The City Council voted Tuesday, December 8th, 4-1 to grant Natural Lands LLC a variance to build a mansion on a parcel of Boca Beach dunes.
Along with the many travesties of this decision on behalf of one developer, they have also potentially jeopardized all of Boca Raton’s access to Federal Funds granted by the enactment of the Palm Beach County Shoreline Protection Plan.
Attorney for the petitioner, Charlie Siemon of Gray Robinson PA, started his address to City Council by reading an email sent ‘solely to Council Members’ by my husband Ian MacDougall … specifically, his famous ‘Hands Off’ email. It is a fantastically composed statement, with sentiments echoed by thousands of barrier island residents and the reading of Ian’s email only served to further unite this voting block.
One of the main topics bantered back and forth between the Mayor, the City Attorney and the Assistant City Manager was that PRIOR variances to build on undersized lots were granted by City Council.
What failed to hold any weight with these officials was the fact that PRIOR developers along Boca’s stretch of A1A put the ‘Spirit of the Environment’ ahead of their own right to request a variance thus leaving the ocean side pristine, opting instead to develop the west side of their parcels.
Of course we know that Natural Lands recently sold their West side parcel. Poor guys, what’s a developer to do … perhaps sell their East parcel as a private beach access to the new owners of the West portion?
And what’s a City Council meeting without Glenn Gromann, our Planning and Zoning Board Member, getting up and telling everyone he is an attorney, plus now he is also an expert witness on behalf of the developer! Did he leave something out, oh yeah – Lobbyist!
Attorney Siemon went on to say that the ‘proof of hardship’ claim was no longer valid … I might add that the full description from the Florida Bar Journal 2005 stated, ” Florida variances law requires that the applicant establish a characteristic unique to the property which renders it virtually impossible to use it for the purpose or in the manner for which it is zoned. Moreover, the hardship cannot be ‘SELF-CREATED” (You know, as in selling off the west portion of the parcel )
Florida law now puts the final decision on non-conforming lot variances squarely in the laps of local governing bodies. So what was all the shivering over a potential lawsuit by the petitioner about?
And, as if to twist the knife even further, our Mayor Susan Haynie said she expects the remaining non-conforming beach lots will soon request variances to build. On that I agree.
Council Member Mike Mullaugh can go off into the sunset knowing that his legacy will forever be linked to the beginning of the end to Boca Raton’s true claim to fame, its visually stunning stretch of public beach. Mr. Mullaugh can take solace in the fact that many of those sitting along side of him at the dais will be joining him in a permanent exit from public service in the not too distant future.
The only highlight of the evening was the passionate plea to the Council NOT to grant the variance by Council Member Jeremy Rodgers. I would recommend everyone watch the video of last night’s proceedings if only to hear Mr. Rodgers speak on behalf of the 90,000 residents of Boca Raton.
Katie Barr MacDougall
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