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👎🏼 GL Homes: Commissioners vote no
We ride at dawn! For you, suspenseful GL Homes vote; Century Village intrigue; North Palm Beach pushes back; pet quiz!; and the Boca Raton man who gave us Big Data.
Today’s newsletter is a 6-minute read.
🏘️ GL Homes’ all wet sweetener
Builder GL Homes laid out a series of sweeteners to persuade county commissioners to support a land swap that would move about 1,280 proposed homes from the central-north portion of the county to south county.
One of the most persuasive sweeteners: a water resource project that promised environmental benefits for West Palm Beach and north county.
Sweeteners are important because GL is asking the county in a final hearing today to reverse its public commitment to preserve farmland in south county’s Agricultural Reserve under rules enacted in 1995. Instead, GL would preserve land west of Royal Palm Beach and The Acreage.
But environmentalists who oppose the land swap are critical of the water project because it’s an unknown, dropped without coordination or independent scrutiny into a complex web of north county water projects.
GL, however, has gone so far as to submit the project for review to the South Florida Water Management District, Stet has learned. The homebuilder withdrew initial consideration for a conceptual permit in July but came back seeking a construction permit in August.
“The proposed Water Resource Project will have significant regional benefits to water quality, water storage and delivery to regional ecosystems,” GL consultant Mock Roos wrote in response to questions from water managers.
Yes, but: Still unresolved, wrote the county’s water resources manager, Paul Linton, are questions of ownership, costs, operations and “the timing and potential for integration into a larger, more meaningful regional water resources project.”
What to watch for today: While county commissioners voted 5-2 in May to give their initial blessing to the land swap, the final vote is today. Lobbying for and against has been intense. Watch how details about the water project affect two commissioners, Mack Bernard and Gregg Weiss. Both represent areas that might benefit from the water project. If they switch their votes to no, the land swap fails 4-3.
EDITOR’S NOTE on Tuesday night: That’s precisely what happened. At 8:43 pm Tuesday, nearly 12 hours after the meeting began, Weiss and Bernard joined Marci Woodward and Maria Sachs in voting against the project. It failed 4-3.
Of note: While GL Homes initially valued the water project at $150 million, a detailed accounting in May put it far lower: $100 million for all the land that would be preserved, of which half would go toward the water project, and $15 million to build and equip the 4-foot-deep reservoir.
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💰Flipping out in Century Village
With news reports of Century Village overrun by out-of-town and institutional investors, we wanted to know: Who is doing the buying?
What we found in the sprawling 55-plus community of smallish older condos was a throwback to red-hot sales patterns last seen in the 2008 real estate bubble-and-bust: Rapid resales, all-cash deals, inflation-fueled pricing.
Even by the standards of ballooning sale prices countywide, the numbers could be breathtaking: A 680-square-foot condo bought for $36,000 in 2021 was sold a year later to a Connecticut trust for $125,000 and six months after that to a Palm Beach Gardens trust for $140,000.
Not to be outdone, a West Palm businessman picked up a 615-square-foot unit in May for $8,500 before selling it 60 days later to a Miami firm for $78,000.
The bottom line: In just 11 months ending in September, at least 520 Century Village condos changed hands. Twenty sold twice. Sales rang up to more than $68 million.
Just one Miami businessman’s cluster of companies accounted for roughly $1.7 million in condo buys and sales beginning in 2021, many of them cash deals.
Likely snowbirds abounded. Most buyers paying $200,000 or more in the last year are individuals or couples living in Brooklyn.
The worry: Trouble with absentee landlords, growing rentals and outside investors have dogged the community since at least 2015.
That year, Century Village founder H. Irwin Levy threatened legal action to keep an investor from forcing elderly residents to sell.
Yes, but: Not all investors are coming from the outside. A Miami corporation made $22,000 on the sale of a condo in 2022 after holding it 13 months. The buyer, a long-time Century Village resident, did even better: The 63-year-old widow sold it seven months later for a $52,000 profit.
✍🏼 Redrawing town lines
Palm Beach Gardens’ massive proposed annexation is galvanizing neighboring towns to pursue annexations of their own.
The city’s plan announced Sept. 19 to annex five areas east of Interstate 95 with more than 8,000 residents didn’t sit well with some North Palm Beach council members.
“I want to be a good neighbor,” Deborah Searcy said Oct. 17 at a North Palm Council meeting on annexation. “I don’t care about Gardens at this point because they're not being a good neighbor to us. However, I do not want Gardens any more in our backyard than they already are.”
Added Council member Mark Mullinax, in considering a move that might cross into Juno Beach’s territory: “I don’t want to do that because then we’re doing what Palm Beach Gardens is doing, and we’re all unhappy with Palm Beach Gardens and I don’t want to stoop to do that.”
The North Palm Council voted that night to hire a consultant to submit a feasibility study to the county to annex several areas on Palm Beach Gardens’ list: Portage Landing North and South, Hidden Key, the area south of the Ritz-Carlton Residences along Ellison Wilson Road and the neighborhood south of the Waterway Cafe restaurant.
What it means: Competing ballot measures in March could force some residents to choose between Palm Beach Gardens and North Palm Beach.
Also, as Stet reported Oct. 3, Juno Beach is looking at persuading some neighboring communities, particularly Captain’s Key, to reject the Gardens and come into the town voluntarily.
Palm Beach Gardens submitted its feasibility study to the county Oct. 18 showing that the proposed annexation areas carried a taxable value of $1.7 billion and would produce $9.4 million in annual revenues for the city.
The cost to the city would be about $6.6 million a year, including hiring 18 police officers, the city said.
What’s next: The Gardens is holding an open house at City Hall from 5-7 pm Thursday to answer neighbors’ questions. It also posted a question-and-answer sheet here and an interactive map of the annexation zones here.
🌶️ The juice
💼 As his campaign runs low on cash, Gov. Ron DeSantis turns to big Florida businesses for help. (Seeking Rents)
🎷 West Palm Beach hired the Akerman law firm to continue its fight against a ruling ordering the city to negotiate in good faith with Vita Lounge, the winning bidders for the right to manage the still-shuttered Sunset Lounge in the predominantly Black Northwest Neighborhood. (WPBF Channel 25)
⭐️ Best-selling author and West Palm Beach resident Scott Eyman is the guest today on NPR’s “Fresh Air.” His new book, “Charlie Chaplin vs. America,” is out next week. You can listen at noon on WLRN or stream the interview anytime after that here.
On Thursday, Turner Classic Movies will screen four Chaplin films, and Eyman will discuss them with host Alicia Malone. It starts at 8 pm with “Modern Times,” “The Great Dictator,” “Monsieur Verdoux” and “Limelight.”
☕️ West Palm raised the rent but came to terms with restaurateur Rodney Mayo, who filed an aborted bid for mayor, to keep his Subculture Coffee shop on the 500 block of Clematis. (ByJoeCapozzi.com)
👻 Quiz: Bat? Pumpkin? Bumblebee?
Just like Carolyn’s seasonally tricked-out Bulkington, above, you probably already have your own Halloween costume in hand.
But what about your furred, fanged and finned friends?
For the third year in a row, Americans are expected to shell out $700 million to outfit their pets, according to the National Retail Federation.
And there are some clear fan favorites.
🎃 Don’t forget! Enter your own best-dressed pet in our Halloween costume contest: Pet treats to winners! Email your photo to firstname.lastname@example.org by Oct 30.
🔎 561 insider: The ghost in the machine
When Boca Raton tech entrepreneur Hank Asher died 10 years ago, it seemed his story died with him.
Then ProPublica writer McKenzie Funk became obsessed with Asher, one of the first and best data miners of the digital age.
What’s happening: Funk has a book out this month titled, “The Hank Show: How a House-Painting, Drug-Running D.E.A. Informant Built the Machine That Rules Our Lives.”
The back story: In 1992, Asher and a partner formed Database Technologies in Pompano Beach. The company leveraged Florida’s open records laws to amass databases including vehicle registrations, driver licenses, corporate records, professional licenses, and marriage and divorce records. When connected, the records painted digital portraits of thousands of people.
Big Data was born.
Asher was known to be mercurial, but he built a good-guy reputation for helping authorities identify child pornographers, some of the Sept. 11 hijackers and the Beltway snipers who killed 10 people in the Washington area in 2002.
Yes, but: Asher’s unlikely path unleashed the dark side of data fusion. It is part of his legacy that our every move is tracked by police departments, intelligence agencies, political parties and financial firms.
Read an excerpt of the book here.
🥇 Defeated Dolphins: Beaten by Philadelphia but far from out, the Dolphins held on to first place thanks to New England’s upset victory over Buffalo. Next up for the Dolphins? Those very same New England Patriots.
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