Denied 4-2: County Commission sides with racing fans over warehouses

After a motion to approve warehouse zoning at the former Palm Beach International Raceway died for lack of a second, Palm Beach County commissioners tossed aside concerns over being sued and voted to deny the plan.

History repeats itself.

Faced with a room full of avid racing fans fighting for their way of life, a county board once again rejected plans for warehouses on the site of the former Palm Beach International Raceway.

Palm Beach County commissioners voted 4-2 Thursday to deny the application from property owner IRG Sports & Entertainment to convert the shuttered racetrack on the Beeline Highway west of Jupiter into a 2.2-million-square-foot warehouse complex.

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Emails show how county helped racetrack-to-warehouse conversion

County staff moved quickly to help landowner avoid zoning obstacles but never publicly told the commission or the public why.

Last May, Palm Beach County staff rushed to avoid a legal challenge over the zoning board vote that blocked warehouses at the former Palm Beach International Raceway site on Beeline Highway west of Jupiter.

Top county officials from multiple departments responded to urgent requests from county attorneys for speedy action to get a seemingly mundane item before county commissioners at their May 26 zoning meeting. 

While appearing innocent, the action would clear the way for the conversion of the racetrack to a warehouse complex by removing a potential hurdle for the developer — an action staff never made public or clear to commissioners. 

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Call him ‘carpetbagger’ but leave Mayo vs. James to the voters, attorney argues

West Palm Beach mayoral race between Keith James and Rodney Mayo comes down to decision from Circuit Court Judge G. Joseph Curley.

Home is where the heart is.

That’s the message from Rodney Mayo’s lawyer, fighting to keep the West Palm Beach restaurateur on the ballot for a March 14 faceoff with West Palm Beach Mayor Keith James.

But to James, home is where your drivers’ license says it is. Or your voter registration card. And for Mayo, that’s a Lantana-area address on Pine Drive, not a “crash pad” above a bar on Clematis Street, James’ attorneys argued Tuesday in Palm Beach County Circuit Court. 

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After anonymous text campaign, city manager spending threshold cut in half

City Manager Ron Ferris defends proposal: ‘It isn’t about power. It’s trying to find the most efficient and effective way to deliver our services.’

In a debate shaped by an anonymous texting campaign to block “a dangerous plan” that “puts tax dollars at risk,” the Palm Beach Gardens City Council this month sharply reduced the city manager’s proposal to increase his spending authority.

The council cut City Manager Ron Ferris’ proposal in half, putting the threshold for staff to approve contracts for goods and services at 0.25 percent of the city’s budget, which amounts to $590,000, half of the $1.18 million Ferris sought. The threshold is still nearly 10 times the existing $65,000 limit and far higher than neighboring cities.

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Long-awaited State Road 7 project will wait five years longer

West Palm Beach’s litigation prompts state to withdraw $80 million scheduled to be spent in 2023 to build connector between Okeechobee Boulevard and Northlake.

The state had $80 million on hand to begin construction next year of State Road 7 from Okeechobee to Northlake boulevards.

But on Thursday, state officials will slam the brakes on the controversial project by formally asking local officials to sign off on a shocking twist: Delay it at least five years. 

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Power of the purse: Gardens council to give city manager more control

Final vote upcoming on proposal to raise threshold for Palm Beach Gardens City Council review of contracts to $1.18 million from $65,000.

The Palm Beach Gardens City Council is on the verge of giving its city manager far more purchasing power than other top administrators in the county.

The proposal backed in October on first reading by the council would empower City Manager Ron Ferris to approve contracts for goods and services worth $1.18 million without council review, up from $65,000. 

Palm Beach County’s threshold is $200,000. In Jupiter, it’s $50,000. In Boca Raton and Boynton Beach, it’s $100,000. Delray Beach is $65,000.

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No Gardens election in March: Reed, two new members handed seats

With uncontested elections of Chelsea Reed, Bert Premuroso and Dana Middleton, Republicans will hold council majority.

The March 2023 Palm Beach Gardens municipal election is over without voters casting a single ballot.

Incumbent Chelsea Reed, former Councilmember Bert Premuroso and Dana Middleton will take office in March after no one filed to run against them during the two-week qualifying period, which closed Wednesday.

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Mayor Keith James in crosshairs of Sunset Lounge lawsuit

Deposition shows West Palm Beach procurement official did little to prove case against top-ranked bidder, Vita Lounge.

A West Palm Beach city official disqualified the winning bidder to operate the Sunset Lounge, an iconic nightclub in the city’s oldest black neighborhood, in large part because the bidder’s friends waged a Facebook campaign of support.

However, the city’s procurement officer did nothing to investigate whether those friends were representatives of top-ranked Vita Lounge, a standard needed to disqualify them over prohibited lobbying, procurement officer Paul Bassar testified in an Oct. 7 deposition. Instead, he said he relied on copies of Facebook posts provided by his boss, the city attorney.

His answers place West Palm Beach Mayor Keith James squarely in the crosshairs of a lawsuit challenging the city’s disqualification of the all-black Vita Lounge, one of two bidders seeking to run the long-shuttered nightspot in the city’s oldest black neighborhood. 

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Despite Wayne Gretzky, Gardens shot down hockey rink proposal

Internal documents reveal Palm Beach Gardens’ concerns over missed deadlines, bond issue.

Hockey great Wayne Gretzky expressed support for building two hockey rinks in Palm Beach Gardens before the project suffered a devastating crosscheck from city officials.

Gretzky, who recently bought a home in Gardens, had expressed interest in using the $43 million sports complex for his youth hockey school before the city terminated its relationship with the nonprofit behind the project. 

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Gardens cancels $43 million indoor sports complex

Proposal would have brought two ice-skating rinks, gymnasium to North County District Park

City officials have canceled a deal three years in the making to bring a $43 million sports complex with two ice rinks to a Palm Beach Gardens park, claiming that they have better, unspecified offers to pursue.

The termination of the contract with the nonprofit Palm Beach North Athletic Foundation came in private correspondence from the city manager and only became public when raised during the comment portion of the Nov. 3 City Council meeting by Councilmember Mark Marciano.

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