Friday, July 30, 2010

LEEDS designation may give bragging rights but costs TOO much!!

You might want to go to the Commission meeting next Tuesday 8/3.

Next year’s budget will be presented.  And, there will be a discussion about whether to initiate a utility fee, essentially a tax on electricity, gas, and other utilities. Almost everyone else in Broward County has the fee so Deerfield Beach’s staff says we should also. (Let's see, how does that go, I hear my mother's voice, "If everyone jumps off a bridge would you jump also").  I want to hear what the commission says about this.

And, there will be a discussion on whether the new pier project should be LEEDs certified. I think using “green” materials is wonderful, but going for the LEEDS certification is too expensive. I’m all for green, but skip the actual certification process it is not worth an additional $100,000.

Green is an expensive designation
By Melody Hanatani

"We do not seek LEED certification for new construction because it's expensive," Joan Ling, the executive director of CCSM, said last week during an interview about a series of new construction projects the developer is undertaking. "

…But there are a series of other developments in the city that were built with a whole slate of sustainable features in mind, which together could qualify them for certification.

The reason why the developers didn't go for the designation could be the money.

John Zinner, a locally-based LEED project manager, estimates that the soft costs of going for certification could range roughly from $40,000 to $200,000, depending on the size of the project.

"We're talking just the design process, not the hard cost," Zinner, a former city planning commissioner who worked on the Sustainable City Plan, said.

Established in 1998, LEED has grown as a benchmark for acceptable environmental design, an industry standard for which projects are considered sustainable in offsetting impacts caused from construction and operations.

The Green Building Certification Institute, which manages the LEED program for the U.S. Green Building Council, charges developers a fee to register their project and get the process started, which costs $450 for members and $600 for non-members.

Then there's the certification fee that comes after the application and supporting documents are filed, which is all based on the size of the project and square footage, ranging from $1,750 to $17,500 for members to $2,250 to $22,500 for non-members.

Applicants are also required to hire a commissioning agent who checks to be sure the project is operating properly. The price of the agent's service depends on the project size, but generally start at about $15,000, said Brenden McEneaney, the green building program adviser for City Hall.

Then there are the extras, including a consultant, which is not required, to help navigate the applicant through what can be a time-consuming and complicated process to achieve certification, including filing and tracking all of the paperwork.

"You need someone who understands how the system works," Zinner said. "There are a lot of people out there who have studied the system."

Ling estimated that going for LEED certification could add about $100,000 to a project.”
I rest my case.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Deerfield Uncensored Blog is Back!

The New Deerfield Uncensored Blog posts their aggressive opinions, using strong language, about what is going on in Deerfield Beach.  I guess they got too close to the truth for someone who felt threatened and fought back.   The New Deerfield Uncensored blog was hacked and shut down according to their post. But they are back with a vengeance! See blog list on the right or click above.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Deerfield Beach's Tam O'Shanter Golf Course Solution

I attended a refreshingly pleasant meeting last night about the land use of the closed Tam O’Shanter golf course in Crystal Lake. This is a tale of a land owner/developer who after trying to push his ideas on a neighborhood, let the neighborhood lead the way to a solution; working together with a lot of give and take, they came up with a solution that will work for all.

The golf course has been closed for years during which time the owner tried to push through various plans, all needing land use change approval by the commission. The commission, faced with hundreds of irate Crystal Lake residents (and voters) turned down the owner, Ralph Little’s idea of housing and then his idea of dredging to make a lake (actually an idea to mine the dirt and sell it over a period of years).

Another idea, just before the current one, was a virtual bribe to the city to allow up to 500 housing units on half of the property for giving the other half to the city for ball fields. The residents went ballistic over this; hundreds of housing units jammed into the back nine and a ball field full of noi-sy kids and bright lights far into the evening on the other half.

Remember the residents bought on a golf course for a reason. When they bought they had no idea that the course would be closed; in fact they paid extra for the privilege of living on a lovely green expanse with no noise and no one there at night (I can just imagine the spiel the realtor gave them about living on lovely green open space forever). Then a string of events, one on top of another, caused their quality of life as well as their home values to crash. The golf course was closed and turned into a brown hay field, and the economy crashed. They had to fight time and time again to prevent the city commission from making things worse. The desperate residents were angry and frustrated.

Here comes the really great part. One of the area residents Rita Reagon came up to Mr. Little with an idea about using the entire course as a memorial park (cemetery). He looked into it, found a family owned chain that has some successful, low key beautifully landscaped memorial parks.

More good stuff: Little spoke to some other residents who were delighted with the idea, and who then went door to door in the neighborhood to get an idea of how the change would be accepted by the rest of the neighbors, they found that the residents were overwhelmingly in favor of the idea.

Last evening Mr. Little and Ms. Reagon conducted a town meeting on the concept. We heard from Mr. Little and the Memorial Park owners, they showed how the park would be landscaped, answered questions about entry and exit, told about the walking path on the perimeter, the ponds which would be retained, and the renovation to the clubhouse and maintenance buildings which would be renovated and used.

The best part, this solution is all about a neighborhood protecting their quality of life. This solution may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it is THEIRS. It is not about city commissioners deciding what is best for the city without regard to the residents, and it is not (any more) about a golf course owner trying to squeeze the most bang for his buck out of the property, it is about the people, it is about what is fair and right, and it is about a wonderful compromise. This is all about a way keep land that is designated for open green space open and green.

Congratulations to the residents and owner who worked this out. It is a shame that this is such a rare happening, it should be the norm.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Deerfield Beach Cove Shopping Center Still Iffy?????

The pre-bid meeting for the Cove Shopping Center Parking Lot Improvements was held at the Royal Fiesta today. The contractors who passed the initial screening were present to hear about the project. The 3 who were chosen to be there today were picked on the basis of their phase-in plans; this meeting was to give them a look at the center and some oral guidelines.

Keven Klopp, the city CRA director, opened the meeting by saying that after picking the low bid, it would be up to the CRA Board to OK it. He said the bidder would have to convince the residents, businesses and the board that there will be as little disruption to business as possible if the project was going to go ahead.

Oops, I thought, right away there is a red flag. This was a very lukewarm introduction. OMG! THIS PROJECT WAS AGREED ON IN 2005!!! Approved by the CRA Board, the City Commission and the majority of businesses and residents of the area, and NOW we hear it might still not go through. IT SHOULD ALREADY BE DONE!!! What’s the problem? The lot will be done in sections and there will be a shuttle to ferry customers from parking area to the stores or offices. There will be at least 90 parking spots open at all times.

Sure, getting 18 owners and 25 businesses to agree on any plan is next to impossible. Getting Business owners to look past the year long disruption of the lot to the benefit of having a beautiful center seems to be also not possible.

BUT, this is a city owned lot; this is right smack in the eye of every person on the way to the beach. It is a sin it was allowed to get to this point, and because the lot was not maintained by the city properly in the past it will take more time to renovate it. BUT we deserve to have a beautiful shopping center gateway to the beach.

During the meeting there were a few warnings to the contractors that the project might be delayed, and that even though they agree to hold their prices for 90 days it could go to 6 months and might go to bid again. The contractors looked a little sick, probably thinking that they were going to do a whole lot of work with no guarantee that the job would even be done. They were most unhappy campers.

Commissioner Joe Miller was also visibly upset to think that the project might be put on hold. He mentioned complaints he was hearing. He is solidly behind the idea and doesn’t want any delays.

I blame a few vocal and most likely highly connected self serving owners or residents. But, if this is held up or cancelled the commissioners are the only ones to blame. They have the power to get it going, or to drag their feet while making lame excuses about the economy and businesses. The same excuse would be used if business were booming as it is now when business is slow.

This simply doesn’t wash.

If this project is held up it is because certain commissioners are playing favorites, forgetting that it was the MAJORITY of residents in the neighborhood, and the MAJORITY of businesses who designed the future direction of the center in workshop after workshop. Forgetting just who it is they represent.

If a few are unhappy, well that’s life. What is best for the city is what counts. Get it done now in order to attract new business to the center, and to increase traffic to the shops that are there. If that takes some oomph to get the recalcitrant businesses to sign on, so be it. If that takes a few months of making do, so be it, the payoff in the long run will be huge. The faster we get started the faster it will get done.