West Palm Beach map process riles some

Controversy erupted again at Monday’s West Palm Beach City Commission meeting as three variations of redistricting maps were presented for final approval.

As promised at the last commission meeting, Mayor Jeri Muoio had arranged “open house” hours for Lia Gaines, president of West Palm Beach NAACP, to come with her troupe to draw its preferred boundaries. At issue was how to best group the minority communities so that they could be properly represented. Gaines noted that she was disappointed that none of the commissioners attended either session of the map-drawing exercise, and she urged them to support their result.

“Fair representation is more important than whether something looks pretty on a map,” Gaines said.

Muoio said that she was never under the impression that either she or the commissioners should be in attendance at the additional mapping sessions, since two other meetings had been held with public input provided.

Commissioner Keith James, almost shouting, stated that “commissioners’ doors are always open, email addresses are available and phone numbers are public information, and at no time did anyone go to any of the commissioners in support of their map.”

James said that everyone had full opportunity to meet one-on-one with commissioners to argue why their map was a better version than those already submitted. He then made the motion to approve the second map, which included the public comments provided in July. After an outburst in the audience by former Commissioner Robbie Littles, who shouted, “Point of order,” the motion passed 4-1 with Commissioner Kimberly Mitchell dissenting.

In other business, commissioners allowed revisions to the original site plan for the Rybovich Spencer Commercial Marine development. Approved in 2005, the site plan called for a large mixed-use development with condos, a marina, dry boat slips, a restaurant, office and retail space and a publicly accessible waterfront promenade. It was originally scheduled to be completed in two phases, but has been put on hold indefinitely due to the downturn in the housing market. The revised plan will utilize the entire site as a commercial marina and will cater to boat crew members “displaced” while large vessel repairs are made.

Commissioner Mitchell said that it was a disappointment to the public that it still has no waterfront access on the site, when that was originally one of the conditions for approval of the overall site plan.

“We provided a value and got nothing in return,” Mitchell said.

Finally, with Hurricane Irene approaching, commissioners passed a resolution allowing emergency access to all public and private roadways and gated communities for post-disaster debris removal.


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