Amid dire discussions regarding preparations and readiness for the COVID-19 virus, there was time on Thursday, March 19 for the Royal Palm Beach Village Council to make future plans for discounted senior transportation, approve a new Dunkin’ location on Royal Palm Beach Blvd., and get the clock fixed at the corner of Okeechobee and Royal Palm Beach boulevards, signifying that a long-vacant building is about to be in use.
Village Manager Ray Liggins updated the council on the actions that the village is taking to help in the fight against COVID-19.
“There is a lot of fear and anxiety out there,” he said, explaining that Royal Palm Beach is following the guidance laid out by the Centers for Disease Control.
He added that the village’s web site at www.royalpalmbeach.com has links to the most current information from the CDC and the local health department. There is a red ribbon at the top when a viewer enters the web site that provides a link to the COVID-19 information, and the balance of the page has information about doing business remotely with Royal Palm Beach.
Councilman Jeff Hmara said that accurate information is the best way to combat the fear and anxiety.
Mayor Fred Pinto agreed. “Stay plugged in and posted on what’s going on, and we shall persevere,” he said.
After the pandemic passes, a plan to make transportation easier and cheaper for senior citizens in Royal Palm Beach should be ramping up, as village staff received council authorization and approval to execute an agreement with Uber Technologies Inc.
Hmara explained that the village has been pushing for this for more than two years. When they initially contacted Uber with the idea for the program of discounted rides for village senior residents, with
the discount covered by the village, Uber wasn’t ready with the technology and resources.
“After [Uber] started their transit division, they called us from our original correspondence,” Liggins said.
The plan is to allow senior residents to receive a $5 discount on each ride, for up to eight rides per month. The program is for a one-year contract in the village funded by up to $40,000 to cover the discounted fares.
Uber will provide ADA-compliant vehicles and drivers who are licensed to help seniors, and there are plans for ride-sharing programs in the future.
“Someday this will be convenient enough for people to choose Uber instead of using their own car,” Liggins said.
Hmara agreed. “The first year, we will learn a lot,” he said.
Dunkin’ Donuts, now rebranding as just Dunkin’, received several variances for a new building to house its Royal Palm Beach Blvd. location. The variances also received approval by the Planning & Zoning Commission last month.
Originally constructed as a Miami Subs in 1985, mornings can have coffee and breakfast fans backed up onto Royal Palm Beach Blvd., stacking to get to the current building.
The vacant parcel between the current shop and the water to the north is a .92-acre pie-shaped lot at 1351 Royal Palm Beach Blvd. It will be the new home of the fast-food restaurant.
Village Engineer Chris Marsh clarified that an unused easement along the waterway would be abandoned, as access to the water will be provided by a driveway built by the store, and the area has no waterway public use. He also said that no specimen or protected trees would be destroyed. The landscaping will be the same quantity as if the easements had not been reduced.
The new Dunkin’ will be completed before the existing location closes, so there will be no interruption in service.
Parking was the concern down the street at 11700 Okeechobee Blvd., at the southwest corner of Royal Palm Beach Blvd., where a clock tower is located. A two-story office building has sat empty since it received its certificate of occupancy, almost 14 years ago.
Brian Terry, agent for the new building owners, said a variance request is to allow 143 parking spaces for the building, instead of the required 149 spaces, for a six space, or four percent, reduction.
He explained that the applicant is seeking the variance in order to allow the entire two-story building to become a medical office hub. Currently, a doctor has leased about half of the ground floor for his practice.
Terry said the entire justification for the variance was tied into their building alone and did not take into account or have any impact on the two nearby, vacant outparcels that are zoned for banks.
Terry noted that Royal Palm Beach is stricter than the surrounding communities. “If this building were in any of the surrounding communities, we wouldn’t be here discussing this,” he said.
The council granted the variance and was happy to see the vacant building occupied.
“I am delighted at the prospect of having this come to fruition and the building be used,” Hmara said.
The council wanted to know if the clock atop the clock tower would be repaired, and Terry said that he had just received a lead that night for someone who might be able to repair it.
Also at the March 19 meeting, the required Fiscal Year 2019 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) was presented by the audit firm of Caler, Donten, Levine, Drucker, Porter & Veil P.A. The firm completed the audit for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2019. The audit was presented to the council by Mark Veil, a principal with the firm.
Veil said the firm certified that the records were fairly presented and gave an unmodified opinion, the highest rating available. “The village has $176 million in total assets… and no debt, which is a good thing,” he said.