Hallandale Beach Blog -A common sense public policy overview offering a critical perspective on the current events, politics, govt., public policy, sports scene and pop culture of the U.S., South Florida and Europe, especially the UK and Sweden. In particular, Broward & Miami-Dade County, and the cities of Hallandale Beach, Hollywood & Aventura. Trust me when I tell you, this part of Florida is NOT the Land of Lincoln. Pictured in upper-left is Hallandale Beach's iconic beachball-colored Water Tower on State Road A1A; September 2008 photo by me, South Beach Hoosier. © 2013 Hallandale Beach Blog, All Rights Reserved.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Despite the MILLION$ at stake, Hallandale Beach City Comm. DOESN'T do simple due diligence, but DOES cave-in to Forest City/Village at Gulfstream Park

Above, artist rendering of The Village at Gulfstream Park retail project, and, below, the sign as posted in May of 2008 and seen on U.S.-1, with the Gulfstream Park Racetrack grandstand in the distance. May 2008 photo by South Beach Hoosier.

The letter below was sent to the Hallandale Beach City Commission and City Manager Mark A. Antonio on Wednesday the 14th, prior to their 5 p.m. City Comm. meeting, and was written and signed by myself and my friend, Hallandale Beach civic activist Csaba Kulin, who will be making some news of his own next week.

For you readers out in the blogosphere, wherever you are, it's a bit of a follow-up to my post yesterday about the efforts of the folks at The Village at Gulfstream Park and their parent, Forest City to get out of complying with the mitigation requirements that were placed on them in order to get the city and Broward County to sign-off and give their final approval for the Village project many years ago.

That post was titled, No surprise given what I've told you here: A "challenging retail leasing environment" at Village at Gulfstream Park according to Forest City's execs

That vote by the city was prior to Keith London, Anthony A. Sanders and Alexander Lewy were elected to the HB City Commission.

Along with their various hired guns and minions, they showed-up for the December 7th HB City Commission meeting determined to persuade the Commission that they should modify those requirements thru amendments.

#12 A. A Resolution of the City of Hallandale Beach, Florida, Accepting Amendments to the Village at Gulfstream Park Plat ( This Resolution is a result of Application# 10-12-PR by Gulfstream Racing Association, Inc.) (Staff: Development Services)(See Backup) CAD#029/04 (Staff Report, Supporting Docs)

The City Commission, in my opinion, operating largely out of woeful ignorance -even more than usual- caved-in and made some terrible decisions that night that most citizen taxpayers of HB STILL know nothing about, all these days later, given that ZERO members of the South Florida news media bothered to attend the meeting, which as you regular readers of this blog know, is NOT exactly a new trend in general in terms of covering local government.

That's particularly true in HB, where the city remains one of the area's perennial laughingstocks in the media due to what its elected officials and administrators have actually said and done over the recent past, much of that due to the buffoonish and jaw-dropping antics of former HB Commissioner and 2012 candidate William "Bill" Julian.

Trust me, well-informed and attentive news reporters and columnists are as rare around Hallandale Beach as Three Wise Men and a Virgin -at any time of the year.

This news media blackout came despite the fact that they were talking about well over $10 Million in changes, not to mention, a change in sound public policy to... what exactly?
The City Commission vote was 5-0.

The Broward County Commission is the ultimate authority on whether or not these modifications desired by Forest City and the Village will be made, and next week, I hope to find out when their public meeting will be scheduled in the new year so that I can mention it here and make sure that everyone is aware of the fact that this is NOT a DONE DEAL.

I also should let you know now that as of today, it's my plan to post this same letter in the next few days with some accompanying photos documenting what Csaba and I have written, so that those of you far from these sub-tropical shores can see for yourself how completely inept and inattentive the folks running things on both sides of U.S.-1 were and remain.

So, all that said, this is what was actually sent to the HB City Commission and City Manager on Wednesday:

Honorable Mayor, Vice Mayor, City Commissioners:

Christmas came early this year for Forest Cities, Gulfsteam Park Race Track & Casino and the Village at Gulfstream Park, LLC.
Under the Christmas tree were at least three gifts worth about $17 Million, collectively, courtesy of the citizen taxpayers of Hallandale Beach, delivered by you, our elected City Commission.
This action comes after an approximately $15 Million gift/loan under TIF about two years ago.
As is so often the case with important issues at Hallandale Beach City Hall, the debate and then votes on the issue took place just before Midnight, when most HB citizen taxpayers were fast asleep.

Why no continuance to a reasonable time?

The City entered into what both parties agreed at the time was a reasonable Development Agreement (DA) about six years ago, and the Developer, eager to get started on the project, agreed to it, anxious to change the dynamic and image of the property make it a destination attraction.
Now, six years later, the Developer wants to renegotiate the uncompleted portions of the DA, claiming changed economic conditions.

While we all want the property to succeed and become a source of both pride and profits, our primary concerns today in writing are that Hallandale Beach taxpayers' best interests are protected, and believe that should be your paramount concern, too.
Simply put, you have completely dropped the ball.

The Developer’s main argument for modification now has been that “economic times” have changed since 2007.
While we agree that the economy is not one that any of us likes, your answer in response to them should have been that, as a starter, to be one of modification based on revisiting these issues 5-10 years from now, with time-certain dates for doing so.

Economic activity and spending may indeed be much better in the future than currently, and then those requirements could be re-examined for their suitability, but simply waving the white flag NOW is NOT a strategy that best represents the short-term and long-term financial and Quality-of-Life interests of Hallandale Beach taxpayers.

For the record, we came up with the $17 Million size of gift by using your own consultant, Mr. Paul Lambert’s number for the Transportation Mitigation relief portion.
For the Affordable Housing relief, we have used our own recent experience with Highland Park Village (HPV), Mayor Cooper’s estimate of the expected subsidies needed to sell the units in HPV, and Paul Lambert’s own admission that $50,000 per unit is closer to reality than VGP’s offered $5,000 per unit.

A developer is obligated to have 15% of the total units to be built be “affordable/workforce” housing units.
While developers traditionally try to have some or all the affordable housing units located off-site, we believe these units should be dispersed among the rest of the 85%, not displaced west of the Mississippi River.
This is a community, not an Indian Reservation.

Additionally, we believe that the amount of money offered ought to be the price difference between a market-priced unit and an affordable/workforce-priced unit.
Based on the City’s recent experience with Highland Park Village, we know that it will take $50,000 dollars or more to make a market-price unit an affordable and desirable housing unit.
You can use the same logic for the other two properties the City owns to come up with the dollar amount needed to complete.
The cost per unit subsidy ought to be very similar to HPV.

After all, what good are units that nobody wants?

Based on these calculations for the 225 affordable/workforce housing units the VGP is obligated to build over time, the City’s CRA should have received roughly $11,250,00 (at $50,000 per-unit), not the measly $1,125.000, ($5,000 per-unit) that you all agreed to last Wednesday night.
That is a $10,045,00 gift to the Developers, money that more appropriately should be going to the City’s CRA at some definite time in the future, as the 1,500 housing units were actually built and ready for purchase.

It was extremely distressing to city taxpayers that on such an important issue, some of you were and are remarkably uninformed about the facts, and the $5,000 contribution per-unit mentioned by Broward County toward affordable housing.
We firmly believe that financial number is the “floor,” NOT the “ceiling” for contributions.

We are quite confident that Broward County would NOT object if the Developers were prepared to contribute $50,000 dollars per unit to the City's CRA, an opinion that we will soon be sharing with the Broward County Commissioners and staff as they deal with this subject, too.

The elimination of the off-site 500-car parking garage saves the Developer $5,000,000, and while we agree that such a garage is not needed at present, absent requirements that this issue be revisited at some definite point in time in the future, how do we know what the situation and need will be five or ten years from now? This is the very definition of short-sighted and self-defeating.

As best we can figure, the elimination of the Tri-Rail shuttle service saves the Developer $200,000-$250,000 per year.
While it may or may not be needed at this time, why agree to give it up entirely at this time, not knowing the future demand?

And more to the point of your collective oversight and accountability, or rather the lack of it on Wednesday night, where is ANY PROOF that the general public even knows about the Tri-Rail shuttle, as there is no posted schedule anywhere at the Super-Stop, and there is NOTHING in their newspaper promotions which specifically mention it.
NONE of you seem to have actually visited the Super-Stop, despite how close it is to your office, one block away.

In fact, many of not most of their own employees DON'T even know about it, including the security personnel who patrol that particular area, as recent conversations we've had with them have proven time-and-again.
They didn't know what we were talking about!

You can hardly expect unaware consumers to use a so-called service that the Developer themselves adamantly refuse to properly promote or feature, and you should wonder yourselves why they have done this if they really want to increase their number of visitors.
They seem entirely oblivious to this -and so do you.

And what do HB taxpayers receive in return for giving up these two major Transportation mitigation requirements?
Well, we get to relocate the City's mini-bus stop from behind City Hall to the Super-Stop.
What a deal!

If the Developer was truly interested in increasing the visitors to their property, that should have been done for free to the residents as soon as the Super-Stop was completed in January of 2010.
There should have been a little ribbon-cutting ceremony, but instead, that aspect of the mitigation was NOT completed on time -in time for the beginning of the racing season- as were many of the adjoining areas, and we have photographic proof of the Developer's inability to meet reasonable deadlines. Among other things...

And yes, that would be the same bus Super-Stop that has never really been properly maintained by the Developer the past two years, as anyone who uses it regularly could tell you.

What could possibly explain your collective failure -and that of the City Manager and his staff- to stay on top of such a simple thing, located only one block from City Hall?
There's really no excuse.

We remain profoundly disappointed in the way that this entire matter has been negotiated, presented to the citizen taxpayers of this city, and resolved -near Midnight.

We are quite confident that Broward County's Commissioners and their professional staff will take a much more nuanced look at the facts on-the-ground in determining whether or not this change is appropriate and in the community's best long-term interests, or whether it would be more appropriately revisited at agreed-upon time-certain dates in the future.

You can rest assured that this issue and the way that it has been mis-handled by you and the City Manager's staff, will NOT fade away in the coming months.
Quite to the contrary, it will be a subject that ever more residents of this city will become angry about as they learn the true facts of your White Flag strategy.

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#HOLLYWOODFL based photographer and entrepreneur Esther Chuang with Hollywood Mayor-elect Josh Levy

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