Westlake Council Back To Five Members With Werner Aboard

It’s official, Gary Werner of Key Biscayne Lane is now the Westlake City Council member for Seat 1.

He was appointed to the seat on 4-0 vote by the remaining council members at their Tuesday, Dec. 5 meeting to fill the vacancy left when former Councilwoman Pilar Valle Ron, who was appointed in late 2021, chose not to seek a full term on the council. She resigned Nov. 8.

Werner’s interim term will last until April, when he will be sworn in for a full four-year term, since he was the only Seat 1 qualifier for the planned March municipal election. Seat 3 Councilwoman Charlotte Price Leonard, who was appointed in May 2022, received no opposition and also will begin a full term in April.

Because neither seat was contested, there will be no Westlake municipal election. However, the Florida Presidential Primary will be on the March 19 ballot.

“Welcome, Mr. Werner, to the council, and I commend you for your willingness to serve,” Mayor JohnPaul O’Connor said. “Your fingerprints will be on this city forever because we’re in the growth phase.”

“I want to thank each of you for your support in this interim appointment,” said Werner, a longtime California resident who moved with his wife, Marla, to Westlake in June 2022. “I’m looking forward to working with all of you and staff.”

Werner was planning director and/or city planner for several California cities and served for 10 years on the Diamond Bar City Council, including one term as mayor.

Five other Westlake residents submitted applications for the council appointment, but because Werner already had secured a full term, those applications were not taken up for discussion by the council. Most of the interim applications were filed before Werner secured his upcoming term.

Those who applied are: LaTosha Lowe-Goode of Hummingbird Lane, Guerly Adonis of Coquina Place, Cynthia Reeves of Anna Maria Lane, Dr. Ankush Kumar Bansal of Orchard Drive and Tammy Thomas of Goldfinch Circle.

“I think it is extremely valiant of those people to put their names forward to be appointed,” O’Connor said. “[But] I’m going to make a very strong argument that it doesn’t make any sense to appoint anyone to that seat over the person who is going to be filling that seat for four years.”

In other business:

  • The council continued pro-active lawmaking, passing ordinances to define and restrict “arcade amusement centers and electronic gaming establishments” and “massage establishments.”

But don’t worry that you’ll forever have to leave Westlake for an hour of Reiki or stones. According to the ordinance, “the term ‘massage establishment’ shall not include any massage establishment wherein at least one State of Florida licensed massage therapist is employed and on duty full time during the hours open for business.”

City Manager Ken Cassel said these new ordinances are preemptive.

“Until now, there has not been a lot of space available for these types of business,” he said. “But as we get more commercial storefront spaces, we want to make sure nothing gets out of control. As we continue to grow, these are just other pieces of the puzzle.”

The city has previously passed ordinances prohibiting marijuana dispensaries and limiting the location and hours of operation of adult entertainment venues.

  • The council approved the plat for the Terraces Phase II on Ilex Way across from Christ Fellowship Church. Phase II will add 141 townhouse units to the 109 already approved for Phase I.

“It will be a very livable community,” said Don Hearing, representing developer Minto Communities USA. “The landscaping is really special… flowering trees, little squares and courtyards… a beautiful streetscape.”

There will also be opportunities for walking, he added.

“In fact, you can walk all the way around the development on a sidewalk,” Hearing said. “It will be a fun space.”

Perhaps best of all, it will be a second affordable housing option in Westlake, to go along with the Crossings, O’Connor said.

Hearing noted that townhomes in the Crossings are nearly sold out and that sales of homes in the Terraces will begin in the first quarter of 2024.

  • The council agreed to repeal and reconstitute the ordinance governing the city’s Educational Advisory Board, which has not met since the spring.

The ordinance spells out two-year term lengths and the requirement that the board meet at least four times a year in January, April, July and October. It additionally states, “The council retains the right to remove board members for any reason.”

“In discussions with Vice Mayor [Greg] Langowski, it was determined that the constitution of the committee is not working well,” Cassel said. “This is an attempt to revitalize it and have it more functional for the residents, the students and interactions with the schools.”

“And to save the committee from demise,” O’Connor added.

Langowski, who has been the council’s liaison to the board, said that he had researched other similar boards before requesting changes. Changes to the ordinance make it “more robust,” he said.

Meanwhile, the council also agreed that all board and committee appointments will be up for review and renewal each April.

At the meeting, Johana Jimenez of Woodland Way and Carole Waldman of Cresswind Place were appointed to the Art in Public Places Advisory Board.

  • The council approved an agreement with the Seminole Improvement District for some $700,000 in American Rescue Plan Act money to be used for storm water infrastructure at the 50-acre regional park under construction on the west side of Seminole Pratt Whitney Road just south of Seminole Ridge High School.

The city and the district, which is responsible for the area’s roads and drainage, are building the park as a joint venture.

Cassel said contractors should be “moving dirt” at the site in January, and by mid-summer there should be a large, open, mostly flat field that drains well. In the future, multiple soccer fields, tennis, racquetball and pickleball courts are planned, along with bathrooms, a walking trail, hookups for food trucks and perhaps a combination community/governmental center.

O’Connor has said he hopes the city’s annual Fourth of July celebration and fireworks show could be moved to the park in 2024. However, Cassel said that is unlikely because there will not be time to construct adequate facilities to meet Americans with Disabilities Act requirements.

Noting that a lot more money will be needed to complete the park as envisioned, O’Connor said the main focus of the council members who attend Palm Beach County Days Jan. 9-10 in Tallahassee should be on securing as much state funding as possible. He also suggested that it may soon be time for Westlake to hire a lobbyist.