By Dan Moffett
An architect’s review of the South Palm Beach Town Hall building has determined that the structure meets standards for renovation and doesn’t have to be completely reconstructed to be upgraded.
John Bellamy, of Island Designs Inc. in North Palm Beach, said an elevation survey of the building found it sits high enough to satisfy flood plain code requirements. Town officials worried that the 42-year-old structure might have to be rebuilt from the ground up to comply with current restrictions in the Florida Building Code.
But Bellamy said the base of the structure has enough elevation (7 feet) to make renovation possible.
“It would be reasonable to conclude that the building can be renovated and modified in a cost-effective manner to comply with the current codes for all existing Town Hall occupancies except the police and EOC,” Bellamy said, referring to the Emergency Operations Center.
Because of tougher flood and storm requirements for public safety operations, Bellamy recommends constructing a separate police and EOC building behind the existing Town Hall with a covered walkway linking the structures. This building would be elevated by 2 additional feet. He said the police would be able to remain in their current space during the construction.
“The result would be a code- compliant, storm-hardened, energy-efficient and accessible community center with dedicated multipurpose area with storage, a new council meeting hall and new interior layout with increased space for all existing Town Hall administrative activities,” Bellamy said.
The architect did not present construction plans or cost estimates. Town Council members have said they would discuss his report and recommendations during the coming weeks.
Bellamy’s proposal is the council’s second attempt at finding a solution for the largely obsolete hall, which was constructed in 1976 as a public safety building and has undergone a series of additions and repairs in recent years. In early 2017, Alexis Knight Architects of West Palm Beach evaluated the building and recommended replacing it with a five-story structure — but the council quickly rejected the $6 million plan as too extravagant.
In other business:
• Councilwoman Stella Gaddy Jordan says she isn’t happy with changes to the 3550 South Ocean condo project and wants a survey to make sure the building complies with the town’s height restrictions.
Persuaded by Jordan, the council voted unanimously on Sept. 12 to hire a surveyor to measure the building, which is on schedule to open its doors next year to 30 homeowners — some of whom will pay as much as $3 million for their units.
“I think there’s been a sham pulled on us all,” Jordan said.
She said the town’s building officials and architectural board members may have approved changes to the original plans that have allowed the builders to build too high. Jordan said changes should have come to the council for approval but never did.
The town’s building code allows for six floors, or 60 feet, above a parking garage. But some officials have said the code is unclear about how tall the garage can be and what structures are allowed on the rooftop.
Jordan said developers may have violated town rules by putting a swimming pool on the roof, in effect creating a seventh level. “I’m objecting to the extra floor,” Jordan said.
Town Manager Mo Thornton said she rehired Alvarez to fill the vacancy created when Maylee De Jesus resigned in July to take an assistant city clerk position in West Palm Beach.
Alvarez worked in South Palm for nine years until resigning as clerk in 2015 and moving to North Carolina. She will earn $50,000 a year, Thornton said.
• The council gave unanimous final approval to the full rollback rate of $3.79 per $1,000 of taxable property value for the 2018-19 budget, down from this year’s $4 per $1,000. “It’s the third year in a row we’ve lowered the rate,” said Vice Mayor Robert Gottlieb.