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Downtown Plan Blurs. Developer Granted Site Plan Extension

Strides may be made in selling less land to developers (30 acres vs. 36 acres) but apartment density will largely stay strong with talk of downsizing the number of apartments originally planned for downtown Margate from 968 to 750, a 22% reduction in residential density. At the Wednesday Margate CRA (Community Redevelopment Agency),City Commissioner, Anthony Caggiano, was the sole "No" vote on the dais when elected officials (sitting as the Board of Directors to the CRA) agreed to grant an extension to New Urban Communities, the developer selected to turn vacant land at the crossroads of Margate Boulevard and State Road 7 into a thriving downtown. A day earlier at a Tuesday CRA workshop, elected officials agreed by consensus that developers would get a seven-day contractual extension to submit a downtown site plan. Deadlines would change from March 16, 2017 to March 23, 2017. The following day - at the CRA's monthly meeting, elected officials were told that developers would need an extra six months - not seven days - to revise plans based on changes suggested at the Tuesday workshop. Theitem wasn’t properly noticed in the agenda, so elected officials were blindsided by the request. “I don’t understand the 24-hour difference,” Vice Mayor, Arlene Schwartz, told, adding that she didn’t learn of the extended deadline until the Wednesday meeting. “That what was not sent in our back up,” she said at the meeting. “At our last meeting we authorized a one week extension and that said March 23rd." According to CRA attorney, David Tolces, recrafting blueprints would likely take New Urban until April with a final site plan delivery date in August 2017. Originally scheduled to break ground this year, re-negotiating the project could stall development another year or more. “What happens if you come back with another site plan and we don’t like it?” Commissioner Simone asked developers. “Then we are back where we were yesterday,” answered Tim Hernandez for the firm, referring to the Tuesday workshop where elected officials asked for changes to an existing conceptual plan. To date, no official site plan has been submitted by New Urban and concepts originally presented by the company when hired have been scrapped. The plan presently in play is a conceptual rooftop drawing that designates the locations of residential, commercial and mixed use areas downtown. Elected officials at the Tuesday workshop asked for the residential component of the downtown plan be downsized and for the community center to be moved. Talk of the City retaining rights to develop commercial areas downtown was discussed. Caggiano’s dissent on the extension Wednesday was economic. Numerous times the commissioner has said he does not support selling city land for less than fair market value, which amounts to roughly $800,000 an acre. Caggiano was elected to office after the existing development agreement was signed. Margate Mayor and CRA Chair, Tommy Ruzzano, spoke against apartments located on the east side of State Road 7 (former Swap Shop property). He too has opposed selling city-owned land for less than its market value. He asked developers Wednesday if they were willing to be flexible on purchase price when renegotiating revisions to the site plan. New Urban didn’t say yes or no, only that the price would need to be renegotiated should developers agree to purchase less land downtown and develop solely the residential component. “In fairness there should be some consideration in the amount of land we’re buying and what we build on it,” Hernandez told elected officials, adding that the city would be obliged to agree to at least 750 apartments downtown. Still, some elected officials are not convinced that adding more rooftops downtown are needed if the city center is designed as a quality leisure destination for residents and visitors. A proponent of the New Urban plan, Commissioner, Joanne Simone, said she isn't comfortable with the city developing commercial properties. “I am not happy with us doing the retail. That is a big issue for me,” she said. “There are more variables against us if we take over the retail. Hernandez told elected officials that the city had several methods by which to develop commercial properties, including offering long term leases to businesses or hiring a company to manage storefronts. Maintaining ownership of the property could potentially generate more money for city coffers than property taxes, or if the city sold the land to individual investors, said Ruzzano. At the same time the city could offer incentives to businesses, undercutting square foot costs of competing leisure centers in Coral Springs, Coconut Creek and other neighboring cities. Should commissioners follow through with the August site plan deadline, downtown construction could be stalled another year and leading up to the city's 2018 municipal election when two commission seats are up for grabs. Had elected officials followed through on what the people approved of in 2013 - a downtown with minimal housing density and the rehabilitation of older plazas alongside new commercial and recreational spaces, downtown Margate might have been finished last year, according to that developer’s timeline. Now, downtown Margate remains a figurative 'crap-shoot' once again with no site plan and a blurred vision.

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