Most residents in Boca Raton know that there is a major firestorm brewing over the proposed development project known as ‘Midtown’ and the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority’s (SFRTA) efforts to justify a second Tri-Rail station at Glades Road and Military Trail.
This past Tuesday, December 5th, SFRTA provided a progress report on its plans for a new Tri-Rail station for Midtown Boca Raton. A crowd of over 100 residents showed up to listen, learn and participate in the process. Noticeably absent were representatives from the landowner/ development groups that stand to gain the most from the new station. Also noticeably absent were members of the Boca Raton City Council. Mayor Haynie appeared but did not speak and left prior to public input; Councilwoman O’Rourke arrived late; Councilman Weinroth was not there at all even though he supports the density and at one time even suggested that the density could be as much as 4,500 units. Councilmen Rodgers and Singer were absent as well, not surprising considering their attitude may be that this fits in the ‘not our job’ category. Candidate Monica Mayotte attended for the entire presentation.
The presentation itself was rather brief as it took well under thirty minutes to explain the rationale for narrowing the possible locations from seven sites to two sites, both of which are within close proximity of one another, just south of Glades Road. These sites were referred to as site A and site B; (see visuals below demonstrating 50 parking spaces in one and 90 in the other). The SFRTA presenter actually suggested a third option; a ‘no-build’ option. No one in the crowd believed that option…. Laughable!!!
For those who attended the prior SFRTA meeting, it was curious as to why the other five sites were even in the running. So the reduction of selected sites to two, both benefiting the Midtown project, is not unexpected, in short, no surprises there. SFRTA estimates that the most optimistic completion date for a station would be five years from now.
What followed was the public input segment where individuals presented questions, offered opinions and suggestions. Two gentlemen offered their support for the project while the remainder had a more skeptical attitude or outright opposition. The most common areas of concern were traffic, school overcrowding, public safety, and overdevelopment. The residents are aware that approving the station is critical to approving the highly-concentrated, residential development in the area.
Included amongst the speakers were residents from Paradise Palms who had conducted their own independent, albeit unscientific, traffic impact analysis. Using the local website Nextdoor.com, their survey uncovered some 151 responses with a ratio of 2 to 1 against the station; an overwhelming resistance. Is there no wonder that the idea of creating further over-development on the Military Trail corridor has met with such objection? The requested density is not possible without the Tri-Rail station.
It was interesting to observe how the representatives of SFRTA dealt with the notion, stated by several residents, that the station is not needed and merely the ingredient necessary to justify more development in the area. The response echoed several times was that the plans for the station began in 2008 and was designated as a possibility due to the proximity of the Town Center Mall and other businesses in the area. However, Town Center Mall has been in existence since 1980; Boca Center since 1985; Strikes prior to 1980; Glades Plaza prior to 1980; the majority of office buildings in the area built well before the year 2000.
So, why the need for the station now? The simple answer lies in the fact there has been an accumulation of property in the area by developer interests led by Crocker and Company in recent years. They see opportunity in development and know that in order to maximize that opportunity into maximum profitability the new station is a must; an outcome that certain representatives of the developer(s) have characterized as a ‘done deal’.
It is a sad but true reality that for the past seven years in Boca Raton, developers have been allowed to build for maximum profit and not for people. That needs to change!!!
The safeguards for residents are appropriate zoning, appropriate land use regulations and adherence to a master plan acceptable to the entire community. Most important, it is necessary to have elected officials who have the backbone to hold the landowner/developer community accountable to standards that enhance and improve the resident’s quality of life.
We, residents, have to make a decision. We have got to demand an end to the lies, charades, and lack of transparency, late night meeting and a developer friendly environment throughout our city. If we do not, the charm of Boca Raton will be lost forever.
Remember, your vote is your voice; let your voice be heard at the ballot in March, 2018….