If they had voted Monday, city commissioners likely would have rejected the proposed condominium towers at the Chapel-by-the-Lake site, Palm Beach Post interviews with elected officials suggest.
“They didn’t have the votes,” West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio said Wednesday at her weekly news briefing.
Also Wednesday, a spokesman for First Baptist Church said for the first time that the church, which owns the 3.2-acre open-air chapel site at 1112 S. Flagler Drive, would consider an “adjustment” of the $23 million sale price if it meant making the project happen.
Developer Al Adelson asked for, and received, a 60-day delay at the end of Monday’s 3-hour meeting after commissioners continued to grill him about why they should change the city’s planning rules for the project. Adelson is seeking a change in the site’s zoning from “community service” to “multifamily” and a waiver of the city’s set-back rule.
Muoio, who doesn’t vote except in a tie, didn’t elaborate about her observation.
But Sylvia Moffett, considered the five-member commission’s swing vote on the issue, said Wednesday, “I can’t approve it the way it is now. Taking off a few stories (in height) is not going to change my opinion on how it’s going to fit.’”
Shanon Materio and Kimberly Mitchell — the chapel is in Mitchell’s district and blocks from Materio’s — had been the “nos” in a 3-2 vote Sept. 16 when the commission gave a tentative OK while suggesting Adelson and his team would lose on a final vote unless they made changes.
Adelson returned with a proposal that split the 25-story condo tower into two, more rounded towers of 24 and 25 stories, but Mitchell said Wednesday she had been leaning toward voting no again on Monday.
“I knew this was not going to go well and said, ‘If you want to listen to what the public has to say, and the commission, you have (60 days) to get your act together.’ I believe it would have lost if the vote had been called,” she said.
Materio wouldn’t say Wednesday how she’d have gone in a vote Monday. But she said of the proposed twin-tower modifications, “I don’t think they’re significant enough.”
Commissioner Ike Robinson said he hasn’t decided how he’ll vote because the development team “never finished their presentation. So I don’t have (all) the information.” And Commission President Keith James did not return a call.
On Monday, Kieran Kilday, the project’s planner, showed the commission a list of other city condominiums, including Watermark and the Trump Towers, and said, “All these properties, which are less in size than we are, have been granted a waiver. So it’s definitely not a precedent.”
But Mitchell drew applause when she asked Kilday, “How many of these projects are on the waterfront?”
Only the Watermark is right on the Intracoastal Waterway.
On Wednesday, Mitchell also recalled of the Monday meeting, “through the whole thing, I was looking at the church. And I was mouthing the words, ‘you need to bring the price down.’”
Associate Pastor Kevin Mahoney, spokesman for the church, said of the meeting, “I was not sensing that this was a doomed effort. But we felt the commissioners were asking significant questions that indicated they wanted more community input and involvement, and that that was going to take some extra time.”
Mahoney said, “Nobody wants to take less money,” but he said the church would consider an adjustment.
He stressed that about $16.5 million of the potential $23 million windfall already is locked up. Some $10 million would redevelop the property on the west side of Flagler Drive, another $2.9 million would pay off a mortgage on an apartment complex south of the church, and about $3.5 million would go to church programs to feed, clothe, house and provide health care for people. Whatever’s left would be go toward the 100 daughter churches that First Baptist hopes to “plant” in South Florida in the next five to 10 years.
The project is set to come back to the commission Jan. 6.