The Boca Raton Federation of Homeowners Associations had its monthly meeting on October 4th.  The main topic was the upcoming November 8th ballot issue titled “City of Boca Raton Question”, known by many as Ordinance 5356.

A YES vote will provide that city owned land and parks on the Intracoastal Waterway will be preserved for use by the citizens for recreation, green space and other amenities geared to serve the public.

Or

A NO vote will most certainly provide for a single use restaurant at the former Wildflower site dominated by an asphalt parking lot covering 70% of available land and limiting access to the property for the public at large.  A NO vote further jeopardizes other City owned waterway property to commercial development.

It is up to you. Citizens paid millions for our waterfront parks over the past 40 years. Now we find the Chamber of Commerce making it their priority to sell our lands to developers, creating more brick and mortar over green space.

Jerry Fidele, President of the Chamber of Commerce, past President Randy Nobles and Troy McLellan, CEO  stated at the meeting  “The top priority of the Boca Chamber leadership and members is to monetize the City-owned former Wildflower property for the purposes of increasing City revenue to improve infrastructure and the downtown while creating a sense of place.”  Mr. Fidele went on to say that the (Wildflower) is the initial property they wish to commercialize. And from there, each of the other parks going north will be up for monetization.

What these honorable people fail to understand is the real monetization comes from the improved quality of life enjoyed by residents and tourists alike.  Current trends are undeniable.  An increasing number of people desire to live in an urban community and with that they prefer settings that offer beaches, parks and green space close to downtown.  These amenities offer individuals and families of all ages the opportunity to realize increased property values for what, for most residents, is the largest investment of their lives.  Boca home values exceed all our neighboring communities as presented at a recent City Council meeting by the County Tax Appraiser proving Boca’s ‘city within a park’ philosophy, is doing it right.

We do not see the Chamber of Commerce in the cities such as Greenville, SC, San Antonio TX and even New York (thinking Central Park, or the High Line) trying to monetize their parks the way Boca’s Chamber of Commerce does. Just the opposite, the first two cities are expanding their green space and that is a trend happening throughout the country.

It is argued the proposed ordinance limits use of our parks. It does not. The ordinance allows commercial activities on the land in support of recreation, boating, food vendors and concessions for equipment rental.  Deputy City Manager, George Brown and senior staff person, Ingrid Allen have testified to these points at a City Council meeting.   Perhaps the Chamber of Commerce executives should view this video testimony so they will clearly understand this ordinance and not continue to communicate lies regarding it.

With a YES vote the City becomes the exclusive arbitrator of what activities will be allowed in our parks.

Efforts are being made to develop a plan for a creative waterfront experience on the north and south side of the Palmetto Park Bridge.  The imaginative ideas will create a draw for the many thousands of downtown families and invite thousands of visitors to our intracoastal waterfront supporting all businesses and offering a choice of restaurants along the way.  This waterfront destination will revitalize the east end of our downtown vs just another average restaurant for the affluent, but clearly not for all the residents to enjoy.

A YES vote confirms the will of the people regarding their right to say how our parks shall be administered.

Boca Raton does not need to monetize its parks as we have the lowest taxes of any city our size and larger in our area.  In fact, a credible argument can be made that property taxes will increase due to the added value of properties fortunate to reside in a community that offers valuable amenities and recreation.

A YES vote on Nov. 8th offers the possibility that in the words of Beach and Parks District Commissioner Starkoff – “We can have our parks and eat there too”.

We can do that by not selling our greenspace to a commercial entity.  Once it’s gone, it’s gone for good.