This morning I awoke to a message from City Councilwoman Andrea Levine O’Rourke outlining items of interest to the residents of Boca Raton. Most of it is pretty mundane but one item is well worth the read.
For years, prior to being elected, Ms. O’Rourke was a community activist railing against development and the developers’ unreasonable impacts on the public experience; the negative impacts on the residents’ quality of life. In fact, she and I, along with others, worked hard to bring about a sea change with its objective to protect the ‘charm’ of old Boca Raton.
She was elected to the City Council on that platform and promise….and she has held the ‘resident friendly’ principle out as her ‘badge of courage’; the anti-development voice on the City Council.
A CATHARSIS !!!
So what has changed….??
Ms. O’Rourke now admits that “we can’t stop development”; that “developers are reasonable business men and women”; that landowners have development “rights”; and, that real estate development is an “important economic driver.”
Thank you Councilwoman O’Rourke….that is what we, at BocaWatch, have been saying for a long time; that a position based upon reason and not government power is necessary to evolve into the future; this more reasonable position will resolve the many pending lawsuits against the city by aggrieved developer interests; and, this more reasonable position improves the public realm, the resident experience in our evolving city.
Presented below is a complete reprint of Ms. O’Rourke new and enlightened position….It is important to read and digest her evolved political position….I, for one, welcome it and commend her for moving to this new platform….
What’s the Price of Living in Paradise?
By Andrea Levine O’Rourke
I hope you agree…we do live in paradise! Boca Raton has a magnificent climate with great recreation available in the form of, beaches, parks, boating, deep sea fishing, and golf courses to name a few. There is a myriad of great restaurants and shopping plus a number of live entertainment venues. We have a wonderful art museum and art school. There is opportunity for higher education at several local universities that provide talent for our growing business community. We even have our own international airport and collegiate sports teams. And yet, with all of this, the number one topic of conversation when I meet with residents is traffic; followed by too many high rises and overdevelopment.
This is Florida, and like so many of us already here, more people are coming to share in a fabulous lifestyle. This is just the continuation of the trend started many decades ago with the vision and creativity of Addison Mizner, the Boca Raton Hotel and the wide spread use of air conditioning. And now we have the younger generation catching on to the great advantages of raising a family here, along with the phenomena of baby boomers retiring in large numbers searching for homes in good climate states with low taxation. Florida’s attributes are the welcome mats of relocation. The result of continued population growth makes real estate development one of the most important economic drivers in our state and carries significant influence with lawmakers in Tallahassee.
Let’s face it. We can’t stop development, unless we find a way to build a wall around Boca and refuse to allow more people to move here, and tell landowners they cannot build. Of course, that’s not going to happen, and it shouldn’t. The fact is, people that own land have certain rights. Based on appropriate zoning laws they have a right to develop that property for economic gain. However, as a community, I believe it is incumbent upon us to influence developers to consider the greater good of the city when they do their planning. In effect, hold them to established standards. There are significant profits to be made by the landowner/developer and it would be great if community development issues progressed by “building for people” instead of building for “maximum profit”. Many architects and city planners get this concept. Our city and its residents will benefit if the entire development community joined in.
Generally speaking, developers are reasonable business men and women. They are simply trying to get a job done. When city officials are presented with a project for approval is it not unreasonable for them to make requests for modifications or improvements based on policies and regulations in order to benefit the public realm? Through implementation of policy the hope is for a better project and a better outcome for all. For the developer, sometimes it takes years of planning and then going back to the drawing board…because Boca has high standards…so for them, that’s the cost of paradise.
Personally, I have been called out for not being development or business friendly. It’s actually just the opposite. Being a forty-year resident, business owner and employee, what I’m looking to accomplish is having the greatest and safest city to live, work and play in South Florida and beyond. I think about the greater good and our future legacy. How do we get the best product in spite of this land grab to build as much as possible? It is important to continue to push for better and not accept the minimum. For us old Boca-ites it’s about understanding growth and learning how to share our community with the new comers, it is a fact of life. So for us, that’s the cost of paradise.
Pro this, anti that, whatever… I just want the Boca Raton of the future to continue to be the beautiful paradise that it is known to be.
Let’s hope Ms. O’Rourke’s more reasonable approach to the intersection of community interests with development interests is long lasting.
City Council elections are approaching….Challengers are inevitable and developer interests are currently not happy. The developer has clearly moved to a heightened public interest platform. Profit maximization no longer prevails….Contributing to the public realm is clearly apparent and demonstrated in projects exampled by the Alina, by Camino Square and by University Village.
The ‘resident friendly’ position has prevailed…now the ‘resident responsible’ position must become the guiding light….
As stated by Councilwoman O’Rourke, developers are reasonable business men and woman. Only time will tell if the city staff adopts this new more ‘reasonable’ position outlined by Ms. O’Rourke.
However, it appears now the City Council has a majority consensus that development is inevitable and that developers and residents share a common bond….that common bond being the betterment of life’s experience in this city, our city, Boca Raton…
Publisher of BocaWatch
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