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Palm Beach Daily News
Over the summer, while a lawsuit stalled construction of a new recreation center, the town's project team tweaked the plans to save nearly $1 million.
The savings was achieved mainly by moving an entryway arch that will connect the parking lot at the southeast corner of the property with the new recreation center campus, Recreation Director Beth Zickar said.
The stand-alone arch will be about 40 feet northwest of where it originally would have been.
That change will allow the town to avoid moving a BellSouth utility box and a Florida Power & Light Co. transformer near the parking lot, Zickar told the Recreation Advisory Commission on Wednesday. "This resulted in an almost $1 million savings," she said.
The archway relocation and other changes were made by the "project team," which includes town staff, Hedrick Brothers Construction and Stephen Boruff of AIA Architects +Planners, Inc. The new plans were approved by the Architectural Commission and Town Council on Sept. 27 and Oct. 12, respectively.
Other revisions include restriping so parking spaces are 9 feet wide instead of 10 feet wide, which will allow for three more spaces.
An existing electrical panel, which provides power for tennis court lighting and the pro shop, will be moved to the back side of a new hitting wall and will be fenced. "This is a cost savings because we [won't] have to relocate a lot of the [power] lines because it [will be] very close to where the power lines are now," Zickar said.
The project team also reduced the depth of the northwest side of the new Recreation Center (facing Palm Beach Public School) by 2 feet, which will add more green space, she said.
Plans now call for two more air-conditioning units to the roof of the building, she said. The units will meet town height restrictions.
Construction on a new 17,000-square-foot center was to have begun this year, but stalled when residents Anne Pepper, Leslie Shaw and Christine Watkins sued the town in May in Palm Beach County Circuit Court.
They alleged in the suit that the town it didn't follow its own rules when the council granted zoning variances that would allow the new center to exceed limits on yard setbacks, building height, sign size for the new scoreboard and heights for roof-top air conditioners. The new center also would fail to meet minimum requirements for landscaped open space, even though the amount of open space would not be less than what is there now.
The town has responded that Shaw, Watkins and Pepper lack legal standing to make the challenge because their properties do not abut the Recreation Center and because the zoning variances would not cause "special injury" to any of them. Shaw later withdrew from the lawsuit.
Circuit Judge Richard Oftedal denied the town's motion that the lawsuit be dismissed and allowed the plaintiffs to amend the lawsuit. A trial date has not been set.
During the summer, the town proceeded with preconstruction work that did not incur additional costs, Zickar said. That included borings to test soil stability, drainage tests, work on exterior utility locations and some preliminary design work for a new playground.
At its July 12 meeting, the council agreed to rename the center's multipurpose athletic field in memory of Oakley Gage Debbs, who died last year from a reaction to a nut allergy.
The Oakley Debbs Memorial Soccer Jamboree is scheduled to be held on the field Nov. 25 for children ages 4 to 13. Proceeds from the $20 registration fee will go the Red Sneakers for Oakley, the nonprofit charity established to raise awareness of food allergies.
The Morton and Barbara Mandel Family Foundation's $5 million grant would cover a third of the cost of the new center, which was estimated at $11.2 million before the roughly $1 million savings outlined by Zicker on the recreation board. Private donations would cover one-third of the total and town money would fund the rest.
Town Attorney John Randolph has warned that the lawsuit could squash the project by causing the town to lose the Mandel grant, and he has asked the court for an expedited review.
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