Battle over West Palm’s skyline height starting to get testy


Highlights

Ad campaign, mailers, polls deployed in battle over 25-story West Palm Beach office proposal

As a series of votes approaches on the future of the downtown West Palm Beach skyline, the battle for public opinion is heating up.

Related Cos.’ push to rewrite the downtown rule book to allow a 25-story office tower on a 5-story South Flagler Drive site is spurring supporters and opponents to pony up for opinion surveys, newspaper ads and mailers.

“Outsiders want radical zoning changes that will forever alter our waterfront and destroy our city’s skyline,” said one flyer that showed up in mailboxes around West Palm Beach this week. “25-story office towers on Okeechobee and Flagler will make WPB a mini-Miami,” it said.

That mailer, attributed to a group called Coalition for Reasonable Development, included names and numbers of city commissioners and Planning Board and Downtown Action Committee members, and tear-along-the-dotted-line postcards to sign and mail to register opposition.

READ: Developer offers reward for information about smear campaign

Related, for its part, has had people going door-to-door to solicit support for the One Flagler project, which it wants to build at Okeechobee Boulevard and South Flagler Drive, just over 300 feet west of the downtown waterfront.

And the developer has been running half-page ads in The Palm Beach Post, featuring locals who support the project.

“Today, it’s West Palm Beach’s turn, and the One Flagler project can move us from good to great,” downtown business owner Monte Lambert says in one ad that appeared Tuesday. “Our city requires growth if we are to pay for necessary services without raising property taxes,” an ad on Wednesday quoted western communities resident John Mike as saying.

READ: West Palm Beach balks at big transit-oriented mixed-use development

The Trump Plaza Condominium Association hired well known Florida pollsters to survey 300 residents throughout the city on various aspects of the project. Association President Abe Bernstein said residents of Trump Plaza’s 186 condos fear that if Related is allowed to build its tower on a site that a public referendum restricted to five stories, then some other developer could seek permission to build on the Trinity church property next to Trump Plaza blocking views and adding traffic.

Their property values and quality of life will go down, Bernstein said. “People live in West Palm Beach because they like the quality of life here…. We don’t want it to look like downtown Miami.”

Predictably, the survey by pollsters Steven Vanacore and Vanessa Butwell, conducted June 6-10, found that respondents overwhelmingly oppose One Flagler. The survey results were shared with city officials who will vote on the project.

Here’s one of its questions: “At this point, would you say that you support or oppose changing the zoning ordinances to allow the height limit to be raised to 25 stories?” According to the pollsters, 25 percent supported the change and 75 percent opposed it.

Another question says, “The building would add an additional 2,300 car trips per day near the base of the Royal Park Bridge and the Okeechobee Corridor” and asks whether that would make the respondent more or less likely to support the project. Not surprisingly, 74 percent said that would make them less likely to support it, with 17 percent liking the idea of more traffic.

Asked if they liked the idea that the project’s traffic could get in the way of fire trucks and ambulances, 77 percent said they didn’t like that, but 15 percent said that blocking emergency vehicles made them more likely to support the project.

Harvey Oyer III, West Palm Beach attorney for Related, called the poll meaningless.

“‘Are you in favor of a project that will prevent hurricane evacuation’ and 18 percent of the people said ‘sure I am.’ Zero percent of the people should have said they would support that,” he said.

“While I haven’t been provided a copy of the poll, I have had the methodology and results read to me and it clearly has all the markings of a push poll, which is a series of leading statements and questions that push the person being surveyed to one particular conclusion. These are really meaningless polls, except for propaganda value for an advocate for one particular position. So it on balance provides no insight to our residents or leaders.

“It’s disappointing when qualified and experienced developers like Related bring forward-thinking innovative ideas, great architecture and significant financial investment to our city and some rogue person or group attempts to sabotage their ideas by spreading misinformation. But fortunately I think our city leaders and residents are much smarter than that and won’t be distracted by these antics.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

BREAKING: Retired PBSO deputy shot, killed son-in-law in The Acreage
BREAKING: Retired PBSO deputy shot, killed son-in-law in The Acreage

A retired Palm Beach County sheriff’s deputy shot and killed his son-in-law Sunday night in The Acreage, according to authorities. Carlton Nebergall Jr., 61, was arrested early Monday on a first-degree murder charge in the death of his 36-year-old son-in-law, Jacob Lodge, court records show. He is expected to make his first appearance before...
Trump in Palm Beach: President to head back to White House late afternoon
Trump in Palm Beach: President to head back to White House late afternoon

UPDATE 8:47 a.m.: Still no word on how Trump will be spending the holiday, but he did take to Twitter this morning to say, “Have a great, but very reflective, President’s Day!” Original Story: President Donald Trump will spend part of Presidents Day in Palm Beach County before flying back to the White House this evening. He has...
BAFTA Film Awards 2018: See the complete winners list
BAFTA Film Awards 2018: See the complete winners list

Check out which films, stars and directors won big Sunday at the 2018 British Academy Film Awards in London.  Best film: "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri" Outstanding British film: "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri" Outstanding debut by a British writer, director or producer: "I Am Not a Witch,"...
WATCH: Fergie's national anthem performance at the NBA All-Star Game baffles viewers
WATCH: Fergie's national anthem performance at the NBA All-Star Game baffles viewers

Grammy award-winning recording artist Fergie was tasked with the pre-game national anthem for the NBA All-Star Game on Sunday night. On paper, that sounds like a great choice, but many viewers thought it could have gone better. Critics pointed out that Fergie’s voice was oddly erratic during the anthem. One sequence even led Warriors forward...
BREAKING: Man dies after shooting in The Acreage
BREAKING: Man dies after shooting in The Acreage

A man has died in a shooting in western Palm Beach County in the vicinity of The Acreage tonight, authorities said. The suspected shooter was caught at the scene, a Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman said. Deputies responded around 8:30 p.m. to a call about the shooting in the 11000 block of Mellow Court. They found the male victim...
More Stories