Dear Mayor Haynie and Boca City Council Members,
As a veteran of 45 years in the government relations business, I enjoyed watching you all in action as you debated the 2-acre “housekeeping” resolution at the January 12 CRA meeting and January 13 Council meeting. I recognize a done deal when I see one. But I got the impression that, technicalities aside, you might not have been listening to what your unusually large audience was trying to tell you. There was an elephant in the room.
As a result of construction approvals made over the last 5+ years, including now Tower 155, there is a groundswell building against unfettered high rise development in Boca. This is a direct result, not of some influx of anti-development conservationist zealots, but of the practical effect of what we as residents in the “downtown” area see each day. The buildings which have been approved as exceptions to the old height limitations are not exceptional. The Mark looks like a prison. I don’t know what the Archstone project will look like in the end, but at over three football fields in length, I am not optimistic. The 14-story pile going up at the corner of Camino and Federal will block out the sun on the 7th and 8th holes of the Resort Golf course as well as for the residents of those $6+ million homes in Mizner Estates (too bad for them). We will wait and see just how aesthetically pleasing Tower 155 is– but it is a very big building crammed on a very small lot abutting a very small side street. I hope it is magnificent, I really do.
But Boca’s recent construction track record does not afford much cause for optimism. This is why a rapidly growing number of residents are concerned and disappointed. Just the concept of the New Mizner on the Green Project has set off alarm bells. Too often we have seen developers propose 40-story buildings only to “accept” a 25-story result. And we have seen such faux compromises touted as a reduction in density.
What you heard on January 12th and January 13th in your Council chambers was “enough is enough.” I would expect that rallying cry will become louder and more persistent in coming months, as concerned citizens get more organized and involved. I expect that there will be political consequences unless our elected leaders put a brake on future high rise development in the downtown. What’s done is done. Let’s take a deep breath and assess the damage (or benefits) once this latest construction binge has run its course.
But from this point forward, there will be a significant and growing number of people watching development decisions with a very critical eye. I expect they will be well organized and well funded.
Enough is enough. I hope you got the message. I did.