A common sense public policy overview from David in South Florida, offering a critical perspective on the current events, politics, govt./public policy, sports and pop culture of the U.S., #SoFL and Europe, esp. the #UK, #Sweden and #France, via my life in #Texas, #Memphis, #Miami, #IU, #Chicago, #WashingtonDC & #SoFL. In particular, #Broward & #MiamiDade County, and the cities of #HallandaleBeach, #HollywoodFL & #Aventura. Trust me when I tell you, this part of Florida is NOT the Land of Lincoln.

Photo in upper-left is Hallandale Beach's iconic beachball-colored Water Tower on State Road A1A, September 2008; March 2018 photo below of HB's North Beach and southern Hollywood Beach, looking left-to-right, looking north, HYDE Condominium, Etaru Japanese Robatayaki restaurant, and Hollywood Beach in the distance, with umbrellas. All photos by me, © Hallandale Beach Blog, All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Salient facts and tough questions re tonight's community meeting in Hallandale Beach about the latest development proposal -gambit?- about the Diplomat Hotel & Country Club, part of the Westin Diplomat Resort & Spa in Hollywood. What is allowed under current zoning and what is allowed under the requested new zoning?

Salient facts and tough questions re tonight's community meeting  in Hallandale Beach about the latest development proposal -gambit?- about the Diplomat Hotel & Country Club, part of the Westin Diplomat Resort & Spa in Hollywood. What is allowed under current zoning and what is allowed under the requested new zoning?

Below is a slightly-longer and corrected version of a quick email I wrote and dispatched yesterday afternoon to about 300 people throughout South Florida, including news media, regarding tonight's important 6 pm meeting in Hallandale Beach, behind City Hall.
There's much more in this issue than a quick first look would reveal.


October 14, 2015

For the record, since many of you receiving this email today were not living in the area at the time, in all the many years since the previous ill-considered Diplomat Hotel & County Club's 5-6 super-sized condo towers project was rejected by the Broward County Commission, 
project that I and many of you actively fought against from the very 
beginning, on the facts, because it was so self-evidently over-the-top and INCOMPATIBLE for the residential NE neighborhood it would have been shoehorned into, did the owners and management of the Diplomat EVER once do the most-obvious things they could have (and should have already) been doing to actually improve that property's bottom line and help the local economy - advertise and market it like they really meant it -in interesting and compelling ways that would draw new customers.

That rejected development project would have negatively affected not just the Quality of Life of area residents in general, but if approved, had also placed MANY HB homeowners in almost-permanent shadows as a result of the proposed Diplomat condo towers, built but feet away from their living room and bedroom windows.

For reasons known only to the Diplomat, despite all the resources in the world they had access to, the Diplomat consciously chose to NOT do the small common sense things for the golf course they needed to do to be successful in a competitive marketplace like South Florida, especially when their golf course is widely said by experienced golfers to be both TOO EXPENSIVE and NOT very challenging or FUN to play to boot, compared to other less-expensive golf courses in South Florida.

But instead of improving the actual product and learning how to effectively market their property, they seemed content to rely on word-of-mouth from prior hotel guests, many of whom, of course, were often staying/playing at their company's expense, NOT via their own wallet/purse.
Guests who no longer visit it or play because of their concern about a perceived slip in the golf course's basic quality, value and the level of CUSTOMER SERVICE.

Over-and-over at myriad public meetings in Hallandale Beach and in Ft. Lauderdale, I made the point to public officials, the public and the the press that the Diplomat's owners and management cries that they desperately needed the multiple super-size condo towers built on residential neighborhood streets to make enough money, had yet to show they were willing to do even the most basic things that any norma business would have to do to be successful.

Public meetings which, as I would later reveal via email to many of you and on my blog, included "comments" from individuals who were paid by HB City Hall with city tax dollars, all of whom consistently hectored genuinely concerned Hallandale Beach and Hollywood residents who were against or agnostic about the proposal on the one hand, and on the other hand -SURPRISE- spoke in favor of the Diplomat's position, all without EVER publicly disclosing their $$$ relationship to the City that favored it.

Many of you even know two of them: Patricia Genetti, the duplicitous head of the Hallandale Beach Chamber of Commerce, and, the City's former paid "spy," Joe Kessel.
And no, despite many in the local news media's words to me at the time that they would definitely follow up and publicly ask how these two people receiving tax dollars from HB City Hall for trying to influence policy were able to go before public bodies throughout Broward -as well as HB- without publicly disclosing (as legally required) that they were there as paid representatives of the City, none did. :-(

Before the final County meetings that eventually sealed their losing fate -and in all the YEARS since then!- the Diplomat's owners and management have never so much as arranged to have erected even ONE simple directional sign for their Golf Course/Resort property to let visitors know where they are and how to get there.

That's why you DON'T see any Diplomat Golf Course directional signs near I-95, on U.S.-1, State Road A1A or Hallandale Beach Blvd., while you DO see MANY such simple directional signs on those streets and all over town, even for relatively small and modest-sized churches.

Instead of showing some smarts, initiative and moxie for a change, and listening to HB residents and their own guests, the Diplomat wallowed in either self-pity or apathy, the Diplomat refused/refuses to do even the simplest thing to show that they are serious about making that property successful, something that nobody in the area is against, including me?

Why? Because then as now, the Diplomat team's whole pretext for asking for zoning variances and building is fatally and horribly flawed, especially as long as they refuse to face reality about their product and the public's perception of it.
Then as now, they continue to rely upon and posit things that are simply NOT in evidence, and eagerly misconstrue the reality of facts that are so in abundance to anyone who simply walks or drives around the area and opens their eyes.

The fact is, not once in all the many public meetings where I spoke and laid out the true facts, did the Diplomat or its representatives ever answer or rebut my simple questions that deserved an honest answer.

Not ONCE at all those meetings did the Diplomat answer the question of why they were adamantly REFUSING to do the very things that they were ALREADY legally entitled to do on that property in terms of building and improving upon it, without anyone's approval.
Things that nobody in town was publicly opposed to.

Despite having seen the questions coming so many times before, the Diplomat never tried to answer the questions publicly, low-hanging fruit in the larger scheme of things.

Honestly, shouldn't answering those sort of simple questions be the very minimum that the public should expect the Diplomat and its well-connected and well-paid team to be able to answer logically, especially when they ask the City to CHANGE zoning so that THEY can materially benefit, with the public likely to suffer in the process, unless some cooler and smarter heads prevail?

Isn't asking why the Diplomat Hotel & Golf Course's management have NOT properly marketed their golf course and resort in the past, and NOT tried to do anything to 

IMPROVE it, and build what they already legally could build there, be the starting point for questions for the Diplomat team from HB City Commissioners? 
Yes. That's the bare minimum!

Any commissioner who's afraid to ask those questions and consider what that means about the Diplomat and its vision doesn't deserve to be on the dais.

Below are two useful tools to use to help get better informed.
The first tool is the latest article from the Florida Bulldog about this very issue:

Hallandale Beach skyline to change with massive Diplomat expansion
By William Gjebre, FloridaBulldog.org
A proposal for a massive, four-tower project in Hallandale Beach featuring three hotels, 938 rooms and a 250-unit high-rise condominium under the Diplomat brand will be officially unveiled to nearby residents at a meeting Thursday in the city’s Cultural Center....

Article at: http://www.floridabulldog.org/2015/10/hallandale-beach-skyline-to-change-with-massive-diplomat-expansion/

The second tool is an informative and to-the-point email I received earlier today from my good friend and fellow civic activist, Csaba "Chuck" Kulin, about the Diplomat's proposal and tomorrow night's
important meeting.

I strongly urge you to read both -AND the attachment!- and think about the facts on the ground we can see with our very own eyes. 

But think long and hard, too, about what sort of area you want this part of SE Broward to be in the near-future, when we already have the unfortunate distinction of having some of the most gridlocked, F-rated roads in the entire state of Florida. Make plans NOW to attend tomorow's meeting -and bring a neighbor or two!

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Csaba Kulin
Date: Tue, 13 Oct 2015 23:51:43 -0700
Subject: Diplomat Project Details
To: Undisclosed Recipients

Dear HB Resident,

There is going to be a very important meeting this Thursday at 6:00 P.M. Hallandale Beach Community Center about the Diplomat Hotel and Country Club development. You will hear a presentation by the developer’s attorney telling you why it is a good project and how it will improve your quality of life.

I included the current zoning of the golf course, permitted uses, standards of a golf course and accessory uses. Accessory uses are limited to 15% of the golf course and buildings may not be higher than 100 feet. Read the details bellow.

The developer is asking the City to rezone the total property to “PDD planned development district”. The purpose and intent of the PDD planned development district is to provide an optional zoning
procedure to permit site design flexibility and greater land use intensity and density. That is the way the developer hopes to build a 20, 24 and 30 story condo-hotel.

On the 5 acre land (behind City National Bank) the developer is allowed to build a 30 story office building (no residential units). If the City does not rezone the property and gift 250 “residential flex
units” to the developer it may be an office building providing hundreds of new jobs.

Please read the “Current Zoning” and “Requested Zoning” below to be better informed.

Chuck Kulin
Fairways North, Inc.


Below is an email I received from Csaba Thursday morning:

Hallandale Beach Residents;
The Notice of Community Meeting about the Diplomat under “The applications Involve” said the following:
  • Applying the Planned Development Overlay Zoning District to the total property.
  • Rezoning a 5 acre portion of the property to CCB District.
This is the first time I saw any mention of REZONING the Diplomat Golf Course. Up to this time I believed that the Diplomat requested some variances to the current zoning. This is a major change in my opinion.
I hope the Ms. Orshefsky will answer all the question bellow but in case she will not we need to ask it ourselves.
We need a clear picture of what is allowed under current zoning and what is allowed under the requested new zoning.Here are a few questions we need to get answers to:
  • What is the current zoning of the total property?
  • What are the current permitted uses in the total property?
  • What are the current accessory use limitations of the total property?
  • What are the permitted uses in a Planned Development Overlay Zoning District?
  • What are the permitted uses in a CCB District?
Each of us may have only a few minutes to speak so please feel free to ask any of the questions not yet asked or NOT answered clearly.

Chuck Kulin

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