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Reject Bahia Mar Towers Fiasco

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(TO SIGN PETITION SCROLL TO END) The City Commission should reject the rezoning of the Bahia Mar property and reject the developer's proposal to build two 400' condo tower and a parking garage which will create traffic gridlock on the beach and waste taxpayer dollars... THE SUN SENTINEL OPPOSES THE BAHIA MAR DEVELOPMENT PROPOSAL ... From the Sun Sentinel Editorial Board... "The Bahia Mar proposal is too big for Fort Lauderdale Beach... (drawing of what developers hope to build at Bahia Mar on Fort Lauderdale beach)... Major updates are needed. The question is whether the proposed 39-story skyscrapers, which would be the tallest buildings on the beach, are too big for the barrier island, will cast too big a shadow on the beach and will add too much traffic to already failing roads. Compared with what's now there, the proposed redo of Bahia Mar on A1A in Fort Lauderdale beach makes a show-stopping statement. The problem is, it's all too much. Right now, Bahia Mar is a modest white Doubletree hotel that looks like it did in the mid-1980s. Behind the hotel is a massive asphalt parking lot, plus some tennis courts. Around the periphery is a 23-acre marina famous for hosting the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, a historic annual event that's made our region the yachting capital of the world. Since the 1940s, the city of Fort Lauderdale has owned this signature property between the beach and Intracoastal Waterway, one of the finest publicly owned sites on the Eastern Seaboard. But over the years, the city has leased it out. Today's disappointing terms have another 47 years to go. In 2014, after a previous developer's big plans went nowhere, the lease was acquired by Tate Capital, a South Florida firm with even bigger plans.... ... Hugging the highway, however, Tate wants to build two 39-story skyscrapers, defined as buildings at least 400 feet tall. Topping out at 420 feet, these condo towers would be, by far, the tallest on the beach. The next tallest — Point of Americas and The Palms — are 31 stories. In Broward County, only two downtown Fort Lauderdale buildings are taller. Downtown is where tall buildings belong. In the site's center, Tate wants to build a massive parking garage, hidden by residences on the exterior. All told, the plan would add 625 condos to the barrier island, a significant impact on a congested area. When you look at the drawings, it's easy to say "wow!" For finally, this property is getting the attention it deserves. The promise of a grocery store is a big plus for beach residents. And a stylized pedestrian bridge to the beach could make this yachting center a destination place for landlubbers, too. But when you look at the details of the lease, and the sheer mass of the development, skepticism is warranted. First, consider the boat show. Everyone agrees the boat show must be happy in any new home. That's why the city made any new lease contingent on a long-term deal with the marine industry's epicenter event. Today, the boat show is doing pretty well with luxury tents in the parking lot. In fact, because of its sales success, City Commissioner Dean Trantalis, who represents the area, said the show's rent increased again this year, from $4 million to $5.5 million. The rent hike is a sticking point, especially since Bahia Mar is paying the city only $1.5 million in rent and revenue share this year. The proposed redo has the boat show moving into that big garage, which would have 16-foot ceilings and 185,000 square feet of air-conditioned space. While the pillars of a garage might seem difficult to navigate, the developers say the boat show is "100 percent" behind their pitch. The boat show folks couldn't be reached for comment, however, and we've heard they're legally constrained from raising objections. If so, that needs to change. For if ever the boat show's voices needed to be heard, it is now, before the city signs a 100-year deal that forever changes the landscape. We did speak to leaders of the Idlewyld Homeowners Association, whose homes lie across the Intracoastal from Bahia Mar and have raised the loudest objections. (For the record, Sun Sentinel Publisher Howard Greenberg lives in Idlewyld and has recused himself from participating in editorial board meetings on this issue.) We tried to talk to Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler and City Manager Lee Feldman, but their spokesman canceled our Thursday meeting. Public Affairs Manager Chaz Adams said "lots of moving parts" first needed to be finalized. Seiler promised Saturday, though, that the meeting would be rescheduled. Still, it's surprising to learn that "lots of moving parts" remain, given that the City Commission was supposed to vote on this 100-year lease next week. In fact, before we and others raised concerns, the lease proposed by the city manager was barreling toward a vote over the Christmas holidays. Eventually, however, the item was pushed back to Feb. 2, perhaps enough time to get some answers. Here's what people want to know: How much is the land worth? Let's be real. If you lease this land for 100 years, you're effectively selling it. Former Broward County Commissioner John Rodstrom, who knows something about such deals, has done the math and says the city is valuing the land at $12.8 million — peanuts for a big waterfront site. Rodstrom isn't the only person questioning the value. That's why rather than vote in December, city commissioners directed their manager to get a second opinion, now in the works. In truth, a couple of appraisals and comps — plus a review by appropriate local folks — would carry the most weight. Why would the city divide the lease into four independent leases, and what happens if one of the lessees fails to pay up? Would the city become the landlord? Also, what if a condo association later decides it no longer wants the boat show? The threat of a $1 million fine hardly sounds sufficient. Can A1A support the traffic? It's already a failing road. Neighbors say emergency vehicles get stuck in gridlock. There's concerns about evacuations in bad weather, too. A traffic study suggests more cars are permitted and will flow fine, including around the grocery store. But people who regularly drive A1A are skeptical. So are we. Would allowing two skyscrapers set a precedent for other beach developments? How much shade would these buildings cast on the beach? Trantalis says one shadow study shows the sand completely covered by mid-afternoon. Come on. How many beachgoers want to sit in shade? And what about the shade on the marina and nearby neighborhoods? How is this project an "Innovative Development," the new zoning category sought to skirt the maximum height of 120 feet on this property and the maximum height of 240 feet on the beach? Does the beach master plan and the city's comp plan first need to be amended? What's the point of these plans if taller buildings are allowed? Where is the annual audit and capital reserve fund required by the current lease, and what's been spent to beautify what's there now? Too little for too long, in our view. Look, we all want something better than the nondescript Bahia Mar of today. The proposed restaurants, promenade, pedestrian bridge, grocery store and destination feel — all sound so much better."


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