Would you live in a shipping container?

Rick Clegg’s shipping container eco retreat with frontage on the Loxahatchee River in Jupiter Friday, November 20, 2015. (Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)

With some people happily living in tiny homes the size of a couple rooms in a traditional house, that’s not as nutty a question as you might think.

Certainly, Craig Vanderlaan, executive director of Crisis Housing Solutions, doesn’t think it’s a crazy notion.

During an affordable housing summit in West Palm Beach Wednesday, he told a ballroom full of county officials, lenders and developers that re-purposed shipping containers can be part of the answer to a problem they said has reached a crisis point.

Vanderlaan said shipping containers have been re-purposed into housing units in the Netherlands, Los Angeles, Michigan and in Washington, D.C.

“You can put 16 to 25 units on a half-acre,” Vanderlaan said as audience members looked at each with expressions that ranged from bemusement to intrigue. “Listen, it’s being done. We are basically shovel ready. We’ve already got the shipping containers being donated.”

Shipping container-like living isn’t just something out of a William Gibson short story. In fact, the concept has already been brought to Palm Beach County.

Rick Clegg has a shipping container “eco retreat” with frontage on the Loxahatchee River in Jupiter.

“People come here to experience what it is like to live in a container, but they come back for the location,” Clegg told The Palm Beach Post in 2015. “This is the first building permit for them in south Florida. They are all welded together. This is where I’m coming in a hurricane.”

Clegg’s retreat brings to mind comments Vanderlaan made on Wednesday.

“Look at ’em like Lego blocks,” he said. “You can fun with this. Millennials love this stuff.”

Traditional residential builders poked fun at the concept.

“I don’t want to live in a container house,” said Tony Palumbo, real estate acquisition director for Pulte, which, according to its web site, builds houses in 50 markets across the country. “I don’t care how cute it looks. And I don’t think my kids do, either.”

As the audience chuckled, Palumbo added: “But I would like to follow it through the permitting process.”

County Administrator Verdenia Baker said the county wouldn’t automatically reject a development project that included shipping container homes.

“I’m interested,” she said. “If they’re dressed properly, then, yes. Why not?”

Baker said her staff would want to make sure the shipping container homes are “durable and stable for us and not a fad.”

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.

Tiny houses considered in addressing big problem in PBC

Darrin and Jodi Swank’s 520-square foot house in Loxahatchee. (Damon Higgins/The Palm Beach Post)

The scarcity of affordable housing in Palm Beach County is a big problem. One county commissioner thinks tiny houses could be, well, at least a tiny part of the solution.

Earlier this week, as county commissioners were getting an update on redevelopment efforts in the Westgate/Belvedere Homes community, Commissioner Melissa McKinlay offered a suggestion: Why not allow tiny houses to be built there?

Tiny houses – the subject of HGTV’s Tiny House Builders show – are an increasingly popular choice for some who want to reduce their impact on the environment, save money and push back against over-consumption.

“Perhaps we could look at some pilot language,” McKinlay said.

There was no vote on the idea, but no one spoke in opposition to it, either. The Westgate Belvedere Homes Community Redevelopment Agency is looking into it, as is county staff.

Commissioners had just finished getting an overview of the county’s workforce housing program and lamented, again, the dearth of affordable housing.

Tiny houses could be an option for single people or young families, McKinlay said, adding that Leon County has already begun approving plans for tiny houses there.

“Maybe we could look at them for an example,” she said.

Darrin and Jodi Swank are raising their three children in a 520-square foot house in Loxahatchee.

“It’s five people in one little house,” Jodi Swank told The Palm Beach Post in July. “We try to live simple. And we’ve loved it.”

PBC wants Trump administration policy change on animal breeders

Palm Beach County is expected to discuss a resolution Tuesday calling on the Trump administration to resume posting information on animal breeders who violate standards monitored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In an effort to shut down so-called pet mills, which critics contend house and breed animals in inhumane conditions, the county banned the sale of puppies and kittens at new pet stores. But existing pet stores were allowed to continue selling the animals as long as they were obtained from breeders who are licensed and not in violation of USDA standards.

» Trump administration’s policy change undercuts county puppy-sales law

In February, however, the USDA under the Trump administration removed from its website information on breeders with violations. That means neither the county nor pet stores know which breeders have violations.

The USDA change, along with concerns about the treatment of animals at Star Pups in Royal Palm Beach, has led to calls for the county to revisit its policy of allowing existing pet stores to sell puppies and kittens.

PBC being asked for 27 acres of park land for sports fields

PBC Commissioner Hal Valeche

Palm Beach Shores Mayor Myra Koutzen has written to County Commissioner Hal Valeche to express her support for a plan to build sports fields on 27 acres of the North County District Park.

Koutzen notes that Palm Beach Gardens wants to use some of its money from the one-cent sales tax increase to build sports fields on park land, which is located in Valeche’s district.

“As a small community with very limited public space, our residents have particular need of the types of recreational space proposed for that area of the North County District Park,” Koutzen wrote in am email to Valeche. “We are particularly appreciative that Palm Beach Gardens opens their facilities to residents of neighboring communities such as ours. This proposal would support their ability to continue to provide this access in the future.”

PBC residents get chance to weigh in on state constitution

Should Florida’s constitution be amended? How should it be amended?

Palm Beach County residents will have a chance to weigh in on that statewide discussion on April 7, when the Constitution Commission swings through the county to get input.

The commission, which hears testimony, performs research and identifies important issues, will hold a public hearing at Florida Atlantic University’s Stadium Recruiting Room at 777 Glades Road in Boca Raton from 9 a.m. to noon. The meeting is free and open to the public.

The commission meets once every 20 years and travels around the state to get input from residents.

Another way for Palm Beach County to pay for Trump visits?

Another weekend. Another visit by President Donald Trump. And now, another idea about how to cover the escalating costs of those trips to Palm Beach County.

Commissioner Steven Abrams has asked County Attorney Denise Nieman and County Administrator Verdenia Baker to look into using bed tax revenue to defray the cost of assisting with security and managing road closures during the president’s trips to his Mar-a-Lago mansion on Palm Beach.

President Donald Trump’s motorcade leaves Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach Saturday afternoon, March 18, 2017. (Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)

» COMPLETE COVERAGE: President Donald Trump in Palm Beach stories, photos, videos

Last month, Sheriff Ric Bradshaw estimated those costs had already reached $1.4 million.

Bradshaw and other county officials have asked the federal government for reimbursement, but, so far, those pleas have been unheeded.

Abrams

Commissioner Dave Kerner floated the idea last week of imposing a special tax on Mar-a-Lago’s owner – Trump – that would be linked to the cost of providing roadway management and additional security during the president’s trips here.

» Official: Tax Mar-a-Lago owner to help pay for cost of Trump visits

Kerner was quoted in The Washington Post today noting that the same law enforcement resources needed during Trump trips are the same ones that are needed to combat the growing opioid and heroin epidemic.

“Those are real issues: keeping cops off the street and diminishing our opioid epidemic response,” Kerner told The Washington Post.

While Kerner’s idea would shift the cost of Trump-related expenses to Trump, bed tax money would come from the county’s tourists.

That money is currently used for other county purposes.

READ MORE HERE.

Trump spokesman asked about Palm Beach County costs

Cars are stopped as President Donald Trump's motorcade leaves the Trump International Golf Club on Summit Boulevard after he spent the morning there in West Palm Beach on February 19, 2017. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post) (Richard Graulich / Daily News)
President Trump’s motorcade in Palm Beach County (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

President Donald Trump’s spokesman, Sean Spicer, was asked about the ongoing costs of travel to Palm Beach County Monday. And, no, Spicer didn’t run the reporter over with the briefing room podium, Melissa McCarthy style.

The Palm Beach Post has reported that the county has incurred yuuuge costs providing additional security and roadway management during Trump’s trips to his Mar-a-Lago spread. The county is conducting a review to get a better handle on the costs and benefits of Trump’s frequent travel here.

» COMPLETE COVERAGE: Donald Trump in Palm Beach

Spicer was asked about the county’s costs during a briefing Monday afternoon.

The reporter, Gabby Morrongiello of The Washington Examiner, said: “Palm Beach County has said that it’s costing $60,000 a day in overtime pay every time the President comes to visit West Palm Beach.  He’s slated to go there again this weekend according to some reports.  Is the President taking any steps to ensure that taxpayers aren’t saddled with tremendous costs in his travel habits, considering he was so critical of his predecessor on that matter?”

Spicer responded: “Well, Gabby, the security for the President and the First Family is set by the Secret Service.  As you know, they determine the security measures that need to be taken to protect the President — frankly, any President.  So I’m going to leave it up to the Secret Service to decide what security measures and steps are taken to protect the President.”

Spicer continued: “And, as you know, I mean, this…depending on…it transcends administrations.  Wherever the President goes, they need to make sure that the President and the First Family is safe.  That’s something that I think — we rely on the Secret Service to make those determinations.  They continue to do a phenomenal job making sure that the First Family and the President and the Vice President are protected, and we have full confidence in the decisions that they make.”

That wasn’t the answer folks here wanted to hear, which would be something along the lines of: “Why, yes, Gabby, we plan to urge congressional leaders to set aside funding to reimburse Palm Beach County in full for additional costs incurred during the president’s trips there.”

Still, Morrongiello did the county a solid in asking that question. And she didn’t get smacked with a podium or blasted with soapy water.

Twenty-seven pilots violated Trump air restrictions

012517-pbc-workshop-trump-6No fewer than 27 aviators violated flight restriction zones during the first three weekends President Donald Trump was at his Palm Beach Mar-a-Lago estate, the Federal Aviation Administration has confirmed.

The breakdown: 10 on Feb. 3-5, three on Feb. 10-12, and 14 on Feb. 17-20, the long Presidents Day weekend.

By edict of the Secret Service, any time the president is in town, a package of flight restrictions is in place.

They ban most operations at the Lantana airport and impose strict limits at other Palm Beach County airports that include requiring small plane pilots be cleared by authorities at other airports before they fly in.The restrictions have effectively shut down the Lantana airport’s estimated 200 daily operations.

President Trump visits to Mar-a-Lago a hardship for local airports, report states

Trump, then president-elect, spent the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays at Mar-a-Lago, and has come three of his first weekends as president; he skipped this past weekend but plans to return this coming weekend.

Trump meets with Sheriff: they talk about reimbursing PBSO for presidential visits

The Secret Service said early on it would revisit the restrictions after it’s seen how a few weekends went, but hasn’t acted — or commented — since.

The U.S. Coast Guard has been asked about marine interdictions for violations of its zones, but, unlike the FAA, said that information must go through a Freedom of Information Act request, a process that will take weeks or months.