By: Sharon Aron Baron
It was a contentious evening at Thursday night’s Planning & Zoning meeting. Somerset Parkland Academy, a proposed charter school, was seeking a recommendation from the board on the K-8 located on the northwest corner of University Drive and Hillsboro Blvd.
Whether or not the school was good or bad for the community was not up for consideration. The board’s only role was to make a recommendation to the city commission, which meets in December, on whether the school met the criteria for the land’s zoning, as well as a recommendation on the proposed site plan.
What was baffling to residents was the number of people who came out in support of the charter school project who didn’t actually live in the city. Heron Bay resident John Noll asked, “What was their motive, and why were they there? Was their ulterior motive to get into Parkland schools?”
One man who came from Lake Worth, sat through the six-hour meeting to speak for two minutes in support of the project. I asked him why the project interested him so much, however, once he noticed that I was a reporter with my badge and a camera in hand, he wouldn’t speak.
“Why did you drive from Lake Worth to speak about the project?”
“Did someone pay you to be here?”
“Who are you affiliated with?”
School board member Abby Freedman, who stayed throughout the meeting, was allegedly threatened with litigation by the builder. According to one source, he told her that if this project did not go through, he would sue, perhaps not realizing that as a school board member, she would not be voting on the project.
Board member Nathaniel Klitsberg brought up a concern at the meeting. There were too many unanswered questions, and the staff couldn’t make a recommendation to the planning and zoning board.
“It’s a rare occurrence for me to see an extraordinarily detailed staff report that has so many open questions on it and a lack of a recommendation. How is this item right for consideration with what appears to be so many open items?”
Planning and Zoning Director Michele Mellgren said that in her professional opinion, she didn’t believe it was right; however, the applicant indicated they were on a time frame had to meet specific benchmarks and deadlines. They also had a right to their due process and be put on the agenda.
When asked later why she could not approve the recommendation, Mellgren said that as she was preparing the staff report, she began to identify some issues, and after meeting with the traffic consultant said he wasn’t readily able to get the answers she needed in time.
“I didn’t get answers where I got a level of satisfaction where I could recommend for approval,” said Mellgren. “I’ll get this taken care of before it goes to commission. I just need more details.”
Attorney Michael Moskowitz disagreed that there were open questions. “We believe staff has raised questions in their staff report, questions that we intend to address and answer today.”
Klitsberg tried to table the item; however, he could not get a second motion, and the meeting proceeded with presentations from the applicant, including Moskowitz, developer Mark Rodberg, their traffic consultant, and public comment from audience members.
Board Member John Willis made a motion for a recommendation and it was seconded; however the rest of the commission voted no. A second vote was taken to deny the special exception for failure to comply with the requirements, which passed. Another vote was taken to deny the site plan, which also passed.
The P&Z Board votes to deny were only recommendations for the city commission who will meet on December 6, to vote on the project.
Follow us on the Parkland Talk Facebook page as we will be live-streaming that night.