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CRA approves $151,000 Storm Water Permit

Margate may not see tangible redevelopment for two more years, but the city will see drainage. __________ Sitting as the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) board, the Margate city commission approved moving forward with a storm water master permit for City Center development at a monthly CRA meeting. The permit plan will cover 74 acres of conceptual downtown redevelopment, but includes no construction or construction oversight. Plan objectives are to prepare the area for storm water drainage given maximum redevelopment. The master plan permit was proposed to commissioners as a no-bid award to Plantation-based Kimley Horn, civil engineer consultants for the CRA since 2012. Kimley Horn estimated the cost of the project at $117,000 plus any additional services required. Upon completion, the plan will define pervious and impervious areas within the boundaries of the redevelopment area and determine the best places for buildings, parking facilities and green space, said head environmental engineer for Margate, Reddy Chitepu. Though costs for storm water planning and implementation are often absorbed by developers, Assistant Director for the CRA, Rachel Bach, said by investing in its own storm water master plan the CRA is likely to attract developers quicker. “This will expedite development for developers which is one of their [developers] things. They want to get in as fast as possible and start building. Storm water is usually the most time consuming permit,” she said. Bach said the master plan is critical due to drainage issues on the old swap shop property and the CRA’s desire to include water features downtown. Prior to determining if and to what extent water features are viable on the land, the basin of the lake on CRA land needs to be assessed for storm water storage capacity. This, so the CRA doesn’t have to utilize otherwise buildable land for water retention or storage, Chitepu said. Commissioner Tommy Ruzzano expressed concern over the expenditure, saying that not only did he consider the price of the master plan too high; he thought the process was premature in the making. “We haven’t even agreed on a downtown area. You’re basing this on something that we don’t know what we are bidding on and I think we’re putting the cart before the horse by just throwing out a number here,” Ruzzano told staff. Ruzzano said he understood the need for storm water infrastructure, but didn’t approve of the CRA moving forward with a master plan based on a conceptual drawing the city might not use. Since unveiling the city center project last February, the concept has met with criticism from the public and city commissioners alike. “We don’t know what we’re building, so why are we getting an engineer for $151,000 when we don’t know what we’re building,” he said. “You guys [CRA staff] are asking for money for something we don’t know if it is going to be built.” Ruzzano thought storm water needs should have been included in the Request For Qualifications (RFQ) sent to developers, so a storm water plan could be designed around actual construction, not theoretical construction. “This way we have a hard number from developers to work with instead of a guestimate [sic] from Kimley Horn. I’ve seen estimates here in the city and they’re blown way out of proportion. Tonight when I saw this number I made a call to an engineering firm, gave them the backup and it wasn’t even close to that number.” The conceptual drawing, Ruzzano was told, didn’t reflect actual construction on CRA lands, but instead represented maximum density for build out. This inflamed the commissioner. “Why present us with that monstrosity out there when we don’t even know if we can build it?” he asked. “So that conceptual drawing that we’ve been feeding the city doesn’t mean anything?” A general contractor by trade, the commissioner suggested that the CRA should have first analyzed the potential for construction on the land prior to moving forward with a conceptual design that points to density. At the very least soil samples to determine stability and what the property can environmentally sustain. “Does anybody know what’s down there [underground]? Maybe we should have started there,” he suggested. Margate resident, Eddie DeCristofaro, agreed with Ruzzano, saying the city “cannot spend $151,000 on something we do not know exactly what is going to be there.” He also suggested that such a sizable consulting project should have been sent out to bid-out regardless of Kimley Horn’s agreement with the CRA. “Was the project sent to anyone else to price out or was it a ‘here ya go?’” he asked. Another resident, Anthony Caggiano, asked what the timeline for master plan completion was and if commissioners knew was the cost of additional services outlined in the contract would be. “I think it’s important to know how long it’s going to take before we even think about it,” he said. A representative for Kimley Horn said his company is expediting the process and with county review would take a minimum three months. President of the Margate Chamber of Commerce, Rick Riccardi, said comments are always directed toward the CRA doing nothing and now a “credible, experienced company” wants to get something done and is running into roadblocks. “To me this is a real hold-up conversation, and it seems silly to me not to just have faith in this group and let them do what we need to do to move on,” he told commissioners. Margate resident, Rich Popovic - a fiscal conservative - said the land [old swap shop] is muck, “just like city hall when they had to drive pylons into the ground,” he said, adding that he didn’t have a problem with the expenditure. “You may lose a little money getting a bigger permit for less development, but the amount of money that has been lost by this board in purchasing things and doing things; this is actually a drop in the bucket,” he said. Margate Commissioner and CRA Chair, Frank Talerico, supported the storm water master plan. “Reddy [Chitepu] is a professional engineer, these guys have been doing this a long time and it’s time to get us moving. I’m sure they’re not leading us down the road to destroying our project,” he said. Bach emphasized again that investing CRA funds in the master plan would speed up redevelopment. “When the city and CRA make commitments and show a hard and fast commitment like an approval of a proposal [master plan] to actually do that, that sends a loud and clear message to the development community that yes, we’re open, we’re ready for business, we’re doing this for you, we want to get it done,” she said, adding that the CRA anticipates having the master plan in hand within six months. “That’s a good selling point.” Ruzzano wasn’t convinced. “I don’t really see it speeding things up. If it [master plan] comes back and tells us we’re limited in what we can do, then we have to change our whole RFQ, correct?” Listed on the CRA agenda as a discussion item, commissioners approved moving forward with the storm water master plan 4-1, Ruzzano in dissent. Cost of the project not to exceed $151,900.

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