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Our Town with William Kelly: Town Council approves ‘stellar’ group of eight for new planning board

The Town Council gave an enthusiastic thumbs up Tuesday to Mayor Danielle Moore’s choice of eight residents who will join her on a new board charged with crafting a long-term plan to help the town face growth pressures and other challenges.

The council unanimously voted to approve all eight nominees for the nine-member Strategic Planning Board, which Moore will chair.

Council President Margaret Zeidman said she was “flabbergasted and overwhelmed” by the talent and experience among Moore’s nominees.

“This is one stellar group of individuals representing various areas of expertise,” she said.

Councilman Ted Cooney said he appreciated the diversity of backgrounds and interests on the new panel.

“We are fortunate to live in a community with so many brilliant people,” he said. “I’m so grateful to all of you for giving your time for this effort. I look forward to the results.”

Moore said she selected the eight from a long list of residents who were suggested by the council members or who volunteered their services to her or through town staff. She said she contacted them all and asked those who weren’t given seats on the board to participate as residents.

“Every resident and community leader in this town will make this process successful,” Moore said.

The appointees are Alfred “Skip” Aldridge, Elizabeth Dowdle, Kristin Kelly Fisher, Nicki McDonald, James “Peter” McKelvy, Katherine Ostberg, Michael Pucillo and Michael Reiter.

Aldridge is a business consultant and co-chairman of the Citizens’ Association of Palm Beach.

Dowdle is a conservationist and planner and former member of the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

Fisher is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Town of Palm Beach United Way and Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach.

McDonald has experience in fashion and interior design and is an alternate member of the Planning and Zoning Commission and former member of the Underground Utilities Task Force.

McKelvy is a retired media executive who also has leadership experience with non-profit organizations.

Ostberg is an architect with an interest in master planning and historic preservation.

Pucillo is an attorney, former council president and vice chair of the Palm Beach Civic Association’s Executive Committee.

Reiter is a former town police chief who is now founder and president of a Palm Beach-based security firm.

The new board’s first meeting is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. on Jan. 20 in the council chambers at Town Hall. Its monthly meetings will be held in public. It is expected to develop a draft of the strategic plan for council approval in April 2023, Moore said. She assured the council that the strategic panel won’t attempt to step beyond the council’s authority.

“This is a board that will bring ideas to the council,” Moore said. “The buck stops at this desk. There was never any desire for the buck to stop anywhere but with this particular council.”

The panel will engage the public and work with staff to gather information and develop a strategic plan to deal with the so-called “mansionization” building trend in the North End and many other challenges facing Palm Beach, Moore said.

Council members Julie Araskog and Lew Crampton told the new board members their work is critical to the town’s future.

“We’re seeing less green space, more traffic and more tourism,” Araskog said. “We don’t want to change and become like other places. We’re unique. We’re beautiful. We’re a place that is so very special. You’re being retained to preserve that.”

The town is at an “inflexion point,” Crampton said.

“Things were a certain way until two years ago,” he said. “Then we were hit with tremendous growth. Assumptions about our demographic have changed. You are at a key point in helping us adapt to that change.”

The last strategic plan was approved by the council in 2003 after being developed by an earlier Strategic Planning Board led by Moore’s mother, then-Mayor Lesly Smith.