With all the signs telling people to “Keep Lake Worth Low Rise” popping up in town, Lake Worth residents could be forgiven for confusion about what they are being asked to vote on March 12.
The city’s charter already has a height limit on buildings that prevents outsized monstrosities from going up downtown. But a group of residents wants to impose a stricter and less flexible limit east of the downtown area. This shortsighted effort would constrain the city’s ability to grow and do nothing to preserve its character. Voters should reject it.
Currently, buildings in Lake Worth’s downtown entertainment corridor, between Dixie Highway and Federal Highway, are limited to 45 feet, while buildings east of Federal along the same corridor can be built up to 65 feet, or about six stories. The height-limit referendum would end this distinction and limit all new downtown buildings to 45 feet. It would also limit buildings west of F Street along the same corridor to 35 feet.
Height-limit supporters say this would help to “keep Lake Worth low-rise and livable,” but it would do little to accomplish either. New construction in the city’s entertainment district is already limited to 45 feet. East of Federal, three buildings, including the iconic Gulf Stream Hotel, are already 65 feet or taller. Allowing buildings of comparable height on the two or so empty lots in that neighborhood would hardly be out of character with the neighborhood’s existing feel.
Opponents of the height limit make the further point that restricting building heights unnecessarily in that area could frustrate efforts to revive the hotel, which is in foreclosure and has sat empty for years. The ability to build a parking garage and additional rooms on an empty lot next to the hotel is seen as important to attracting an investor to reopen the Gulf Stream, and further height limits could dissuade interest. Preserving the city’s small-town feel is important, but existing height limits already accomplish that. We recommend a NO vote on Question 2.
Lake Worth voters will also be asked whether to move city elections from November to March. Most cities hold elections in March, even though November elections have more turnout. But November elections also cost more, and city issues can get lost in the crush of county, state and federal elections occurring at the same time. For these reasons, March elections make more sense for Lake Worth. Vote YES on Question 1.
for The Post Editorial Board