I want to introduce myself. My name is Michelle Grau and I was one of the residents fighting to preserve our green space in Boca Raton when the City, School Board and Park District were moving ahead with a plan to use the conservation area in Sugar Sand Park, to build a new school.

Sugar Sand Park and this 26 acre conservation area is filled with mature trees and serves as a habitat for birds and other wildlife, some protected like gopher tortoises and burrowing owls. To allow designated conservation land to be clear cut, built out and paved over was unconscionable for me. I along with 50 other residents and supporters started an opposition movement against City Council members, the Beach & Park Tax district and the School Board in order to save it. We hired and paid legal counsel, threatened a law suit, and after 7 months of attending meetings, appealing to our elected officials to reconsider the idea, the conservation site was abandoned as a location for a new school. Thinking back, it is still difficult to comprehend what we went through to prevent our pro development elected officials from supporting something so obviously conflicted.

Shortly after this time, I was fighting for the Patch Reef community against Raphael Nadal, one of the biggest tennis stars in the world, who wanted to privatize and use almost half of Patch Reef Park for a private tennis academy essentially replacing green space with massive climate controlled buildings. This is the antithesis of a park and green space. Al Zucaro also came to help me with this fight. Al and Jack McWalter, who is also a volunteer at Boca Watch, helped me find an alternative site to present to Nadal, so he could build elsewhere. Unfortunately he declined because he still wants our flagship park, Patch Reef. I held a meeting in my home and invited 25 other concerned residents. Al Zucaro and Jack McWalter were present and offered advice and direction on how to fight to help save our parks just as he had done months before in meetings with our Sugar Sand park group. I am still justifiably concerned Nadal wants to build in Patch Reef. The park commissioners are doing a study of the park to determine the need for indoor courts. The outcome of that study is pretty much predetermined and will not come as a surprise.

I have also watched the video Boca Watch published about trying to saving the Hidden Valley golf course from being rezoned and know that Al Zucaro has helped them get their word out on saving it. It was very effective. Jessica Gray is currently fighting to save our beach front in Boca from being developed due to our current elected officials, Scott Singer, Weinroth, Susan Haynie and Mullaugh voting to give the developers a variance. The vote passed 4-1 with Jeremy Rodgers the sole NO vote. This variance changed the value of these unbuildable lots from $140,000 to approximately $20M overnight and sets a precedent for all the other privately owned beach lots to build. Please check out Jessica’s organization at BocaSOB.org. Al Zucaro is helping her as well. Al has been there for all of us fighting to save our green space and protect our city from overdevelopment.

I know that Al Zucaro is sincere and cares about our quality of life, environment, traffic and schools. He is my choice for Mayor and I hope you will make him yours as well.

Sincerely,
Michelle Grau

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Michelle was born and raised in Windsor Ontario, Canada and moved to Boca Raton with her family when she was 16. After receiving a B.S. in Accounting at Florida State University and her CPA license, she returned to Boca Raton and started her career in public accounting. With her husband Tony Grau, she has four children, two sets of twins. When not carpooling around town, she loves boating, scuba diving, and playing tennis and the piano. She is dedicated to environmental projects and preserving our natural landscape here in Boca Raton. Michelle hopes to raise awareness about the threats to our parks and beaches, and to get more people in the community involved.

13 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks Michelle, you’re helping keep Boca special. Our green space is what differentiates Boca and is a sustainable competitive advantage over other cities in South Florida. This assumes that we sustain it, of course.

  2. I think it’s wonderful that you are fighting to save Boca’s green space. I understand your fight. As a concerned homeowner in Boca del Mar, I fought along with my neighbors for 10 years to stop development on the Mizner Trail Golf course. In the end, we lost. But, I caution you that your fight isn’t just Boca; it’s Palm Beach county. What happens in other parts of the county affects you; it affects all of us as residents of Palm Beach county. I know this blog is focused on Boca but Boca exists inside Palm Beach county.

  3. “Today’s Paradise, put up a parking lot.” 50 years later, Joni Mitchell was and is right as illustrated in Michelle Grau’s article. Once you pave it over, it’s lost. Most disturbing is the pure greed shown by Scott Singer – he leads the City Council in VOTING FOR DEVELOPMENT. Scott Singer votes for MONEY where his campaign contributions come from. Free dollars for him to run for office at our expense.

    Boca Raton is special with its green space and parks. People can get concrete, no parking and traffic in Fort Lauderdale and Miami. Every home in Boca is more valuable by what we have and those cities can’t get – don’t let Scott Singer sell it to the developers.

    With projects under construction; those approved; those in process for approval and those proposed – You are looking at 20,000 to 30,000 more residents in 5-7 years. Why? We do not need it, but Scott Singer does as he is paid by the developers to vote away your quality of life.

    The facts are all there at MYBOCA.US, the City Website. BocaWatch.org has shown you in pie charts and the list of over 21 projects Scott Singer has voted for. He says one thing and does another every time. The two monster homes on the beach he voted for? In return, he was hosted by those owners and their attorneys with a campaign fund raiser. If you don’t see or can’t figure it out you deserve what you get. Uneducated voters are a huge part of the problem. Think before you vote.

  4. Thank you Michelle, I live in CT., but was thrilled to hear of your struggle! Every one who works to save the natural green earth is in the most important human force in the world!

  5. I would be glad to add my name and voice to those concerned for preserving as much green space in Boca Raton and all of Palm Beach County as possible. Greedy developers think every piece of land that doesn’t have something built on it is fair game. I never thought Sugar Sand Park should give up one inch of space for any kind of development nor should Patch Reef. Good work and kudos to everyone who leads and has joined in the fight to preserve what little is still left to preserve.

  6. Scott Singer knowingly, wrongfully, and foolishly voted for the first variance. Had he NOT VOTED IN FAVOR OF THIS VARIANCE,  as he selfishly did, this would not even be on the table today. The 2500 beachfront lot is too narrow to build. Why would Singer give a variance to recent buyers who knew at the time of purchase, that lot was unbuildable. Meaning, No Hardship existed? Why did he vote for it then?  THEY ARE BIG CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTORS. (See Jack’s most recent video) I hope this won’t be a case of ‘fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me’ – the Governor suspended one self serving Mayor we don’t need Singer to replace her.
    Singer has two groups of constituents: First the residents whose votes he needs. Second the developers, their attorneys, lobbyists, and their PAC’s and supporters, who are funding his campaign. He knows, and we know that he will disappoint one of the two groups. Which will it be? We know this answer too. He is using Boca as his ladder, like his mentor the suspended former mayor Haynie, with the hope of higher office; he knows that he will need those big campaign dollars to get elected.  His pro overdevelopment votes will only get worse!

  7. It a shame what has happened to Boca. As an 8 year old I used to sell mangoes on US 1 @ SE 5th st.. There should be no new building until infrastructure is updated . Schools , Roads, Traffic studies. Enough is enough

  8. The parks of Boca Raton belong to the tax payers. No one should be allowed to commercialize our parks , especially Patch Reef Park . Our parks belong to the people of Boca Raton … NO BUILDING ON OUR PARKS!!!!

    Keep our beaches as they are … leave our beautiful greenery alone!!! Keep the developers out!

    Al Zucaro for Boca Mayor to make Boca the best place to live!!!

  9. I thank you so much for fighting the use of Sugar Sand Park land for a school and for a ridiculous Tennis Center on our Patch Reef Park land. Neither is an appropriate use of the precious little green space we now have left. Let them purchase land for their tennis center like any other for profit enterprise. We should not be subsidizing it with our public lands. I commented on the Boca Watch site that I felt both were a very bad idea
    when they were under consideration. Any one on the Greater Boca Raton Beach & Park board that votes for such use should be removed by the voters ASAP! Count me in for your next battle to save our green space.

  10. Thanks so much Michelle! I cannot be a complacent resident any longer expecting City officials to act in my and the residents’ best interest. Residents need to research candidates for City positions thoroughly and understand exactly who is backing them and why. Boca City Council and the Beach & Parks expect residents to be unaware of what is going on, complacent, so they can do whatever they want, not what the residents are concerned about in keeping our parks, beaches, green spaces that have made our quality of life so special. We must be vigilant on proposals that are “not in the plan for now” or “not yet finalized” – our quality of life is at stake if we don’t voice our concerns and keep voicing them!! Keep up the good fight!

  11. A “voice” for the resident is the genesis of BocaWatch and this article clearly conveys how BocaWatch, Al Zucaro and concerned residents can make a difference. Thank you for putting yourselves out there Michelle,Al and BocaWatch.
    I’m confident when Zucaro becomes Mayor it will no longer be necessary for residents to retain expensive lawyers and file ballot initiatives to protect our parks and beaches.

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