Discover more from Stet Media Group
💰 $3 million on the line
👻 Welcome to October. Halloween decor is now allowed. For you today, Gardens balks, NextEra stock swoons, Juno Beach steps up, our tallest tower and dress up your pets.
Today’s newsletter is a 5-minute read.
💸 Palm Beach Gardens owes Palm Beach County $3 million — and won’t pay up
It’s been more than a year since Palm Beach Gardens lost a key ruling after a five-day trial in its impact fee lawsuit against Palm Beach County. The city’s appeals were rejected as well.
But Palm Beach Gardens is undeterred.
It still hasn’t paid the county $3.1 million in withheld impact fees, as ordered by the court.
The city had argued that county road impact fees charged on new development were unlawful and the city had a right under state law to collect similar “mobility fees” from developers to spend on its priority transportation projects. The city stopped collecting county impact fees in January 2020.
Why it matters: Palm Beach Gardens was the first city to challenge the county’s 40-year hold over road impact fees but several other cities were poised to do the same if the city prevailed.
When reminded in June of the amount due, six months after the Fourth District Court of Appeal upheld trial court Judge Paige Gillman’s ruling, City Attorney Max Lohman said an amount that large could not be paid without City Council approval, which could come Aug. 3.
Yes, but: On Aug. 3, the item wasn’t on the council agenda.
"City administration made the decision to direct staff to pursue and exhaust any alternative remedies that might be available,” Lohman told the county in an email.
In its Aug. 24 response, the county called the city’s motion “nothing short of a desperate attempt” to avoid paying and “a third bite at the apple” after losing at trial and on appeal.
And the county reminded the court of past city promises to pay.
In March 2021, Lohman assured the County Commission that the city had so much money it did not need to put the money in escrow to pay if it lost a court judgment.
“We have over $25 million in undesignated reserves,” and “If a judge issues an order … and says we have to pay it, we have to pay it,” he said.
Of note: Judge Gillman (now Kilbane) has been promoted to the Fifth District Court of Appeal so the case fell to Palm Beach County Circuit Senior Judge Richard Oftedal.
What’s next? The court has yet to rule and several claims remain untried.
🔌 NextEra and FPL’s no-good, very bad week
Why is the Florida Supreme Court forcing the state Public Service Commission to explain its rate hike approval for Juno Beach-based Florida Power & Light?
Because it didn’t do it the first time.
At stake for Florida customers: Annual rate increases for at least four years that could total more than $1.2 billion.
By law, the justices said, the utility regulators are required to explain how their rate decisions are fair, reasonable and in the public interest.
That didn’t happen, they wrote.
Instead, after sifting through more than 70,000 pages of documents on everything from solar energy to hurricane recovery to tax depreciation to Oklahoma gas fields, the regulators took two pages to explain their reasoning.
“It is not enough to point to a pile of paper … and say, ‘It’s in there,’” the court wrote in its Sept. 28 opinion.
Dissenting: Justice Renatha Francis, the former Palm Beach Circuit judge elevated to the bench last year. Francis argued the court had no authority to meddle in the rate setting.
Rates aren’t rolled back. But NextEra Energy, which owns FPL, took a financial hit all the same.
Its share price crashed to close the week at $57.29, a three-year low.
It appears unrelated to the Supreme Court decision.
But NextEra has pegged its future on green energy. In fact, how money will be raised to expand FPL’s solar power efforts was a factor in the rate hike case.
And last week, its green energy subsidiary, NextEra Energy Partners, slashed its own dividend growth outlook from 12 percent to 15 percent to as low as 5 percent.
The fallout: The energy subsidiary (NYSE: NEP), which started the week at $48.67, closed Friday at $29.70.
On Monday, it nosedived again by 16.7 percent to $24.74.
Parent company NextEra (NYSE: NEE) kept right on falling, too: It followed up last week’s 18 percent tumble by closing down 8.9 percent Monday at $52.15.
📍 Looming clash
Stet reported last week on Palm Beach Gardens’ plans to annex a huge swath of existing communities east of Interstate 95 containing 8,300 residents.
Yes, but: Some of those communities are in Juno Beach’s annexation area. The Juno Beach Town Council agreed Sept. 27 to reach out to Captain’s Key, Hidden Key, Pleasant Ridge and other neighborhoods to see if residents might prefer a small town over the big city.
Gardens is planning an election to let those neighborhoods have their say.
Juno would ask neighborhoods to come in voluntarily, requiring 100 percent agreement. That would remove them from the Gardens election.
Joel wrote in OnGardens.org about the city’s annexation plan here.
🥬 The juice
Fresh-squeezed news from all over
⭐️ Meet Coco Gauff's grandmother, a civil rights trailblazer in Palm Beach County. (WLRN)
🛑 Clematis Street closure in the 300 block for work on Roxy’s Pub has been extended to Nov. 3. (CBS12 News)
🚄 How to get to Disney World via the Brightline train. (The Washington Post)
Stet marks the passing Sept. 22 of Palm Beach philanthropist Sydelle Meyer, who with her hotelier husband, Arthur, donated $500,000 in 1996 to West Palm Beach to help build the downtown Meyer Amphitheater. Other notable gifts: $2 million to the Norton Museum of Art, $1 million to the Kravis Center and Meyer Hall at the Dreyfoos School of the Arts. (Palm Beach Daily News)
🏢 Quiz answer: Who’s the tallest of them all?
Last week, we asked: What is the tallest finished skyscraper in West Palm Beach?
At 32 floors and 330 feet, The Plaza of the Palm Beaches’ twin towers take the title, according to a survey by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat.
The towers at 525-529 S. Flagler Drive are not skyline newbies. The Plaza was topped off in 1986 — then promptly taken over by the Bank of New York when condo sales flagged.
Donald Trump bought them from the bank, eventually turning them over to his own lenders. The Trump Plaza and Trump Tower name stuck, though, until 2017.
Reader’s picks: One Clear Lake Center (279 feet) got the most votes, followed by La Clara (269 feet). The Plaza and the Comeau Building tied for last.
Of note: The Comeau Building, at 10 stories, was the city’s tallest when it opened in 1926 but only for a few days until the 14-story Harvey Building opened a block away.
🎃 561 insider: Halloween critter dress-up contest
Pat here. Just the other day, I saw a yellow palm frond in my driveway and thought: Florida fall foliage!
Can Stet’s first Halloween critter costume contest be far behind?
🐶 Yes! Just bundle up your furbaby in their October best, take a photo and email it to email@example.com by Oct. 30 for a chance at fabulous chew toy prizes — or their equivalent — for three lucky, four-footed winners.
This is South Florida, so expectations are high. (And humane: No three-inch heels on those French pugs. Nothing you wouldn’t wear yourself!)
🐢 Also: Special consideration for pets of unusual dimensions.
⚾ Play more ball: It’s the playoffs for the Miami Marlins, who won 17 of their final 27 games to squeeze past the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds and make the playoffs. The Marlins will try to win two of three from the Philadelphia Phillies starting tonight. With baseball’s new playoff structure, all three games will be played in Philadelphia.
🏈 Bad sad day for the Dolphins: The Miami Dolphins bid for an undefeated season fell to pieces Sunday in Buffalo, where the Dolphins have lost eight straight including last year’s playoff game. Buffalo solved Miami’s high-octane offense, handing the Fins their first defeat this season, 48-20.
Thank you to our paid and free subscribers. Please help us grow by sharing this newsletter.
Do you have a story idea or a news tip? Reply to this email or write to firstname.lastname@example.org, and tell us.