Friday, April 25, 2014

To Deerfield Beach: This should set the record straight.

Note: A version of this ran in the Pelican Newspaper.
 
There has recently been false information in letters to the editors of local newspapers about the charter referenda, residents’ support of the referenda and The Original Save Our Beach Committee.  Here are some facts about beach area development.

Back in 1998, the Deerfield Beach Commission planned to sell our publicly owned main beach parking lot to a developer who wanted to build a huge hotel. The commission tried their best to keep this a secret from the residents and did not ask for, nor did they want any public input on this.  Fortunately, a couple of residents found out about it and Save Our Beach was born.  
 
 Concerned residents gathered almost 4,200 petitions to put a charter referendum on the ballot.  This referendum would prohibit the sale or lease of city owned property with a value >$750,000 unless it was put to a vote for citizen approval. The citizens overwhelmingly approved this referendum and it became part of our city charter. 

In 2000, the Commission/CRA board proposed the “Ocean Park Mixed Use Development” for the main beach parking lot.  This development was a 450 space multi-story parking garage, fire station, amphitheater, fountain and 30% of the development would be leased for private retail.  Due to the 1998 charter referendum, this development was required to be voted on by the residents and they overwhelmingly voted it down. 

In 2000, the Ocean Plaza Condominium at the beach was proposed.  The reason several building codes were eliminated by the city commission was the Ocean Plaza beach-front project.  They needed multiple variances including floor area ratio and setback, in order to build the massive condominium.
Since the legal hardship requirements for these variances could not be met and the city commission knew this, they simply voted to change the ordinances and eliminate setbacks, floor area ratio and alter other building codes.  Presto, just change the ordinances and no variances now required!!
In 2001/2002, the city commission decided they wanted much of the barrier island to be designated a RAC. Residents didn’t want the designation of our entire 28 acre beach area as a RAC, which would allow much higher density and commercial development on the entire beach. OSOBs and more than 100 supporters went to the Broward County Commission with their concerns about the RAC and the intense over-development it would bring to the Deerfield Beach barrier island. The county commission agreed this was a bad idea and banned RACs on all barrier islands! 

Residents were outraged by the continued assault on our beach by the city commission and joined the OSOB committee in its effort to gather enough signatures (almost 10,000) to place two Charter referenda on the November 2002 ballot.  One of the referenda put the building codes back as they were in 2000/2002, prior to the commission changing the codes by changing the ordinances. The other referendum put restrictions on main beach parking lots, parking garages and their uses. 
Both of these referenda were overwhelmingly approved by the voters, receiving a total of more than 20,000 votes!  Approval of the two charter referenda put these building codes for the beach in the city charter, where they could no longer be changed at the whim of a city commission. 
In 2003, Residents didn’t want the 18,000+ sq. ft. giant restaurant with no parking spaces, planned by Pete Boinis, for our city owned pier and showed up in overwhelmingly large numbers at many commission meetings to protest. The commission grudgingly agreed to halt the project. We now have a beautiful city owned new pier restaurant which is 10 times smaller than Boinis’ proposal. 

OSOBers are in favor of development that stays within the land use codes and zoning regulations.  If a person has a hardship, and cannot utilize his/her property because of that hardship, a variance can often be granted.  However an owner of a property cannot claim a variance because they want to make more profit and can do that by building taller and fatter than allowed by code.  They are entitled to reasonable use of their property and the Deerfield building codes certainly allow for that.    
 
A few people keep trying to blame the beach area charter referenda for the proliferation of sober houses.  Yes, there are sober houses on the barrier island in Deerfield and Fort Lauderdale and Pompano and other island communities across the country.  They are also on the mainland in Deerfield and Boca and Delray and other cities across the country. The accusations that the referenda are responsible for sober houses are ridiculous. 

The OSOB committee bases its actions on what residents want and work toward making that happen.  We attend all commission meetings and workshops to keep up with what is happening in the city.  We pay attention.   

The OSOB committee informs the residents of Deerfield Beach about pending projects so they can make informed decisions. The OSOB committee is made up of people who moved to Deerfield Beach because of its unique character. 
 
The OSOB has become, out of necessity, the voice of the majority of residents.  We are a diverse group who, with every challenge, attracts new members.  The group is brought together by one mission; to keep atypical Deerfield Beach from becoming the standard over-developed Florida city, thereby protecting the quality of life of our residents. 
 
 Please visit www.originalsaveourbeach.org to read more facts and the history of beach area development.
 
by Pam Militello

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