Questionnaire: Jim Chard, candidate for Delray Beach City Commission Seat 1

Name: James R. Chard

Age: 79


What distinguishes you most from your opponent(s)?
Experience and knowledge.
I have been working as a not for profit executive, Delray Board member (Site Plan Review and Appearance Board and Historic Preservation Board), City Commissioner and Vice Mayor for 20 years between 2004 and 2024. My experience consists of transportation, housing, local history, economic development, education, environmental sustainability, arts and culture and urban planning.

Prior to my Delray experience, I worked in corporations (Citibank, Morgan Stanley, American Express) and in tech-based startups.

In many of my not-for-profit boards I have served in leadership positions including chair, vice chair, treasurer and founding board member.

I worked directly for three mayors in New York City: John Lindsay, Ed Koch and David Dinkins. I have two master’s degrees from Harvard in business administration and city planning.

List in reverse chronological order, starting with most recent, colleges and universities attended with years of attendance and degrees held.
Harvard University, City Planning, 1967-1970
Harvard University, Business School, 1968-1970
Pomona College, 1963-1967

List in reverse chronological order your work history for the past 15 years.
AlertSite – VP Business Development
Waco Associates – VP Marketing
Not-for-profits (board membership) and municipal government
Human Powered Delray
Delray Beach Chamber of Commerce
Delray SPRAB board
Congress Avenue Task Force
Delray Beach City Commission
Old School Square Not for Profit
Friends of Delray
Delray Historic Preservation Board

Have you ever been a party to a lawsuit, including bankruptcy or foreclosure? If so, provide details and disposition.

Have you ever been charged or convicted of a misdemeanor or felony, including an adjudication of guilt withheld? If so, provide charges, dates and terms of sentence.

Do you support creation of a historic district to protect East Atlantic Avenue, and why or why not?
Like many people who come to Delray, I first fell in love with the city driving down Atlantic Avenue. Downtown is the engine that began our renaissance in the late 1990s and continues energizing the growth and the brand image of Delray. Historic downtown is really only five blocks long and is now surrounded by larger, more modern buildings. Many residents are concerned that Delray could soon look like our neighbors to the north and south and destroy our unique character: The Village by the Sea.

As board member of the Historic Preservation Board, I voted for the historic designation. The five-year Heisenbottle study that led to the designation was professional and thorough and the number of contributing buildings was sufficient between Swinton and the IntraCoastal Canal.  It meets the legal requirements for historic district designation.

As commissioner of Delray, I will by law have a wider set of responsibilities.  I will need to factor in economic development issues, private property rights, environmental concerns and citizen involvement. We certainly don’t want to kill the goose that laid the golden eggs.

The truth is that most of the restrictions that comprise oversight of historical districts are already in force on Atlantic Avenue. We have density, height and massing restrictions. We have restrictions on appearance and use. And we need to recognize that there are considerable benefits to historic designation, including grants, tax breaks and relief from setback requirements. I look forward to engaging in robust conversations with all stakeholders, including retail stores, property owners, professional offices, downtown residents and restaurants to engage in lively and sometimes lengthy debates on all alternatives to preserve the vibe and appeal of our downtown.

Even before my election, I am engaged in discussions with major property owners regarding the pros and cons of historic designation. The Delray Way consists of incorporating all parties interested in saving our downtown. As Commissioner, I look forward to joining the fray to make the best decision possible for all concerned.

Pension benefits for city public safety workers have increased and public safety costs are roughly half the city budget. Is this appropriate, and would you support additional increases?
Public safety workers in Delray are reasonably well compensated. We generally try to measure compensation in surrounding cities and make sure we are not out of line with neighboring communities. Even so, public safety workers (as well as teachers and health care workers) find it difficult to afford housing in Delray, where prices have increased at more than 10% per year.
We also need to realize the police and fire professionals of today are very different from 10 or 20 years ago. Public safety has become a capital intensive, high-tech service. A single hook and ladder truck now costs well over a million dollars, police vehicles are outfitted with the latest computer, medical equipment and communications technology, license plate readers, drones and complex databases. Quite often, when an officer pulls over a driver, he or she can pull up a screen of the face and legal history of the individual in the car, including warnings of firearm possession.
Delray, its streets, beach and parks are recognized as clean and safe. Millions of visitors come to Delray and feel safe walking the streets and enjoying the sights. We appreciate the police that walk the streets with us and the fire rescue personnel who respond to emergencies in minutes. Such professionalism comes at a cost.

As Commissioner, I will work hard at balancing the needs of the citizens with the cost of providing public service. Cost-conscious budgeting and tough but fair negotiations with public service personnel will protect our taxes and our safety.

Do you think the city’s building height limits are too low, too high or just right, and would you pledge to oppose any easing of height restrictions in the future? 
I believe that the great majority of Delray voters, stakeholders and visitors would be opposed to raising height limits. Most of the developers in Delray are local residents who not only like the height limitations but would not appreciate national firms with no stake in the city’s history and identity to come into Delray and raise building heights. Delray has over the years actually downzoned properties to prevent residential towers on the beach, along the canal and on Atlantic Avenue.

To my knowledge, we have not given any waivers for height in recent years, other than for workforce housing commitments. We do give waivers for setbacks, but that is generally because a parcel has unique restrictions such as odd shapes, easements, etc. We do need to accommodate changing climate conditions and building materials but that doesn’t mean we need to “canyonize” our streets and neighborhoods.

So I find it easy to pledge opposition against easing height restrictions in the future and limiting the massing of buildings downtown and on major thoroughfares.