The city has found a solution for the dilemma over whether to let the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County move its headquarters to a Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard parcel designated for taxpaying businesses.
The proposal: indefinitely suspend the requirement, with the proviso that, should the Federation leave in five years or less, it would have to retroactively pay all the taxes a commercial property owner would have generated.
After five years, the Federation would be tax-free as long as it stayed.
If it opted to sell, any new entity, either for-profit or nonprofit, would face the restriction again.
Commissioners did not take any vote Tuesday but they and Mayor Jeri Muoio were in consensus to direct City Attorney Claudia McKenna and the Federation to work out details.
“We are absolutely all for it,” Brian Seymour, a West Palm Beach attorney and Federation board member, told the commission.
“But you’re not going to leave,” Muoio said.
“We’re not going to leave. It’s the easiest discussion I had with (Federation leaders),” Seymour replied.
Commissioners and staff said the issue was whether the group’s good works, and having it in the city, counteracted the lost taxes, even as the city continues to operate on a tight budget.
The Federation has said any tax payment would be too much and probably would force the Federation to lay off workers and reduce the help it provides the public.
“The Jewish Federation does so many good things for our city that I think it would be wonderful to have them here,” Moffett said
The Federation proposes building a three-story, 40,000-plus-square-foot building on an 1.08-acre parcel. It would employ about 70 people.
The city had said it would consider having the federation pay a “PILOT” — “payment in lieu of taxes.”
Development Services Director Rick Greene has projected the property would, if used commercially, generate nearly $50,000 in city taxes. He said a nearby Wendy’s fast-food restaurant generated about $9,000 in city taxes.
Palm Beach County property records value the empty lot, now owned by a Boca Raton investor, at $677,448. Last year, it earned the city $16,490 in taxes.
When the Federation first came to the commission for a waiver, at an Oct. 7 work session, commissioners Keith James and Ike Robinson said they were inclined to keep the restriction.
James said that, with both the economy and the city’s real estate market improving, the parcel could well attract “a commercially viable purchaser” who would generate taxes.
But Robinson said last week he was impressed with many of the Federations’ good works and was inclined to reconsider.
Robinson and James weren’t at Tuesday’s meeting. They were attending the National League of Cities’ annual conference in Seattle.
At Tuesday’s meeting:
Hanley: The West Palm Beach City Commission voted 3-0 — Keith James and Ike Robinson were absent — to approve the largest expansion ever of the Hanley Center addiction treatment complex near St. Mary’s Medical Center. Hanley has said it’s responding to an exploding population of addicted adolescents and young adults. The $30 million-$45 million plan would add 120 beds. Hanley officials recently met with neighborhood groups concerned about the project’s scope.
“Quiet Zones”: Approved in its “consent agenda” a resolution calling on the state to cover the nearly $5 million cost of upgrading Florida East Coast Railway crossings to create “quiet zones,” cutting down on the increased noise expected when All Aboard Florida’s passenger rail service starts, as early as 2016.