Game On!

11

For years now, residents of Boca Raton have raised their voices in opposition to the overdevelopment/building boom being experienced in Boca Raton. This relentless assault on Boca’s quality of life is being driven by a small group of commensurate business insiders who enjoy an embedded collusion with a cooperative City Council and a receptive City Administration.

Some of these insiders have been heard to say that today’s overdevelopment is a direct result of plans put in place decades ago. Be that as it may, the resident’s voice has received little recognition by the elected officials and even less discernible effort to modify and modulate these patently negative results. At best the elected officials give lip service to the resident while remaining in bed with the development community. The development community continually demonstrates its firm grasp on the elected and appointed officials; a fact often pointed out by BocaWatch and now firmly embedded in the resident’s conscience.

Well it appears that these commensurate insiders are not happy…..

BocaWatch has received an internal memo from within the law firm of Gray-Robinson; the leading law firm representing many of the overdevelopment, high density projects – projects that are the subject of resident complaints.

At this point, the reader should fast forward to the end of this article and read this internal memo for its context and content.

The memo identifies a plan of action to be taken against the residents, who are characterized as “extreme activists”; “dedicated to saying no to every chance Boca Raton has for economic stability and prosperity”; propounding the ‘chicken little’ argument that the sky is falling.

The ‘boy who cried wolf’ language contained is almost laughable if it weren’t so pathetic.

Can you believe these high powered insiders are threatened by the resident’s voice?

For them, it is perfectly acceptable when the residents play nicely in the sand box by ineffectively voicing objection at the public microphone for the allotted 5 minutes in a setting where the elected/appointed officials are present to listen but do not hear.

The fear seems to be in the recognition that the residents are becoming “increasingly organized”; a fear that the resident might actually be altering the business as usual pattern the insiders enjoy in Boca Raton. Moreover, they fear that this organized voice is now acquiring political influence; and the residents are beginning a “plan” to take over the Boca Raton City Council.

How insightful….The insiders are actually feeling threatened!

With that said, let’s take a look at the content of this memo….

It ends by calling for the assembly of local business leaders to meet over a 6 day period, September 9 thru 16 to discuss “our” (their) political action plans for the coming year. The memo is written over the names of Mark Guzzetta and Charlie Siemon.

As a bit of a reminder:

Mr. Guzzetta is the developer responsible for the Palmetto Promenade (aka Archstone) project on the north side of Palmetto Park Road, just west of N.E. 5th Ave; to wit: an apartment complex extending 900 linear feet, three football fields, with virtually no break and sparse ground floor retail, which is contrary to the Downtown Master Plan. He also led the charge with Mayor Haynie and others in Tallahassee to have state law changed so that we, the residents, no longer have the ability to conduct a ‘referendum’ vote opposing development orders approved by the City Council even though language exists in our city charter allowing for such a process.

Mr. Siemon is perhaps the leading overdevelopment proponent in Boca Raton and is responsible for much of the city’s enabling legislation for development. He is a leading authority in the area of land use and zoning law and his law firm, formerly Siemon and Larson, has almost single handedly altered development patterns throughout the city for decades. His influences within city hall and with the elected officials are legendary and his legal handiwork can be found in a myriad of patchwork ordinances developed for the purpose of advancing the overdevelopment results that are the subject of many resident complaints.

There is the notion that ‘organized residents’ may upset the status quo and is threatening. This sentiment is found throughout the uncovered memo. The memo actually contains mistruths both in politics and in results.

The major mistruth is that residents oppose “all” growth. This is demonstratively false. Residents have taken the position in favor of sustained, principled growth. For the most part, residents argue that growth should be limited to what is permitted in Ordinance 4035, an ordinance with a height limitation of 100 feet or approximately 9 stories.

There is no identifiable voice arguing for a “no” growth position. In fact, Mr. Guzzetta, at the recent workshop featuring Urban Design Associates’ evaluation of the Interim Design Guidelines and the Mark project, concurred with the residents by taking the public microphone to voice his support for height limits at 100 + 20 feet; to wit: exactly what is permitted under Ordinance 4035, the governing legislation used in his Archstone project.

Another mistruth is the notion that the ‘vision’ making Boca Raton special is “in danger” and that Boca Raton is headed for “economic collapse.” The telltale sentence on this subject is “They’ll (residents) stop our work, dead in its tracks, and destroy the value and equity in the work we’ve already achieved.

Who is this referring too?

“Our” work must mean his law firm’s hold on the overdevelopment process; a hold that has reaped and continues to reap the firm great financial rewards.

“Work that we’ve already achieved” must be referring to projects like Archstone, Via Mizner, the Mark, the Hyatt, Tower 155 with presumptively more to come; all projects contributing to the changing ‘vision’ of Boca Raton.

Politically, it would seem that these power brokers are concerned in preserving their grip on elected and appointed officials who buy into the need for the overdevelopment argument.

Residents, on the other hand, are more interested in preserving the quality of life that make Boca Raton what it is; not what it is not…another Fort Lauderdale.

BocaWatch will continue to monitor the organizing developments of this summoned group of “business leaders” and report on their activities and results.

In the near future, BocaWatch will publish a pictorial from the ground, air, and satellite to visually present the overdevelopment impacts of this inbred group of connected insiders, a group that think they can get away with anything inside the political process here in Boca Raton.

The residents think not…..

Game on!

More on the City Council politics and this group’s influences on the political process in upcoming articles…..

Attached is internal memo noted above from development community against residents of Boca Raton… 

Dear Friends:
 
We all share a vision for a Boca Raton that combines economic energy and vibrancy, preserves our outstanding quality of life, and offers families young and old the chance to experience what makes Boca Raton so special.  With strong economic growth, we can all share a Boca Raton with responsive, world-class police and firefighters, A+ schools, parks and preservation space, and shopping and amenities.
 
That vision is in danger today.
 
A growing number of extreme activists in our community want to stop Boca families and small businesses from achieving success.  They’re dedicated to saying no to every chance Boca Raton has for economic stability and prosperity by blocking any kind development.  They’re not opposed to “bad” growth…they’re opposed to all growth.
 
It isn’t just our businesses and careers at stake; their vision for Boca Raton will lead to an economic collapse. They’ll stop our work, dead in its tracks, and destroy the value and equity in the work we’ve already achieved. 
 
If they were just a few people complaining on the Internet it would be one thing.  But it’s not.  They’re increasingly organized, and they’re beginning their plan to take over the Boca Raton City Council.  
 
Last election, we stood together, pooled our resources, and fought back.  We backed candidates who share our vision of a prosperous Boca Raton.  Now, it’s time for us to get in the fight again.  We need to help the people who help us, and hold the people who would destroy Boca’s economy – and our businesses – accountable. 
 
We know that when we’re unified, nothing can stop us. The alternative is a local government that is dedicated to following the anti-growth and anti-business views of a few local extremists. It’s time for action, and we’re contacting local leaders in the business community like you because we must take action before the other side gains too much momentum.  
 
Many of the people we elected last time are under tremendous political pressure from these naysayers and the opponents of local business.  It’s important we show them that when they have our back, we have theirs…and when they feel like the outside pressure from special interests is too much, that we remind them we’ve been in their corner when the going was tough.
 
We’re assembling a group of local business leaders to meet on September 9th, 10th; 14th, 15th and 16th, 17th to discuss our political action plans for the coming year.  We hope you can join us.  (Meeting details TBD)
 
 Sincerely,
 
 Mark Guzzetta
Charlie Siemon
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Alfred Zucaro has resided in Palm Beach County since 1982 and has been a resident of Boca Raton since 2008. A graduate of Fordham University, he holds a Magna Cum Laude degree in Economics. Mr. Zucaro attended Nova University receiving a Juris Doctorate Law Degree in 1986. He is a member in good standing with the Florida Bar, practicing in the area of Immigration Law for the majority of his career. Currently he is manager/member of Palm Beach Investment and Finance LLC, a USCIS approved regional center identifying foreign investment leading to permanent resident status. Mr. Zucaro served as a City Commissioner in West Palm Beach from 1995 to 2002 and as the President of the City Commission in 2000/2001. He has also been a member of and/or served on the Economic Council, the Business Development Board, the Film and Television Commission, the Tourist Development Council, the Workforce Alliance and the Palm Beach International Film Festival. Of particular interest is his founding of the World Trade Center Palm Beach, an organization that focuses on international economic development. Married to Yvonne Boice, they are avid world travelers having visited 6 continents and dozens of countries since their 2008 nuptials.

11 COMMENTS

  1. We moved to Boca from Aventura to escape hideous overdevelopment ! Boca has no need of New York City South like Ft Lauderdale, Miami, Sunny Isles Beach, Hallandale, Hollywood…..the list goes on. Let Boca be the last bastion of old Florida life style. Enough crazy overbuilding already!!!

  2. It is sad to know that “politics” in Boca is going down the road of most big cities like N Y Washington Miami instead of the “small town” feel that attracted so many of us years ago who looked to escape that environment. They do it in the name of “progress” yet it should be called “self-interest”.
    Kudos to those who are ready to stand up and be heard.

  3. Mr. Zucaro,
    How fortunate this letter got to Boca Watch.

    My husband and I declined promotions to the NE deciding to take an early retirement from IBM. We used the fabulous learning experience to form our own small company in Boca. We distributed, manufactured and wholesaled products to local businesses and enjoyed much success. We are pro business.

    Here are a few thoughts about the letter. When they say “we backed candidates who share our vision”, does this mean BIG IS BETTER for our downtown? And when they say “we need to help the people who help us”, does this mean City employees help them make the codes fit their new project vs the project fit the code?
    It’s all about them making more money at the expense of all downtown residents. They don’t follow the plan the City has spent over a million dollars trying to create.

    We do not see ourselves as extreme activists; however, we will voice our concerns when we see specific individuals moving Boca toward a taller, more dense downtown, no green space, a fast paced building binge, and not allowing time to see what the occupancy will be and how it affects parking and traffic. These projects and their architecture are moving closer to the street and away from a themed Mizner look to more contemporary structures of no appeal. Any city in the U.S. can build contemporary structures but very few cities can build upon an existing design of charm and Boca Raton’s uniqueness. The Mizner look is understated elegance that has longevity.

    As stated, we are against technical deviations and interpreting code to meet a project’s site plan just so they can meet their profit objective, which occurs way too often. There were many false statements in their letter but one truth we found – they (Siemon and Guzzetta) say those they helped get “elected last time are under tremendous political pressure”. Good, we say. Wake up residents! You cannot complain about something if you do not get involved. If our City Council is so weak or so arrogant they can’t stand up for you, vote them out of office! We need to find individuals who will listen to developers and to residents working toward a compromise, not just developers whose only interest is to make more money; City and residents be damned.

    Nancy and James Hendrey

  4. They are fear mongers!! I am pro development, however intelligent, careful, development to retain the upscale scrutiny to detail, scale within the proportions and CONSIDERATION to what the development surrounds that existed prior to whatever development is proposed. This letter is exhibiting the lack of vision and manic fervor we have too often seen, which serves as a testament to how ‘entitled’ these few feel. I would be interested to see just how connected these few are to our sitting elected officials and the city managers. How hard would it be to connect the dots? Emails within the city are public are they not? Campaign contributions too? Cell phone records? Didn’t the city managers just further reduce the committees and boards,circling the wagons further to exclude outside citizen involvement? Would our Florida State elected officials, who ripped the rights away from the citizens of Boca Raton, be interested to know what they have done and how connected are they, themselves? Doesn’t our city documents override any one state official any way? So if the language still exists in our docs then doesn’t over rule an opinion of a disconnected Statesman? Why couldn’t have our own referendum and take that to the state? Too many of our board members, managers, council members are under investigation…..not rocket science. Time for recalls…..

  5. Thank you to boca watch for bringing us up to date on all of the downtown happenings We are new to the downtown having just relocated from one of the. Western boca communities. Also a great big thank you to all of the residents voicing their concerns about what appears to be a rush to build with little thought to maintaining any of the beauty that is boca raton. Thank you al zucaro for all you do for all of the residents of our city.

  6. My family arrived in the beautiful paradise called Boca Raton in 1960. I remained here all these years and have put blinders on when I must go downtown anywhere near US1 and Palmetto Pk Road or Camino Real. The sun is just about blocked with the ugly ,unsightly, prisonlike look of the apartments and hotels and high rises that were granted variances. My sister just visited and saw the cranes and the awful architecture and heights of buildings with NO green space. She was sickened and saddened by what she saw. “What happened to Boca?” I explained, the long time expression “you can’t fight city hall” is illustrated before your eyes. One does not need more explanation than seeing is believing. Who was in the cockpit for all of the out of control growth? I suggested they take a ride to Delray Beach, it is much nicer there. It is true, nothing stays the same, however, it is much too late for a recall of our esteemed council members, the damage is done. They say “you can never go home” I say who wants to? Pathetic, but worse than that, without a wrecking ball, Boca Raton is done. Dona David

  7. I am just so tired of daily seeing more land made ready for development, especially up and down Military Trail….Are there to be no more parks, nature preserves or public beaches or will it just be apartment and condo building up and down the highways and beaches? Enough. We loved Boca Raton when we moved here 16 years ago because it was low density. and easy to get around and many natural sites for our grandchildren to use. ….Where are all these people coming from who buy these apartments and use these shopping centers?

  8. What happens when governments don’t listen to the governed? We, the residents, want to “take over” city council? Pish-posh. This never happens, right? Maybe the “developer kings” and their consorts should be nervous.
    …Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security…

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