Last week at the P&Z meeting, Midtown Boca’s agenda items took an unexpected twist.
Instead of moving forward to a recommendation for the City Council, the P&Z Board allowed for the presentation to be made in a ‘workshop’ format with no official action taken. Speculation is that this was due to the late review of additional traffic impact materials that staff did not have time to analyze. Regardless of the reason, the delay may prove to be beneficial….
With that said, presented here are two observations that the residential communities should consider in the interim.
The first is that the 2500 residential unit cap, the elephant in the room with some of the residents, is actually a cap that is imposed on the project by the 2010 ordinance establishing the Planned Mobility District in the northwest sector of the City.
In 2015, Councilman Weinroth brought forward a suggested change to raise the 2500 unit cap to 4500 units reasoning that no units were proposed to be built in the 123+ acre Boca Raton Innovation Campus (formerly IBM). This increase failed but the video record clearly establishes where the 2500 number originates….Now fast forward nearly 7 years later, less than 50% of the 2500 units have broken ground and it is unlikely that after 7 years the actual construction of units will reach the cap. This suggests that in advancing the regulatory structure for Midtown Boca, the 2500 unit cap may be subject to a negotiation for a more acceptable residential unit phase-in amount addressing the residents’ concerns and designed to coincide with much needed traffic improvements.
Of perhaps greater importance is the zoning code that the attorneys for the Midtown Boca project have chosen to use. The code is based upon the 2002 County Code; a relic that desperately needs a comprehensive rewrite. This 1300 page County Code is the reason the Blue Martini’s 5:00 a.m. alcohol situation was able to exist in the first place; a situation that the City Council changed just last week.
The Code has an entirely different list of permitted and conditional uses than those allowed in the City. It will be near impossible to adequately protect the residents from unacceptable uses allowed. Unacceptable uses could easily fall through the cracks especially when being implemented by attorneys that clearly know the ‘ins and outs’ of the applied code and how to maneuver within it. Choosing to use this old code begs the question of why it is the residents’ job to raise and identify all the possible ‘cracks’? Attorney Jeffrey Lynne, above, correctly suggests that instead of plugging holes in a 15 year old County Code being presented on behalf of the developer(s) through their land use attorneys, that Midtown Boca be made to start with a clean ordinance drafted in conjunction with the City and made to apply to this important proposal.
The real question to ask is why are the Midtown Boca developer(s) proposing that the City implement this project with an antiquated County Code? Why does City staff not insist on implementing a Boca Raton specific ordinance for the Midtown Boca area?
Residents have valid concerns and their concerns should be heard by our elected officials who should insist that City staff engage in discussions to replace this old County Code with a modern day ordinance; a ‘resident friendly’ ordinance designed to protect the interests of the residents while allowing the developers the uses projected in their artful renderings.
Midtown Boca is just too important a project to not do right!
Presented above is the City’s video of the public comment made by Attorney Jeffrey Lynne. Attorney Lynne, representing the Via Verde Master Association, has correctly identified major weaknesses in the current code selected by the developer; a selection implementing archaic and incompatible uses under the old Palm Beach County ULDC code.
Attorney Lynne argues that this County Code does not adequately define the permitted uses within the requested zoning designation; does not identify appropriate non-conforming or conditional uses and, of specific concern, does not identify or properly restrict non-permitted uses like adult entertainment clubs, gun ranges, service stations and marijuana dispensaries, amongst other undesirable or neighborhood unfriendly possibilities.
These regulatory concerns along with requests for height limitations, major off site roadway improvements, beautification of medians and expanded alternative transportation options are what residents should be focused on. Measured arguments for reasonable ‘resident friendly’ concessions from the developer(s) are achievable especially if the same can be paid for by impact fee credits available to the developer that the City would, generally, never receive back from Palm Beach County.
Communications between the residents and the developer(s) facilitates a win-win situation and removes the win-lose acrimony that paid (biased) lobbyists and attorneys thrive upon.
Residents for the four (4) affected communities are encouraged to prepare and strategize a united front for the developers to respond too. All this should be done prior to any future public hearing on the regulatory process at the P&Z Board or the City Council.
Al Zucaro, Publisher