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Ft. Lauderdale City Commission Approves Pier 66, Raises Property Taxes

The Ft. Lauderdale City Commission approved on Tuesday a long-term plan to develop the iconic Pier 66 hotel and Sails Marina. Commissioners also voted to increase property taxes and agreed to pay for police in Broward County schools.

The committee's vote to increase property taxes means an additional $5 million stays in the city's water-sewer fund, which has seen its balance go down as money from it has been used to balance the city's budget in recent years.

Both members of the City Commission and Ft. Lauderdale residents were confused about the details of the Pier 66 development leading up to the vote to approve.

Right now Pier 66 and the Sails Marina are separate entities. The proposed development plan would combine the two sites and add 575 residences. The decision to approve Tavistock Development's plans at Pier 66 was met with frustration from residents who said they feel the process has been rushed.

"I did not read the 27 pages," Mayor Trantalis said. The commissioners had been given the latest version of the proposal the previous night. 

Ft. Lauderdale residents voiced concerns of "what's the rush?" and "this isn't there yet," regarding the development proposal.

Rich Grable has lived in the Breakwater Surf Club neighborhood for 20 years and attended informational meetings hosted by Tavistock development. 

"They presented very little information on what the project actually was," Grable said.

Jessi Blakley, a senior director with Tavistock, said that the details of the project will become clearer once more progress is made in the approval process.

"Fast development, unthoughtful development is not the way to go," Blakley said.

Tavistock representatives said they did an enormous amount of community outreach, mailing postcards and hosting dozens of informational meetings. But residents said Tavistock should have done more outreach in-season, instead of doing the bulk of outreach during the summer.

Other residents supported the development proposal. 

Paul Flannery is a director at the International Yacht Brokers Association. He said the development of the Pier 66 hotel is inevitable, and urged the commissioners to approve.

"Until you approve a development plan, you can't invest in a site plan," Flannery said.

The City Commission voted to approve Tavistock's development proposal. Mayor Trantalis voted against the proposal because he said it didn't include enough input from residents.

The City Commission also forged important budget decisions. 

Instead of approving a plan to balance next year's budget using $20.4 million from the city's water-sewer fund, the commission decided to take only $15 million from the water-sewer fund and raise property taxes from 4.1193 percent to 4.2648. It is the first time the city has raised property taxes in over 10 years. 

Charles King urged the commission not to further strip resources from the city's pipe infrastructure.

"We haven't stopped having water sewer explosions, they're still going on left and right," King said. "The need is so far beyond the money coming in it's ridiculous." 

The city also agreed to partner with the Broward County School Resource Officer Program. Ft. Lauderdale will pay for police officers to be placed in Broward County schools for one year.