By Jane Smith

    Drama continues to swirl around the iPic movie theater as it makes its way through the Delray Beach approval process.
    The proposed luxury movie theater just south of the intersection of Atlantic Avenue and Federal Highway will have to return to the city’s Site Plan Review and Appearance Board. The site plan was tabled Dec. 16 because it lacked details allowing the members to judge whether the project meets the city code for such areas as lighting, landscaping, parking and security.
    IPic’s agent, land-use attorney Bonnie Miskel, said her client could get the information in time for the Jan. 14 board meeting.
    The company wants to build a high-end movie theater where tickets cost $15 to $25, with 497 luxury seats in eight theaters, topped by two floors of office space and a nearby parking garage with 315 spaces.
    According to the board, the site plan lacked a loading zone area; a parking agreement with the city and its Community Redevelopment Agency for the 90 public spaces in the garage; and a security program for the complex —including the third-floor terrace that would be open to the public.
    Its members also pointed out other flaws, such as an insufficient turning radius for valet drivers to get into the garage, and the location of the movie theater’s garbage containers across two lanes of traffic on the other side of the valet stand. Also, its lighting segment did not meet city code, board member Andrew Youngross said.
    “It’s just too much for the site,” said Jose Aguila, board chairman.
    The board granted three waivers requested: no rear setback space, because the Martini property it abuts would be one iPic plans to buy and incorporate into the project; not meeting the building frontage requirements for the first and second floors; and no windows along Federal Highway because it is a movie theater.
    Principal planner Scott Pape said at the meeting that stairwells and elevator shafts are not part of the measured height.
    IPic wants to use elevator technology that gives users a fast ride and needs to have the equipment at the top of the shaft and not at the bottom. Doing so would add 10 feet to the building’s proposed height of 59.5 feet, but that increase was not mentioned in Pape’s report.
    Eleven people spoke during the public comment section.
    Karen Granger, executive director of the Greater Delray Beach Chamber of Commerce, was the most effusive.
“We should be rolling out the welcome mat to them,” she told the board members.
    Sandy Zeller, president of the Marina Historic District Homeowners Association, spoke about the traffic impacts in his neighborhood. According to a May traffic study included with the plan, theater traffic approaching from the east would be directed into his neighborhood, he said.
    The iPic development team had submitted a new traffic study in November that reflects the two-way traffic on Southeast First Street and no longer directs traffic into the Marina district.
    But Zeller thinks traffic still will cut through his neighborhood when Atlantic Avenue is clogged. That’s why he wants the iPic owners to pay into a traffic mitigation fund managed by the city that would put streetlights into the Marina district.
    After the meeting, he said the iPic site plan was not ready to be submitted to the board.
    “That was pointed out by the board members, who are volunteers, and not the city’s planning staff. I’m disappointed,” said Zeller, who is a lawyer for municipal planning and development boards in New Jersey.
    The previous night, the iPic team faced a skeptical CRA board when it tried to amend the sales agreement for the fifth time. The CRA owns the 1.6 acres known as the “old library site.”
    Just after the CRA board members sat at the dais Dec. 15, they were given the latest contract proposal that said iPic would move its headquarters provided the city would issue a certificate of occupancy by March 31, 2018. Miskel said her client was able to negotiate a lease extension with its Mizner Park landlords during the construction period.
    But CRA board member Daniel Rose and Chairman Reggie Cox objected because the agency has no control over when the city issues that certificate. The board deadlocked on that vote, and Miskel and her team left the meeting.
    The CRA attorney then advised that the move could be considered a “technical default” leading to a breach of contract.
    The board members reconsidered and agreed to a May 31 deadline for approvals and an Oct. 31 deadline to close the sale. They also switched the language to say: 30 days after the certificate of occupancy is issued, iPic must open a movie theater and move its headquarters to Delray Beach.
    When the sales contract was drafted in 2013, it did not contain any type of “poison pill” the CRA could extract from iPic, if it failed to perform as promised, board member Rose said at an October meeting.
    He wanted to see stronger language in the contract about iPic’s agreeing to move its corporate headquarters to Delray Beach and consequences added before he would agree to extend the contract a fifth time.
    Rose, who is a lawyer, persuaded his colleagues to agree only to a short time extension until Jan. 31 to allow the CRA attorney to negotiate with Miskel and her team and bring that deal back to the board for approval.
    The negotiated deal failed to mention the headquarters move. The weekend before the CRA meeting, when speaking to a downtown merchants group, Miskel said her client was not contractually obligated to move its headquarters to the new building, according to people who attended the meeting.
    The total iPic office building is listed as rentable for $30 a square foot on LoopNet.com, a website that lists commercial real estate for lease or sale.
    In other action, the board agreed to have its staff advertise for letters of interest for its Arts Warehouse. The request would be advertised on Dec. 20 with a Jan. 26 deadline.

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