Wednesday, April 1, 2015

April Fool's, Deerfield Beach

Jeff comes up with a wryly humorous post for April Fool’s day. Or, is it? 

From:  www.deerfieldbeachusa.com
  Redevelopment Outside the Box - 04/01/15

For decades, "redevelopment," as a matter of public policy — that is, actively pursuing growth through a combination of land-use rules to encourage redevelopment, investments, infrastructure improvements, tax policies, and public-private partnerships — has focused on the beach area, the district east of the Intracoastal Waterway that includes the public beach. A CRA was established in the beach area, not in the Cove or along the Dixie Corridor. This is the box.

Suppose, however, we were to think outside this box and decouple the words beach and redevelopment when it comes to our growth strategy. We think westward. The beach, after all, is only one part of town. Why focus on the beach when other parts of the city could be ripe for redevelopment that would help grow the city's tourist economy — with a little push from city government?

Actually, this is already happening in the limited way. The seminal Deerfield Beach Village Center urban-renewal study encompasses the area around City Hall and along the 2d Ave. corridor. The idea is to transform this area into a "downtown" entertainment district well off the beach area. This is a real plan, now in the works.

But imagine this: An almost unimaginable idea, known as the Backswamp Project. The central concept is to change the land-use scheme for many of the properties east of Federal Highway from single-family to zoning categories that would allow for larger construction than is now permitted in the residential neighborhoods that dominate this district. Also mentioned in the preliminary studies is a five-to-ten acre mixed-use, city-owned, revenue-generating parking facility, not in, but adjacent to, the Cove Shopping Center.

This plan is conjured up by a coalition of businesses and stakeholders looking at ways to "improve" Deerfield Beach. "Houses on secluded, tree-shaded lanes may seem nice," they argue, "but contribute little to the city's tax base. We need to think growth." All they have to do is persuade our elected officials that radical transformation of the Cove area is in the greater public interest than maintaining a quaint bedroom community.

I field this idea to an urban planning expert. "The plan has the potential," he says, "for redeveloping the properties along the waterways into larger condominium complexes, hotels, marinas, and restaurants that would fit nicely into the city's nautical theme."

The downside is that "such an undertaking would displace hundreds, if not thousands, of residents or ruin their lives. But, on the other hand, it would vastly increase the city's tax base, as the proponents argue, eliminate blight, push out undesirables, and, in balance, serve the common good, and bring badly needed jobs to the city." This would be "smart growth," he tells me.

The expert also says that the St. Ambrose church and adjacent properties would be an excellent site for an Indian casino, "the one thing Deerfield Beach does not have."

The city could also consider constructing new inter-connecting waterways that would accommodate larger boats. The expert says, "The whole east side of Deerfield could become an enormous tourist destination in 10 or 15 years."

Undoubtedly, Backswamp would arouse opposition from hometown terrorists who foolishly believe that quality of life should take primacy over growth and tourism.

Of course, the "Backswamp Project" is purely imaginary (April Fools!) as of now. (Or is it?) It hardly seems imaginable that anyone could come up with such a plan. But these are the very same arguments advocates for redevelopment of my neighborhood, the beach, use.

In the world of growth at any cost, driven by politics, nothing is truly unimaginable.

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