacquet, who voted for the modified site plan, said, “It’s time for us to move forward. … This is an amicable solution.”
He did not say that he opened a campaign account in January for a proposed state House run for District 88. In January, people and companies connected to the Atlantic Crossing development team contributed $6,500 to his campaign. State laws and ethic rules say he does not have to reveal the campaign contributions unless there is some quid pro quo involved. Jacquet voiced his support for the project prior to the contributions.
The other yes vote was made by Commissioner Jordana Jarjura. A lawyer, she said the project has 78 conditions “to clean up what previous commissions did. … We must make decisions that can be supported in court.”
Also at the April 5 meeting
• City Attorney Noel Pfeffer said he plans to resign in 60 days. He will become a partner in Conrad & Scherer, a Fort Lauderdale-based law firm. The S. Renee Narloch and Associates search firm was selected at the April 19 meeting for $24,500 because the firm agreed to a mid-May deadline for recruiting city attorney candidates.
• The City Commission agreed to hire CB&I Environmental & Infrastructure Inc. of Boca Raton for $78,483 to produce a physical monitoring survey three years after the beach renourishment project was done. The survey will be finished this summer, with results delivered in November.
• The City Commission agreed to enter into two contracts with Matthews Consulting Inc. of West Palm Beach. The first one, for $199,972, covers engineering design services for the next phase of the city’s reclaimed water expansion system on the barrier island between just north of Lewis Cove south to Linton Boulevard. The second one, for $5,380, will cover a grant application for the next budget year from the South Florida Water Management District to expand the city’s reclaimed water system.
By Jane Smith