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Delray commissioners move on tax exemption vote

By Palm Beach

DELRAY BEACH — Delray Beach city commissioners took another step into the business incentive game Tuesday, approving a proposal to get voter approval for the authority to grant property  tax exemptions to businesses moving into the city.

If approved by commissioners a second time at their Jan. 3 meeting, the item will be placed on the March 12 municipal ballot.

If approved by voters, commissioners would have the authority to waive all or a portion of property taxes for a business moving into the city, City Economic Development Director Vin Nolan said. Commissioners also would be able to set a time limitation for each exemption it grants.

The exemption would apply only to the city’s portion of the property tax bill.

“It’s a tool we can use if the commission should so decide,” Nolan said. “It’s another arrow in the quiver.”

Commissioners earlier in the year agreed to a set of incentives it may offer new businesses, including cash grants. The idea is to encourage businesses to move to Delray, create jobs and improve the tax base.

Also Tuesday, commissioners approved waivers for the Related Group allowing the construction of two apartment buildings planned for Southeast 2nd and Southeast 3rd avenues south of Southeast 1st street.

The two buildings, known as SOFA 1 and SOFA 2, will have 172 units combined. The waivers were needed because the number of units exceeds the maximum normally allowed under city rules, and because the number of studio and one-bedroom apartments also exceeds the number normally allowed by the city.

Henry Handler, an attorney representing the Related Group, said the number of studios and one-bedrooms was determined by increasing demand for smaller units.

During a public hearing on the issue, the project enjoyed overwhelming community support, especially from residents of the city’s Osceola Park neighborhood, which sits just south of the project sites. Commissioners lauded Related and its representatives for the way they got the community to buy into the project.

“You did it right,” Mayor Woodie McDuffie said. “We’re proud to have you as partners, because that’s what you are now.”

Commissioners gave conditional approval for a restaurant/bowling alley in the Ocean City Lumber Co. complex off Atlantic Avenue in the city’s Pineapple Grove district. The proposed site previously was the home of the Fotofusion photography shop and gallery. The restaurant will have a capacity of 160, while the bowling alley will have eight lanes.

The only complicating factor; location of a bar that will be open to the outside. But that issue will be hashed out by the Site Plan Review and Appearance Board before the business is allowed to open..

A spokesman for Kanner & Pintaluga said the law firm is ready to move forward in January with a $2.5 million offer to buy the retail space in the city-owned Old School Square parking garage. The space now home of the The Arts Garage.

“We stand here ready and willing to close,” the spokeman said.

However, the Creative City Collaborative, operator of The Arts Garage, submitted a competing offer last week. Commissioners were entertaining both offers.

Commissioners were told that work to renourish the municipal beach should begin in February with the arrival of a dredge. The project should take about six weeks to complete.

However, prospects to extend the work to a 4,000-yard section north of the project area appear to be dim because of difficulties getting required permits and because of a lack of funds. That portion of the beach was damaged during Hurricane Sandy, after the renourishment project was put out to bid.

Commissioners rejected a two-year deal with the Cleveland Clinic to sponsor the Delray Beach International Tennis Championships. The deal would have paid Delray Beach $18,500 in 2013 and $22,300 in 2014, while providing onsite medical services for the tournament. Commissioners said the dollars were too low for the benefits Cleveland Clinic would receive.

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