State of the City 2022 - Strong & Stable
Updated: May 13
The State of the City presentation and was given on May 11th, 2022, and presented by the PGA Corridor Association. As your hometown Mayor, and a lifelong local, it was one more 'dream come true moment', and I was honored to share updates on our growth, opportunity, and connected community happenings in our City - we described this presentation as Strong & Stable.
After reviewing our expedited permitting and the fact that we have issued close to 48,oo0 permits in the last 3 years, our new online permitting service called EnerGov, and our updated policy regarding extended outdoor seating, we got in to sharing some little things in our City that make a big difference...
We recently opened an adaptive playground in Gardens Park, which is just one more step toward our goal of being a more diverse and inclusive city. Be sure to check out the We-Go Swing which allows those in wheelchairs to actually get the thrill of swinging without having to transfer from their chair, and our Oodle Swing – which can hold multiple children or offer a great place to swing for those who are unable to sit unsupported. This playground is right beside our Miracle League Baseball Field where you can catch one of the most heartening games of baseball you will ever see.
By the end of this summer, we hope to complete the new pool at the Burns Road Aquatic Complex. This long overdue makeover will replace our previous 40-year-old pool with a fun, modern pool that will be attractive- with is beach entry design, rock wall and 16-foot open flume slide and versatile- we will be able to host a number of uses from adaptive lessons to a dive well.
Our Capital Improvement Team takes on the challenge of taking their General Contracting inhouse – from concept and design to building and construction, and what this means is that every city department is involved (our right hand knows what our left hand is doing), we are able to ensure the highest quality and best results – and most impressive is the significant level of cost savings for our residents – this actually averages a reduction of about 15-25% of the average cost saved.
There are so many layers to the service our city provides, it is hard to keep track of it all. If you ever do have a question about what is going on in Palm Beach Gardens, you should visit our website. We continue our efforts to be an Open Government and our website is frequently updated with the status of projects, our public meeting calendar, our initiatives…the things you need to know about which are happening in your backyard. If there is something you need that’s not there, please just contact our staff. They are helpful, approachable, and ready to talk to you.
Our Police Department just received the renewal of both their state and national accreditation. Our equally phenomenal Fire Department continues to be accredited and they just released their very impressive Annual Report. Our Fire Department’s average response time is 5 minutes and 54 seconds, and our Police response times are less than 5 minutes on priority calls. No one wants to have an emergency, but if you do, having the help of these remarkable and dedicated individuals means you are in the best hands.
The much-anticipated construction of the merge area that absorbs the traffic from I-95 exit ramp has been moved up to October 2023 - FDOT actually accelerated this project start date. This encompasses work for three entrance ramps - Westbound PGA, Southbound Alternate A1A and Eastbound PGA which all merge to southbound I-95. This soon-to-come fix does not require rebuilding the southbound ramp, yet. Instead, it aims to reduce the frustrating bottleneck by easing up the merger once cars reach the highway. When we look at crash data, the merge is currently is where more crashes occur.
Vision Zero is our latest endeavor to eliminate traffic fatalities and severe injuries on our roads. Although our numbers are considered low by comparison - the goal of this program is admirable. Even ONE preventable death is too many. This also feeds into Complete Street policies and design standards, which have been developed for the multimodal improvements identified in our Mobility Plan to ensure all users are equitably and safely accommodated to the maximum extent feasible - on a bike, as a pedestrian, or any method of transit.
So, what does this really mean? If you’re on the road, whether you’re 8 or 80, we want you to be comfortable and safe.
You can already see these mobility changes happening around our City, with more to come. When City Council members were approached by members of the Student Government Association at Palm Beach State College about safety issues on Campus drive and with bus drop off locations, we brought together our Engineering Department and PalmTran to work directly with these students and the College Administration to come up with a solution that would not only benefit students, but the driving public and commuters, as well. The result was a mobility-fee funded roundabout at the intersection of Campus Drive and Fairchild Avenue and the addition of a turn lane on Campus Drive. The project also added a 12-foot sidewalk and created an additional 8-foot sidewalk on the east side of the street. This project is significant because it is the City’s first mobility-fee funded project and helps to establish multi-modal connectivity in that area of town.
On Burns Road you will soon see construction of a separated two-way Bicycle Track along the south side of the road and on Kyoto Gardens Drive look for construction of an eight-foot-wide sidewalk and five-foot-wide bicycle lane.
Part of the overarching goal of our mobility plan is to create what’s called a 20-minute city, centered around our connected urban core right HERE – at PGA Station. The 20-minute city concept is a place where residents have easy, convenient access to many of the places and services they use daily including grocery stores, restaurants, schools, and parks, without having to rely heavily on a car. The chance to live, work and play with ease.
Beyond the beautiful redevelopment of Downtown at Palm Beach Gardens, with their Phase One coming to completion soon, and Phase 2 with their 280 unit multifamily apartments, a 174 room hotel, event lawn, dog parks and internal drive aisle, the City has now begun the next exciting process of working with the University of Florida to incorporate the Smart Growth principles we have been discussing when planning for the use of 70 acres of land recently obtained within the Alton PCD between the Alton Town Center and the Carrier Corporation Center for Intelligent Design.
Sustainability this year:
The Gardens GreenMarket is now hosted year-round, every Sunday, and offers locally sourced food and beverages. This not only supports local business but also helps to reduce our carbon footprint. Plus, five of our City Parks offer electric vehicle charging stations. Please visit the sustainability page of our city’s website for much more information about the array of out sustainability initiatives.
The Avenir Conservation Area will include over half of their acreage as restored ecosystem with more than 10 miles of public walking trails. The restoration will add more than 10,000 native plants to the preserve area and will also connect long-separated natural areas, creating a wildlife corridor and allowing a more natural flow of water in the Loxahatchee Slough that has not been seen in decades. We are proud to say that the addition of Avenir’s lands brought our City conserved greenspace to 51%.
Essential Services/Workforce Housing:
Workforce housing is crucial to sustaining our local labor force and ensuring our businesses are able to attract and retain essential employees. The City adopted our first Comprehensive Workforce Housing Program in late 2020 and have been hard at work getting this program up and running.
Our program is tailored to strongly encourage developers to incorporate workforce housing units into their developments through a range of incentives- such as density and intensity bonuses, waiving permit fees, and creating a housing trust fund among many others.
We have already had two projects utilize the benefits of this program! Solera at City Center opened last year and included 14 workforce housing units among its 136 units.
In addition to incorporating connectivity into its project, PGA Station has also been approved to build 40 workforce housing units among its 400 apartments. These units will be limited to households with gross income below 120% of the Area Median Income.
At the polls voters in Palm Beach Gardens will be asked to vote on renewing the City’s Ad Valorem Tax Exemption Program during the Primary Election on August 23rd. The existing program was approved back in 2012 and expires in November of this year. This program provides an additional tool for the City to use to attract new businesses with high salary jobs in targeted industries.
Economic Development, Sports Economics & Host City of PBG:
Business is booming! In the past year alone, the City has welcomed well over 300 new businesses including Fresh Market, REI, and Crumbl Cookies among numerous others. We are espoecially excited about AeroClean Technologies & Virtu Financial for deciding to locate their businesses here and working with City Council & staff through the competitive economic development incentive process.
The City was also the backdrop for two prominent community events recently - The Honda Classis and Artigras. This past year we are so pleased to have signed a five-year contract with the fine arts festival which brings in an estimated $2 million.
The Honda Classic Golf Tournament hosted over 200,000 attendees again this year. This event propels Palm Beach Gardens to an international stage, and they raise millions for non-profits in our local community. Next year’s Artigras is scheduled for February 18th & 19th and The Honda tournament has been set for February 20-26, 2023.
Another layer to recruiting business and encouraging development are our efforts in the area of sports and cultural economics. While the Recreation Department’s primary responsibility is to provide quality recreational opportunities for the City’s residents, we have also been working hard on an initiative to host local, statewide, regional and national Sport Tourism Events and Tournaments for the benefit of our local business community. I hope you have been able to enjoy the Cal Ripken World Series, the Palm Beach Cup, Little Mo’s International Tennis Tournament, the Development Player League Showcase, First Responder Games or the Palm Beach Gardens Classic.
The total estimated direct economic impact of recreational activities through sport tourism events was $8.5 million in 2021 alone, and we look forward to continuing to bring visitors into the City with these events to help support our local businesses.
Since 2011, the City’s total millage rate has been gradually reduced every year as we have repaid our debt service while also incrementally reducing the operating millage. All outstanding debt service was repaid as of 2019, so as of 2020, residents are not assessed any debt service millage.
Through tremendous leadership and commitment by staff and City Councils over many years, we have all committed to the big picture of long-term financial stability. This meticulous and often overlooked strategy provides residential and commercial taxpayers a level of confidence when planning for their future financial decisions.
And there you have it. We call it Strong & Stable.