Commissioner Shirley Johnson proposes CRA takeover

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By: Marisa Herman
Associate Editor

The most controversial topic of Tuesday’s commission meeting wasn’t the Midtown Delray project.

In fact, it wasn’t even a scheduled item on the agenda.

After an eight hour meeting, Commissioner Shirley Johnson proposed revisiting a topic that commissioners, including herself, narrowly voted down about a year ago— taking over the Community Redevelopment Agency board.

Last year, the topic of commissioners sitting as the agency’s board was proposed and then shot down in a contentious 3-2 vote. Commissioners Mitch Katz and Shelly Petrolia cast the dissenting votes.

Mayor Cary Glickstein was the swing vote. He supported keeping the independent board, but with conditions he outlined in a letter to the board.

After 2 a.m. early Wednesday morning, Commissioner Johnson said she is not happy with the way the agency is going and wanted to consider taking over again.

“The board is more dysfunctional than ever before,” she said. “Its time for a change.”

The city has an independent agency board. Members are appointed by commissioners for a four year term.

One the reasons that led her to change her mind she said is how the proposed deal between the agency and Publix has transpired. The board has approved and rejected the idea of adding a Publix to West Atlantic Ave. several times. The item is up for consideration again on Thursday night.

Commissioners have stated they would like to see the terms of the proposed agreement modified. The real estate group representing the plans for Publix proposes breaking ground before Dec. 31, 2022. Developer Pasadena Capital would pay $2 million for the land and build a 24,000-square-foot grocery store.

City officials want the store as soon as possible, but Orlando-based Pasadena is saying it won’t break ground before Dec. 31, 2022. The company asked to revisit the deal in November with the caveat that construction doesn’t start before the 2022 date.

Some commissioners say that is too long of a waiting period.

The rest of the commission agreed the timing for a vote was not ideal.

Commissioner Petrolia said she understands the frustration, but said the timing right before the election may misconstrued.

Last time the topic was brought up was right before the election last year.

Commissioner Jim Chard agreed that a vote after midnight with no public notice would not be appropriate.

Mayor Cary Glickstein said if he were returning to the commission it would be a topic worth discussing. He is no running for re-election and this was his last meeting as mayor.

“I was reticent before,” he said. “If I were returning I would be reconsidering where I was. I see it getting worse.”

Commissioners did agree to send City Manager Mark Lauzier to the agency meeting on Thursday to express the commission’s opinion on the Publix deal.