West Palm gives initial OK to waterfront apartment tower near Southern Boulevard but strong objections by neighbors about height waiver and traffic means it might have a tough time getting final approval unless it alters plans.

WEST PALM BEACH - Lay the building on its side and city rules would entitle the developer to the same 27 apartments.


But a horizontal building wouldn’t have million-dollar views of the Intracoastal Waterway. So Flagler WPB Owner LLC on Monday asked city commission approval of a zoning waiver that would allow an 11-story building on a site as little as one-tenth the size city law requires.


After hearing from the developer’s lawyer and from residents of neighboring buildings, most of whom opposed the plans, commissioners gave the project at 3907 S. Flagler Drive initial approval. But they cautioned that, before a final vote is scheduled in the next few weeks, the developer consider reshaping the design to ease neighbors’ concerns about the building’s intrusiveness, traffic and blocked views.


"Applicant, I would recommend you meet with residents," Mayor Keith James said, concluding the discussion.


The 435-foot-long by 75-foot-wide property stretches from South Flagler on the east to Washington Road on the west, 100 feet north of Southern Boulevard. It consists of two parcels, a total of 0.85 acres, and currently houses a 5-story apartment building.


For the proposed 11-story, 27-unit building, city codes would require a lot of at least 2 or as many as 10 acres, depending on how one reads the rules, the developer’s attorney, Susan Taylor, told the board.


Either way, the proposed building is over the limit, she acknowledged. But the vertical structure represented an innovative approach that would benefit the community, she said. If the building were horizontal, the narrowness of the site would allow only a long, 35-foot-wide building, she said.


But one resident of the neighborhood said the proposal threatened to turn South Flagler into a condo canyon like Fort Lauderdale’s Galt Ocean Mile. "I’m sure the building is very nice but it’s not suitable for that small a lot," she said.


"They’re trying to propose fitting a building of our size onto a lot which is half the width of our lot and less than half the square footage," said a resident of Harbor Towers & Marina, an 11-story building just to the north.


"It will be looking into our windows, into our bedrooms," said another neighbor.


Others expressed concerns that the proposed building, with much bigger apartments than those now on the site, would result in guest cars forced to park on the neighborhood streets already short of spaces.


But city officials said the plan met all requirements for parking and traffic capacity and would capture its own storm water and not flood neighboring properties.


Even so, before giving the initial approval, commissioners urged the developer to look for ways to address parking concerns, and to consider re-positioning or redesigning the building to avoid having its windows directly face neighboring apartments.


A member of the design team said that would be challenging. He suggested that window shades could provide privacy.


Attorney Taylor said her firm is reviewing Monday’s discussion with the developer and scheduling more talks with concerned residents, and with the board of the Historic Prospect and Southland Parks Neighborhood Association.


"We have advised the city staff that we wish to postpone the second reading until the Sept. 9 city commission hearing to allow us time to follow up with the neighbors," she said.


tdoris@pbpost.com


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