This Is our Village

Sunday, January 8, 2012


Hi all,
Regarding the Nutmegger's post about the Vermonter in Frank Cerabino's article, following is an Email from the Vermonter, Mike Ryan, to the Board of County Commissioners, regarding Reflection Bay.
It is reproduced here with permission:

While quite long, it is well worth reading.


For Cerabino story in the Palm Beach Post.

Dave Israel
Dear Palm Beach County Commissioner

I will be relocating from Vermont to eastern Florida in the not too distant future and my compass is currently set for Palm Beach County. I am very excited about the move.

I am retiring from state government after thirty plus years in the civil engineering field. Additionally I have owned and sold rental property since 1979. My association with real estate is somewhat small when compared to other individuals, but none the less, the experiences where very educational.

During the past few years, I have visited friends in Florida and looked at the four different Century Village retirement communities in Boca Raton, Deerfield Beach, Pembroke Pines and West Palm Beach. It is Century Village West that I am most attracted to.

Obviously, Century Village West is in close proximity to the airport, which scores high on my convenience list, but what I am also looking for are civic leaders, dedicated public servants who are insightful, creative, not bogged down in the instant commercialization of it all. I would like to be in a community where public officials are fair and equitable. Citizens trust leaders who can truly lead. Officials who are not lap dogs to a particular interest. Counties, cities, towns and municipalities all need the shared guidance from fellow citizens who are indeed visionaries. Having civic leaders with these convictions can only help insure the smooth, efficient and equitable administration of local government.

In that vein, I am in hopes that when you formulate your decision regarding the future of the Turtle Bay Golf Course you will vote against the development plan presented by Mr. Waldman and refuse to approve any application associated in abandoning any historical conditions or resolutions relating to the tract of land in question.  The longstanding zoning designation should remain effective and any effort to modify or approve variances should be denied. This action is not to appease one future resident, me, but to appropriately serve all of Palm Beach County.

This property near Okeechobee and Haverhill has been an anchoring landmark for all who live and visit the area west of the city proper and that is a wonderful thing. Changing the zoning on this piece of property as proposed, with all the ambiguous overtones, is not the prudent action to take and is not in the best interest of Palm Beach County as a whole.

I hope that you truly appreciate the fact that Palm Beach County, like any other county, also needs its green space and not just some green that is designed within a cluster of brick and mortar. In my opinion, Palm Beach County needs more of this than ever before. It appears that there are at least two native Floridians on the board of commissioners and I am sure you folks are probably able to recognize this fact quicker than those who migrated to Palm Beach County later in life.

Let the free enterprise system fill the vacancies of the current townhouses, condos and storefronts. Most communities across the United State have recognized the fact that there really is an over abundance of existing structures that are currently vacant and this prolific issue has reached its saturation point.

In this particular situation, at this location, given the history, there is no need to reverse a prior agreement, grind down more Georgia mountains, find more sand and erect more structures, put a ribbon on this “proposed” brand new development and call it “new.” Anyone who aligns themselves with that concept is contributing to the widespread vacancy issue referred to earlier.

Too many times, I have seen the forms go up, concrete poured, density requirements ignored, increased traffic, height restrictions ignored, the paving of paradise and then the development fails as a result of poor site selection, or other reasons. All that is now left, after all this fuss, is a chunk of land with bricks, blight and the begging for urban renewal. All that effort is risky and it is how the game is played. However, being able to take that risk, in regards to a wonderful piece of green existing property that has a fundamentally tainted title, is no way, to begin the game.

Let’s say the Traditional Neighborhood Development, somehow progressed through this last system of checks and balances and then failed to meet the expectations of the developer. It would be considered one mistake after another. No sound, logical person would set themselves or a community, up for failure like that. The request and the core documents that surround the proposed re-designation and the nine Type II Zoning Variances, have been extremely shaky from the beginning.

In response you might say “but, we want the “commercial property tax value” delivered into the county coffers.

I’m sure you appreciate that the money that the county may receive for a while, pays for the large number of services provided to people you just allowed to influx into the area. It’s a wash, but really it’s a negative cash flow, when you look at what you have destroyed and the long term damage that will be created, in failure or success.

There are many other areas where such a planned development may work, but this is not a fit. It is not even close.

Let some other county make a poor decision and welcome such a designed development on land that was earmarked to be green in perpetuity. Or wait until this developer presents a design for a tract of land in Palm Beach County that is in harmony with his development intent. This is not a fit.

I read that this is the first proposal to construct a Traditional Neighborhood Development in Palm Beach County since the TND concept was conceived, but I believe City Place in West Palm Beach also falls under that designation. Many of concepts regarding TND’s are wonderful, however due to the specific history of this piece of land this is not the location to experiment with such a development. There may be areas in Palm Beach County that lend themselves to this design. If there is, they will surface. A situation where the abutting owners welcome the concept with open arms and their will not be a nasty technical entanglement involved in the chain of title to the property, such as this situation has associated with it.

The motto we were teaching children in the 1980’s was “say no to drugs.” The general lesson for all, regarding this motto is that; sometimes it’s okay to say no and in some of those instances it is the prudent decision.

As a commissioner and as an individual, if a “rubber stamp” exists within the Board of County Commissioner’s chambers, put the rubber stamp in the drawer in this instance.  Demonstrate the core belief that if it is not right and shouldn’t happen. As you are well aware, this ability to do so has been entrusted to you as a result of state statutes and the Florida constitution.

Many governmental bodies open up their meetings with the Pledge of Allegiance and a prayer. Often the opening prayer will be something along the lines of asking for guidance when considering matters that will affect the safety and welfare of the fellow citizens they serve. The tone of the prayer is always asking for help in ensuring that the outcome of the meeting is righteous and good with the emphasis being on a fundamental fairness.

I also understand that many times a board does not like to rule against the findings and recommendation of a committee or staff that has reported back to them. In this particular case two administrative entities have approved motions that moved this proposed development along. It was not these entities’ charge to make legal decisions regarding the ambiguous nature of the “it is on the plat, but not the deed” dilemma involved in this particular application.

It is at your quasi-judicial level, with the powers entrusted in you by statues and the Florida constitution that you deny this request. As a result of the Board of County Commissioners being the highest authority to evaluate this situation and being the body most experienced in interpreting the pertinent state statutes and Florida constitution that relate to fundamental rights and the simplicity of intent within the common law framework.

As for your political career and aspirations, it can only add to your credibility. Legitimately understand how you feel on this issue. Own your belief and then the specifics of delivery would be left for your soul and conscience to craft. That shouldn’t be too difficult to create, if you are indeed true to your convictions.

As you are well aware, it isn’t the Palm Beach County commissioner’s obligation to assist Mr. Waldman through the repercussions of a bad business decision. If this enterprise could not turn a profit in the four years it was operating as a golf course, obviously the business needed to introduce some new marketing techniques to increase membership and decrease expenditures.

As a collective group, I can see that you are environmentally sound when you take steps to insure that activities involving trains, transportation, cell towers and landfills are scrutinized thoroughly. I read where many of you believe you have awareness regarding the importance of natural area reserves, conservation areas and environmentally sensitive land.

Historically, I have seen where some of you, have been very pro-active in parks and recreation issues. Acquiring property at times, in order to enhance conservation and in other instances, taking steps to protect an area’s natural resource and protect it from proposed development.

I understand that reasonable managed growth is a position that works for both the developer and environment and I commend you for those efforts. Weighing all the factors, in this particular situation, voting in the affirmative to allow any zoning changes or variations to this particular parcel is not the correct approach, given the specifics of this unique situation and resultant application.

Things were very hectic and even sloppy during the construction boom of the 70’s, but the intent to remain a golf course in perpetuity was there. This is not the time to add a bad act on top of a previous bad act.

Potential growth even with no, known outcome, is good, but when it is advanced and proceeds only due to an oversight and technical error, then it is a slap in the face to intent of those who entered into the agreement and common sense itself.

In summary and as a result of modern day technology, I have been able to follow the headlines and sound bites from Palm Beach County. Over the past twenty years, there has been a minute culture of elected and appointed officials, playing favorites, acting on behalf of influential constituents, power builders and lobbyists. More recently, the predominate culture, is a public sensitivity about political corruption and a desire to enhance the public trust in government and trust in those that lead and serve. This is good.

Obviously this re-designation and the nine elaborate variance requests before the Board of County Commissioners is an excellent opportunity for elected and trusted public servants to voice their common sense and demonstrate that they truly believe in the quality of life within all the districts that encompass Palm Beach County, not just the districts they were elected to represent.

Michael J.  Ryan



  1. Thanks David for allowing us to read this wonderful text. The arguments developed by Mr. Ryan are very sound and I hope the County Comm. have the time to read it and reflect about their responsability to the people that elects them.
    Mr. Ryan you are welcome to live and enjoy Century Village WPB as soon as you can sell your house up North.Thanks for the support. Andre

  2. Mike, we need people like you in Century Village. Hope you come soon. This is a wonderful place to live. This is paradise for my husband and I since living in New York through harsh winters. When you get older the winter is not fun anymore although I loved it when I was younger.

    We have wonderful people living here, all religions and races and ages over 55. It's a very safe place to live and that is also one of the main reasons we chose Century Village.

  3. Mike your well written exposé speaks volumes regarding the importance of brevity.

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