Delray Beach: News briefs

Proposed  historic district hits setback  — Delray Beach Mayor Tom Carney said at a May 3 goal-setting event he does not support making a nine-block stretch of Atlantic Avenue the city’s sixth historic district. 

Carney, who campaigned for election on preserving the city’s “Village by the Sea’’ image and reining in development, said the proposed district and its new rules for development are not the way to achieve that goal.

His view would mean a majority of the commission is against it. Commissioners Angela Burns and Rob Long both oppose requiring that any proposed changes to the avenue undergo additional review for their historic appropriateness.

The effort to make a new historic district has been underway since 2017. But Carney says he wants to find a middle ground that stops short of adding a review for historic appropriateness to new development.

“Everybody has the same idea that they want to keep the charm of Atlantic … and nobody wants to kill the golden goose,” Carney said, noting that most business owners there oppose the historic district. “I’m going to be the first to say I’m not sure that doing an actual historic district is the way to do it because it creates a whole level of regulatory burdens.”

Water credits run higher than expected — Water bill sticker shock that customers experienced in December and January due to malfunctioning city meter readers spread to the City Commission with the revelation that more than $571,000 worth of billing was forgiven because of the breakdown.

“I don’t see anywhere we’ve discussed giving credit adjustments of $571,000,” Mayor Tom Carney said at the commission’s May 7 meeting. That’s about 2.3% of the revenue the city budgeted to take in from the sale of water.

The commission in January agreed to credit customers who received erroneous bills, some of them as much as $5,700, according to then-Mayor Shelly Petrolia.

Vice Mayor Juli Casale noted that the city staff’s account of how many people were getting estimated bills instead of manually read ones has not been consistent since the alarm about the faulty billing emerged. At their May 21 meeting, commissioners were presented with an entire list of the credits that were given because the total amount of credits given exceeded the city manager’s spending authority. Casale voted against paying the credits.

“I’m really concerned about this whole situation,” she said.
 
New DDA board member resigns after being chosen — Damara Cohn, who owns Mangrove Realty downtown, got a nod at the May 7 City Commission meeting to take the place of Richard Burgess on the seven-member Downtown Development Authority board. But she never took her seat and resigned instead.

Days after the appointment, it was discovered that Cohn’s business lease does not include taxes that would qualify her to serve on the board. That lack of qualified residency was also an issue with Burgess and triggered his removal from the autonomous board that oversees marketing, business development and merchant promotion for the central business area.

The City Commission removed Burgess from the DDA board April 16 in the wake of the Palm Beach County Ethics Commission’s finding that Burgess lied about the location of his business on his application to get appointed.

DDA Executive Director Laura Simon said that the DDA intends to propose that the city change its rules so that applications to serve on the DDA board are separate from applications for other city advisory boards.

Meanwhile, court records show that Burgess filed suit May 2 against the city, looking for his removal from the DDA board to be quashed. His complaint alleges his removal was a “political witch hunt” that newly seated Commissioner Juli Casale orchestrated. 

Water treatment plant plans advance — Replacement of the city’s 72-year-old water treatment plant at 200 SW Sixth St. will start involving more than diagrams and signatures on contracts, with actual bricks and mortar construction starting in 2025. Completion is scheduled “by circa late 2027,” according to a May 10 memo from City Manager Terrence Moore.

Fire rescue employees being reassigned — The 22 Delray Beach Fire Rescue employees who had been providing Highland Beach’s fire rescue services will be absorbed into vacant positions in the department, according to a May 10 memo from City Manager Terrence Moore.

Highland Beach started its own fire rescue department May 1 and the Delray employees stationed there by interlocal agreement are being reassigned, as the city budget had 25 vacant fire rescue positions.

Wanting more control over costs and more services, Highland Beach became the first Palm Beach County community to start its own fire rescue department in 31 years.

Sunrise lovers get an extra hour — Metered parking along State Road A1A is now free until 9 a.m. on weekdays. Mayor Tom Carney proposed the extra hour of free parking along the beach — up from an 8 a.m. start — and it was quickly approved.  — Anne Geggis

Body-in-suitcases detective honored — Delray Beach Police Detective Mike Liberta was recognized as Detective/Investigator of the Year by the First Responders Appreciation Foundation at an event that drew more than 1,000 attendees at the organization’s annual awards banquet in May.

12626776897?profile=RESIZE_180x180Liberta received the honor for his role in cracking the case involving suitcases containing body parts found along the Intracoastal Waterway last August.

The remains were later identified as those of Aydil Barbosa Fontes. Her husband, William Lowe, is accused of first-degree murder and abuse of a human body. His next court appearance is scheduled for August.

Liberta is scheduled for recognition in front of the City Commission June 4.

— Anne Geggis

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