Congratulations to the BocaWatch participants…. we ‘moved the mountain’.

Over the last few weeks, BocaWatch has presented concerns about Ordinance 5289 which was intended to remove the 2 acre lot size minimum from the Interim Design Guidelines (IDG), a necessary step to allow final approval for the Tower 155 project to proceed with heights up to 160 feet.  Tower 155, which has a 1.25 acre site, project has been in the approval process for many months with a broad sentiment at both the staff and elected official levels  to provide the land owner with opportunity to build a 160 foot building (12 floor) under the IDG instead of being limited to the 100 feet (9 floors) height traditionally allowed for parcels under 2 acres.

The CRA and staff have jumped through hoops to find a way to accommodate this project.  First they suggested a parcel specific ordinance.  Realizing this was not be a good approach, the ordinance was then designed to remove the 2 acre lot size generally.  To that end, Urban Design Associates, the city hired consultant, opined that the 2 acre minimum was an oversight and should not have been in the IDG from its inception and therefore could be removed with little or no consequence.

Without the voice of BocaWatch, this would have sailed through the process and gone mostly unnoticed, permanently allowing many other parcels within the downtown to rise to the 160 feet height.

When questioned, neither the staff nor the appointed and elected officials could say how many parcels would be impacted by this change.  Suffice it to say the map contained within the backup materials reflects that many dozens of properties would now become eligible for the higher levels (see our article ‘Tall Skinny Buildings.)….but even when pointed out, the CRA members seemed committed to moving forward.

With our voices raised the outcome has been altered….BocaWatch did not win the argument that the CRA should table any further action on removing the 2 acre minimum until after citizens and the Council’s evaluation of the Mark at Cityscape, the development approved to test the Interim Design Guidelines, but we did get the CRA to move their position, a position that appeared immovable at the start.

Therefore, we moved the mountain albeit just a little bit….

Just having the CRA take up the issue and subsequently modify its outcome demonstrates the impact we are having.

The compromise arrived at was to retain a minimum lot size of 1.2 acres for 160 foot building. Preserving any minimum size lot criteria would not have happened without our voices and influences.  Dozens of us arrived at city hall to oppose the original proposed modification and even being this late in the process, we succeeded to a degree….

Just imagine what we can do when our voices are heard earlier in the process, perhaps at the initial submittal stages of future projects, enabling citizens to provide input concurrent with the development voices….and/or at the Planning Advisory Review, the Planning and Zoning Board and  the Downtown Advisory Committee,  at times well before the elected officials have been ‘lobbied’ for a particular outcome….

This is the power of participating in the process….in having our collective voice heard on an equal footing with the developer and its agents…..

 In the end….BocaWatch did a great service to the community….We made a difference and brought about a significant change.  By following this path throughout the process a new dynamic surfaces; to wit: getting appointed and elected officials, staff and the establishment to realize there is a new force in town….an outstanding achievement….We should be very proud….