How Big is Too Big?- Southeast- Oct. 2002
In the tiny waterfront community of Gulf Stream in south Palm Beach County, city officials imposed limits on home designs after a house under construction in a golf club development was so imposing that residents mistook it for the clubhouse.
The two cases illustrate the latest planning dilemma all over the country as home buyers gravitate to older neighborhoods, where land is scarce and prices are rising. Buyers who plunk down a small fortune for a piece of property expect to put a proportionately expensive house on it, even if that means starting from scratch and dwarfing neighboring homes.
Officials across Palm Beach County, where older neighborhoods occupy valuable coastline and well-to-do buyers are in no short supply, are more than familiar with the trend.
Juno Beach town attorney Greg Kino says the problem is more complicated in Florida because of the 7-year-old Bert Harris Act, which limits the ability of the government to restrict private property rights and makes it easier for homeowners to challenge limitations.
As a result, Florida officials trying to develop plans for preserving the character of older neighborhoods have to tread carefully.
In the town of Palm Beach, officials have been struggling to find a balance for years. A 2-year-old study that recommends limiting design features to make larger houses look less imposing is gathering dust while city planners have been asked to review the subject for a third time.
Planner Veronica Close says it's a tricky issue because despite their charm, older houses don't reflect what today's home buyers demand. "What our parents had as a home doesn't measure up today," Close observes.
The town is now experimenting with a formula that sets some limits on a home's cubic area as compared to its lot size.
Hank Skokowski, founding partner of West Palm Beach's Urban Design Studio, which conducted the Palm Beach study, says the best solutions find a way to make new houses less grandiose without substantially restricting size or interior features. "If homeowners are faced with some trade-offs in terms of what they want to accomplish, they have the assurance that government is setting a standard -- they're going to be protected too."
IN THE NEWS
Boca Raton -- The Police Department is taking a new approach to crime prevention, teaming up analysts and officers to predict where crimes are likely to occur and targeting patrols for specific problems. The method has yielded 13 arrests in 2 1/2 months.
Florida Atlantic University students have developed a web-enabled health-monitoring system that allows patients to transmit physiological data to healthcare providers through the internet. The project was honored as one of the top 10 at the world finals of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers 2002 competition.
ADT Security Services has signed a licensing agreement with Major League Soccer that will give the firm television and stadium advertising as well as the use of the league logo and team likenesses in its advertising. Financial terms were not disclosed.
An FBI sting in Palm Beach County yielded 58 arrests on stock fraud charges, including 10 local executives, stock promoters and brokers. Those arrested were charged with agreeing to take kickbacks in exchange for manipulating stock prices.
Israeli-based Zicon, which makes printed circuit boards and electronics equipment, is moving its headquarters to Boca Raton. The company, which has 250 employees in Israel, did not say how many workers it plans to hire in Boca Raton.
Fort Lauderdale -- County Commissioner Josephus Eggelletion has been cleared of charges that he misused his county-issued credit card by using it to make personal purchases. The Florida Commission on Ethics declined to take action on the complaint, which Eggelletion claimed was politically motivated.
County Property Appraiser William Markham has paid $11,500 in fines and costs to settle 22 election law violations arising from his 2000 campaign. Most of the counts involved allegations that the Markham campaign distributed recommendation cards that were not identified clearly as paid political advertising.
State biologists withdrew most of their objections to a $47.9-million beach restoration project after Broward County officials agreed to conduct two studies designed to protect endangered green sea turtles. The studies' goals include trying to find a way to offset the loss of under-water algae that provides food to young sea turtles.
Fort Pierce -- Revitalization of the city's historic Avenue D area is under way with the renovation of the two-story Betts Building across from a new police department. When complete, the building will house a business incubator. Private investors are also discussing plans for a small shopping center, which would house a pizzeria, sandwich shop and lawyer's office. The 15-block area is described as the "historic heart" of the city's African-American community.
Hollywood -- Plans for a new 38-story luxury condominium complex have some beach residents worried that their views of the ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway may be threatened. The 250-unit project, proposed by the Fort Lauderdale-based Plaza Group, would occupy a five-acre site at 3101 S. Ocean Drive.
Oakland Park -- Officials of a bulletproof-vest manufacturing company are battling the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees over allegations that workers attempting to join the union were threatened with immigration problems. The dispute between the union and Point Blank Body Armor officials escalated in August with a walkout by at least 50 workers and a scuffle that left Vice President Ed Lavigne with a head wound. One employee was arrested.
Pembroke Pines -- City Manager Charles F. Dodge has asked commissioners to consider turning over management of the city to a private company that he owns along with Assistant City Manager Martin Gayeski. Dodge says the $1.6-million-a-year private contract would save taxpayers money because his firm would use outside consultants for special projects that would otherwise require hiring additional employees.
Sunrise -- Davie-based pharmaceutical company Andrx Corp. (Nasdaq-ADRX) signed a new lease for a 113,649-sq.-ft. distribution center at the Marina West Business Center.
An eight-mile section of the Sawgrass Expressway on Broward County's western edge is getting two additional lanes to help ease congestion, six years after the toll road opened to criticism that nobody would use it. The $20.8-million project is expected to take at least two years.
West Palm Beach -- Wachovia Corp. will close nine Palm Beach County offices, including four in West Palm Beach, as part of its merger with Charlotte, N.C.-based First Union. One Martin County office will also be closed.
SUNRISE -- A $160-million downtown center that will include restaurants, shops, upscale apartments and a new city hall is scheduled for groundbreaking in December. K-Group Holdings and the Codina Group are developing the project, which is expected to take seven years to complete.