Overbudget Commons Park Set For Jan. 23 Finish

The Royal Palm Beach Village Council heard a report last week on the long-delayed Royal Palm Commons Park, now slated for completion by Jan. 23.

Village Engineer Chris Marsh reported that despite the original estimate of $15.3 million, the project’s cost has hit $15.9 million — 3.8 percent over budget. Since the previous completion date of Oct. 31 passed, the contractor has been paying $1,000 per day in liquidated damages. As of the meeting Dec. 20, the village had accrued a $50,000 credit.

Marsh said that about $1.5 million in work remained to be completed as of the end of November, which primarily consisted of landscaping, asphalt and the interactive fountain.

“Things have changed since then,” he said. “For instance, the landscaping of $240,000, probably half that has been installed. They have sodded the entire great lawn. That will shrink quickly, and from the contract projections, their completion date is Jan. 23.”

Marsh said that the contractor is averaging 40 employees on site daily Monday through Friday. The work effort has been consistent, he added.

Councilman Jeff Hmara, who had requested the report, asked Marsh whether there was any particular aspect of the project he was concerned about that might cause a significant delay, and Marsh said there is none, except a possible winter rain storm.

“A big hurdle we got accomplished today was the sign-off from the health department, and Palm Beach County should be setting water meters out there. That was one of the biggest obstacles we had to overcome, and we’re pretty excited about that,” Marsh said.

Village Manager Ray Liggins said the biggest threat to the project would be unexpected labor costs and some of the material costs related to paving.

“Of that $1.5 million in remaining project cost, at least half of that needs to be done, and the biggest cost has been the labor,” Liggins said, explaining that when the village was in dispute with the contractor over a delay claim, the labor shut down in parts of June, July and August. “When we settled that, entered into the change order and gave them the completion date of Oct. 31, we’ve had a pretty steady work effort since then.”

Liggins said a significant portion of the remaining cost, at least $500,000, will come when the paving is done. “We are not getting any indication that there is any cash flow problem that will prevent this labor from continuing the way that it is,” he said. “If we did get signals of that, we would let you know.”

In other business, the council approved a setback variance for a pool house built 25 years ago by Richard Briant of Martin Circle in the Willows. Briant, who has lived there 30 years and built the structure himself, said that none of his neighbors had complained about the structure and submitted nine letters from them indicating they did not object to the structure.

Planning & Zoning Director Bradford O’Brien said the pool house was 4.5 feet from the rear property line, where a 20-foot setback is required, and 6.5 feet from the side property line, where 10 feet is required. Staff recommended denial of the variance because it did not meet standards required by village code. The Royal Palm Beach Planning & Zoning Commission recommended denial after agonizing over the request.

Briant said the building had drawn a code violation when a neighbor sold her house. “The county appraiser’s office did a snapshot of the area and notified the village,” Briant said, explaining that the structure is permanent and cannot be moved.

Mayor Matty Mattioli said that if the neighbors did not object, he did not see a reason to make Briant remove it. “If it’s not impacting or destroying anything in the neighborhood, if it’s been there for 25 years with no problem, I don’t see what the problem is for another 25 years,” Mattioli said.

Councilman Richard Valuntas said he did not object to the building remaining, although it did not meet technical requirements for a variance. “It is a nice structure,” Valuntas said. “You did a great job. It lasted through all the hurricanes and didn’t get blown down.”

Village Attorney Brad Biggs said the council could make a decision independently from technical requirements of the code. Councilwoman Martha Webster made a motion to approve the variance, which carried unanimously.

The council also approved improvements to the Royal Inn, including a new paint job on the buildings and modifications to vacant land west of the inn. The changes included buffer reductions along Southern Blvd. matching the existing buffer between the inn and the road, and parking spaces for seven trucks. Landscape architect Richard Bartlett said there would be sufficient landscaping on the reduced buffer to screen the trucks from view from Southern Blvd. Webster made a motion to approve the applications, which carried 4-0 with Councilman Fred Pinto not voting.


ABOVE: An artistic rendering of Royal Palm Commons Park.