A rare occurrence happened at the July 21st Planning and Zoning Board meeting. Due to the absence of one Board member, an important decision rendered a three to three split vote. The topic in question was the high profile Ordinance amending Boca’s City Code of Ordinances and impacting all City owned land adjacent to the Intracoastal Waterway.

With six (6) of the seven (7) P&Z members present, the vote resulted in a tie; hence no recommendation to adopt or not the ordinance as drafted. Voting for recommendation to adopt as drafted was Vice-chair Arnold Sevell and members, Kerry Koen and Janice Rustin; voting against recommendation was Chair William Fairman and members Rick Coffin and Glenn Gromann.   Not present was Board member Larry Cellon.

This ordinance is the result of the resident generated Charter Initiative where over 2,000 signatures were gathered in a three-week period during the dead of summer in support of the Ordinance’s content. Residents even went so far as to retain counsel, Ralf Brookes, Esq., the attorney who litigated and ultimately negotiated a settlement with the City in 2012 with regards to a similar ordinance for city owned land on the east side of the Intercoastal Waterway. That property is known as the Ocean Strand and was settled through “City of Boca Raton, et al v. Martin Siml.

Attorney Brookes, under questioning from P&Z Member Glenn Gromann, responded without hesitation to the numerous ‘what if’ inquiries posed by Gromann from the dais. Attorney Brookes established that, as in SIML, this ordinance poses no threat to prevent concessionaires and other commercial opportunities so long as the approved uses place no restrictions on the public’s access and use of the city owned property. This result is supported by the public’s access and use of the properties on the east side of the Intracoastal in place since the 2012 4th District Court of Appeals opinion and has been the collective experience with the City Council without controversy since.

Rather than try to recap the presentation, suffice it to say that the Petition Chairman, James Hendrey, introduced Attorney Brookes whose comments have been captured here for you to see and for future presentation to the City Council at the upcoming Council meetings on July 26th and August 9th. Watch for your self…Video

Of particular note is that if ordinance’s language is adopted as is, it is an ordinance, that in the future, is controlled by the City Council and it will be up to the City Council on how to interpret and implement the ordinance. The Council ultimately decides what and how the subject properties are to be used in light of the ordinance. Attorney Brookes’ comments were, in part, supported by the testimony of Deputy City Manager George Brown and not refuted by the Assistant City Attorney in the audience for the entire presentation.

Finally, the bold assertion made by Mr. Gromann that the ordinance is merely a subterfuge for opposition to the brick and mortar restaurant proposal for the Wildflower site is offensive.

If this City Council can see its way to a 45 year long term lease/sale of city owned property along the Intracoastal, what is to prevent this Council or future City Councils from similar efforts with other city owned land parcels along the waterway. After all we know unequivocally the predisposition by our City’s leadership for what seems to be endless commercial development.

In essence, this is the firewall to prevent such development activities along the Intracoastal Waterways regardless of how improbable that idea may seem at the present time….

If the City Council were to adopt the ordinance as drafted the public’s waterfront properties will be forever protected; the most desirable outcome….

If the City Council rejects the Ordinance as written or the Council chooses to ignore the ordinance entirely, than the ordinance goes to the voters in November.

If the residents vote YES in the November, then there will be no long term lease/sale of publicly owned waterfront property; another desirable outcome.

If there were to be a NO in November, then the City Council could, at any time, vote to allow for long term leases/sale of any and all publically owned waterfront properties.

AS YOU CAN SEE, THIS IS OUR WATERLOO, OUR ALAMO, OUR RED LINE….