By Jane Smith
Delray Beach city commissioners reluctantly agreed Feb. 9 to waive $60,000 in rent owed by the owner of the Lady Atlantic yacht that docks at Veterans Park. At the same meeting, the commissioners agreed to bill the yacht’s owner almost $40,000 for a gate built to stop flooding in the park.
Commissioners hesitated to waive the rent because for nearly two years a gap had remained in the newly raised seawall that allowed the yacht to lower a gangplank for passengers to use.
The yacht’s owner was responsible for creating a gate to close the gap. The opening allowed water from heavy rains, high tides and storms to flow into Veterans Park along the Intracoastal Waterway.
The yacht owner paid the city $10,000 per month in rent, according to its 5-year lease signed in 2018. The owner has not paid rent since February 2020 because the COVID-19 pandemic closed all activities for a few months. The tour boat takes passengers on the Intracoastal.
“Once we were able to reopen after the mandatory shutdown, it was at 50% capacity, which barely covers expenses,” owner Joseph Reardon said in a Jan. 28 email to the city’s Parks and Recreation director.
“We went into the wettest summer on record, followed by the busiest hurricane season on record, followed by our traditionally slow season.”
Passenger traffic was down by about 75% from March through November 2020 compared with the previous year, according to passenger count information from the Lady Atlantic. More recent passenger count numbers were not provided.
Reardon wrote that he received some federal help through the Paycheck Protection Program, designed to help small businesses with payroll, rent and utility bills. He did not list the amount received.
The Lady Atlantic rent waiver is one of many the city has made since the pandemic led to a virtual shutdown of the city in mid-March 2020.
The Delray Beach commission waived fees for valet companies using city parking places on Atlantic Avenue until Dec. 31, waived fees for 40 parking spaces in the Federspiel garage, and waived more than $70,000 in rent owed by Oceanside Beach Services because the beach was closed for eight weeks last spring.
Owner to get bill for gate
Reardon was obligated to close the gap left in the Veterans Park seawall when it was raised 20 inches during a construction project that ended in early 2019, according to Missie Barletto, Public Works director.
Reardon had asked for the opening to allow for a loading ramp used to bring passengers aboard and off the yacht. When the ramp was not used, the gap needed to be closed to prevent flooding in Veterans Park during high tides and heavy rains.
In January, commissioners heard that the city’s Public Works Department had designed and built a $38,960 gate to close the gap.
The yacht owner “had a full year of being able to design and close the gap in the seawall” before the pandemic, Mayor Shelly Petrolia said at the Jan. 19 commission meeting, when the rent waiver was first discussed. “I don’t want to see the cost falling on the taxpayers.”
Barletto said the city was sending the $38,960 bill for the gate to Reardon.
The city’s Community Redevelopment Agency paid for the nearly $640,000 seawall project, built by Callaway Marine Technologies Inc. of West Palm Beach.