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Beach and Park District Challenge Definition of INSANITY

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This model has been employed for years now between the City of Boca Raton and the Greater Boca Raton Beach and Park District. Never ending differences on issues such as user fees, field surfaces, budget priorities and other items in what appears to us, the observing public, to be an endless battle for control of revenues and expenditures. Nothing more than a power struggle between elected bodies with behind the scene puppet masters pulling strings and dangling the elected officials in the wind….

Not a pretty picture to say the least!

Well this past Monday, Suzy Vogelgesang, Chairperson of the Beach and Park District, took a bold new step, a bold new direction, to bring a sea-change in the District’s approach to negotiating with the City while providing a greater degree of accountability for and from the elected officials responsible to, us, the voting public.

A bit of recent history…

We are all aware that the City of Boca Raton has entered into a contract to sell the Boca Municipal Golf Course. We are also aware that the Beach and Park District has plans to restore the old Boca Teeca Golf Course into what will be renamed Boca National Golf Course. Furthermore, we are all aware that both elected bodies, all 10 elected officials, have made the unwavering commitment to “Keep Golf in Boca” over the last few years and the last few election cycles.

So why has this objective become what appears to be a series of point-counterpoint between the two bodies demonstrated by a series of questions on design and operations and a tiring argument of finance and structure?

The answer…

Our elected officials have not been part of an actual negotiation; the elected officials are isolated from the negotiating table and relegated to a reviewing role. A reviewing role subject to the Sunshine Laws preventing discussions in any manner except in a public setting; a public setting where politics is always the elephant in the room.

That is about to change…

Chairperson Vogelgesang, on Monday, passed the gavel to Commissioner Bob Rollins, the District’s Chair Emeritus, in order that she make a motion allowing the District to “delegate authority” to one of its members for opening discussion with the City to negotiate the terms of a working partnership and achieve the outcome of “Keeping Golf In Boca”; to define the terms of a partnership that the elected officials may review and ratify.

Her motion was to have the Chair Emeritus, Bob Rollins, lead a delegation to meet with a similar delegation from the City in a public meeting, with the public observing but not participating, to discuss and define the terms of this working partnership between the bodies to design and develop the Boca National Golf Course.

A sea-change approach to what is a major challenge for the elected officials; a challenge on finance, on design, on operations and, perhaps most important, on the perception in the public of incompetence to accomplish the task at hand. All these challenges are clearly demonstrated in the back and forth question and answer letters that have been generated by City staff and responded to by District officials.

To listen to the public at the Monday meeting, one can hear the frustration with this insanity.

Speaker after speaker voiced opinions that all centered around the perceived inability to bring resolution to the equation. Speakers suggesting that the project needs to be handled in a more professional manner; that the objectives for the upcoming joint meeting of the two elected bodies should be to better define the goal; perhaps revisit the process and take a different approach for decision making. That approach being to get the politics out of the equation.

How, you ask???

Former District Commissioner, Earl Starkoff, encapsulated the discussion in his comments. He suggested that resolution of these challenges would result from a series of joint meetings to achieve specific “milestones” in decision making. He described these as “strategic and tactical”; milestones designed to demonstrate where there is agreement and where there is not.

To his point, implementing the Chairperson’s motion to appoint an elected official to lead a delegation in a public discussion addressing issues like design and partnership terms allows for efficiencies that the respective elected bodies can review for ratification in future meetings.

The District approved the following elements for this elected official lead delegation:

  1. that the city would also delegate authority to one of its elected members to lead a negotiating team in this public discourse;
  2. that both sides would announce in advance the makeup of its delegation;
  3. that the meetings would be open to the public to observe but not participate;
  4. that the negotiated points would then be brought back to the respective bodies by the delegated elected official for review with public participation; the results of these reviews would set the stage for the next delegation meeting; and,
  5. that these discussions would remain subject to the Sunshine Laws and only discussed by the elected officials in the confines of a public meeting.

The District was to send a letter to the City outlining this proposal and suggesting this be a topic for consideration at the joint meeting next Tuesday, May 28th at the 6500 N. Congress Ave location. All are invited to attend.

Attached is that letter for the interested reader to review.

Also attached is Mr. Starkoff’s comment in its entirety for your consideration.

How refreshing….

Einstein’s definition of Insanity aside, this new paradigm deserves a try.

Removing the politics from the discussion may actually provide a platform to advance the promise of “Keeping Golf in Boca”; a promise that the public clearly wants kept!

Al Zucaro
Publisher of BocaWatch

Results of the Ranked Choice Voting Experiment

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We ran a ranked choice voting poll a month ago to demonstrate how ranked choice polling could show results in real time. This poll was also intended to demonstrate how ranked choice voting works in general. It showed a few other things that are highly interesting. It revealed what can go wrong with a poll, how a poll can be abused and how the information yielded by a poll can be misleading. It also revealed that sometimes, despite how much monkeying around people do with polls, it doesn’t matter. Sometimes there’s enough credible data derived from even the wonkiest poll to work with. Does it tell us anything about who is going to be the next mayor in Boca Raton? Maybe. Maybe not. Take a look at results and be the judge…

Government Developers Tag Team to Defeat the Resident, Current and Future!

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The interests of government, in this case Palm Beach County and the City of Boca Raton, tag teaming up with the financial interests of a developer, in this case, GL Homes, to effectively take away rights and values of current and future residents.

What is this about?

Currently the County and the City are advancing a petition to install a 400 foot communication tower on a 0.29 acre civic pod on the Boca Municipal golf course property; a petition that will result to the benefit of these governments and to the financial interests of the developer but, arguably, at the expense of the current and future residents and landowners.

The County is the actual petitioner for this communication tower application with the city participating in the process from a joint ownership and usage point of view. The developer participates by agreeing to locate the required civic pod to a specific location on the golf course different from its current placement. GL’s approvals to change the golf course land use designation from Parks and Recreation to Low Residential, 3 units per acre, on the 193.68 acres requires a 3.68 acre civic pod. By agreeing to move the location as requested by the County, the civic pod requirement will be reduces to a mere 0.29 acre site. Along with this reduction, GL will be required to make a $200,000 cash-out payment for the “mitigation of the self collapsing tower construction and the visual impact cost to the GL Homes Project”; a net increase of building acreage of 3.39 acres.

You do the math….3 units per acre times 3.39 acres times the average price per unit….a hell of a lot more than the $200,000 fee….

It gets even more intriguing….

In order for this 400 foot communication tower to be approved, 5 type 2 Communication Tower Waiver Requests will be required.

These waivers are summarized as follows:

  1. a reduction of the required 5,280 foot separation distance between the Proposed Tower. Currently, the two other existing communication towers in proximity have a 484 foot and a 1102 foot separation; to wit: If approved then a 79% and 91% reduction respectively;
  2. the remaining 4 waivers have to do with distances for setback from ‘nearest residential structure; the nearest adjacent residential property line; the distance between the proposed tower and vacant residential property line; and, the setback between the tower and the non-residential property line.

By way of background, currently there are three towers in immediate proximity to one another that are inconsistent with the current County Comprehensive Plan and land use regulations. These current towers are a 511 foot tower; a 350 foot tower; and a 180 foot tower. The 180 foot tower is located on the Boca Muni golf course property. All three of these towers pre-existed the County implementing the 2003 separation and setback code changes and therefore are non-objectionable. However, originally contemplated here was to take down the 180 foot tower and simply replace it on the existing site; a move that would have not raised objection. However, a new plan emerged, a plan to take down the 180 foot tower and replace it with a 400 foot tower on a new location; a location which is in violation of the County’s own codes.

It is important to note that prior to 2003, the county provided unfettered discretion on the siting of communication towers; a policy resulting in unsightly clusters of communication towers in close proximity to one another. In 2003, the county took an informed legislative action to require separation distance and setback standards. Now, in this petition, the county argues that because there are already three towers in a cluster within proximity of one another and because these three already do not conform to the adopted 2003 standards, that the code requirements ought be disregarded and, hence, are not applicable. Sort of a no harm no foul argument…Give me a break….

This application, if approved, will actually take down the 180 foot tower and replace it with a 400 foot tower on a different location. How is that outside the 2003 changes?

The petition also infringes on the current adjacent property owner’s rights and, arguably, the rights of future foreseeable residential property owners. This type of government deception is certainly something the average resident needs to be concerned about.

Government and developers enjoy tremendous advantage over the average resident. An approval here will immediately inure to the benefit of the two governments and the developer while the landowner is imposed upon and future land values are impacted.

Attached here is the Letter of Objection filed by the adjacent landowner directly impacted by this government action; an action that may arguably approach an actual government taking. The letter outlines in specific detail the landowner’s position. It is suggested that the interested reader should spend the time to better understand the arguments being made.

The critical issue is that government cannot impose upon those of us that are governed duties and obligations to adhere too and then seek to avoid those same duties and obligations when it is perceived by the government that the end result is in the government’s interest.

Good Governance should protect the resident/landowner against that kind of arbitrary outcome. Good Governance also must demand accountability.

So what’s next….

The County’s application is scheduled to go before the County’s Planning and Zoning Board on June 6th.

To those readers outside the city limits in West Boca, there will be a contingent of citizens at the June 6th P&Z meeting to object to the application’s approval. It is suggested that you take the time and attend this meeting to have your voice heard.

To those of us that are Boca Raton city residents, we should be interested in showing solidarity and support for the West Boca property owner and the foreseeable future property owners that will bear the negative impacts of this type of government intrusion.

Finally, you are urged to contact County Commissioners Mary Lou Berger and Robert Weinroth to voice your opinion on this subject. If Planning and Zoning gives this application an approval, the Board of County Commissioners (BCC) will vote on the subject on June 27th. A favorable vote at the BCC is needed before implementation.

Only by standing up and objecting to this kind of government overreach will we, the residents, be able to quietly enjoy our homes and our properties.

Al Zucaro
Publisher of BocaWatch

Tri-Rail vs. Boca Raton Hospital–Does It get any Stranger?

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Many have become used to BocaWatch publishing stories on current events, much of which includes matters associated with development and government. We try to approach issues with a “resident responsible” analysis of what good governance should be. As part of this process BocaWatch contributors, including myself, look at public records, agendas and ongoing news stories. Our purpose is informing our audience, Boca’s residents, of what is going on in the community. Sometimes as part of this process we come across facts and situations that are not generally known. We encounter stories that are not in the public eye—yet. This is one of them, a story that thus far nobody else has touched.

Under this context, I recently read with interest (and little fanfare) a story published in the CityWatch blog (good name) section of Boca Magazine written by Randy Schultz on the topic of the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority (SFRTA). Randy and I have been critical of each other on many occasions with his most recent criticism of me being that–as he asserts–I have stopped doing things that he originally criticized me for. Hmmm. That being said, Randy, in CityWatch, does the same things we, at BocaWatch, do in analyzing information and agendas and adding editorial license to various stories—with one big exception.

The CityWatch Motif—And How Stories Come to Be…

It does not take a genius to see that often before a City Council or CRA meeting a remarkable ‘policy piece’ will come out in CityWatch mirroring how the City Manager or City Attorney would like to have things go or, more often than not, how a single or group of elected officials (through either the City Manager or City Attorney mouthpiece) might want to promote a preferred outcome.

During Mayor Haynie’s tenure these policy pieces would, in a non-controversial setting, nearly mirror her position and, in a controversial setting, provide ‘cover’ for whichever vote prevailed.  In reporting circles these ‘seed stories’ are simply the exercise of sending up a trial balloon to test an audience reaction. CityWatch is the perfect venue to ‘seed’ a ‘subject matter’ story and see if it gets noticed or gets traction. A wonderful political tool.

The story begins—The Boca Raton Tri-Rail Station at Yamato Road

In the context of the thesis noted above, it was with great interest that I read about the ‘Tri-Rail Yamato site development proposal’ buried at the end of a very long article in CityWatch written by Randy Schultz on January 8, 2019. Shultz noted that the SFRTA had “entered into negotiations” with a local developer to build “a medical office project” and quoted in the article was Steven Abrams the former Boca Raton Mayor and 2 term County Commissioner who had just come aboard as the SFRTA executive director.

So where did that story come from?

Randy doesn’t typically report on SFRTA matters and it would take considerable effort to find it on any SFRTA agenda. Assuming one could actually locate the agenda item, there is virtually no substance or criteria listed in the public record—no detail. The mystery is easily solved, however, by the fact that this story may be seen to be a ‘seed story’ presumably initiated by Mr. Abrams who, after decades in south county elected office knows the system; knows how to get things done. Having seen no other reference reported about this medical office project, I may have actually stumbled upon a genuine ‘scoop’.

Tri-rail v. Boca Hospital – Misrepresentation and Malfeasance

Since this ‘scoop’ story is about a proposed land development project at the Yamato Road Tri-Rail station involving medical offices and since anything that involves medical in Boca Raton typically involves the Boca Raton Regional Hospital (BRRH), I asked Jerry Fedele, BRRH’s President, what he knew about what I was uncovering. Wow! I got an earful in the form of the attached letter.

Jerry Fedele’s Letter is above. Click on the letter to make it larger.

Apparently, in this zoning district, where the Tri-Rail station is located, any application for development for a medical use must be associated with or a part of FAU or BRRH. This requirement means that any medical development has to have a relationship or be part of a corporate/university structure. That being said, one wonders how this medical application has moved forward for consideration in the SFRTA plans?

My first question is: “Doesn’t anyone check this and wasn’t Steve Abrams knowledgeable of this restrictive zoning element?”

In this case, the end user (as clearly noted in the Fedele correspondence) has no connection to either institution. Thus, this medical office project is not a permitted use in what is known as ‘LIRP’ zoning. Not only that, it appears that whoever was promoting this idea or deal was misrepresenting the involvement of both FAU and the Hospital.

So why would anyone take ownership of that type of situation? What is Steve Abrams thinking? Will there be legal action with the Hospital—with the City? Has Mr. Fedele’s letter been acknowledged by the City? Does the City Manager even know about this? Has someone told Tri-Rail this is not happening—or is it?

Certainly, this is not the way to ‘win friends and influence people’ at either FAU or BRRH…and publicizing it seems even more ill-advised. Perhaps that is why there has been little follow up or fanfare concerning the matter from the Mayor and other elected officials in receipt of the Fedele letter.

And what about the follow up question, the predictable consequence…Additional Traffic? 
Forgetting about the highly unusual and strange set of circumstances above, the next question one has to ask is why is a transit authority, with its primary purpose being to take car trips off the roadways, promoting or advancing a medical office project which appears not only to be in competition with Boca Raton’s largest employer (BRRH) but also seems to be inconsistent with the existing land use regulations for the proposed location.

Residents will have every right to be upset with this proposed land use. Such a use will generate a tremendous amount of new traffic.

I am told that such a medical office project generates the MOST traffic in an office type setting and also requires a great deal of dedicated parking. The Geo HQ building built across from the Tri-rail station at Yamato Road is reported to generate an extra 1000+ trips per day. Hence, it begs the question as to what on earth is the staff at Tri-Rail and Steve Abrams thinking? Are they not tasked with the reduction of traffic; with getting people OUT of their cars? This proposed medical office project has no chance at meeting those objectives. So again, what’s actually going on???

Is this good governance? Seems not to be on a wide variety of fronts….

It will be interesting to follow this story as it evolves to see its results; to see how Boca Raton’s elected official act in a ‘Resident Responsible’ way!

Stay tuned…more, much more, to come.

Al Zucaro
Publisher of BocaWatch

Dead Reef Park

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There used to be a reef at Red Reef Park.

Red Reef Park is a dishonest name. It used to represent what was there, a beautiful natural reef. Don’t bother coming to it if you expect to snorkle a reef – there isn’t one there. Boca’s decision makers collectively choose to kill it. There was a reef. Now it’s dead. We should be honest about the name. Maybe we can’t because of some “rat’s mouth” curse. We shouldn’t be calling it Red Reef Park because it isn’t even red any more like it was. Now we should all take in a collective breath, try honesty out for one brief moment and call the place what it is: Dead Reef Park. Shame on us.

People come to Boca Raton’s beaches expecting to snorkle a reef right off shore. They’ve got this expectation because we’ve got a park named Red Reef Park. It’s natural for people to expect a reef to be there. But when the get in the water they find something else: large boulders dropped offshore in an attempt to replace what was there. They find a man made collection of artificial objects set off shore that’s far from deserving the label: reef. It’s some rocks, not a reef. There’s some natural rock exposed still on shore too, and maybe folks can be told that’s the reef. But that’s not what the park was named after, the reef that used to be there. 

Those of us who snorkeled there before the reef was killed remember how magical it was. We remember the reef that was once there. It’s nothing like that now. I remember being told, in school, how coral took hundreds of years to grow. Boca people had giant corals we could swim out to, ones still growing back then, at Red Reef. I wonder if they bother telling our kids about the corals still. After what we did to those old magnificent coral, why bother?

It’s all been buried. The decision to pump sand from far off shore, using dredges, onto our beaches, was what covered it up. Now it’s buried and what once lived there, clung to it’s megaliths and needed homes along its ledges is gone. So many species, so much onshore habitat, such a natural wonder at our feet. Gone. We saved our beaches, but we destroyed our ocean in order to do it.

Don’t get me wrong, you might have a chance at seeing a lot of fish if you go on the right day. The rocks at Red Reef Park do attract sea life and it’s a wonderful place to introduce people to snorkeling.  But the sad fact is that the fish gather here because it’s one of the only places they can go. All the rest of the habitat that used to be here is covered by sand with the exception of these few man-made boulders. Sure the fish gather here – this is all there is now.

Some small patches of red coral have taken root on these boulders. As you’re swimming around them imagine them being 100 times larger and stretching along the length of the park, right off shore. Imagine a offshore habitat 10,000 times larger and more diversity in any one of its 10 yard squares than we see off our “restored” coast now. That’s what we had. That’s what we traded for fat beaches.

So if we’re serious about traffic and we don’t want Airbnb renters to expect a rewarding day snorkeling at the beach, why mislead them into thinking we’ve actually got a real living reef? Why trick them into thinking we’re people who care about their ocean in front of us? Why do we keep pretending we’re people who care anything other than our property values and our feel-goods? Let’s be honest and call something more accurate like what it is: People First Park, Wide Beach ParkSterilized Shores, “Saved” Shores Park, or simply what it is: Dead Reef Park.

Why Boca Needs an Independent Audit of our CRA

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Across Florida there is a total of 224 Community Redevelopment Agencies (CRAs), almost all associated with cities. As the name implies, they seek to improve blighted areas. As best as can be determined, unlike other cities’ CRAs, Boca Raton has never perform an independent audit of its CRA.

Attend City Council? Residents Might As Well Stay Home.

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Publisher’s comment:

At the request of some readers, the entire legislation that is the subject of this article can be viewed at the following link: https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2019/07103

Al Zucaro, Publisher

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The option of residents filing lawsuits against local government to protest and attempt to halt development is about to become a thing of the past. In the Florida Legislature session that ended this week, the legislators have advanced a bill for the Governor’s signature (HB 7103) that puts residents at risk for attorney fees if the residents file a lawsuit and are not the declared winner.

Effectively what that means is that without the threat of legal action, local government may feel more liberated to approve new residential development over the residents’ objection, and, although residents would still have the option of getting the courts involved, if they lose the court action, the resident would be libel for the winner’s attorney fees.

What a major disadvantage…

Local government has a steady stream of taxpayer dollars to defend any such legal challenge against the resident/taxpayer, and, if successful, local government can recoup attorney fees and costs expended to defend the lawsuit from the resident/taxpayer.

What is even more egregious is that if the developer chooses to get involved in a successful defense of the resident lawsuit, the resident would be at risk to pay the developers legal fees and costs as well.

If Governor DeSantis signs this legislation in its current form….residents may as well stay home and let local government approve whatever they want.

THE RESIDENT’S VOICE CONCERNING LOCAL GROWTH MANAGEMENT WILL BE LOST FOREVER!!!

CALL TO ACTION:

Contact the Mayor and Council Members as well as County Commissioner Robert Weinroth and demand they oppose this bill and encourage the Governor to refuse to sign HB 7031.

Andrea Levine O’Rourke – AORourke@ci.boca-raton.fl.us

Monica Mayotte – MMayotte@ci.boca-raton.fl.us

Scott Singer – ssinger@ci.boca-raton.fl.us

Jeremy Rodgers – jrodgers@ci.boca-raton.fl.us

Andy Thomson – athomson@myboca.us

County District 4 Commissioner Robert S. Weinroth – RWeinroth@pbcgov.org

Residents, themselves, should begin a letter writing campaign directly to the Governor demanding he not sign this legislation into law in its current form.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantishttps://www.flgov.com/email-the-governor/

Here is the May 8th Orlando Sentinel Editorial reporting on this legislation. 

You are encouraged to read it in its entirety as it has dramatic impacts on your quality of life and your ability to influence the local legislative outcomes within the scope of our elected officials.

Summer Camp Paint Party for Tourette Syndrome Month

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The public is invited to paint a summer dandelion to help send children with Tourette Syndrome to Summer Camp. The Kelsey B. Diamantis TS Scholarship Family Foundation, Inc., dba Dollars 4 Tic Scholars, a local non-profit organization that supports college students and youth with Tourette Syndrome, has scheduled its 5th Annual Summer Camp Paint Party Fundraiser on Sunday, June 9, 2019 at 1:45 pm at Boca Uptown Art, Shoppes at Village Pointe, 6018 SW 18th St., Suite C4-C5, Boca Raton, FL 33433.

The fifth annual event is held in honor of Tourette Syndrome Awareness Month which is May 15 to June 15, 2019. A percentage of the attendance fee will be donated toward attendance sponsorships for two children ages 6 to 17 to attend summer camp for children with Tourette Syndrome. “Summer Camp can help a kid with Tourettes feel included and not so alone,” said Kelsey Diamantis, Co-founder of Dollars 4 Tic Scholars, who has Tourette Syndrome. “These children look forward to going to camp every summer as a time they can gain confidence and have fun. We hope to have a large group of painters this year and are very excited about the dandelion painting as a symbol of summer.”

Kelsey Diamantis of Dollars 4 Tic ScholarsTickets are $35 in advance and $40 at the door, and include snacks, beverages, door prizes and the attendee’s original summer dandelion painting.

Pre-registration is required by visiting http://www.dollars4ticscholars.org/2019paintparty.

Dollars 4 Tic Scholars may be reached at 561-487-9526,
or online at http://www.dollars4ticscholars.org, on Facebook at “Dollars4TicScholars”, or by email at info@dollars4ticscholars.org.

Whatever Happened To Delray?

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Once sleepy beach town, Delray is about to undergo its second major transformation in decades.  The first came about in spectacular fashion, when city government decided they wanted a vibrant commercial and retail scene along Atlantic Avenue.  They certainly got what they wished for.  And the congestion and parking problems that go with it.  Dozens of trendy shops and popular restaurants and bars now line the thoroughfare, which varies from four lanes, to two lanes, to no lanes when trucks are making deliveries or people are trying to park.  Drive the length of downtown Atlantic on a weekend or at holiday times and you can experience both driving and being parked at the same time.  And the buzz– aka noise– is noticeable.  Delray is definitely a happenin’ place.  But is it a happy place?

Now comes Stage II as the big developers move in.  Three downtown hotels will soon open, with over 400 rooms.  There is a 150,000 square foot Delray Market development that promises to deliver “Florida’s largest food court.”  There is the recently opened Ipic movie theater, restaurant and corporate office complex.  Plans have been approved for a badly needed new underground garage for Atlantic Crossing.  A massive redevelopment of the former Office Depot HQ*  site just south of Atlantic on Congress promises no less than 1000 new apartments with retail and office space to match.  And last but not least, there is the proposed redevelopment at Atlantic and Swinton that is currently tied up in the courts.  The transformation of Delray continues.

Delray’s City Fathers have clearly decided that their 30-year old plan for Atlantic Avenue has been a success.  They have also decided that more is better.  What they have not decided is how to cope with the additional density, traffic and parking problems that this new iteration of Delray will bring.  It is a classic case of build it now, and worry about the infrastructure problems later.  It can take an hour to traverse the length of Atlantic Avenue on a Saturday night.  When all the new construction is in place it could take an hour to travel the length of Atlantic Avenue on a Monday afternoon.  A day at the beach or an afternoon or night out in Delray used to be fun; now it can be a hassle.

Delray’s evolution offers important lessons for Boca Raton.  As we look past the current wave of approved development projects (Tower 155, Via Mizner II and III, the Alina, Camino Square)— all of which will dramatically impact our Downtown and exacerbate traffic and parking problems, what kind of a community do we want Boca to be?  What’s the long-range, city-wide PLAN for Boca?  A split personality city with gated mini-mansions to the west, high rise condos and destination retail outlets to the east, a muddle in the middle, and a university village to the north?  An assortment of city centers (downtown, midtown, uptown) like Houston or LA?  Or just a haphazard mess?  We should be thinking and talking about all of this now, before our future is sealed by stand-alone development approvals.  Before it is too late to influence the outcome.

We should look at Delray as a cautionary tale, and learn from it.  Be careful what you wish for.  And have a plan to deal with all of the consequences of that wish.

The Alina: From Monster to Monarch on Mizner

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After over three (3) years of contentious, often heated, public discourse, the redevelopment of what was once known as the ‘Mizner on the Green’, a two hundred forty six (246) unit condominium development, has now received approval to redevelop the property with a three hundred eighty-four (384) unit, nine story condominium.( see the rendering provided). This re-development project complete with its structured parking will move forward in two phases, one currently out of the ground and the other designed and pre-approved for future development without further public discourse.

The picture is worth 1000 words…

If you have driven along Mizner Boulevard in the last few weeks you would have been greeted on the east side of the roadway with a fenced in area displaying The Alina marketing materials describing “Boca Raton Luxury Condos“. What you would also have seen is a skyline crowded with cranes actively operating behind the display servicing dozens of cement trucks pouring the foundation of this highly anticipated addition to Boca Raton’s downtown landscape.

A controversial project from its start, community opposition mounted.

Opposition led by the residents of Townsend Place, its eastern neighbor, and, Investments Limited’s Royal Palm Place directly across Mizner Boulevard from The Alina. The opposition generally centered around the development’s design; its setbacks; and mostly, its impact on sightlines and vistas of these neighboring interests.

Heated debate took place at various levels in the approval process.

The applicant redesigned the project several times to meet and overcome the objections of its opponents. After much public negotiation, the process resulted in a formula that Boca Raton’s elected officials eventually could approve; a resulting plan allowing the landowner to now proceed with vested rights for its business surety.

In this process, all parties came to a negotiated resting point so that the landowner’s final design effectively addressed the immediate concerns of its neighbors while going well beyond those concerns and contributing greatly to the public realm; contributing to the experiences of all the residents and downtown visitors.

The contributions to the public realm made by this landowner/developer include but are not limited to the following:

  1. Dedication of an easement for public recreation and open space purposes along the Mizner Boulevard frontage and over the pocket park are along the southern property line adjacent to the Townsend Place property line;
  2. Installation of additional landscaping along and within the northern property boundary of Townsend Place; and,
  3. Installation of additional landscaping along Mizner Boulevard adjacent to the Mizner on the Green apartments to remain during Phase 1 of the project;

The overall project exceeds the requirements of Ordinance 4035 standards with the following:

  1. Open Space: 40.57% provided, 40% required – 77.78% of required open space is open to the sky, 65% open to the sky required;
  2. Setbacks: Front: 21’ 5” minimum provided – 6’ minimum required
    Rear: 8’ to 10’ minimum provided – 0’ required
    North: 22’ 10” minimum provided – 0’ required
    South: 18’ 5” minimum provided – 0’ required
  3. Landscaping in the Vehicular Use Area: 21.7% provided – 15% required
  4. Percentage of Glass: Ordinance 4035 allows a maximum of 40% of the perimeter building materials to be composed of glass – 36.54% provided

Not to get lost in the details, perhaps a better way to visualize the public realm merits of this development is for the reader to view Jack McWalter’s August 14, 2017 video titled “Billion Dollar Monster on Mizner”. Also, the really interested reader might use the BocaWatch search feature to review the dozen or so articles that were published over the years leading up to today’s situation.

Residents have clearly won great concessions from this developer specifically and the overall development community generally. There is now a growing number of examples where developers and land owners, as here, are making significant contribution to the public’s experience; the public realm.

Fair and earnest negotiations between landowner/developers and the City Council, a Council with a can-do open-minded approach, will resolve every development impasse and counter the ever-growing number of lawsuits where such negotiations have broken down.
Time is money…money to the landowner; money to the city; and, money to the resident taxpayer….none of these interest groups are interested in the waste of money or, for that matter, of time.

Al Zucaro,
Publisher of BocaWatch

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