By GERRY BARKER
North Palm Beach Life
For several months, a number of local, county and state agencies have been hard at work developing a Master Plan that will create a roadmap for the future growth of the Village of North Palm Beach.
A draft of that plan has been released to the public, and this week I sat down with Village Manager Jim Kelly to get an update on what's next in the planning process.
"The draft is the first iteration of what was discussed in the weeklong Charrette process," said Kelly, as well as incorporating the follow-up studies and presentations. "It's a good start. I had staff look at it to make sure it covered everything. "
Now Kelly said they are ready for the public "to make their comments known," emphasizing again it's an open and consensus-building process. Formal hearings on the draft will be held at the end of July or the first of August.
One of the early comments concerned what probably will be one of the most talked about recommendations of the plan: Reducing US 1 from six lanes to four through the Village, which would be more in line with the traffic volume and provide options for making the thoroughfare more pedestrian and business-friendly.
In this case, the commenter was against it.
While it might be controversial, Kelly indicated there is still a lot of ground to cover before any decision would be made. For the present, he said the discussion will be "on concepts before we get into specifics," and drilling down to lane reductions would come later.
Kelly also pointed out one of the key factors for reducing lanes would be funding. If a reduction is approved, Kelly said it would probably be tied to the Florida Dept. of Transportation's repaving of the roadway, set to happen in 2019.
He pointed out this is what Tequesta is doing right now as part of their own master plan. Once the lanes are reduced in Tequesta, Kelly said North Palm Beach "would be the last municipality in the county to have six lanes on US 1."
Another "big ticket" item on the Master Plan is the Country Club, which is getting its own makeover.
The "latest but not final" conceptual designs have been produced, incorporating all the "wish list" items submitted by the residents. "We took everybody's input and created the design if everybody got everything they wanted," said Kelly. But getting everything on that list comes with a big price tag: $20 million.
Since improvements to the Country Club must pay for themselves, the next step is taking proposals to find out if vendors are willing to support the financing by operating a banquet or restaurant facility. Those proposals are due July 7.
"Once we have the vendor responses and we know the revenue potential, then the council will determine the final scope and the architect starts phase two for the actual design," said Kelly.
As for a timeline for a new country club, Kelly said they should break ground by the end of September, with construction taking "no less than 18 months."
A major objective of the Master Plan is make the Village more attractive to residents and businesses alike. Achieving that goal would broaden the tax base and rejuvenate what city founders created 60 years ago.
"We have a great community and a great location," said Kelly. "After 60 years, it's time to reassess."
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