Westlake Plans March 16 Candidates Forum Hosted By LWV

The Westlake City Council on Monday, Feb. 24 approved a candidates forum to be hosted by the League of Women Voters of Palm Beach County on Monday, March 16 at 6:30 p.m. in the council chambers.

Westlake City Clerk Zoie Burgess said the League of Women Voters reached out to Westlake officials a little over a month ago, offering to host a forum for those running in the community’s first municipal election, set for Tuesday, March 31.

“Their goal is to provide a forum to encourage resident participation and give our residents an option to vote for their candidate,” Burgess said. “It gives the city the opportunity to remain nonpartisan. We are considered co-sponsors.”

“We provide them the space,” City Manager Ken Cassel added. “They hold everything and do it all.”

Burgess explained that with the council’s consensus, the manager could sign off on the agreement and staff would begin promoting the forum.

The council also approved the final reading of adjusted qualifying dates for council candidates, now set for Tuesday, Feb. 25 through Friday, March 6. The action was taken after an advertising error was discovered regarding the previous qualifying period.

During the qualifying period that ended Jan. 14, candidate Patric Paul qualified to run unopposed for Seat 1, while candidates Jeffrey Keller and John Paul O’Connor qualified to run for Seat 3. Their original qualifying papers will still be recognized. However, new candidates can also apply during the new qualifying period.

Councilman John Stanavitch made a motion to approve the final reading, which carried 4-0 with Vice Mayor Katrina Long-Robinson absent.

The council also approved an agreement with the School District of Palm Beach County to hold a polling location at Seminole Ridge High School for the March 31 election. Councilwoman Cara Crump made a motion to approve the polling location at Seminole Ridge, which carried 4-0.

In other business:

• The council approved the final reading of an ordinance regulating the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages.

Provisions include a 1,500-foot minimum distance for outdoor entertainment from a residential property.

Cocktail lounges, breweries and bars must have 200 feet of separation in the downtown mixed-use area, and they can’t be adjacent to one another.

The ordinance also provides for classification of vendors and distributors, as well as licensing of non-restaurant retail beverage stores and retail liquor stores; provides advertising guidelines for retail beverage stores and retail liquor stores situated within a hotel or restaurant; and provides for payment of excise taxes on the sale of license-specific alcoholic beverages.

The ordinance also provides operating hours for retail package stores, liquor and beverage stores and club vendors. It prohibits delivery of alcoholic beverages on Sunday, and also provides restrictions on public consumption in public places and certain private places.

Crump made a motion to approve the final reading, which carried 4-0.

• The council also approved revised housing assistance guidelines for mortgage applicants looking for assistance with down payments.

City Attorney Pam Booker said that when the program was started in 2017, there were statistical references to median incomes that have not been updated regarding purchase prices of homes.

“That is the reason this is back before you, so we provided that clarification,” she said. “And we have one applicant who had been approved, but a little bit lower credit score than what was in prior guidelines.”

The guidelines are changed from a credit score of 640 to 620.

“It would give the city manager, if there are extenuating circumstances, to approve someone with the lower rate,” Booker said. “Without that, one of the applicants who is pending would not be qualified for down payment assistance, so approving a resolution by the council, this should come back to you on an annual basis as the purchase price changes for the area.”

Cassel clarified that the numbers would be adjusted on an annual basis with council approval. At that time, changes could also be made to credit score requirements, perhaps returning it to 640.

“We’ll keep monitoring to see what the market is to make sure we’re helping the most people,” he said.

Stanavitch made a motion to approve the updated housing assistance guidelines, which carried 4-0.

• Cassel reported that he had received a letter from Florida Public Utilities announcing that it will not be able to run a gas pipeline along the M-2 Canal alongside an FPL powerline easement that has been established there.

In July, the council granted a six-month time extension to FPU to run a pipeline along the M-2 Canal easement shared with FPL, but FPL had requested a mitigation survey to show the effects, if any, of a steel gas pipeline running alongside its power line.

“They have come to an impasse with FPL coming up the M-2, so they are now going to come up… Seminole Pratt [Whitney Road] from Harlena [Drive],” Cassel said. “I haven’t seen any of the plans as far as where their low-pressure system or their conversion system is going to be located.”