Lake Park Government in the Restaurant Business?

By Guest Writer, Brent Headberg

It seems that up and down the Intracoastal Waterway there’s a trend these days. Waterfront Dining, Tiki Bars, Sand Bars, Fire Pits…they are great places to enjoy the cool breezes with a tropical beverage and all that fresh seafood that South Florida has to offer.
Popular waterfront dining destinations near PGA Boulevard

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We all have our favorites:  Sailfish Marina, Two Drunken Goats, The Waterway Cafe, The Sand Bar, The Square Grouper, Seasons 52, Tiki Waterfront Sea Grille, Two George’s, Old Key Lime House…and the list goes on and on. Oh, and how about the new restaurant and tiki bar now under construction in North Palm Beach on the Earman River waterfront (riverfront)?

It seems that a developer in Lake Park wants to get on this tiki waterfront bandwagon too and build a restaurant and tiki bar right on Lake Shore Drive adjacent to Lake Park Harbor Marina.  Sounds too good to be true, huh?  That’s what is being proposed, but wait, there’s one thing that hasn’t been considered in the developer’s plans to create this beautiful Marina Village, as they call it.  The developer forgot to discuss it with the adjacent property owners and made a big mistake by listening to Town Hall.

Looking North on Lake Shore Drive from the latest proposed Lake Park restaurant site

Now here’s the real story behind the scenes, something you won’t hear from Town Hall or the developer. There’s a $2.4 million dollar land purchase involving three players that is all tied to a questionable agreement between Lake Park Town Hall and the Palm Beach County Commission.  So who are these players you ask?
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  • Town of Lake Park – wants to expand the existing boat trailer parking lot and create a pedestrian promenade along Lake Shore Drive that will support a waterfront restaurant, an idea that’s been tossed around like a hot potato in regard to various locations in and around the Marina property for years.
  • Palm Beach County – holds the tax payer’s money in a fund that was provided by a Waterfront Bond that was approved several years ago to provide improvements to various public waterfront access properties.
  • South Florida Yachts – bought up all the commercial Federal Highway frontage property near the marina and later purchased a residential lot and existing home on Lake Shore Drive which is sandwiched in between a 10 unit condominium to the North and an existing home to the South.
The Town has been juggling this hot potato for years trying to find a suitable location for a restaurant.  Several years ago the Town advertised for a potential restaurant developer to lease a parcel on the marina property to build and operate out near the Intracoastal Waterway bulkhead, but that project was tossed aside due to all of the opposition from the high rise condominium that sits adjacent to the marina to the North.  Besides, where would all those restaurant patrons park?  The parking is all used up by marina customers.
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THE PUBLIC/PRIVATE DEVELOPMENT AGREEMENT:

A little over a year ago, the Town and Palm Beach County were quietly negotiating a deal with South Florida Yachts to purchase the corner lot at 115 Federal Highway (formerly Kahn’s Marine).  South Florida Yachts bought this lot back when the real estate market was booming and paid $2 million for the property.  Palm Beach County staff looked into their coffers and found $2.4 million in the Waterfront Bond account and came up with a way to help the Town buy this lot that was justified by the Town to expand the existing boat trailer parking lot.
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$2.4 million property at Silver Beach and Federal Highway

This deal was put together between these three players: the Town, the County and South Florida Yachts. An Interlocal Agreement was drafted and approved by the Town Commission and Palm Beach County with specific language stating the Town would be obligated to complete specific phases of an overall plan to develop this “Marina Village”, as it is now being called.

Oh, I forgot to mention a few things that were going on behind the scenes when this deal was being negotiated…the South Florida Yachts property that the Town and the County wanted to buy was in foreclosure, and the Town held a lien against this property for some kind of code violation.
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THE PAYDAY/BAILOUT:

Wham Bam, push this through while nobody is watching and miraculously, the Town’s lien goes away, the County pays $2.4 million for a lot that was nearly 300% over the real value and the Town becomes the new owner of this high-priced corner lot that will expand the trailer parking by 30 spaces.

South Florida Yachts gets bailed out of foreclosure and is then free to convert the existing house to a waterfront restaurant.  Voila…the Marina Village has been born.  Do I hear…BAIL-OUT…echoing out across the waterfront?

What’s really interesting is that, even though the Town and the restaurant developer have advertised this project as Waterfront Dining, a Waterfront Tiki Bar and Waterfront Promenade…if you’ve driven down Lake Shore Drive and attended one of the Marina’s Sunset Parties, the only location along Lake Shore Drive that is truly considered waterfront is the brick patio in front of the marina office where these Sunset Parties are held.

The proposed restaurant and promenade that the Town and South Florida Yachts are trying to create would be along an interior canal-like channel that provides access to the boat slips adjacent to Lake Shore Drive.  These slips are limited to a maximum boat length of 30 feet.  I don’t think that’s really waterfront dining or a waterfront tiki bar anything.

What is really going on here is…the forced placement of a commercial restaurant and noisy tiki bar establishment into a quiet residential neighborhood with a developer who gets bailed out of foreclosure and promises all kinds of improvements for a one block strip of Lake Shore Drive that the Town doesn’t have the funds for, all in the name of spending the County’s left over bond money…it just doesn’t make sense.

A QUIET NEIGHBORHOOD GOES COMMERCIAL:

Proposed Marina Village restaurant site

How would you feel if the Town, the County and some developer moved onto the Street Where You Live and proposed a restaurant and promenade next door to your home….hmmmmmmmm?

The Town’s Planning and Zoning Board and the Town Commission should pull back here and take a close look at what’s really been going on behind the scenes and consider the citizens’ point of view for a change, instead of following what our Town Manager has planned for our neighborhood.
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PAY ATTENTION TAX PAYERS:

Some of the citizens of Lake Park and even those who don’t live in Lake Park might say…so what, that’s over there at the marina, I don’t ever go there, or I don’t own a boat, or I don’t care about the waterfront.  Well maybe you should look into how much of your tax money is being used for this project even though you don’t benefit from it.  I don’t know about you, but I would be hopping mad, especially in these hard economic times when every dime counts in our personal lives.

Stand up and pay attention to The Street Where You Live, you might be surprised how our government officials are spending our money.
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