Do it here, do it now


Short shrift

Short shrift

Palm Beach dissolves its planning & zoning commission, warns architectural review board members they’re next.

By Aleese Kopf

Daily News Staff Writer

The Architectural Commission needs to change its attitude or it could receive the same fate as two town boards that were dissolved of their members this week, the Town Council warned Tuesday.

The council dismissed 20 volunteer members of the Landmarks Preservation and Planning & Zoning commissions at Tuesday’s meeting. Earlier in the meeting, they gave the Architectural Commission its last warning.

Council members said they’re getting numerous complaints of the Architectural Commission’s “unfriendliness” and lack of constructive feedback, but they did not identify who is being criticized. Commissioners also are forgetting their guidelines and are rude to applicants at times, they said.

“Certain members seem to think that they’re there to insert their personal preferences as to what should be approved and what shouldn’t be approved without real regard to the requirements,” said President Pro Tem Bill Diamond. “I attend practically every ARCOM meeting, and when I hear someone say they don’t ‘like’ this project, and they don’t define why they don’t like it, I get very upset.”

To clarify its role, Town Attorney John Randolph has attended several recent ARCOM meetings to relay the council’s expectations and explain the criteria for reviewing projects.

He told Commissioner Henry Homes III in February: “With all due respect, Mr. Homes, I don’t think ‘I do not like it’ is a reason to defer or disapprove of something. In the event of disapproval, you are required to state those criteria which it doesn’t meet. When you defer an application, I believe you should give some guidance as to criteria you don’t feel are being met.”

Respect required

Mayor Gail Coniglio said she’s troubled by the antagonistic atmosphere on the commission and the rudeness of members’ feedback to applicants.

Several commissioners have recently compared applicants’ designs to airports, hotels, commercial buildings, offices and medieval castles.

“To say someone’s architecture looks like an airport hangar … it hurts, not only the community, but the applicant, and it sets up a very controversial and contentious desk,” Coniglio said. “We’ve had this conversation so many times. With a human being, you have to be polite, you must be respectful, you must give consideration to (those who) make presentations to you.”

Commissioners also have told architects that their designs look like they belong in Boca Raton, Coral Gables, Fort Lauderdale, Miami and other nearby communities, which President Robert Wildrick said is “inappropriate.”

Architectural Commission Vice Chairman Nikita Zukov, who listened to the council reprimand Tuesday, said he agrees with council members and the mayor about the commission’s attitude and behavior.

“Every architect comes to me or I go to their office to review their submissions before the meeting,” he said. “They all tell me their grievances with ARCOM.”

Zukov said he’s discussed how to address architects and applicants with commissioners.

“The job of this commission is to review what somebody else submitted,” he told them. “These are equal architects or residents to you. They’re not your students. They should not be preached to or talked down to. You have no right to do that. You have to give your opinion on what’s best for the town, not what you like.”

The irony is that here in Greenwich, it’s even worse: we’ve ceded control of our property to a handful of staffers, not citizen volunteers, and no one in town government has the balls to tell them to shape up. Perhaps tossing out the planning and zoning commission members would send the right signal.



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9 responses to “Do it here, do it now

  1. Art layton

    Wouldn’t it be more constructive to create meaningful regulations and a more inclusive planning function rather than eliminating the Boards and Commissions? I guess someone’s dream home can be someone else’s monstrosity.

  2. weakleyhollow

    Haven’t you figured out that you work for the “public servants”?

  3. isn’t Palm Beach the nexus of all that is proper etiquette? i thought i read that somewhere…

  4. Anonymous

    Sadly, we are obeying and following the “arbitrary” rules of
    “Our public servants” paid by our tax dollars!

  5. anonymous

    I recently went before my town planning nazis for a building permit. The application was returned as incomplete; on the bottom a note that I would need a wetlands permit because of the freshwater pond near the addition site. I do not have a pond, never have. I’ve lived here just shy of 20 years, have applied for various permits to take down or add to my home and at no other time did the mention of my freshwater pond come up. I asked what the hell they were talking about and they said they “saw” the pond on the GIS system they use to spy on homeowners. They balked at showing me what they saw. I gave them photos of my property but was told that wasn’t good enough and a wetlands committee member must make a visit to the site. If the homeowner gets angry, the permit app goes to the bottom of the pile. It’s intimidation at its worst. I got my permit but only after I played suck up. I’ve had similar experiences with assholes on architectural review boards. The boards are made up of men who can’t succeed elsewhere in life.

    • TheWizard

      What you describe is absolute proof that all governments fed, state, and local have far too much power.

      Those jobs seem to attract the “fire police” types who are in desperate need of some authority to wield over people.

    • Riverside

      You have encountered the typical town land use process. Part of the problem is that homeowners – who have the standing to demand accountability – generally do not spend much time in this twisted vortex. Typically, they have a project just once (for example expanding their house), or once every decade or so, and while they often have a nightmarish experience in the regulatory process, when it is over they can’t wait “to get the hell out of Dodge” – i.e. once they are done with their project and the related abuse they want to get back to normal living and put it all out of their minds. So they usually don’t follow through on the thoughts about needed regulatory reform that they inevitably have when they are in the process.

      Conversely, the professionals who are in the process every day (or week or month), such as builders, architects and others, must deal with these town and commission personnel regularly and cannot afford to get on their bad side, lest they slow down/ harm the professionals business. So the pros must suck it up and not publicly complain too loudly.

      The result is that these overbearing and overreaching bullies get away with it.

      • Well said.
        Sellouts are on both sides.
        We need a Town Plan voted on by landowners, am working on it for release that day after Earth Day (Scammalangadingdon Day).
        First step separate Planning from Zoning.
        “Conservation” heart string pullers have pitted and franchised the mindset that all building is bad and thrown up many useless regulations. Meanwhile the Town is a mess… we cannot handle a 1/2 inch rain storm!. While the budgets and staff grow and grow our Town still has the same population as it did 50 years ago when the orchestrated debacle began.
        Town is worth fighting for as a place to live and raise a family not just a place to make money..
        The War on the First Class is being waged by the Merchant Class, especially, New York immigrants.
        As a Landscape Architect I am proud to be on the bully list.
        My hometown is worth fighting for.
        We need to reverse the debacle that has been copied statewide.