An Open Letter: From Boca Beautiful.org

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An Open Letter From The Leadership of BOCABEAUTIFUL.ORG

We look around at what was once Addison Mizner’s dream and we are angry.  Everywhere we look, what once used to be open space and vistas of sea and sky, is being replaced by concrete behemoths, soon to be filled with more people and cars than our roads can handle or our parking can accommodate.

 

Downtown Boca Raton is being converted to a high-rise “urban center” like Ft. Lauderdale or West Palm.  Look around.  You can see it.  Drive around.  You can feel it.

 

How did this happen?  Scared by the financial panic of 2008 and encouraged by ambitious developers, Boca’s elected officials unwisely adopted “Interim Design Guidelines” for the downtown and a rash of haphazard development schemes for other parts of our city:

Arvida Park, the University Overlay District, and various pieces of waterfront property, like the Wildflower property on the Intracoastal.

 

The zoning guidelines that had been in place for decades were altered.  New construction was authorized using spot zoning techniques and a myriad of variances to the rules.  All was done in the name of “progress.”  All was blessed by expensive consulting firms and various “advisory” committees packed with those who had a financial interest in the outcome.

 

Just look at the results.  Compare the newly constructed buildings completed under Boca’s historic ten-story zoning guidelines with those built under the “Interim” rules.

Compare the Camden Apartments to the Mark.  Compare Palmetto Promenade or 327 Royal Palm Road to the enormity that is Via Mizner (and that’s only Phase I).  It’s not hard to identify buildings designed with grace under the old rules versus buildings designed with greed under the new.

Old Rules:

Mizner Park center water fountain in downtown Boca Raton, Florida in Palm Beach County. HDR photo created using Photomatix.

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091214 - BOCA RATON - Camden Boca Raton, 131 S. Federal Hwy. Photo by Tim Stepien

New Rules:

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Now the City Council is being asked to increase the number of new residential units in downtown Boca from 3000 to 4500.  That would base an additional 6000 cars in the one square mile downtown area.

 

Has the character of Boca Raton been changed irrevocably for the worst?  We who live and work here certainly hope not.  That is why we created BocaBeautiful.org to try and influence what happens next.

 

And what should that be?   First, we need to persuade our City Council to scrap the Interim Design Guidelines and the so-called Pattern Book before any more damage is done.  Enough is enough.  We need a pause in the building binge to give us time to assess the impact of all of this new construction on traffic, parking and on our quality of life.

 

More importantly, Boca Raton deserves a new plan– a comprehensive plan– for development.  That plan should cover all of the areas of our City that are deemed ripe for development.  Most importantly, that plan should be developed in full consultation with the citizens of Boca Raton.  We therefore call on our City’s leaders to convene a meaningful dialogue with ALL concerned citizens—a comprehensive design “charrette”—to produce a new Master Development Plan for Boca Raton.

 

It is time to look at what has been done and to plan anew.  In some parts of Boca, such as the downtown, it is almost too late.

Yours sincerely,

The Board of Directors, BocaBeautiful.org

TO LEARN MORE ABOUT OUR ORGANIZATION AND ITS GOALS, VISIT OUR WEBSITE AT BOCABEAUTIFUL.ORG

4 COMMENTS

  1. WOW – What a great letter, I could not have said it so well.

    Hard to imagine when I was first elected to the Boca Raton city council way back in 1979 the most pressing issue at the time was Boca Raton Downtown. About the most exciting thing about it was The Greyhound Bus station on US 1 just north of Palmetto Park Road.l

    For sure something had to be done and we adopted the state laws creating a community redevelopment agency/board and appointing members to the board.’ I supported both of the issues.

    Hard to believe that 36 years later we are still trying to find the courage to say no to our downtown problems which over development has caused. It was NOT THE CITY COUNCIL back in 1979 and for many years thereafter that caused the current over-deverlopment. We knew how to say NO to the bigger is better developers and to remain committed to Quality not Quanity growth for our fair city.

    It is also hard to believe how very silent and strange it is to know the Florida East Coast Railroad that abuts US1/Dixie Highway will be putting about 73 daily trains running through our city on double tracks instead of just the usual 16 freight trains currently running on a single track.

    As for the promise of no train horns being silenced – maybe – maybe not.

    We did silence the horns back in 1984 from 10pm to 6am-and then in 1990 the Federal Railroad Administration said NO MORE bans due to the accident rate going up.

    Now common sense will tell us more trains mean more people and more accidents because gate jockeys will still find ways to get around any obstacles and not all crossings will be improved.due to the sheer number of crossings between Miami and Orlando.

    But still our city government spends every waking hour talking about downtown.

    We moved to Boca in 1960 and here we found Paradise with our 6000+ neighbors.

    Latest census put us at 86 thousand plus neighbors and now figures talk about 90 thousand plus, so to us our Paradise found is fast becoming Paradise Lost as our quiet single family district is fast becoming streets with “off campus” fraternity rows because the city is too busy worrying about downtown to assist us in enforcing the current rules regarding single family zones soon to become “off campus zones” as we and other parts of the city are just a few miles from FAU.

    So to Boca Watch and to Boca Beautiful thank you so very, very much for trying to save us from ourselves.

    Carol G. Hanson xxooo
    Former Mayor and State Representative

  2. Carol Hanson you are spot on! You served your district very well in the legislature and on the City Council. Honestesty and integrity define you. The city I was reared in is unrecognizable – sad state of greedy affairs.

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