With an incredible amount of government activity this week, it became tiring to capture it all.  In fact, to even watch the CRA and City Council meetings required over 11 hours of time in chambers or on Boca TV.

With that said, presented here are just a few of the items thought to be of significant interest to BocaWatch’s followers.

Boca Raton Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA)-August 21

  • Consideration of Approval for the Royal Palm Assisted Living Facility located in the downtown at 375 E. Royal Palm Road. A nine (9) story Assisted Living and Memory Care Facility, the first of its kind in the downtown, providing 203 beds with appropriate medical care for a quickly aging population.  The facility will be operated in cooperation with Boca Raton Regional Hospital; will have 24 hour medical personnel on premises; and will meet the numerous conditions of approval put in place by the CRA members.   A welcomed addition to Boca Raton’s housing stock, this application from Penn Florida received a unanimous 5 – 0 vote ….
  • Consideration of Approval for “Mizner 200”, generally located at 210 – 398 Southeast Mizner Blvd. consisting of a 384 unit residential development the subject of much controversy over the last few months. Last month the CRA members sent the applicant and the opposition back to the drawing boards to bring back to the CRA a reconciliation of their differences.  To everyone’s credit this was done and the CRA has now approved with conditions the project to move forward.  Another welcomed addition to the downtown, the approval received a 5 – 0 vote to move forward.

Boca Raton City Council Workshop – August 21

  • Municipal Golf Course Sale: After a detailed discussion on whether to move forward with the sale, direction was given to City Staff for next steps.  Next steps are to include adopting an ordinance to effectuate the sale of the property as soon as possible.  That will come forward in September.   The three competing groups will submit to the City their final contract with only the price term subject to change.  At the insistence of Councilman Rodgers, the item is anticipated to be brought forward for a ‘selection’ vote at the first Council meeting in October.  The Councilmembers did discuss the possibility of keeping golf operations going while the winning purchaser proceeds through the County’s approval process.  What is clear is that the Council has committed to moving forward with the sale independent of the Ocean Breeze acquisition by the Beach and Park District.
  • Government Campus Master Plan Update: Although on the agenda, due to the lengthy discussions at the CRA meeting, the item was pulled and will be rescheduled for presentation at a future meeting.

Boca Raton City Council Meeting – August 22

  • Ordinance 5394 – a re-designation of 4.99 acres of land at 8250 N. Congress Ave, within the NW Planned Mobility District from a Manufacturing Industrial (M-3) designation to a Medical Center (MC) designation. This application seeks approval of an adult congregate living facility with 151 beds and a 3320 sq. ft. ‘Urgent Care’ facility.  After discussion about the general public’s access to the urgent care facility and its triage capacity along with assurances from its management as to hours of operations and medical professionals on call, the Council approved the application with a 5 – 0 vote.  One item of note….

The zoning code currently in place for this area of the city was designed in the 1950s….incredible….the city of Boca Raton must, once and for all, preform a comprehensive re-write of its zoning code for 21st century application.  With 10,000 baby boomers retiring daily, Adult Congregate Living facilities are the waive of the future, yet the discussion last night demonstrates that Boca Raton is not prepared to take advantage of the demographic changes of this societal phenomena….

  • Ordinance 5397 – Discontinuing the City’s policy of allowing ‘private expressive installations’ in Sanborn Park during the holiday season. By way of background, last year an individual requested a permit to place a ‘satanic pentagram’ in Sanborn Park; a display that many found offensive.  The display was vandalized and criticized to the point where the City Council sought guidance from the City Attorney as to how to prohibit this from happening again.  That was a mistake.  The free expression of ideas is a basic premise guaranteed by our Constitution.  Offensive expression is perhaps the price to be paid for freedom of speech and expression; freedom is not free….Moreover, celebrating the Christmas holiday is an established ‘tradition’ that, although under assault, must prevail.  This week, dozens of residents came to city hall and argued against any ordinance that would negate the celebratory spirit of expressing a Christmas tradition even if it means having to absorb offensive expression.  No one, including the private citizen who placed the ‘satanic’ display, spoke in favor of adopting the proposed limiting ordinance.

Offensive expression is guaranteed by our Constitution.  One member of the audience articulated that government needs a ‘compelling’ reason to shut down speech…Boca Raton’s City Attorney’s proposed ordinance did not come close to that standard.  Many residents expressed the opinion that government is here to ‘protect and serve’ not to control speech.  Led by Councilmembers O’Rourke and Rodgers, the residents’ opinion and sentiment won the day. The ordinance was not even able to get a motion by any member of the Council never mind actually be brought to a vote.

Only one comment remains worth mentioning; to wit: this discussion was an unnecessary exercise.  The ordinance should never have been drafted.  Judeo/Christian traditions should not have come under attack/scrutiny of government; these traditions are sacrosanct.  If you do not like what someone has to say, don’t listen; if you do not like an offensive display, look away.  That, after all is a small price to pay for living in a ‘free’ society.

Al Zucaro