Commissioner Tom Green said he wants to see the old Goodwill site redeveloped into an indoor pool. But his personal approval of the project was not enough to get over his disapproval of its lack of parking and give it his professional approval as a commissioner. “It doesn’t even come close [to meeting the requirements].”
At their May 8 meeting, commissioners approved a developer’s agreement and restrictive covenant for the property, located at 550 E. Oakland Park Blvd. The lack of parking, there are 35 spaces when there should be 151, has been the biggest concern regarding the project. The restrictions will prevent the property from possibly being used in the future as a bar, lounge, adult store, liquor store, casino, funeral home, and tobacco store. The rooftop patio will also be prohibited for use as a restaurant or bar.
The vote was 3-2 with Green and Commissioner Scott Newton voting no. At a future meeting, commissioners will have to approve the rezoning of the property from Light Industrial to General Business [B-3]. John Grzeszczak, head coach of Hammerhead Aquatics, is the one trying to develop the property. The building has been unoccupied since Goodwill moved out in 2011.
Green said the project “violates the whole idea that we were going to try and reign-in parking.”
The need for more parking, especially along Wilton Drive, has been a constant issue within the community and at city commission meetings for at least the last decade.
“We live in Wilton Manors. What’s the number one thing we hear daily in Wilton Manors? Parking. If you were missing 12 spaces, I could understand. If you were missing 50. But when it’s this much I just . . . people are going to be parking all down the street. I guess when they get towed a couple times they’ll stop,” Green said.
Paul Kissinger, an architect representing Hammerhead Aquatics, said that even knocking the building down still wouldn’t create enough space for parking. In response to Green’s concern about people parking in residential neighborhoods, Kissinger said, “We can’t dictate human behavior where they might park. If they get a ticket if they get towed, they’re not going to do it again. Well, we hope they don’t do it again.”
Kissinger said people would be cutting down on the amount of parking needed by using buses and carpooling. He also said Hammerhead Aquatics was talking with Walmart and other local businesses to use other nearby lots. “I’m okay with the parking. People will figure it out,” Mayor Gary Resnick said.
Newton also talked about parking and expressed a concern with the amount of people special events would bring.
Kissinger compared the Goodwill site to the Swimming Hall of Fame in Fort Lauderdale, saying they only have 106 parking spaces but find ways of accommodating the thousands of people who attend special events there. “If we can’t work that out we are not going to have successful events. We’re going to have to figure that out. We are thinking about this.”
Newton also expressed a concern over the concrete wall the Planning and Zoning Board said must be built. The developer wants a wooden fence instead. Newton said his insistence comes from the concerns from some residents he talked to that the concrete wall is needed to reduce the noise that would be generated. He said he’d be willing to give the developer a few years to build it, but “it definitely has to go up.”
Commissioner Julie Carson said the city would be relying on Code Enforcement to keep the noise down.
If given final approval, the facility would have a 50-meter main pool, a therapy pool, office, gift/pro shop, locker room, outdoor kitchen, and a 5,300 square foot rooftop deck.
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