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Mayor’s Op-Ed Submitted to the Palm Beach Post on 9/20/18.
By Jeri Muoio, Mayor
The City Commission unanimously approved the establishment of the Okeechobee Business District (OBD) in August, after an almost two year-long process with a significant amount of participation from Palm Beach County, the Town of Palm Beach and other key stakeholders. The OBD was recommended for approval or endorsed by three key citizen boards: the Downtown Action Committee, the Downtown Development Authority, and Planning Board. The OBD was also approved by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity and endorsed by the Chamber of Commerce of the Palm Beaches, the Palm Beach Transportation Planning Agency and many West Palm Beach residents. We are pleased that the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) did not offer a single objection! The OBD is key to a vibrant, sustainable, equitable and safe West Palm Beach that offers a great quality of life for all.

In simple terms, the OBD reduces potential traffic by reducing the development potential in the Okeechobee Boulevard corridor. The square footage available for development in the OBD is now less than the square footage previously available in the five-block area between Flagler and Rosemary, Lakeview and Okeechobee. We expect the OBD will attract more Class-A office space and high-paying jobs. The strong need for Class-A office space has been underscored by the business community, the Business Development Board and in the recently completed Economic Development Study.

The OBD implements transportation demand management strategies to minimize future vehicle trips by promoting safe, efficient and equitable transportation choices. An expanded trolley service, more bike facilities and improved walkability will reduce future congestion on our roads. Reducing costs for taxpayers, the OBD requires developers to pay into a City transit operation fund.

Contrary to some public statements, the City addressed the establishment of the OBD in a very thoughtful manner, after a lengthy study of the City’s traffic and mobility network which was conducted by leading experts and with participation from Palm Beach County, the Town of Palm Beach and other stakeholders. This study, which includes data from FDOT, helps us plan for the traffic and transportation needs of today and of 20 years from now. The OBD strategies designed to reduce projected traffic along the Okeechobee Corridor came out of the recommendations of this traffic study.

It saddens me to see the OBD politicized by those either willfully blind to the facts about the OBD or focused on their own agenda rather than the greater good. Based on the City’s record in support of adoption of the OBD, I don’t expect legal challenges to be successful.

Let me make two things very clear. First, the OBD reduces the development capacity of the Okeechobee corridor. Second, the results of an extensive mobility study were considered in the development of the OBD.

I applaud the work of my staff and of Commissioners who approved the establishment of the OBD. I welcome and invite everyone to learn the facts about the OBD.
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