Has The “Small Area Plan” Gotten Even Smaller?

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In the few months since the City Council instructed staff to develop a ‘small area plan’ for Midtown, the complexion of the geographic land area in question has changed significantly.

At the time of the Council’s decision, Midtown encompassed 4 landowners with some 300 acres requesting 2,500 residential units and a substantial amount of roadway and utility improvements.

Since that time, the Mall has requested to be removed from the PM district (Midtown). Its request was granted by the Council. Also, Glades Plaza has submitted plans to redevelop its property with only commercial uses; commercial use is allowed in this location as a matter of right under the current code.

With these two properties opting out of the Midtown proposal, only 2 properties remain in play; to wit: Boca Center owned by Crocker Partners consisting of approximately 60 acres and the Bowling Alley/Nippers site owned by Cypress Realty which is approximately 10 acres.

The Midtown proposal now, arguably, has gone from the original 300 acres to approximately 70 acres.  If Midtown’s residential proposal is set at 20 units per acre, the current Boca Raton citywide density standard, the need for a ‘small area plan’ theoretically has become much smaller.  With this reduced geographic area, Midtown’s requested residential unit count will have gone from the original 2,500 units to a reduced maximum, albeit impractical, unit count of 1,400; to wit: 20 units per acre x 70 acres.

Also, the off-site roadway and utility improvements, arguably, need only be limited to the 70 acre area in question. This posture leads to the not so rhetorical question of does the City Council still need a ‘small area plan’ that is going to take at least the better part of a year to complete; not to mention the cost of such a study and the continuing acrimony within the community?

Crocker Partners has already filed its notice of intent to sue the City and one has to suspect that Cypress Realty, without some regulatory relief, will file its intent shortly as well.  The City will be at risk to incur significant legal expenses and should the developers be successful in their lawsuits, the ultimate cost to the tax payers could be in the $100’s of millions.

Does it not make more sense for all concerned that the City Council immediately adopt parts of city staff’s draft regulations allowing these 2 property owners to proceed while leaving resolution of the remaining acreage for another day; for the long term solution acceptable to the residents and beneficial to this entire section of the city?

Long term issues aside, short term practical solutions may be just what is required to break the current impasse….

After all, the current focus on a long term solution has actually resulted in the proverbial posture of ‘paralysis through analysis’.  Enough already!!!

Is it not time for a practical workable solution rather than continuing the theoretical academic argument that has halted progress in real time while promising years more of  community conflict and legal exposure???

Al Zucaro, Publisher

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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.

13 COMMENTS

  1. Al,
    Why is it wrong for the City to bring forth a conceptual plan that allows for citizen input instead of the citizens bowing at the alter of developer plans? BocaWatch has fought for, and represented for years that residents should be involved in the process. The developers are attempting to derail the City Council initiative brought forth by the very people that BocaWatch helped elect into office, by endorsement, for all the right reasons.
    Andrea O’Rourke fought for more than five hours on behalf of residents to begin the ‘small area plan’. The fact that the developer side has strategically fractured their own group should have no impact on the city going forward with its plan.
    It appears the BocaWatch path has turned in a different direction when it comes to reasonable sustainable growth.

    • Good morning George….Practical solution within a framework of dialogue is the goal. Getting the landowner/developer to the table for meaningful discussion is necessary. The continuing dialogue for solution necessary but…..fractured, debate has become the norm and offers little towards a solution….Yes continue with the planning process; yes, continue with demands for betterment of the resident experience; yes, voice the concerns that need to be voiced….Andrea’s fight for 5 hours was epic…a major reason why the developers are paying attention…but please, she is not fighting this fight alone….and practical solution is required and necessary….Government’s is tasked with creating an environment where private sector can thrive and residents can enjoy….Development is inevitable….property owners have rights….You of all people realize the private property rights are the basis for wealth; the basis for the U.S.’s entire society….so now that the argument in Boca Raton is ripe, the practical solution is within reach and the long term correction available….that is leadership…arguing for argument’s sake is a waste of time!..AZ

  2. This seems to have gone from something that can be planned, a giant zone, to just a small fraction of what it initially was. Does its need for a plan remain the same as the area shrinks? How small does it have to be in order to just become a site by site question as opposed to a holistic plan? For example: Nippers and its ghost town parking lot… that’s just ugly and needs some kind of help. Does the old King’s site being filled with weeds bother anyone as much? Not me.

    I’d rather see the City lose cases against developers and have to pay higher taxes as a result as opposed to welcoming one more person to become a resident, but that’s just me. I moved up from Hollywood and expected to pay twice the taxes in Boca since I considered Boca twice as nice and was shocked when I learned the taxes were the same. I’m all for higher costs – more exclusivity.

  3. Finally a debate with some meat in it. Lets spice it up and make it meatier. My neighbors out here adjacent to the area will feel the impact from it the most.

    How much time a Council Member spent on an initiative doesn’t make the inititative futureproofed when the conditions it was motivated by change. I envisioned ALL of that area, with the exception of Town Center, to be all demolished and replaced by new high density residential structures. It took Glades Plaza decades to fill and now its got all sorts of venues I’d be sad to lose. But whats on the table now seems to be saying what Crocker can do with Boca Center and what the Nippers/Don Carters owner Cypress is going to do. If all those other areas once in the plan are now omitted it doesnt matter if a Council Member lost a finger or toe hiking Everest for the answers to a plan that included them. Now their population growing cabal is dissolved. That alone should be cause for celebration, no?

    Like I said, I’d rather see the City pay them off than allow another resident.

    Lets instead start talking about Council Members signing pledges to only allow development that reduces the population. For every new residential property approved two have to be re-zoned as parks. Im all for doubling the cost of living in Boca if it limits the population to the percentage of people who can afford it.

    If the plan that took 5 hours to work on oh well! I took several hours yesterday writing an article and making a graphic that this news here made superfluous. I was very proud of that article. But I cant publish it because the facts changed. Oh well! That’s how things go when youre aiming at a moving target. Sometimes good work goes for naught.

  4. George is right about citizen input, but we have had that for 7 years. I LIVE HERE that’s what we always heard about Downtown, well I live in Midtown and Andrea O’Rourke and Monica Mayotte don’t. One needs to understand the concept of property rights and substantial competent testimony. The vast silent majority is awakening to the fact that their property values are being stolen and degraded by this “dumbing down” of re-development. Trademark is now going to do retail only–with 50% MORE TRAFFIC that’s a brilliant strategy! Folks residential creates LESS TRAFFIC than retail or office all of which is permitted as a matter of right! The City IS GOING TO RAISE YOUR TAXES REGARDLESS OF THE LAWSUITS, just wait until that happens. The fact remains that the anti-everything crowd does not represent the vast majority of Boca residents only the vocal minority of the disaffected. It does not mean common sense cannot prevail, the City CANNOT WIN the lawsuit game they are going to get crushed because they are wrong. So negotiate now before that happens! And with the City Attorney advising everyone (like the “loser” gun lawsuit, the Chabad museum opinion and the Haynie ethics queries) what could possibly go wrong! LOL

  5. After doing 5 videos and 100’s of hours of research well over a year ago I think we are on the right track since the developers are refusing to provide a master plan the city puts one together. Up until now the developers have been telling us 2500 or else and that was from St Andrews to 95. Now Butts road to 95. Boca Watch said 650 units P&Z said 600. Brandon and Diana have been working on this for 2 years or maybe longer. I agree it is “time for a practical solution” and we will get one it is called a master plan with infrastructure such as 19th or a street that will be just for walking . A nice promenade,shade trees,etc. Residents can provide input along with developers. So” boca watch path has not turned in a different direction”. Maybe we change “small area plan” to the Midtown Master Plan Butts to 95. Let Town Center do what they want later. Bonnie indicated to council. I have faith in Brandon that we are very close. So, I am not sure what this debate is about. Semantics,I think, lets see next week what this Midtown presentation is all about.

  6. The bottom line is that we don’t need 1,400 more units at that location, period. The city isn’t under any obligation to increase the density for the developer’s property beyond what it’s entitled for today, so this is an ask by the developer. Further, the developer themselves have stated that housing is tough to come by in Boca, and as a resident who paid a premium to live here, that’s fine with me. Economics dictates that when demand is high and supply is low, pricing/value is high. We, who live in the immediate vicinity (+/- a mile and a half around the subject site) have enjoyed a decent quality of life and value appreciation to our homes, despite the ever increasing traffic that currently exists on Galdes and on Military. This project will only add more people and more traffic, the addition of which doesn’t increase value to existing residents, doesn’t improve the quality of life for the existing community, and really doesn’t do much for anyone other than the developer. Does it increase the tax base for the city, probably, but then again, that money is just going to be used in an effort to fix the problems that the added people and traffic cause. So again, what’s the point of doing it? Boca Raton is highly desirable place to do business and to raise a family (having great schools) and doesn’t need more traffic, more density and more residential units in the central portion of the city. At the end of the day, this proposal doesn’t really benefit anyone other than the developer.

  7. What has been left out of this conversation is how to handle PMD’s regs and Military which is already a LOS of F meaning failure. PMD’s require a tri rail and Brandon said no PMD until “built and operational” which uncovered a giant lie on part of developers. If PMD allows density to go from 8 to 20 units per acre,I think. Also, developers wanted 21 major changes to PMD. See my early video on midtown. Unacceptable. The problem I have is the whole midtown deal was based on lies and when uncovered threats to staff, P&Z board, and now the city. Kerry Koen said it best “Let the city hire some good attorneys”. Also, I think this area is closer to 50 acres and I stand by my urban planners at 600 units from butts to 95. I am for a “workable solution” based on a well thought out with resident input Midtown Master Plan. Get rid of “Small Area Plan” wording. It is misleading. Now, about this elephant called Military which is a county road. Anybody bother to talk to those folks???

  8. But what area are we still talking about though? Based on Al’s account of the current state we’re only talking about two properties being included in this: Crocker Center AKA Boca Center and the two buildings, the sump and the ghost town parking lot across the street. That is the goofiest thing. Everywhere else in Boca struggles for parking, especially across the street at Boca Center, but this whole prime spot is un-used and wasted.

    Why shouldn’t Crocker re-build Boca Center any way they see fit? There’s so much residential crammed behind it anyway that hardly anyone knows about. What’s the big deal if they turn it into something better that’s mixed use? Sure it’s more people, but unless everyone can say together “no more people” we might as well roll out the welcome mat for new out of towners to move in.

    If we’re going to talk plans I hope it’s something on the order of what Jonathan Kolbe mentioned, the bridge thing that crosses over. Wow – Imagine being able to park at Boca Center. That would be amazing.

    I can’t believe everyone cares so much about what gets built there but nobody mentions the clever graphic. This kind of stuff is really discouraging. We’re going back to stock art unless someone starts caring. I’m not satisfied with just improving numbers. I want to hear some qualitative feedback.

  9. One other thing that is left out is school capacity. 1,400 more units right in Boca high boundaries. How many of the 1400 will have kids or multiple kids? Boca High and boca schools in general are already bursting at the seams and the city already said they dont have any land that is large enough to support an additional High school. So am I missing something? Maybe they could extend the school year to 365 days and half the kids could go on even days and the other half on odd days. That way you could run Boca High at 260% capacity instead of its current 130%+ Hey Crooker, Donate some land build a new high school, then we’ll talk. Until then take your plans to over develop Boca and go love yourself and yes I know I spelled your name wrong, or did I….

    • Arik Fletcher, thank you for your point of view about our schools, probably the most legitimate argument that the city has to not approve any of this development. I would think if they focused on that fact alone it would negate any lawsuit, but I’m not an expert. It’s is our obligation to give the young adults and children of this community the absolute best educational environment. I like your idea of the developers having to set forth some land if they want to make a deal happen, that’s something that our city Council should have implemented and enforced years ago.

  10. Bowing to the threat of a lawsuit is, in my mind, not a strategy. I see much written above about “property rights”. Unless I am mistaken, property rights extend to the current zoning of the properties in question. A property owner has the right to build whatever they want on their property as long as it conforms to the current zoning. These are called “Permitted Uses”. It is also the right of a property owner to petition for a change to the zoning of their property in order to change the permitted uses.

    But – They have NO right to expect that such a change will occur. So with their lawsuit, it seems that Crocker is trying to bully their way into a re-zoning of their property, rather than trying to come to an accord with all interested parties. I.e.; “You won’t give me what I want so I’m gonna sue you!”

    If the city caves in on this ugly tactic, I might consider planning a 20 story hotel on my home’s property, currently zoned Residential. And if the council does not comply with my demands, I will offer to sue. Makes sense, doesn’t it? Of course not……

  11. A true stakeholder MIDTOWN CRA, created by inter-local agreement with SFRTA and the PB Commission, would create the infrastructure work which any plan in this area will need to properly serve the residents, while allowing for the exercise of property rights to heir highest and best use. It would force public input to be considered into a plan to be agreed upon by governmental agencies and the property owners (who would be afforded much greater input and have “vig” in the longe-range outcome), and would moot any lawsuit because instead of being litigants, the developers would be creating their own, reasoned, zoning plan.

    I invite all to bounce around in their head what that may look like in terms of how this battle would become collaborative and how much more critical infrastructure could be created if this CRA were to be created. I am not attached to any of the details. I think it’s the right approach.

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