PBC looks to limit impact of Trump visits on Lantana Airport

Trump (Getty Images)

Palm Beach County has drafted a resolution seeking relief from temporary flight restrictions that impact the Lantana Airport during President Trump’s trips to his Mar-a-Lago mansion on Palm Beach.

The resolution, up for discussion when county commissioners meet on Tuesday, states that: “The frequent imposition of TFRs have resulted in, and will continue to result in, significant losses to the aviation businesses operating at the Lantana Airport.”

Temporary flight restrictions during Trump’s visits have impacted all airports in the county, but they have been particularly costly for the Lantana Airport, located six miles south of West Palm Beach.

A county report in February noted that the airport lost $30,000 in business during one of Trump’s visits.

The county’s resolution directs County Administrator Verdenia Baker or her designee to work with the county’s congressional delegation, the U.S. Secret Service, the Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of Homeland Security to find a way for the Lantana airport to continue operations during Trump’s visits.

PBC angered by House passage of expanded homestead exemption

Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay (Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)

Palm Beach County officials reacted with anger Wednesday to the passage in the Florida House of Representatives of a joint resolution that would allow voters to decide if they want to expand the homestead exemption from $50,000 to $75,000.

The expansion plan, approved on a vote of 81-35, must be approved by three-fifths of the Senate and then by 60 percent of voters before it could become law on January 1, 2019.

County officials argue that the expanded exemption will suck at least $29 million from its budget. The overall impact on area governments is more than $70 million, they say.

“I’m disgusted that the House leadership would think this is a tax cut for the people,” Commissioner Melissa McKinlay said. “This is a tax shift.”

PBC rejects Iota Carol development project

Palm Beach County commissioners voted 5-2 Wednesday to reject an application for comprehensive plan changes to accommodate the Iota Carol development project.

Wednesday’s vote kills the proposed project, which called for 1,030 homes on 1,288 acres west of The Acreage. In rejecting the project, the commission – with a new chair and two new commissioners – broke sharply from its pro-development stance of recent years

Residents near the proposed project complained about the additional traffic it would cause. Commissioners shared those concerns.

Lantana air firms to Frankel: help us survive Trump Palm Beach stays

Frankel meets with air firms Monday at Lantana airport . (Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)
Frankel meets with air firms Monday at Lantana airport . (Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)
Frankel Monday at Lantana Airport with "fixed base" manager Jonathan Miller, PBC Commissioner Dave Kerner (Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)
Frankel Monday at Lantana Airport with “fixed base” manager Jonathan Miller, PBC Commissioner Dave Kerner (Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)

Businesses at the Lantana airport had a message for Lois Frankel to take to President Donald Trump: you’re putting us out of business.

At a meeting Monday at the airport, about two dozen people who own or operate businesses there told U.S. Rep. Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, that two straight weekend of stays by the president at his Palm Beach Mar-a-Lago compound have cost them thousands of dollars, and customers worried about continued visits already have fled to other airports.

And a collective groan went up when Palm Beach County Airports Director Bruce Pelly said he’d heard — unconfirmed — what most have suspected for a while; that Trump will take advantage of the long President’s Day weekend and make it a third straight weekend.

The business people told Frankel, and she said so as well, that they understand the need to protect the president while he’s here. Pelly said he and the businesses, as well as the Federal Aviation Administration, have suggested tweaks to the temporary flight restrictions which would let planes come and go to the west and southwest, letting them operate while keeping Trump safe. So far, the Secret Service hasn’t budged, saying it wanted to see how the first visit or two went before making any changes.

Frankel asked the businesses, as well as Pelly and Palm Beach County Commissioner Dave Kerner — whose district includes the airport — to assemble a package she could take to the Secret Service. She said she’ll also reach out to the White House to ask that it lobby the Secret Service to make accommodations for the airport, listed as the 10th busiest “general aviation” air facility in the nation.

State Rep. Lori Berman, D-Lantana, whose legislative district includes the airport, said she’ll craft a letter to Gov. Rick Scott asking if he also can call on Trump, a longtime friend, to lobby the Secret Service. The Palm Beach Post posed that question to Scott last week but he did not answer it.

Appeals court sides with Palm Beach County in Palm Tran injury lawsuit

PalmTranThe 4th District Court of Appeal has upheld a judge’s tossing of a suit by a Palm Tran passenger saying he fell when the bus driver slammed on his brakes.

Altimon Palmer, in a suit filed Nov. 3, 2014, alleged that on the day before Christmas in 2013, he was boarding Palm Tran bus 716, heading down Congress Avenue in West Palm Beach, when the driver braked hard and Palmer fell.

In a memo Thursday to county commissioners, County Attorney Denise Nieman said county lawyers argued the Palm Tran bus was cut off and “there could be no negligence on the part of the bus driver under those circumstances.” She said lawyers for Palmer “argued that the issue of negligence should be left to a jury.”

On March 9, 2016, Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Cheryl Caracuzzo granted the county’s motion to dismiss, saying “there are no genuine issues of fact.”  Palmer’s lawyers appealed, and on Wednesday, the appeals court upheld the dismissal without comment, according to documents.

Attorney Nicholas Russo, whose West Palm Beach firm represented Palmer, in both the original case and the appeal, said Friday he’ll formally ask the appeals court for a rehearing.

“We think the case law out there is pretty clear that the ruling by the trial court should have been overruled,” Russo said.

Palm Beach County Vice Mayor McKinlay now chairs Solid Waste Authority

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McKinlay

Palm Beach County Vice Mayor Melissa McKinlay is the new chair of the Solid Waste Authority’s governing board.

County commissioners who sit as the authority board selected McKinlay Wednesday morning at their regular meeting. The vote was 7-0.

The board then selected as officers two new commissioners; Mack Bernard as vice chair and Dave Kerner as secretary.

Mayor Paulette Burdick had nominated Bernard as authority chair but there was no second. Mary Lou Berger then nominated McKinlay.

McKinlay has been the authority board’s vice chair. She succeeds Hal Valeche, who also has been county vice mayor. By tradition, the county commission’s vice mayor heads the authority’s governing board.

Meetings of the governing board are held every other month at Authority headquarters, 7501 Jog Road, West Palm Beach. Call 561-640-4000 or visit www.swa.org.

Lantana Airport businesses: Trump’s weekend visit cost us as much as $50,000 in lost commerce

 

Miller (Palm Beach Post/Damon Higgins)
Miller (Palm Beach Post/Damon Higgins)

The first visit by new President Donald Trump cost aviation-related businesses at Lantana Airport an estimated $50,000 this past weekend alone, and with Trump reportedly making another visit next weekend, a flight school that’s the airport’s biggest tenant already is looking to leave Palm Beach County, an airport manager said this week.

It’s not just this past weekend; “the question is ‘how many of those 3-day periods do you have?”” Jonathan Miller, CEO of Stellar Aviation, said late Monday.

Stellar Aviation is the “fixed base operator,” and the landlord of sorts, for several businesses that operate at the airport, which has been listed as the 10th busiest “general aviation” air facility in the country.

By edict of the U.S. Secret Service, any time the president is at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, a series of flight restrictions are put in place. They’re much stronger than those in effect when Trump visited while president-elect, and effectively shut down the Lantana airport.

County Airport’s chief Bruce Pelly said late Monday that, with Air Force One having gone wheels up just hours earlier, it was too early to get a handle on the impact of the flight restrictions.

Bruce Pelly did say that he’s had no reports that any aircraft violated the concentric 1-mile, 10-mile and 30-mile restriction zones around what Trump has called his “winter White House.”

Pelly said he’s “still trying to get a head count” on flights that came through the area after getting security clearances at “gateway airports.”

Stellar’s Miller said Palm Beach Flight Training was shut down this weekend and company president Marian Smith suddenly is looking at a second dark weekend now that the president reportedly will be right back at Mar-a-Lago for talks with the prime minister of Japan.

“Her basic comment to me was that if this continues consistently and we’re shut down consistently, we’re going to have to move our opreaton out of the county complete.y.,” Miller said.

He said Smith already has told him some students have dropped out of the school. Smith couldn’t be reached late Monday.

To read more, go later to mypalmbeachpost.com.

 

 

Palm Beach County office of community revitalization holds meeting Feb. 15

palm-beach-county-logoIf you want to learn about programs and services county agencies and department offer, and let the county know how it can improve, the county invites you to a meeting at 6 p.m. Feb. 15 at the Vista Center, 2300 North Jog Road in suburban West Palm Beach.

The Countywide Community Revitalization Team meeting is hosted by the county’s Office of Community Revitalization.

For more, call 561-233-5303.

Palm Beach County Tax Collector: property tax discount ends Feb. 28

TaxCollectorLogoFebruary is the last month for property tax early payment discounts, Palm Beach County Tax Collector Anne Gannon said in a newsletter. Pay by February 28 and save 1 percent.

Property taxes are due by March 31. Taxpayers can use the office’s ePay system; instructions are on the website.

Taxpayers also can sign up for the Tax Collector’s advance installment plan for their 2018 property tax payment; make four payments throughout the year and get a discount of just under 4 percent. Sign up on the website by April 30.

The Tax Collector also offers a tax planner and  services guide. It includes a calendar, information about services, frequently asked questions, and a glossary of tax terms. Pick up a hard copy at one of the Tax Collector’s offices or click here to download. For bulk copies, email ClientAdvocate@taxcollectorpbc.com.

For more, call the tax collector at 561- 355-2264.

 

Palm Beach County ethics panel tosses two complaints

ethics logoA Delray Beach city commissioner and a Palm Beach County Community Services Department supervisor were cleared Thursday by the Palm Beach County Commission on Ethics.

The commission found “no probable cause” that Commissioner Shelly Petrolia benefited by nominating a customer of her outside business to the city’s Site Plan and Review Board. According to a memo, on June 7, Petrolia nominated Cynthia Freeburn as one of seven applicants; Freeburn was not picked. The memo said Petrolia did not reveal she and her husband, real estate brokers and had sold Freeburn a home and recently had listed her current home for sale. But an ethics commission memo ruled the $8,885 the Petrolias earned from Freeburn did not meet a $10,000 minimum to constitute a code violation and that she received no direct benefit in exchange for nominating Freeburn.

The commission also found no probable cause that Kathryn McNealy used her official position to manipulate the time sheets of two department employees. A former supervisor alleged McNealy put in hours for two co-workers for time they did not work. But a memo said a commission investigation found no evidence of that and noted the complainant signed off on many of the questioned time sheets and that one of the workers actually ran out of vacation and leave time and accrued some 80 hours of unpaid leave.