March 3, 2016, a day that may go down for solidarity in the City of Boca Raton; a day where the city’s administration, the Planning and Zoning Board and the residents may have met at the intersection of ‘COMPROMISE’ and ‘COMPROMISE’…..

With three(3) lawsuits looming (one Federal and two State; with six(6) public meetings on the subject (May 27, 2015, June 8, 2015, Sept 25, 2015, November 5, 2015, January 7, 2016 and March 3, 2106); with countless hours of city staff time; and, with an avalanche of emotion on the part of local residents, finally, a potential compromise may have been uncovered concerning the B-1 Zoning category as it relates to height limitations along the Palmetto Park Roadway east of the Intercoastal and stretching to the ocean.

This stretch of roadway and this zoning designation have been the focus of much public argument over the last year. Arguments centering on height limits; on conditions allowing for additional height; on what constitutes ‘injurious’ for purposes of denying additional height; and other property owner rights and obligations under current city code language.

For a detailed review of this history, interested residents should read the proposed language changes presented and view the impressive presentation by staff planner Ingrid Allen at the March 3rd P&Z meeting. See presentation.

At issue for P&Z consideration was staff’s suggested language changes concerning the B1 zoning designation; language deleting any possibility of additional height in this zoning category and limiting height in a B1 designation to 25 feet without exception.

Also suggested is the elimination of the evidentary standard “injurious”, a standard never reviewed in Boca Raton, with replacement language of “adversely affected”, another ambiguous standard yet to be determined.

On these changes, members of the P&Z board disagreed.

Members Coffin, Cellon, and Gromman argued against adopting staff’s recommendation of height limits, suggesting that this solution was a “….political throw away to placate those who oppose the Chabad…” and designed to have the P&Z Board take the heat for a politically charged decision….View discussion.

Members Rustin and Koen argued in favor of the suggested language change citing that staff seems to have brought forward a solution embraced by the City Council, the elected body where the final decision ultimately rests….

Member Sevell was relatively quiet on the issue but voted against adopting the language and Chairman Fairman was absent.

In the public comment section, resident James Hendrey spoke at length in favor of the ordinance; a resident friendly comment well worth watching(view here).  The interactive dialogue between Mr. Hendrey and the P&Z board members uncovered that some P&Z members regard their role to be that of a protector of the land owner’s property values and as protector of the City’s legal exposure.

Also speaking in public comment were attorney Bob Eisen of Investment Limited and Architect Doug Mummaw. Mr. Eisen stated that there is no intent on the part of Investment Limited to request additional height on properties east of the intercoastal.

Architect Mummaw raised a different matter. He pointed out that the B1 language changes will affect 67 properties citywide; not limited to properties east of the intracoastal. He pointed out that B1 zoning designation also applies to properties along Boca Raton Blvd.; properties that are factually distinct from those east of the intercoastal bridge.

Resident Kevin Meaney also spoke. Kevin was first to suggest that the barrier island B1 designation be carved out and treated differently than other locations in the city (view here); a proposition that seemed to take a life of its own in the P&Z board’s discussions that ensued.

Board members openly discussed what action to take. Ultimately, the board decided to piece meal their recommendation. View discussion.

A motion to accept City Staff’s recommendation as presented failed;

A motion to strike ‘injurious’ language in favor of ‘adversely affected’ language passed.

As a final result, the board will send a recommendation to the City Council rejecting staff’s suggested language and again presenting their previous recommendations of past meetings.

So you ask….Where is the COMPROMISE?

First raised by member Gromann and then generally accepted by the body was a suggestion to have staff draft a separate memo to the City Council where the P&Z board would view favorably the notion that B1 zoned properties east of the intercoastal should be carved out and treated differently than B1 zoned properties in other parts of the city….

Admittedly, this is a small concession but a useful one!

Staff’s capture of this concession will remain of interest to residents. Assuming the end result is that height limitation remains in place on properties east of the intercoastal, a win-win solution may have been reached.

Credit needs to be given to residents James Hendrey and Kevin Meany for their diligence with the process and their well-presented and emotionally articulated arguments on behalf of the residents.

A kudo also needs to go to the P&Z board for allowing an interaction by and with the residents exceeding the usual 5 minutes and where they seemed to encourage this interactive dialogue; a dialogue that resulted in what appears to be a significant opening…..

SHOUT IT FROM THE ROOF TOPS….that after 3 lawsuits; 6 public meetings; and deep divide between the residents and leadership possibility of compromise may now be reachable; a result establishing that with and through open communications,

COMPROMISE is possible….Solutions are attainable!

Language from City regarding building heights:

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