BELLE GLADE — The Belle Glade City commission acted in a special meeting Monday, Nov. 30, to advertise a new opportunity for developers to propose how to redevelop the old Gove Elementary School property. The 10-acre property was given the city by the Palm Beach County School Board to be used for affordable housing.
Mayor Steve Wilson opened the discussion, after the four commissioners attending (one by telephone) disposed of some routine budget-juggling amendments for both the recently closed fiscal year 2020 and the new fiscal year 2021, which began Oct. 1. (Commissioner Michael C. Martin was absent.)
They also unanimously passed a resolution to enter into the Florida Department of Transportation’s Small County Outreach Program, or SCOP, which will provide for the resurfacing of 17 roadways within the city with FDOT financing.
“All the commissioners had the opportunity to meet with the city manager to revisit the RFP (request for proposals), and thank you all so much for your due diligence on that. To the audience, we heard you loud and clear. A lot of the things you shared with us make a lot of sense,” Mayor Wilson said.
He was referring to a long discussion during the commission’s Oct. 28 special meeting, when they rejected the only proposal put forth by a developer the city had received but heard strong opinions from residents nearby and from some developer representatives who said the previous RFP was too restrictive.
He asked City Manager Lomax Harrelle what was different in the revised Request for Proposals No. 04-2020, which is the re-bidding for the former Gove Elementary School property development project.
“Well, we changed the ranking” procedure, Harrelle said. “We’re encouraging the people that make a submittal that it be a single-family and town home mix, with ownership, not rental. It’ll be out for 45 days this time instead of 30 days, and we hope to have more submissions for consideration this time than we did last time.”
Commissioner Johnny Burroughs Jr. asked him whether any more outside comments “or suggestions or concerns from the residents in the local Gove community” had been received.
Harrelle said “we’ve had one or two people speak to Finance Director Neil Appel, who put this together, yes.” He added that he’d sought out feedback from neighbors of the property.
“We put together what we, the city, can put forward that we feel will best fit the area where we’re trying to put this,” he said. “I’ve spoken to quite a few of the residents of the area both on the north and south sides of the highway, and they definitely want ownership versus rental” housing, he stated.
Commissioner Larry Underwood, attending remotely, complimented the city’s team on putting out a differently crafted invitation to developers.
“I’m glad they consulted the community in reaching a conclusion on this,” he said. “I think the staff’s done a great job, and I appreciate it.”
Vice Mayor Mary Ross Wilkerson said: “I know we’ve redone about 125 streets across the city, but we still have a problem with trucks and buses coming through our streets...” She suggested the city might consider the formation of a homeowners association in this new neighborhood so as to try to get a grip on that problem, and thus establish a precedent for new home construction in the city.
When she was finished, Harrelle said, “Certainly a good idea.”
Wilson asked that she put it in the form of a motion, and she replied, “So moved.” Burroughs quickly seconded.
Wilson said this cooperation is an example of what “makes Belle Glade different from a lot of other communities, we’re able to come to the table and work out our concerns.” Commissioners voted 4-0 to approve the RFP.
Road resurfacing project
The commissioners also adopted a resolution relating to Florida Department of Transportation funding to repave various roadways in the city. City Manager Harrelle presented the report prepared by Finance Director Larry Tibbs to commissioners.
According to his report and the state-funded grant agreement submitted by Steven C. Braun, FDOT’s director of transportation development, these roads are to be resurfaced:
• Northeast 18th Street from South Termini to Airport Road;
• Northeast 22nd Street;
• Northeast 23rd Street from South Termini to Airport Road;
• Northeast 26th Street;
• Northeast 28th Street;
• Northeast 31st Street;
• Northeast 32nd Street from South Termini to Airport Road;
The estimated cost, the agreement says, is $720,720, and it calls for construction to be complete on these projects by Dec. 31, 2022. “The Roadway Resurfacing Project will consist of construction (resurfacing) and construction engineering, and inspection (CEI) services for the 17 locations.”