It seems like there is Beach and Park District meeting every week for the last few months and last night’s meeting proved to be a significant import and interest.

The posted subjects were 1) Discuss Oceanfront Properties and 2) Discuss FY 2017-2018 Budget.  For purposes of this recap, the Budget issue will be reserved for after the September 7th District meeting where a final budget draft will be presented for public comment….stay tuned…

The discussion on Oceanfront properties was initiated with the receipt by Mr. Koski, Executive Director and Legal Counsel, of an email communication from City Manager Leif Ahnell dated August 24th referencing the Oceanfront properties that are currently moving through the final approval processes to gain building permits for construction on the east side of A1A at 2500 and 2600 N. Ocean Blvd.; a subject of great concern to the residents of Boca Raton.

The text of that communication is as follows:


Hi Art,

As you know, the City has a strong desire to preserve oceanfront properties in the City for public use.  In early 201, the City requested the District’s assistance in this goal by evaluating and considering acquiring oceanfront properties in the City.

It is my understanding little or no progress has been made to date in this endeavor due to the lack of willing sellers and/or the possibility of unrealistic property value expectations of current owners.  An option available to acquire properties for public use, when there is not a willing realistic seller, is the use of eminent domain.  Has the District considered the possibility of eminent domain as a way to preserve oceanfront properties for the public?

Leif


The District’s response last night was that it had not considered the use of Eminent Domain for the acquisition of these properties.  At least up until now!

Mr. Koski counseled the Commissioners that Eminent Domain is within their enumerated powers and that the process would be center around a demonstration of public purpose and valuation.  Mr. Koski estimated the timeline to be 12 to 18 months for legal process and made no prediction as to valuation which will be subject to appraisals and jury trial court action. The District Commissioners instructed Mr. Koski to proceed with further investigation of the subject and his analysis will be presented in future District meetings.

By way of background, the valuation level on at least one of these properties has been dramatically increased by the City Council’s previous action granting a variance to the 2500 N. Ocean location; an variance turning a non-buildable lot into a buildable lot with entitlements that dramatically increase the value for Eminent Domain purposes.

This ill-conceived action was taken last year by a 4 – 1 City Council vote with Councilman Rodgers being the only then sitting councilmember with the fortitude and foresight for the preservation of the Boca Raton beach.  Councilwoman O’Rourke was not on the Council at the time but vehemently opposed this encroachment of our pristine beach front during her election campaign.

Mayor Haynie, then Deputy Mayor Mullaugh, and Councilmembers Singer and Weinroth all caved into the empty threat by the land owner to pursue a legal action against the City.  BocaWatch reported on this then extensively.

The granting of that variance gave entitlement to the land owner that greatly increased the cost of acquisition in any Eminent Domain action. This request from the City Manager is tactful.  Its language infers that the District has not acted on a previous request of the City…and attempts to take the political pressure off the City Council members and place it on the District Commissioners with an economic consideration that may strain the District’s budget beyond its capacity.

With the District’s expectation to have a responsive package for the City on the issuance of the Ocean Breeze Bond matter due in early September and the September 26th joint meeting of the City Council and the District Commissioners, the District may not want to cloud those waters; the District needs to consider the request deeply.

Besides the political cover such an action would provide the City Council members, the financials are of upmost import.  The increase in valuation of these properties by the imprudent action of the City Council begs the question of whether the District can afford such an action; whether the Commissioners are prepared to take the political hit and the legal challenge of such an action.  Perhaps there is a bargaining chip here for the District with the City providing the funding for such an acquisition.

At any rate, acquiring these properties is a good thing.  BocaWatch fully supports the action in whatever path it takes.  Boca Raton’s beach and parks are of great import to residents near and far.  Protecting these jewels is of paramount import.  Stay tuned…more to follow


Topic two, one of a lighter nature…

Executive Director Koski reported that he has just returned from a trip to New York where he met with the business agents for Rafael Nadal, the number one tennis professional in the world today.  The conversation centered on Mr. Nadal’s expressed interest in creating a ‘Tennis Learning Center’ modeled on his operation in Majorca, Spain, here in the city of Boca Raton.  His interest is in placing this center in Boca’s Patch Reef Park.  Patch Reef Park has existing facilities that are in need of upgrades and improvements and Mr. Koski indicated that Mr. Nadal is prepared to further the conversation realizing that there would be a business negotiation to determine the scope of any business deal and the commitment to the needed upgrades.

This information was received with enthusiasm by the District members and on motion by Commissioner Craig Ernst, seconded by Commissioner Erin Wright, the commissioners voted unanimously to authorize further negotiations by Mr. Koski with the tennis star’s agents.  Couple this possibility with that of Greg Norman’s interest in a golf clinic in Boca Raton in  the Ocean Breeze possibilities and Boca Raton immediately emerges as an international sports destination….Outstanding…..

Who says that parks and beach are not economic drivers?

Great find Mr. Koski….Stay tuned more to follow…

That’s it folks…Lots more to report but time is short and business calls.

Al Zucaro, Publisher