Palm Beach County won a big battle in the fight to extend State Road 7 Friday when Administrative Law Judge Bram Carter found that the county had followed all applicable permitting criteria and is entitled to an environmental resource permit.
The county has pushed to extend State Road 7 north to Northlake Boulevard, but the city of West Palm Beach has pushed back, arguing that the extension threatens the Grassy Waters Preserve, a 24-square mile marsh that is the source of its drinking water.
Carter’s recommended order is a major victory for the county.
“The project would not adversely impact public health, safety, and welfare associated with the city’s public water supply in the water catchment area because the project would have no effect on the city’s water supply operations,” the judge wrote. “In addition, there are reasonable protective measures to prevent a spill from entering the city’s public water supply.”
All parties now have 15 days to petition the South Florida Water Management District with errors they believe Carter committed in the order.
If SFWMD agrees that an error has been made, the erroneous portion of Carter’s order will not be followed.
But in an email to county officials, Assistant County Attorney Kim Phan pointed out that un-ringing the bell Carter just struck is no small task.
“An agency’s ability to reject any portion of a recommended order is very limited to conclusions of law and interpretation of administrative rules,” Phan wrote. “Also, the agency may not reject or modify the findings of fact unless it was not based on competent substantial evidence on the proceedings (or) did not comply with essential requirements of law.”
Disgraced former West Palm Beach fire marshal Derrick Daniels won’t face sanctions from the Palm Beach County Commission on Ethics for shaking down residents, after the panel decided Thursday his 2015 criminal conviction was enough.
Daniels, who rose through the ranks during his two-decade career to become a battalion chief, was convicted in November of six charges of grand theft and one charge of unlawful compensation by a public official. Prosecutors said he went out on nights and weekends to check that groups holding special events were complying with fire-safety codes and pocketed some $3,000 over 10 months in 2012 and 2013.
Daniels faced a prison term of nearly three years. Instead, in December, Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Dina Keever sentenced him to the 30 days he’d served, placed him on six months of house arrest, and ordered five years of probation and 100 hours of community service.
On Thursday, the ethics commission voted that “the public interest has already been served to the extensive sanctions levied by a criminal court.”
The Palm Beach County Commission will meet on May 3 to discuss a plan to raise the sales tax to pay for upgrades to roads, bridges, schools and county buildings.
Cities are entitled a cut of the sales tax proceeds, which are expected to be $2.7 billion over 10 years. Because the sales tax money would also be shared with the Palm Beach County School District, elected officials representing a majority of city residents had to approve the split.
That threshold was reached once West Palm Beach and Wellington approved the plan.
County Administrator Verdenia Baker said the sales tax issue will be added to the May 3 agenda.
Palm Beach County could push a public hearing on a proposed sales tax hike to May 3, two weeks later than commissioners had expected to take up the issue.
Cities would get a portion of the $2.7 billion over 10 years the tax increase is expected to generate. Because the money would also be shared with the Palm Beach County School District, elected officials representing a majority of city residents would have to approve the split.
County Administrator Verdenia Baker said that threshold will be reached if West Palm Beach approves the plan tonight and if Wellington backs it on Tuesday. In that scenario, Baker said it is possible initial plans for an April 19 public hearing on the sales tax could go forward.
But if either of those cities reject the plan, more time would be needed to reach the 50 percent plus one threshold that would clear the way for a public hearing. Delray Beach is expected to consider the plan on April 19, with Riviera Beach taking it up on April 20.