The Royal Palm Beach Planning & Zoning Commission voted 3-2 against proposed sign variance requests for the Related Group’s Town Southern apartment complex recently completed on the south side of Southern Blvd. west of State Road 7.
The application requested three main items: a variance to allow a third sign for the residential development, a variance allowing the sign to be at a height of 21 feet instead of the code requirement of seven feet, and to slightly reduce the setback from the road.
While such variance requests are nothing new to the committee, and tall signage exists elsewhere in Royal Palm Beach, village staff had a serious issue with the request — the 21-foot tower structure and sign had already been built without the necessary approvals.
“Staff is recommending denial of the variance request,” Development Review Coordinator Kevin Erwin said. “Staff feels as though the criteria for granting these variance requests have not been met since the applicant constructed the sign and tower before obtaining the proper permit. At this point, it would be difficult to move, and that the granting of the variance request will confer on the applicant special privileges that are denied to other lands, buildings and structures similarly situated.”
Attorney Ellie Halperin was there representing the Related Group.
“The sign was built, which was unfortunate and was done in error. It was not done with an intent to deceive. There was a situation that went on during the approval process, which resulted in the sign being built,” Halperin said. “The sign was shown on the tower on the original approval. There was then a master plan modification done, and in that modification, there is the modified sign with the increased height, not attached to the tower at that point. The master plan modification was approved. The construction company thought that approval meant the approval of the modified sign. Modification of the sign was not specifically called out in the justification.”
Erwin explained that his staff is explicit in their instructions for minor site plan modifications.
“We instruct them that all the changes need to be itemized in your request. What staff has done over the years is specifically state in our approval letter that only the changes that you specifically enumerate and call to the staff’s attention, whether they are on the plan or not, are approved by this application, and that no other approvals are granted or implied,” Erwin said.
The commissioners spent a while discussing the issue.
“It’s a beautiful tower, but we have to make sure that going forward, we address everything. We need to have good communication,” Commissioner June Perrin said. “It’s hard to say tear it down, but this should have been addressed before. It makes me very concerned going forward with this project. Otherwise, we could end up with more difficult issues as we go along. I’ll let it stand for the time being.”
But Commissioner Ray Nazareth only partly agreed.
“I’ve just seen too many issues here,” he said. “I was given to understand that the variance was granted with no favoritism or special treatments, and this is what I’m seeing — built before you got permitted. Can you comment on why it is so hard to recommend that it’s demolished, and that you do it the right way and rebuild it up to code? You’re not open to doing it the right way, and it sounds like there is a major issue here.”
Chairman David Leland also had reservations about the request, and Commission Alternate Adam Miller voiced concerns about future requests. Halperin said there were none that she knew of, but Erwin noted a potential future request.
“There is one other issue regarding parking space size near the clubhouse. Initially was they were going to seek a variance, but they called me to say they will make the changes,” Erwin said in reference to parking spaces being one foot too small to meet code requirements.
Halperin did say another minor site plan modification was expected regarding the location of some dumpsters and other items to ensure that the final site plan matched what existed in reality.
“This development has come before this commission several times and now, we have another faux pas,” Leland said. “You are going to be working under a much finer microscope going forward. We don’t want to constantly see you revising things, and we are seeing this more now. You are professionals, and you’re held to that standard.”
Perrin made a motion to approve the variance requests, but the motion failed 3-2 with Leland, Nazareth and Commissioner Philip Marquis opposed.
Royal Palm Beach Planning & Zoning Commission decisions are advisory in nature. The item will head to the Royal Palm Beach Village Council for a final decision.
In other business, an application for the Super Target store at the corner of SR 7 and Okeechobee Blvd. was unanimously approved. The application detailed upgrades planned to the signage, benches and trash receptacles at the site. Also, the commissioners heard a request from a homeowner on Fairway Lane to roof over a small section between a garage and a townhouse. The homeowners’ association and neighbors had no issue with the request, which was approved unanimously.