MIDTOWN BOCA….A BILLION DOLLAR GIVE AWAY!

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Midtown Boca – Call to Action August 29th and August 30th …Get informed

Please plan to attend a Public Kick-off meeting for the general public concerned about the Midtown Boca project, scheduled for 6:00 P.M., August 29th at the Spanish River Library.  Additional details are contained in this article.

Make no mistake…Midtown is a big deal.  It’s a big deal in many ways.  It’s big geographically, covering a zoning district more than 250 acres.  It’s big economically, reaching into the billions of dollars.  It will have a big impact on the surrounding areas’ quality of life issues including; traffic, schools, businesses, etc.  And now, another big aspect of Midtown is coming into view; to wit: the much-discussed Tri-Rail Station proposal, south of Glades Road.

This proposed train station is simply a justification for permitting 2500 new residences in the immediate vicinity of the station’s location.  The theory is that the new residents will use the station to commute to and from work and that the tri-rail station will decrease roadway automobile trips in lieu of a public transport option.  Can’t help but remember the old cliché…lies, damn lies and statistics….

 Almost all of the new residences are to be located on the west side of Military Trail across from where the proposed station is to be constructed.  Military Trail is a county road and thus the County will have some say in whatever is the developer’s plan.  Motorists tend to drive fast on this prominent North-South artery and it is easily imagined a situation where a distracted driver crashes into a commuting pedestrian trying to cross this busy roadway.  Where is the plan for anticipating this???

I have been reviewing comments made to BocaWatch over the last few months with regards to the Midtown project and will be drafting a series of articles pointing out that the ‘planning’ element of ‘planning and zoning’ seems missing in the public discussion; an element that appears overlooked by our appointed and elected officials and the city staff hired to assist in the representation of residents.

Midtown Boca deliberations, thus far, are focused almost entirely on ‘zoning’.  There is a simple explanation for this:  When developers are driving the bus on a development of this magnitude, the single most important economic benefit for them is obtaining a zoning outcome that BEST MEETS THEIR WANTS AND NEEDS.  The real planning, in their strategy, can come later and at the public’s expense.

So where are the planning discussions?  Why is it that the residents have to be the most outspoken voice on this proposed project’s deficiencies?  Where are the appointed and elected officials?  Why are they silent?

BocaWatch announced the upcoming August 29th and 30thSouth Florida Regional Transportation Authority (SFRTA) meetings at the Spanish River Library.  BocaWatch is concern that these public meetings will simply be another orchestrated attempt at justification for a project that is clearly objectionable and not in the interest of the surrounding residential communities…

BocaWatch encourages all to attend…and be heard…

Questions to ask on the ‘planning’ element or lack thereof might include amongst other things:

  1. How are people to get from the west side of Military to the east side of Military where the station is   suggested to be located?  A bridge?  An underpass?  Who pays for this?
  2. Where would crosswalks be located?   Traffic control devices?  Medians?  Who pays for them?
  3. What about off-site roadway improvements?  Right-hand turn lanes? Trolley routes? Curb cuts and Bus Shelters? Who pays for these?
  4. Will impact fees collected by the County be returned to the City to offset the public funds required to defray incurred taxpayer costs?

Let’s remember one thing….The developer needs and wants a Tri-Rail station….the City has NO obligation to provide the developer with anything at this time.  The developer has the obligation to ‘plan’ this project and submit it for approval.  So, do it!  Where is the Mid-Town Boca Master Plan?

In reality, at this time, there is a very high stakes negotiation….In essence, approvals and entitlements will increase the developers’ value multi-fold.  One can imagine this being a BILLION DOLLAR GIFT to the developer(s).  So, to demand a 10% to 20% factor for public improvements is not unreasonable…the challenge is that City Council members are not negotiating in the best interests of the residents, in fact, they are not negotiating at all. The Council is almost neutered here relinquishing the negotiating role to city staff and city staff does not seem to be asking the hard ‘planning’ questions or demanding financial commitment(s) from the developer to implement the plan.  Is it no wonder that staff and the council are seen as ‘developer friendly’?  That has been the ‘Boca’ way for decades now….

Residents’ input is important…both for the commentaries and articles that BocaWatch will be presenting and, for the immediacy of the upcoming August 29thand 30th meetings; meetings that will include members of Boca Raton’s  elected body(s) responsible for this decision.   Boca Raton will have three important voices present; to with: our County Commissioner, Steve Abrams, our Mayor, Susan Haynie and City Councilmember, Robert Weinroth.  All three will be participating voices with the latter two representing Boca Raton on Palm Beach County’s Metropolitan Planning Organization.  These voices should be loud, clear and unequivocal…Two of these three, Haynie and Weinroth, are votes on the City Council, the political body that will eventually make a final decision on what if anything is approved for the Midtown Boca development.

MAKE NO MISTAKE…IT IS NOW OR NEVER TO GET THIS RIGHT!  LET YOUR VOICE BE HEARD!

August 29th and 30th is the residents’ first opportunity to see whether Mayor Haynie, who is expected to be running for the County Commission in November 2018, and Councilman Weinroth, who is already  running for re-election to the City Council in March, 2018, are ‘resident’ or ‘developer’ friendly.  If developer friendly, one would have to wonder from whom the third vote on the City Council might come.  Councilmember Singer? Rodgers? O’Rourke?  Be sure to ask them this in upcoming City Council meetings….

For now, the message that all Boca Raton’s elected representative voices should be delivering is:

No tri-rail station without definitive plans for ‘resident friendly’ elements and a total commitment from the developers to provide these off-site improvements at their expense and not at the expense of the Boca Raton taxpayer….

County Commissioner Abrams also needs to assure Boca Raton residents that the impact fees collected from these developers for the Midtown Boca project are returned to the city of Boca Raton to defray incurred public costs.  Perhaps these impacts fees can be set aside and used by the City Council to engage with the School District on ‘planning’ for how children residing within these 2500 new units will be educated since all Boca Raton schools are currently filled to capacity and no ‘planning’ for new Boca Raton schools seems to be in the public discussion at this time.

Boca Raton’s City Manager, only Friday, posted these upcoming meeting dates (thanks to Councilwoman O’Rourke’s insistence) for Boca Raton residents on the City’s website.  BocaWatch published the meeting notice last week and encourages all to spread the word.

Attached is the letter received by the Mayor dated August 4, 2017 outlining the SFRTA meeting’s objectives.  Notification has only been provided to residents and land owners within a radius of 300 feet, a distance conveniently excluding  the residential communities along the Military Trail corridor that are directly impacted and that have voiced serious concern for this project’s impacts on congestion, density, safety, and quality of life….What is going on?  By design, are residents being excluded?  Unacceptable!

Of particular interest, take notice of the last sentence in the second paragraph within the letter….

“A new station at this location is consistent with the City of Boca Raton’s Multi-Modal Transportation District.” 

 How very interesting since the process is ongoing for the Midtown Boca project to benefit from being a multi modal transportation district; a district yet to be justified, a justification needed to support Midtown Boca’s  request to place 2500 new residential units within an approximate 50+ acre parcel of land near the proposed Tri-Rail station location.  Sort of the cart before the horse don’t you think!!!!

BocaWatch’s purpose here is to inform the public of these important meetings; to have interested voices come and be heard; to gather the thoughts from concerned neighborhood voices, and to demand that appointed and elected officials begin to put the ‘planning’ function back into the public discourse for the Midtown Boca project.

PLEASE RESPOND TO THIS CALL TO ACTION…IT TRULY IS NOW OR NEVER!!!

BocaWatch will continue to publish written and video commentaries on this subject matter leading up to the August meetings and beyond to future Planning and Zoning Board meetings; Community Appearance Board meetings and, ultimately, to the City Council meetings where final approvals will be sought.

Stay tuned….and support the MIDTOWN BOCA 650 ‘resident friendly’ movement.

Al Zucaro

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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.

6 COMMENTS

  1. The traffic on Military Trail at both morning and evening rush hour is already ridiculous. Here’s an empty piece of land, let’s develop it, no, let’s keep it greenspace and make it a park. You should be fighting for more greenspace there. If they put apartments up there, do you really think it will be affordable housing? No, unless you think $1500+ rent is affordable. The people who live there will not be using Tri-Rail unless they work farther away than Yamato Road. That’s a good point, how will they cross the street? In 2015, I worked on Yamato Road and I live south of Camino Real and just west of Military Trail. It used to take me 35-40 minutes to 6 miles.That’s crazy. Do we need more building on Military Trail – no?

    And, if you think the county is your friend, well, think again. The county is continuing to give away Ag Reserve land that is currently being used to provide fresh winter veggies to Palm Beach county and other states. This is after Palm Beach county residents overwhelming approved Amendment 1. The county knows where it’s residents stand but doesn’t care. If the county gets anything from the developer, good luck to the city of Boca Raton to get it back.

    The city and county governments need to learn the word – NO. Just because it’s proposed by a developer doesn’t mean it should go forward. I fought for 10 long years against development of the Mizner Trail golf course only to have development granted by the county and I watched the head of Zoning standing over the developer’s computer helping the developer to fix a “problem” that a resident brought up with their plan. What a disgusting display when you think that the county is supposed to protect you when in fact they bend over backwards to help the developer.

    Good luck with Midtown, I sure it will be another traffic disaster just like the projects on Federal Hwy.

  2. Al,great commentary. But I want folks to read carefully Jack Stephen’s letter. He says they will discuss the”socal,environmental ,economic effects of the projects potential improvements”. He goes on to say “evaluate” a second station. They are not going to announce a second station in my opinion. He goes on to say the LRTP,TIP,TDP,and SIS and Boca plans are consistent with a second station. It is all mucky muck and a sales job put together by the developers to convince residents that if we approve 2500 or why not 8,000 units as Weinroth said a station might happen. I think it is unusual that no mention of the Kimberly Horn study for a second station said very bad business decision. It was a big time loser financially. The city staff said when shown the developers rewriting of the ordinances said no approval unless “planned,funded,and under construction”. Are we looking at the biggest con ever in boca?? We all want development but not based on lies. How about this. Build the station and than we vote on the rezoning. Yeh right. We are talking about a billion dollar gift with potentially a blighted area with 4000 transients and cars. Most of us were not borned last night.

  3. I am not sure if a second tri rail will work. I wish it could but I have my doubts. “Big brother” as in the gov’t and FAU urban planners are telling us “the way of the future” is walking and biking. HUH. Aug 29th and 30th meetings they will probably talk about how walking will reduce cancer or something. HUH. Garbage. I am tired of people telling me how to live. I am here over 40 years and I walk and bike but I still use my car.This midtown deal says 2500 500 sq boxes and no need for cars. Garbage argument. I am pushing 75 and have a lot of moxy stuff.So I got on the trirail and visited all 18 stations and took notes. 1% of the people walk or bike from the station and many of the areas are not suitable to visit at night. Boca station is very nice and I am there a lot taking notes and than work out at LA Fitness. I polled 25 folks at LA Fitness and not one has ever been on a tri rail or bus . ouch. is a second station an experiment .?? to our detriment?? OK build the station rezone for 650 900 sq units and look at results and than rezone for more units 2 years down the road. Solve the traffic issues and just go slow. By than the mall issues will be clarified. Neighbors housing values will skyrocket. Or risk 4000 transits and all its social problems will crater housing values. Me if I lived over there I get out now. Schools are maxed out. Traffic will be over the top. This city council doesn’t care about you. Over develop and see what happens. Get $500k to $750k and move to Jupitor asap. I think it is funny that 3 guys on the city council all live in the suburbs as in Broken sound area and they are deciding your future. I call them Suburbinite Tourists. They are here today and gone tomorrow . If you live in Verde, Paridise Palm, Boca Bath, and others if you don’t get involved you are one stupid ignorant, idiot. See you on the golf course in jupitor.

    • To Jack….Perhaps you can elaborate further on the audience your comment about ‘650, 900 sq.ft units’….Provide a context for the movement we at BocaWatch support; to wit: MidTown Boca 650….Thank you for all your effort to bring clarity to this troubling overdevelopment issue…Al Zucaro

      • Al, what I was referring to was the movement Boca Watch as started called Pro 650.We brought in some pros in urban development and some architects and they said that from Butts Road to 95 that area could support 650 units based on existing Planned Mobility(PM) ordinances. These ordinances dictate that the smallest unit would be 700 sq ft and average 900 sq ft. The developers want to change the ordinances to 500 sq ft and average 700 sq ft. This is one of 29 changes they are demanding from the city staff. At an average of 1.6 folks per unit that would be 2500 units times 1.6 gives you 4000 people and cars. But they insist cars won’t be needed so far less parking. They insist everyone will be walking and biking from a mystery tri rail station. My experts are saying 650 units max anything over would since without any site plans that the developers are refusing to show would crater traffic on Military. Also, developers are refusing to pay for road rebuilt/improvements, change setbacks, height, etc. Also,demanding that the city pay for a shuttle. HUH. To where,on and on. Another issue is 800 pages of county code. Also, they don’t own all that land so their renderings are aspirational at best. We need development over there but not based on lies and half truths. The neighbors need to get involved asap. They are idiots if they don’t.

  4. Good Morning!! – or should that not be MOURNING!! Where in the world save a war zone, could you/would you understand & condone, let alone VOTE for, the destruction of the 2-story apartment buildings on Mizner to make way for 3 6-story aprt towers??? And, never identified as far as I know, BUT WHAT ARE THE TAX ABATEMENTS?? WHAT ABOUT WATER, SEWAGE, ETC….TAKE NOTE OF Lauderdale AND ITS ASSTD MISERIES IN RE NEW BULDINGS, OLD PIEPLINES!!
    yup, FOLLOW THE MONEY”

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