new old school square

Details of the New Old School Square, Chabad Litigation Goes on

Old School’s new plan

new old school square

Many details remain, but Delray Beach is in a much happier place regarding Old School Square than the city was two years ago.

An architect seemed ready to turn the site–which includes the Crest Theater, the Cornell Art Museum, and Fieldhouse and the Pavilion—into something resembling the plaza of a European city. It was way too much, especially since residents already were complaining about all the events that left Old School Square trampled. The city commission addressed that with a new policy, and discussion about Old School Square continued.

This week, the commission and the board of the community redevelopment agency saw renderings and numbers for the updated master plan. It’s ambitious, costing nearly $12 million in four phases. The last phase is a covering for the Pavilion, which essentially would turn it into an amphitheater. The first phase, at roughly $500,000, would involve new signs, better lighting for the Cornell Museum and moving the location of the new $800,000 Christmas tree.

Mayor Cary Glickstein called the plan “the product of nearly two years of community dialogue.” Though he expects changes, Glickstein said the plan “when fully implemented–both the physical and programming improvements—will give the city a 21st-century, culturally-inclusive, public park surrounding some of the more historically important buildings in South Florida.”

Commissioner Mitch Katz noted, correctly, that the previous plan came out after just one public meeting. This version represents “a community effort.” Katz doesn’t agree with all of the elements—the amphitheater “might be a little overkill”—but he acknowledged and will support the public’s preferences. Katz added that Old School Square Director Rob Steele believes that there is philanthropic support in Delray for the plan.

Commissioner Jim Chard “very much” likes the plan, but wants to know, “How do we make it work?”

Chard wondered if there would be “activities every day, or just big events?” He noted that the Wednesday drum circle is self-sustaining. What subsidies might be necessary and proper for other programming? Could the city and CRA recoup some of the amphitheater cost from new revenue, if private donors can’t finance construction? Should the city allow alcohol sales?

“I don’t think there are necessarily definitive answers to these questions,” Chard said, “but they should be discussed in a narrative accompanying the renderings.”

Though Delray Beach wants Old School Square to be vibrant, the city also wants it to be calming. As Glickstein put it, “Just plain grass and shade trees and places to sit and just watch the clouds go by isn’t architecturally compelling, but it’s one of the common themes expressed as to what people wanted in their park.”

In an email, Steele also praised the “comprehensive process” that led to the plan. “The absence of objections from participants in recent public meetings on the park plan,” he said, “is indicative of the broad-based support that the process has achieved.

“Old School Square is strategically, aesthetically artistically, and financially one of the more valuable 5-acre parcels in Palm Beach County. The master plan affords Delray Beach the opportunity to make a bold statement defining who we are and who we want to be. Fortune favors the bold. It makes abundant sense for our community to marshal its resources to see this dream become a reality with all deliberate speed.”

Steele was hired in August 2015, a few months after the first plan met strong resistance. Taking more time, Steele said, “afforded the opportunity for cool minds to prevail on the ‘hot button’ aspects of the plan. To the casual observer, the process may appear to be a winding path, but the end product is of a singularly high quality.

“This thoughtful plan for Old School Square is easy to visualize and embrace, and it will, on many fronts, serve to provide hope for a bright and balanced future for this important corner of Delray Beach.”

Chabad lawsuit persists

The First Amendment lawsuit over Chabad East Boca will continue.

Plaintiffs Katie MacDougall and Gerald Gagliardi filed notice last week that they would appeal the latest ruling that dismissed their lawsuit against the city. U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra twice has dismissed claims from the plaintiffs, who are Christians, that Boca Raton conspired with the Jewish congregation to allow its new place of worship near their  homes in the Riviera neighborhood. Art Koski, who represents MacDougall and Gagliardi, said the plaintiffs’ brief is due on May 31.

Art museum expansion on campus?

Include the Boca Raton Museum of Art among the parties interested in plans for the city’s downtown campus.

One idea for the roughly 30 acres around East Palmetto Park Road and Northwest Second Avenue is a performing arts center that presumably might replace the Mizner Park amphitheater. The museum adjoins the amphitheater on the park’s northwest corner.

If that happened, the representatives said, the museum might want to expand onto some of the amphitheater property while preserving as much green space as possible. One representative said such a move could be “transformational” for the museum.

A public input session on the campus will take place in May. Council members also want the city to get moving on a downtown parking garage, which could be part of the new campus east of Second Avenue. All of which confirms that the council probably will sell the western golf course. The sale could provide $70 million-plus that could go toward the campus.

Mayor Susan Haynie especially has complained that cities like Pembroke Pines in southwest Broward County are designing and building new campuses while Boca Raton City Hall reeks of 1970. In her role as president of the Florida League of Cities, Haynie recently attended the opening of Pembroke Pines’ spiffy new digs. Haynie might envision an even better one in Boca as her legacy project.

Boca Regional garage

I reported Tuesday on the favorable vote that Boca Raton Regional Hospital’s proposed parking garage got from the city’s planning and zoning board. The ordinance to allow the garage will be introduced at the May 9 city council meeting, with the public hearing on May 23.

West Palm facing building height issue

In my package of stories about downtown Boca Raton that appeared in the magazine’s April edition, I debunked the idea that the city is turning into “another Fort Lauderdale.” West Palm Beach just offered up another example of why, for all the complaints about downtown development, Boca is not trying to give away the store.

Two decades ago, West Palm Beach voters restricted building heights on the downtown Flagler Drive waterfront to five stories. The issues behind the referendum were complicated, and the restriction might not have been the best response. Still, it’s on the books.

Now the Related Cos., wants to build a 25-story building called One Flagler in that area. The Palm Beach Post reported that the company proposed a 30-story tower last fall, but the city rejected the plan.

To recap, no building in downtown Boca Raton is taller than the allowed heights—100 feet under Ordinance 4035 and 140 feet under Ordinance 5052. Three years ago, Elad Properties proposed four condo towers on Mizner Boulevard that would have been roughly 200 feet above the limit for that area. As for One Flagler, the company touted the potential revenue and the reputation of the New York City-based architect.

The city council never considered New Mizner on the Green. The project since has become Mizner 200. Though it also has drawn criticism, Mizner 200 is nothing like One Flagler. Downtown Boca Raton has issues, but keeping a sense of perspective will help the city resolve those issues.

Correction

In my Tuesday post, I wrote that Crocker Partners believes that the Midtown area of Boca Raton could absorb 2,500 residential units and not generate new traffic even if a Tri-Rail station wasn’t built north of Boca Center. The correct number is 1,300 units.


Missed the last City Watch? Visit our Community/City Watch page for the latest posts, and subscribe to the magazine for the best coverage of Boca and beyond. 

Randy Schultz has lived in Boca Raton since 1985 and has worked as a journalist in South Florida since 1974. He spent 37 years at The Palm Beach Post, the last 23 as editorial page editor. He has written the City Watch blog for Boca Raton Magazine since February 2014. He also writes a weekly oped column for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
Randy is married to Shelley Huff-Schultz, director of Access PC at Pine Crest School. Their son, Alec Schultz, and daughter-in-law, Meredith Schultz, are lawyers in South Florida. They live in Boca Raton and have three children: Carter, 8; Preston, 6; and Lila, 4. Their daughter, Mara Howard, is a veterinarian practicing in Hunt Valley, Maryland. She lives with her husband, Chip Howard, in Reisterstown, Maryland.
boca regional

Boca Regional’s Big Plans, iPic Deal May be Ready to Close

Hospital plans

Marcus Neuroscience Institute

During the next five years, Boca Raton Regional Hospital may change as much or more than it has in the previous 50 years.

The hospital’s proposed parking garage—more about that in the next item—is the first of four projects designed to transform Boca Regional. The others are a second tower, new operating rooms and a new power plant. CEO Jerry Fedele estimates the cost at $260 million.

Fedele came in 2008 as the third CEO in 10 months. The hospital had lost $120 million, mainly stemming from the attempt two years earlier to create a $600 million academic center. After Fedele and the team he brought stabilized the finances, they changed the name from Boca Community to Boca Regional.

Since then, the hospital’s core market has expanded beyond the city. Vice President Dan Sacco said the market now runs from Pompano Beach in Broward County to Lake Worth. As the market has grown, so has Boca Regional’s share of the market. Even as competitors tout their emergency rooms, Boca Regional has grown from 35,000 annual ER visits to 55,000. Previously, Fedele said, only about 100 of the roughly 400 beds might be occupied on an average day in the summer. “Now, we’re at 300-plus consistently. We’re much less seasonal.” He and I spoke last Thursday. The day before, Fedele said, “We were full.”

Meanwhile, in the last 11 years Boca Regional has started an open-heart surgery center and opened the Eugene M. & Christine E. Lynn Cancer Institute, the Marcus Neuroscience Institute and the Christine E. Lynn Women’s Health & Wellness Institute. A new robotic surgery program has three such devices that cost $2 million each. The Gloria Drummond Physical Rehabilitation Institute—named for the woman whose family tragedy led her to found the hospital— will open this year.

So Boca Regional has a stunning list of outpatient services, but what Fedele calls “capacity problems” for inpatient services. Many rooms are still semi-private, and what Fedele calls the hospital’s increasingly “sophisticated patient population” wants is private rooms. Over the last seven years, he said, Boca Raton Regional Hospital “has fundamentally changed.”

Accordingly, the projects will help the hospital meet those new demands. Eighty percent of the beds will be private. In practical terms, Fedele said, the hospital operates with 350 beds. If Boca Regional can replace the parking lot with the garage, it will shorten the distance patients must travel to the main entrance. Most would get there by using an air-conditioned bridge.

The new tower would be on the north side, out to Meadows Road, and the hospital would renovate the existing tower. Fedele would like work on the garage to begin next spring and be finished by the start of high season, and for work on the towers to begin in 2019.

In almost any other similarly sized area of the United States, much of this would not be possible. Fedele said Boca Regional ran a surplus of between $7 million and $10 million in its most recent budget year on revenue of about $450 million. At non-profit hospitals, Fedele said, health care is a low-margin business. Because of the philanthropic base in and around Boca Raton, however, the hospital doesn’t have to pay for the improvements out of its operating surplus.

But while retaining that community identity, Boca Regional has widened its appeal and reputation. Affluent snowbirds who once flew home for advanced care are having it here. Turmoil at the North Broward Hospital District makes Boca Regional a better option for patients south of the county line. The relationship with Florida Atlantic University’s medical school is growing.

Between the planned improvement and the new programs, nearly half a billion dollars could flow into Boca Raton Regional Hospital over 15 years. How lucky that protests 20 years ago prevented the board at that time from selling the hospital. Despite that fundamental change, Boca Regional remains Boca’s own.

Hospital garage

The hospital’s proposed garage got a favorable recommendation last week from the Boca Raton Planning and Zoning Board, but the neighbors aren’t happy.

Before the 4-2 vote, homeowners who live across the canal from the current parking lot complained about potential noise, exhaust fumes and excessive light. Some said their property values have been dropping and would drop if the hospital got permission to replace the roughly 200 surface spaces with 900 spaces in a 50-foot garage that could be 100 feet from their homes, rather than the 250 feet that otherwise would be required.

Some speakers made unreasonable suggestions. Example: build the garage on the north, which would force patients to cross Meadows Road. Some wondered if the garage would benefit employees more than patients, since the hospital moved about 300 employees from the lot to the nearby garage at Oaks Plaza on Glades Road. A hospital representative said “some” employees would return.

Mostly, though, the neighbors don’t like the size and the proximity. Indeed, 100 feet is pretty close. But as I reported last week, the hospital could build its planned second tower at that location. The tower would be nearly 150 feet tall. Property records show that values of the homes across the canal have been rising, not falling. Though Boca Regional was much different when it opened in 1967, the hospital likely predates many of the homes.

And the need is obvious. Board member Janice Rustin noted the times that she had been unable to find a parking space. Boca Regional also is not the usual developer seeking a change from the city. The hospital holds near-iconic status, which was reflected in the comments from some board members.

Still, the neighbors likely will turn out in big numbers when the proposal goes to the city council. That could happen next month.

And now a golf sponsor?

Boca Raton Regional’s community image probably got even higher with the announcement last week that the hospital will be temporary title sponsor of the annual pro golf tournament at Broken Sound. Allianz has ended its relationship with the event. The politics over Allianz’s sponsorship, however, continue.

Two months ago, after the tournament, State Rep. Emily Slosberg emailed Councilman Robert Weinroth. Slosberg wanted the city to end what she called its “contract” with Allianz until the company paid Holocaust survivors all claims they are owed. Allianz sold insurance policies to Jews before World War II, and then insured Nazi death camps. Some money that should have gone to survivors went to the Nazis.

But Boca Raton doesn’t negotiate sponsorships. That’s the job of Pro Links, the company that runs the tournament. Though Boca Raton is a tournament sponsor, donating $375,000, Pro Links handles contracts.

Like Slosberg, Weinroth is Jewish. In a return email, he told Slosberg that she had unfairly criticized the company and, “by inference,” the city. Weinroth noted that the federal courts determined that the international Holocaust claims commission is the proper venue for survivors to press their case. Most survivors, he said, received payment for their policies.

Weinroth also pointed out that Allianz has 10,000 American employees and has acknowledged its sins. “I do not mean to minimize the suffering of the survivors and the families of the Shoah,” Weinroth said, “but I believe continued support of this event is in the best interests of our residents.” The tournament, a stop on the PGA Senior Tour, benefits Boca Raton charities.

That might have been the end of it. But last week, after Allianz ended its 11-year sponsorship, Slosberg issued a news release praising the city for booting the company. Slosberg clearly wanted to imply that the city had acted after her email. Of course, the city took no such action.

Weinroth told me Monday that after Allianz withdrew he simply notified Slosberg as a courtesy that the tournament was seeking a new name sponsor. In a email to City Manager Leif Ahnell, Weinroth said, “This simple statement of fact … appears to have been embellished and expanded far beyond what I communicated.” A revised release from Slosberg, Weinroth said, was clearer but continued the “spin.” None of that kept Slosberg from holding a news conference at City Hall on Monday, which was Yom Hashoah—Holocaust Remembrance Day. With Slosberg were survivors and their representatives.

Slosberg was elected last year to the West Boca/West Delray district that her father,Irv Slosberg, had represented. The district has many Jewish residents for whom the Holocaust is a local issue. Like her father, however, Emily Slosberg seems capable of grandstanding and taking credit where it isn’t deserved. If she needs a favor from someone in Boca Raton, Slosberg may have to wait longer for a response to her email.

Midtown update

The debate at last week’s Boca Raton Planning and Zoning Board meeting over proposals for the city’s Midtown district wasn’t much of a debate.

Before presentations began, the board voted unanimously to delay any decision until city staff is “comfortable,” in the words of Chairman William Fairman, with a traffic study from Crocker Partners. The company owns several properties in Midtown, including Boca Center, and commissioned the study.

Crocker believes that Midtown could absorb 1,300 residential units and not add traffic trips even without a Tri-Rail station north of Boca Center. Crocker representatives and city staff couldn’t resolve all the questions before the planning and zoning board meeting. Normally, such a proposal would have gone to the board with a staff recommendation to approve or deny. Since that wouldn’t happen, Crocker asked that the Midtown portion of the meeting be a workshop.

With Angelo Bianco of Crocker Partners, representatives of the two other property owners east of Town Center Mall offered renderings and said Midtown could work well as a planned mobility development. Neighbors who spoke were roughly split, for and against, one calling it “low-end housing.” On Monday, a Crocker representative said “hopefully” Midtown could go before the planning and zoning board in May.

iPic update

Closing on the sale of land for the iPic project in Delray Beach is tentatively scheduled for Friday.

iPic is buying the property from the community redevelopment agency for $3.6 million. Closing has been delayed while the company waits for a state permit. Attorneys have had to work out a parking agreement; the garage will include 90 spaces for public use. The city also wanted assurances that it would receive that portion of the payment that it owed to the city.

One of the many controversial aspects of the project has been the conveyance by the city of public alleys. Critics have asked what would happen to the property if iPic doesn’t build the theater/office project. City Attorney Max Lohman told me Monday that there is a “mechanism” for the city to retake the property. iPic would have 60 days from closing to begin construction.

GEO inauguration sponsor

The Palm Beach Post reported that Boca Raton-based GEO Group gave $250,000 to President Trump’s inauguration. GEO operates private detention facilities. Such companies are expected to benefit from Trump’s plan to round up more illegal immigrants, even those who have not committed serious crimes. GEO Group stock is up roughly 50 percent since election.


Missed the last City Watch? Visit our Community/City Watch page for the latest posts, and subscribe to the magazine for the best coverage of Boca and beyond.

Randy Schultz has lived in Boca Raton since 1985 and has worked as a journalist in South Florida since 1974. He spent 37 years at The Palm Beach Post, the last 23 as editorial page editor. He has written the City Watch blog for Boca Raton Magazine since February 2014. He also writes a weekly oped column for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
Randy is married to Shelley Huff-Schultz, director of Access PC at Pine Crest School. Their son, Alec Schultz, and daughter-in-law, Meredith Schultz, are lawyers in South Florida. They live in Boca Raton and have three children: Carter, 8; Preston, 6; and Lila, 4. Their daughter, Mara Howard, is a veterinarian practicing in Hunt Valley, Maryland. She lives with her husband, Chip Howard, in Reisterstown, Maryland.
13040_A-4.01

Last Call Cut Off at 2 a.m., Mizner 200 Gets a Passing Grade

Last call

On Wednesday night, the Boca Raton City Council unanimously approved an ordinance that will roll back closing time at Blue Martini and Nippers from 5 a.m. to 2 a.m. They are the only bars in the city serving alcohol for those extra three hours. Mayor Susan Haynie introduced the ordinance.

I will have more on this in my Tuesday post.

Mizner 200 design compliance

mizner 200

 

New documents confirm what I recently reported: Boca Raton’s design consultant has found that the proposed Mizner 200 condo project complies with Ordinance 4035, which governs downtown development.

In a March 17 draft report, Mellgren Planning Group concluded that Mizner 200 “does not fully satisfy the design standards included in Ordinance 4035 and its appendices.” Mellgren saw problems with the “limited demonstration of Mizneresque qualities” the condo’s architecture and “the development’s visually substantial scale and mass, which reduces the project’s contextual awareness, human scaled design, and pedestrian-oriented design.” Mizner 200 would have 384 units and stretch nearly 900 feet along Southeast Mizner Boulevard.

In its updated, April 5 report, however, Mellgren said Mizner 200 “meets the standards and regulations set forth in Ordinance 4035, inclusive of all appendices.”

So what happened?

According to the report, Mellgren met on March 29 with the applicant—Elad Properties—and city staff. At that meeting, Elad representatives presented renderings that Mellgren had not seen. The report said the meeting had been planned to take place before release of the draft report, but “scheduling conflicts” got in the way.

At the meeting, architect Peter Stromberg showed Mellgren three-dimensional renderings and a digital model of Mizner 200. “The renderings and model,” the report said, “provided a level of detail and clarity not originally evident. . .This was in part due to the scale of the drawings and the translation of color on plotted images. The renderings produced at the meeting were not included in the initial submission package.

“The detail readily apparent in the graphically rich renderings demonstrated a careful attention to design quality and an understanding of the level of craft Addison Mizner incorporated into his works. Pedestrian-level views were presented and demonstrated the building as it would appear from the public realm, which is drastically different than a standard elevation view … A building that appeared flat and monolithic in the plotted package came to life through convincing depictions of the realistic appearance and character of the materials and design details.”

At a follow-up meeting on March 31, Elad presented revisions that incorporated suggestions from Mellgren. The report lists six other changes that could come from the Community Appearance Board (CAB) when Mizner 200 has its formal review. Among the changes are more variations in the types of window and stone.

Though Mizner 200 doesn’t have a date for that CAB hearing, Elad presumably will now ask for it. The project has had two informal CAB hearings, after which the design was revised, to make one building look more like three.

Opponents will argue that Mellgren’s blessing came without their input. Even if the CAB approves, the planning and zoning board could have issues. BocaBeautiful ran another anti-Mizner 200 ad in Thursday’s South Florida Sun Sentinel, calling the project a “shock block.” But the new Mellgren report, which the city council requested, makes it likelier that the community appearance board will bless the project, after which it would go to the planning and zoning board and then to the council. A decision on Mizner 200 seems more sooner than later.

Midtown, Meadows Road and other items on the P&Z agenda

Members of the Boca Raton Planning and Zoning Board will need lots of coffee for tonight’s meeting.

In addition to proposals for Midtown (see next item) the board will hear the first item from Boca Raton Regional Hospital related to its makeover on Meadows Road. The topic tonight is the hospital’s parking garage.

Boca Regional wants to build a 50-foot, detached garage that would have 900 spaces and replace the 200 spaces in the surface lot. Current rules for the Medical Center zoning district require a setback of 250 feet from surrounding homes. The proposal before the planning and zoning board would reduce that to 100 feet and require adequate buffering, meaning landscaping and what hospital administrators say would be a 3-foot berm.

Vice President Dan Sacco said hospital representatives have met with neighbors whose homes face the south end of the lot and who would be closest to the garage. Another meeting is scheduled for next week. Sacco said Boca Regional and the architects are working to make the garage as attractive as possible—“like an office building,” Sacco said—and to reduce glare from the lighting.

Sacco and CEO Jerry Fedele, however, note that under Medical Center rules the hospital could build its planned second tower—which would be much higher than the garage—in the same location without asking for changes. The hospital favors that location for the garage because it would provide the easiest, safest access for patients.

After the garage will come applications for the tower, new operating rooms and a new power plant. The garage is coming first because of planning reasons. I will have much more on Boca Raton Regional Hospital’s upgrade in my Tuesday post.

Midtown still is on the Boca Raton Planning and Zoning Board’s agenda for tonight, but it will be a workshop session. The board will take no vote.

Discussions between Crocker Partners, one of Midtown’s largest property owners, and city staff continue over the study by Crocker’s consultant of how much traffic residential and other development within Midtown might generate. The latest meeting came Wednesday, after which Angelo Bianco of Cocker Partners said he wanted more time for the city to “study” the consultant’s report.

Bianco said the analysis went to staff last November, but has been updated to determine how many residential units Midtown could absorb without adding new daily traffic trips if a Tri-Rail station north of Boca Center that the city council supports did not get built. Midtown’s current rules don’t allow residential projects. Bianco said as many as 1,300 units could be built without generating added traffic. The proposals before the planning and zoning board call for 2,500 units.

Regarding the comment in the staff report that Midtown could get all the way to 2,500 units without a Tri-Rail station, Bianco said: “The traffic study has always shown that the train station affords the lowest reduction of all the various components of the proposal that justify trip reductions. The increased internal capture from the placement of new residential next to existing commercial with enhanced bicycle and pedestrian connections that stitch together the new mix of uses in the area will have much greater impact on traffic reduction.”

The planning and zoning board first discussed Midtown four months ago. The revised proposals, Bianco said, allow residential only if it doesn’t add traffic trips, allocates residential uses to certain locations based on reduction of traffic and raise the parking requirements. I will have a Midtown update after tonight’s meeting.

Caring Kitchen move

On Tuesday, the Delray Beach City Commission gave itself an ambitious, commendable and possibly unachievable goal.

During its workshop meeting, the commission collectively promised to move the Caring Kitchen from its location in the northwest neighborhood near Spady Elementary School. Everyone acknowledges the good work of the meals program for poor people, but nearby residents—among them Community Redevelopment Agency Chairman Reggie Cox—long have complained about trash, people sleeping outside and other issues.

Mayor Cary Glickstein acknowledged the obvious: Though the Caring Kitchen does the Lord’s work, the city never would have allowed CROS Ministries to set up two decades ago on city-owned land in an affluent—meaning white—neighborhood. Certainly the city never would have waited so long to address the complaints. Glickstein promised residents “the same sentiment as if (Caring Kitchen) were in our community.” He said they had been “patient beyond reasonable expectations.”

Caring Kitchen’s presentation showed that the need for the service is local. Nearly 80 percent of clients come from “The Set,” the neighborhoods near Caring Kitchen. Almost two-thirds of them walk there. Given the work, and the need for parking to accommodate volunteers, Caring Kitchen doesn’t belong in a residential area. Still, it must be to remain fairly close to the people it serves.

Commissioners wondered whether the county might offer space at the government complex on Congress Avenue, which is roughly 1.5 miles from Caring Kitchen. There’s talk of a south-county homeless shelter there. But Commissioner Jim Chard said the county had been “a challenge” for the Congress Avenue Task Force. “You don’t know until you ask,” Glickstein said. County Commissioner Steven Abrams, whose district includes part of Delray Beach, said, “They can ask, and we can give them an answer.”

The more interesting option involves the city-owned former train depot just west of Interstate 95. Chard, who served on the Congress Avenue Task Force, and others have envisioned the property as marketable to investors. If the city sought bidders, one condition could be that the buyer accommodate Caring Kitchen, not at the depot but at a location fairly near where the clients sleep. Chard compares it to the condition that went with approval of  Worthing Place to build a nearby public parking garage.

A grant could provide money to rehab the building, but Caring Kitchen might need to raise $1 million for a kitchen and other improvements. A Caring Kitchen representative, however, said that moving to the current location in 1997 required an extra $86,000, of which Caring Kitchen raised just $5,000.

Glickstein said the depot would raise “access” issues for Caring Kitchen; clients would need to cross the highway. For buyers, though, he said the depot offers “a highly visible location” and proximity to a large apartment complex that is under construction. Existing businesses, such as Saltwater Brewery, might want to expand. Commissioner Mitch Katz said the approach might give Caring Kitchen enough certainty to start raising money.

But how long will Caring Kitchen’s neighbors wait? Interim City Manager Neal de Jesus said it “could easily by another year” with the depot. What if a solution requires money from the city or CRA? If the city can’t thread the needle, would the commission consider evicting Caring Kitchen, which is leasing month-to-month?

“I don’t want to,” Katz said. “I’m pretty optimistic.”

Chard said, “I don’t think that would happen. I think the number is two years.” He believes that the neighbors will be patient if they see progress.” Glickstein, though, said, “I think so, as continuing indefinitely is not fair to the host neighborhood.”

The promise is clear. The plan for keeping that promise is less clear.

Quiet zones

Last week, I provided an update on plans to establish a “quiet zone” along the Florida East Coast Railway corridor between Boca Raton and West Palm Beach when the Brightline passenger service begins. In that post, I wrote that the quiet zone might first be in effect between West Palm Beach and Lantana.

I have since spoken with Nick Uhren, director of the Palm Beach Metropolitan Planning Organization. He clarified that point.

Uhren said the first test of the quiet zone—no train horns—would come on that West Palm Beach-Lantana stretch because All Aboard Florida would be testing the new trains. They would not carry passengers. The company would be testing switches on the new double track, Uhren said, and working to “mitigate the noise impact.” Once passenger service started, the quiet zone would take effect between West Palm Beach and Boca Raton.

Unfortunately, Uhren could provide no details about what safety improvements required for the quiet zone remain unfinished. All Aboard Florida won’t provide the information. Uhren said, however, “I have no good reason to doubt” that the work will be done when the Brightline service starts running in July.


Missed the last City Watch? Visit our Community/City Watch page for the most recent posts, and subscribe to the magazine for the best coverage of Boca and beyond. 

Randy Schultz has lived in Boca Raton since 1985 and has worked as a journalist in South Florida since 1974. He spent 37 years at The Palm Beach Post, the last 23 as editorial page editor. He has written the City Watch blog for Boca Raton Magazine since February 2014. He also writes a weekly oped column for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
Randy is married to Shelley Huff-Schultz, director of Access PC at Pine Crest School. Their son, Alec Schultz, and daughter-in-law, Meredith Schultz, are lawyers in South Florida. They live in Boca Raton and have three children: Carter, 8; Preston, 6; and Lila, 4. Their daughter, Mara Howard, is a veterinarian practicing in Hunt Valley, Maryland. She lives with her husband, Chip Howard, in Reisterstown, Maryland.
atlantic crossing

Will Atlantic Crossing Soon Be Shovel-Ready? The Breakdown on Midtown, and More

Settlement reached

 

View from Atlantic Ave & Fed looking Northeastcrop

Since March 2013, the Delray Beach City Commission has regarded Atlantic Crossing as the ugly couch it inherited and had to keep.

No one remains from the commission that approved the project in December 2012. Most residents who spoke at that meeting opposed Atlantic Crossing—which began as Atlantic Plaza II—even after the developer reduced the number of residential units and added more parking spaces than code required. The commission approved conditional uses that raised the height from 48 feet to 60 feet and the density from 30 units per acre to 43 units per acre.

Even if some in the community hoped that delay might kill Atlantic Crossing, however, commission sentiment correctly has been to make the project as compatible as possible. Last week, that approach resulted in the commission approving a settlement of the lawsuit Edwards Companies filed nearly two years ago, seeking $40 million in damages for the city’s alleged refusal to issue permits.

In an email, Mayor Cary Glickstein noted his roughly decade-long involvement with Atlantic Crossing—six years as a member of the planning and zoning board and four-plus years as an elected official. He called the settlement “significant,” citing the importance of the location—the two blocks west of Veterans Park.

Commissioner Jim Chard said the city approved the demolition permit because vagrants had been sleeping in the abandoned buildings. “The tortured process we all endured and the unnecessary litigation have been major distractions,” Glickstein said, to shaping downtown Delray.

From the city’s standpoint, the project will go back before the site plan review and appearance board, incorporating changes in the settlement. Among those are an access road from Federal Highway—Northeast Sixth Avenue. The planning and zoning board also must approve the new plan. That should take several months, after which there’s a 30-day period for appeals. Given the settlement agreement, Glickstein anticipates no “material, proposal-altering advisory board issues.”

The question then would become whether Atlantic Crossing gets built. “Approvals are one thing,” said Glickstein, a developer himself. “Financing, end-user demands and execution of such a complex and unusual project are another, so I question whether we have seen the last chapter on what the project will ultimately be.”

Chard believes that Edwards’ decision to accept the settlement is “a serious, sincere effort to move forward,” rather than an attempt to secure approvals and then flip the project. “I hope I’m not proved to be overly optimistic.”

In a statement, Edwards Chief Operating Officer Dean Kissos expressed similar sentiment: “While reaching a settlement has been challenging, we’re eager to work with the city to get Atlantic Crossing underway, and finally bring the east end of Atlantic Avenue to life.

“As a private investment of more than $200 million, Atlantic Crossing will deliver hundreds of jobs, millions in annual tax revenues for the city, and a high quality destination to anchor downtown’s east end. We’re excited to get the ball rolling and to work with the city to obtain final approvals as soon as possible. We look forward to having the settlement become final, enabling us to dismiss the state and federal lawsuits, assuming there are no third-party challenges to the agreement.”

Chard welcomes the Class A office space Atlantic Crossing would bring, though he worries about the “viability” of the retail portion and believes that the added restaurant/bar space “extends our dependence on the hospitality industry.”

Completion of Atlantic Crossing would bring issues related to bridge openings and potential flooding of the underground garage, but Chard supported the settlement “because it’s time,” even if “we aren’t going to make everyone happy.” And perhaps one day that old couch could look better than any of the critics imagined.

Midtown traffic unreviewed

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The staff report on Midtown for Thursday’s Boca Raton Planning and Zoning Board meeting has this headline: The staff hasn’t reviewed the traffic analysis that supports the application for 2,500 residential units.

According to the report, the city got the revised analysis last Wednesday, during the week of Passover and Easter. The report also cites “discrepancies” between the analysis and the number of units proposed. I’m told that attorneys for the GrayRobinson law firm and Midtown representatives will meet today with Deputy City Manager George Brown and Traffic Engineer Maria Tejera, the meeting delayed by vacation schedules.

If city review isn’t complete by Thursday, that will be a problem for the planning and zoning board. The main issue with Midtown is traffic. The staff report now comes with no recommendation for the board, which is supposed to make its own recommendation to the city council.

Before the board are three rezoning proposals for Midtown, the area south of Glades Road from Town Center Mall to Boca Center. The four major property owners, led by Crocker Partners, want to make Midtown an urban, mini-neighborhood for people who work in the area or live there and take public transit to their jobs. The designation would be Planned Mobility Development.

A set of proposals went to the planning and zoning board in December, but the board took no action. Though the new proposals contain changes made after meetings with residents of adjoining neighborhoods, the proposals still call for 2,500 residential units: 1,850 east of Butts Road and 650 around the mall. The owners estimate that the units would result in 4,000 new residents, whom staff estimates would require nearly $5 million a year in city services after the expected 10-year build out.

Many more units would be in the east because the plan envisions a Tri-Rail station north of Boca Center. Having it would allow Crocker and the other two eastern property owners to have more density with less parking because, in theory, so many people would use Tri-Rail. The city could approve up to the first 1,300 units once Tri-Rail has “committed to” building the station. The staff would prefer that the station first be under construction.

But there appears to be wiggle room. Midtown gets those 2,500 units without a Tri-Rail station if development “otherwise demonstrates compliance” with Palm Beach County’s traffic performance standards. Expect board members to have questions about that comment.

Here are some other aspects of the proposals:

  • Buildings could be no taller than 145 feet, which is the height of the current tallest building.
  • The internal shuttle would be privately financed. The staff wants its schedule to align with employer hours, not just Tri-Rail’s schedule.
  • Staff members believe that the proposals would not violate the city’s comprehensive plan.
  •  The open space requirement for projects would be 20 percent. In the northwest planned mobility development, the requirement is 25 percent. The property owners defend the lower number by saying that Midtown would be more urban.
  • The minimum size of a residential unit would be 500 square feet. Units in a building would have to average at least 700 square feet.

Between now and Thursday, I would expect a lot of phone calls between city administrators and those seeking these changes for Midtown. The proposals are complicated enough. The discussion will be long. Without more information on traffic, Thursday’s meeting could be longer and, worse, unproductive.

Tri-Rail update

Even without the second station, Tri-Rail is a big deal in Boca Raton because the Yamato Road station is the busiest on the line. Before the legislative session, Tri-Rail annoyed some in Tallahassee by awarding a full-service contract after disqualifying all bidders except one. Gov. Rick Scott included no money for Tri-Rail in his budget.

Palm Beach County Commissioner Steven Abrams is vice-chairman of the South Florida Regional Transit Authority, which oversees Tri-Rail. He told me last week that there is a compromise. Tri-Rail would get its roughly $40 million for 2017-18 and agree to state review of contracts. Since the new contract could last seven years, that agreement would be mostly symbolic.

If that compromise holds, Tri-Rail can worry about what the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported Sunday is another problem – declining ridership.

Last call on the line

Another Midtown-related issue comes before the Boca Raton City Council at its regular meeting Wednesday night.

The council will hold a hearing on Mayor Susan Haynie’s proposed ordinance that would end alcohol sales at 2 a.m. That’s the citywide closing time, but Blue Martini at the mall and Nippers on Federal Highway were allowed to serve booze until 5 a.m. because the city annexed Midtown from the county, which allows alcohol sales until 5 a.m.

Via Verde residents complain that Blue Martini is too noisy. Blue Martini’s owners have spent much time complaining about the proposal and much less time suggesting ways to be a better neighbor. In a small way, approval of the ordinance could ease concerns within Via Verde about the larger proposals for Midtown.

Since the city has allowed the later closings for almost 15 years, there might be a legal problem with the ordinance. City Attorney Diana Grub Frieser offers no opinion on the ordinance, which states that the council “now desires, for the public health, safety, welfare and convenience,” to no longer allow the later closings. Blue Martin and Nippers would have 120 days to comply.

Council Scott Singer told me Monday, “I look forward to a public discussion about what’s most appropriate to provide for the benefit of the residents of our community. It is often true that every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”

Councilman Robert Weinroth told me that he had just met with Blue Martin and Nippers representatives, who want a delay because Wednesday’s meeting comes after the week of Passover and Easter. Weinroth said a representative will make that request at today’s council workshop meeting, and that he would support it. He worries that approval of the ordinance could prompt a lawsuit, and thus prolong any final resolution. Weinroth, however, also raised with the representatives the persistent noise issues at Blue Martini.

Haynie told me Monday that she would not support a delay, adding that she discussed with Frieser the possibility of litigation. Frieser then recommended the 120-day deadline, which Haynie said is “subject to change.” She expects that Police Chief Dan Alexander—as he did when the council debated extending closing time for Jazziz—will discuss “all the bad things that happen after 2 a.m.” and support the ordinance.

Death at Mizner

On Monday, Boca Raton police identified the body of a young man found behind Truluck’s Restaurant in Mizner Park early Saturday morning. Detectives said 18-year-old Shayan Mortazavi, a Lynn University student, had injuries “consistent with a fall.” Anyone with information should call Boca Raton Police Detective Tim Kurdys at 561/338-1377 or Palm Beach County Crime Stoppers at 800/458-TIPS.

Caring Kitchen move

At its workshop meeting today, the Delray Beach City Commission will try to generate movement on a project that has stalled.

The city would like to move Caring Kitchen, the hot meal program that CROS Ministries operates in the northwest neighborhood near Atlantic Avenue. The preferred site had been Delray Beach’s old train depot at Atlantic Avenue and Interstate 95.

Such a move, however, would require money to first rehab the depot and then add a kitchen. Commissioner Jim Chard estimates that combined cost would be at least $1.5 million and probably more. CROS Ministries likely couldn’t raise anything close to that. There’s been no progress for nearly two years.

Chard took an interest in the depot before being elected in March. He pushed for discussion of the issue and hopes to find “a creative solution” that could involve selling the city land Caring Kitchen uses. “I’m not sure we can bring it off,” Chard told me. Any idea, however, clearly beats the status quo.

Christine Braswell services

The funeral for Christine Braswell, the Delray Beach police officer who was killed April 9 in Key West, will take place at 3 p.m. Sunday at Atlantic High School.

Braswell spent 12 years with the department, becoming a sniper on the SWAT team and a mentor to aspiring officers. Bernenda Marc, who was injured, has been released from the hospital. A car driven by a 31-year-old Monroe County woman struck the motor scooter on which Officers Braswell and Marc were riding. No charges have been filed, but the police report strongly suggests that the driver was under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.

Delray: All-American again?

I reported recently that Delray Beach was under consideration as a finalist for what would be its third All-America City designation. The city received notice last week that it is a finalist for 2017 awards.

In mid-June, Delray’s delegation will travel to Denver to make a presentation about how the city has worked to “achieve measureable progress” in bringing at-risk public school students up to grade level on reading. That is the criterion on which judges will base the award.


Missed the last City Watch? Visit our Community/ City Watch page for the latest posts, and subscribe to the magazine for the best coverage of Boca and beyond. 

Randy Schultz has lived in Boca Raton since 1985 and has worked as a journalist in South Florida since 1974. He spent 37 years at The Palm Beach Post, the last 23 as editorial page editor. He has written the City Watch blog for Boca Raton Magazine since February 2014. He also writes a weekly oped column for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
Randy is married to Shelley Huff-Schultz, director of Access PC at Pine Crest School. Their son, Alec Schultz, and daughter-in-law, Meredith Schultz, are lawyers in South Florida. They live in Boca Raton and have three children: Carter, 8; Preston, 6; and Lila, 4. Their daughter, Mara Howard, is a veterinarian practicing in Hunt Valley, Maryland. She lives with her husband, Chip Howard, in Reisterstown, Maryland.
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Midtown Proposals Will Change, Dark Money in Boca, and More

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Boca Center. Photo provided by Andrea Knibbs.

The proposals for Midtown that go before the Boca Raton Planning and Zoning Board next Thursday will be different from what the board saw last December.

Angelo Bianco of Crocker Partners, one of Midtown’s largest property owners, told me Wednesday that his company and others have worked with the city “to address concerns” of the four neighborhoods that adjoin Midtown—Boca Bath & Tennis to the north, Fairfield and Paradise Palms to the south and Via Verde to the west. Bianco said, “There have been several revisions.”

The city—not the property owners—is seeking the proposals. Deputy City Manager George Brown will make the presentation to the planning and zoning board. Specifics won’t be available until the backup material is released on Friday. At that December meeting, however, board members raised questions about parking, setbacks and a shuttle service that would link large employment sites—such as Town Center Mall—retail and residential projects, which zoning in Midtown now prohibits. The December proposal called for 2,500 residential units.

Neighbors also had questions. So Crocker held a town hall-type meeting on Feb. 2. Since then, Bianco said, he has organized “topic-specific” meetings—traffic, transit-oriented development—of “about 40” residents, notably those “who have shown interest,” favorable or unfavorable. The latest is scheduled for 6 p.m. tonight at the Boca Center Marriott. The topic will be multi-family development, the type of housing envisioned for Midtown.

Boca Raton has designated Midtown for Planned Mobility Development, designed to reduce traffic by greater use of transit. The city wants a second Tri-Rail station just north of Crocker-owned Boca Center. The hope was to have the city council approve the Midtown changes by March,the deadline for federal and state grants to build the station and buy trains.

The plan is still for that second station. (The station at Yamato Road is Tri-Rail’s busiest because it serves so many employers in the Park at Broken Sound.) Bianco said the city could seek money for Tri-Rail next year. Presumably, if the council approves the Midtown proposals, the city and Crocker and Tri-Rail would identify property for the station. Bianco said the acreage would be small, with parking for “very few cars,” because most people would get to and from the station on the shuttle.

For my Tuesday post, I will have a detailed look at the new proposals.

Also regarding Midtown

On Tuesday, I quoted a lawyer who represents Via Verde as expressing the community’s concern that Boca Raton might automatically allow in Midtown some land uses that now require council approval. Based on the backup material from that December planning and zoning board meeting, I used restaurants and hotels as examples.

I’m told that some Via Verde residents objected, believing that the comment portrayed them as NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) critics of Midtown. Though noise is an issue at the moment, the community’s main concern is that what are now conditional uses—subject to review—would become permitted uses. Blue Martini, the club on the south side of Town Center Mall that can stay open until 5 a.m. has drawn many noise complaints from nearby Via Verde residents. To avoid future nuisances, they want assurances that future development will remain under city scrutiny.

Next Wednesday, one day before the planning and zoning board meets, the city council will hold a public hearing on Mayor Susan Haynie’s ordinance under which Blue Martini and Nippers, on Military Trail, would have to observe the citywide closing time of 2 a.m. When the city annexed Midtown in 2003, Blue Martini and Nippers kept the later closing time because it was (and remains) legal in the unincorporated county.

Since Nippers’ landlord wants to redevelop that site, the only practical effect of the ordinance would be on Blue Martini. Via Verde wants assurances that if the ordinance rolls back Blue Martini’s closing time, the Midtown rules couldn’t replace one noise problem with another.

State response to opioid epidemic

On Tuesday, Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi finally announced a state response to the opioid overdose epidemic that has bedeviled so many Florida cities, especially Delray Beach. The city had 51 heroin overdoses in February, six of them fatal.

I found their comments underwhelming. The state will give local law enforcement agencies statewide $4 million, but there will be no new money for treatment. The governor also did not declare a public health emergency, which the Palm Beach County Commission and the county’s chief judge asked Scott to do.

Bondi did say of sober homes, “We’re going to regulate them out of business.” She supports legislation that would increase penalties for those who sell fentanyl, the synthetic that can make heroin even deadlier. And she announced a deal that will make Narcan cheaper for fire and police departments. Narcan can save lives by reversing the effects of an overdose. Finally, Palm Beach County will be the site of a workshop on the opioid crisis.

Delray Beach Mayor Cary Glickstein had a different reaction: “I think their comments, and where they made them, represent a dramatic and positive shift in Tallahassee’s understanding of what’s really going on in the ‘recovery’ industry and that this is not just a South Florida problem. I especially appreciate their comments linking the dramatic increases in opioid-related overdoses to an unregulated and largely unsuccessful ‘recovery’ industry, in general, and sober homes, specifically.”

Though targeting the traffickers will help, Glickstein said, “We cannot arrest or regulate our way out of this problem.” To head off addiction, he favors spending on mental health and early education initiatives. He notes that there are only 29 public beds for drug treatment in Palm Beach County, nine of which are for children. Government also must target the drug companies for oversupply of opioids and doctors for overuse.

Bondi is thus correct to call this a national crisis, not just a Florida crisis. But she and Scott still look far more reactive than proactive. Bondi saw the Affordable Care Act as such a threat to Florida that she sued to block it. Opioids represent a true threat.

Trump’s cost to Boca

I was surprised to read Wednesday in the Sun Sentinel that Boca Raton incurs cost when President Trump visits Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach. Why would Boca be involved?

A police department spokesman said Boca Raton sends two motorcycle officers for the motorcade that escorts Trump to and from Palm Beach International Airport to the former Marjorie Merriweather Post estate.

What to do with the one-cent sales tax dollars

Boca Raton and Delray Beach are taking different approaches to money the cities will receive from the one-cent increase in the county sales tax.

Boca will put the money into a separate infrastructure fund. Cities can use the new revenue only for such projects, not recurring or operating expenses. Boca’s share for January—when the tax took effect—was roughly $450,000. That is on the low end of projections that Boca Raton would receive between $52 million and $61.5 million over the 10 years of the plan.

Unlike most of the county’s other 37 cities, Boca Raton had no plan for the money because officials say the city has no infrastructure backlog. So the money will accrue until the council decides how to spend it. A city spokeswoman said Wednesday that roadwork has been the most requested use from residents. The city’s financial advisory will oversee the spending, but won’t set policy.

In Delray Beach, officials plan to leverage the money for a 10-year bond issue at which Interim City Manager Neal de Jesus believes would be rates of between 2.5 percent and 3 percent. The city is estimating $36 million in sales tax revenue, which is very conservative. Projections are that Delray Beach will get between $37.7 million and $44.5 million.

Delray did compile a roughly $40 million list of projects, $18 million of them for roadwork. De Jesus said administrators will compile a new list for the commission’s review. Some projects from the first list are underway through the existing capital improvement plan, de Jesus said, and others may have become higher priorities. He expects to present the list to the commission at least by the goal-setting session on May 11 and perhaps before.

Mysteriy(-ish) money funded anti-Zucaro mailers

We know the source of money behind the many anti-Al Zucaro mailers in Boca Raton’s mayoral election.

Sort of.

The mailers came from a political action committee called GoBoca. State records show that $127,000 of the $137,500 GoBoca raised in February and March came from ForBoca, the non-profit that was started as a counterweight to BocaWatch. Another came from a non-profit company called Taxpayers for American Jobs. It has the same address as Mayor Susan Haynie, who defeated Zucaro on March 14 by a vote of 55 percent to 45 percent. The other $2,500 came from Kolter, the West Palm Beach developer of the new Hyatt Place Hotel.

Mark Guzzetta, a co-developer of Archstone—now Palmetto Promenade—and a longtime Republican fundraiser on the local, state and national levels, acknowledged being one of the contributors to ForBoca, and thus to GoBoca. He does not have to reveal the names of other contributors, and he declined to do so. He said only that ForBoca exists to “protect private property, whether it’s Al Zucaro’s or anybody else’s. And I’m sure that like-minded people contribute for the same reason.”

Similarly, the BocaWatch-aligned group Boca Beautiful solicits donations and doesn’t have to reveal its donors. Among other things, Boca Beautiful has taken out newspaper ads to criticize the city council.

Such unlimited donations that flow through non-profits are called dark money, because their source can remain secret. It’s the law, but $137,500 is more than Haynie had raised through her March 9 campaign finance report. You’d like to know who financed the anti-Zucaro mailers that helped Haynie’s campaign.

More on the mailers

One of those mailers criticized Zucaro for violations related to BocaWatch’s political action committee. On March 20, the state fined GoBoca $3,150 for not filing a financial report on time.


Missed the last City Watch? Visit our Community/City Watch page for the most recent posts, and subscribe to the magazine for the best coverage of Boca and beyond. 

Randy Schultz has lived in Boca Raton since 1985 and has worked as a journalist in South Florida since 1974. He spent 37 years at The Palm Beach Post, the last 23 as editorial page editor. He has written the City Watch blog for Boca Raton Magazine since February 2014. He also writes a weekly oped column for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
Randy is married to Shelley Huff-Schultz, director of Access PC at Pine Crest School. Their son, Alec Schultz, and daughter-in-law, Meredith Schultz, are lawyers in South Florida. They live in Boca Raton and have three children: Carter, 8; Preston, 6; and Lila, 4. Their daughter, Mara Howard, is a veterinarian practicing in Hunt Valley, Maryland. She lives with her husband, Chip Howard, in Reisterstown, Maryland.
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Midtown and Brightline Updates, Tragedy Hits Delray’s Law Enforcement Community

Midtown update

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Proposed changes to Boca Raton’s Midtown area will go before the planning and zoning board on April 20.

At issue, among other things, is allowing residential development where only commercial and retail are permitted. The city has designated the area, which Boca Raton annexed in 2003, for Planned Mobility Development. Approving rules for residential development is part of that process.

The proposal came to the planning and zoning board last December, but the board took no action. Though board members generally seemed receptive to the concept, some residents of the nearby Paradise Palms neighborhood objected. With the election coming in March, the four property owners—notably Crocker Partners—pulled back to conduct more community outreach.

Four neighborhoods surround Midtown: Paradise Palms, Fairfield, Boca Bath & Tennis and Via Verde, by far the largest community. All had concerns about the number of proposed residential units—2,500—and the size of those units. As of Monday, I had not determined whether the proposal still calls for 2,500 units, which would be distributed among Crocker Partners, Glades Plaza, Cypress Realty, which owns the Strikes bowling lanes, and Simon Property Group, which owns Town Center Mall.

Adam Beighley is a lawyer who represents Via Verde. In an email, he said, “There have been no recent meetings or communication between Via Verde and the developers.” Via Verde’s focus, Beighley said, is not on density but on “the establishment of reasonable rules to avoid detrimental impact to its members.” Under the first proposal, some uses—notably restaurants and hotels—no longer would have to go before the planning and zoning board and the council “to determine compatibility. . .” I hope to have more on the new proposal for my Thursday post.

Brightline quiet zone

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During her successful re-election campaign, Boca Raton Mayor Susan Haynie touted the “quiet zone” that would end the blowing of train whistles along the Florida East Coast Railway corridor. Making that a reality depends on public agencies and a private company successfully coordinating between now and July, when the Brightline passenger service is scheduled to start operating.

One agency is the Federal Railroad Administration. It must certify that sufficient safety improvements have been made at the FEC crossings to prevent drivers from getting around the gates. Boca Raton, Delray Beach and the other five cities—West Palm Beach, Lake Worth, Lantana, Hypoluxo and Boynton Beach—have submitted their Notice of Intent to establish a quiet zone. Once the improvements are complete, each city will file a Notice of Establishment of a quiet zone.

Another agency is the Palm Beach Metropolitan Planning Organization, which sets countywide transportation policy and oversees major projects. The MPO wants to make sure that the quiet zones extend from West Palm Beach to the Boca Raton-Deerfield Beach line and take effect at the same time. So the MPO has asked the cities to file their Notice of Establishment when crossing work is finished in all cities, not just individual cities.

That brings us to All Aboard Florida, which will operate Brightline and is a subsidiary of Florida East Coast Industries, which owns the corridor. All Aboard Florida is in charge of those safety upgrades. Ali Soule, an All Aboard Florida spokeswoman, said in an email, “There is additional construction that is pending completion.” She would not say which projects remain unfinished. Soule said the company is “coordinating” with government agencies “regarding our schedule so cities and counties can take the appropriate next steps in the quiet zone process.”

Another of those agencies is the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council, which helped Delray Beach update its downtown development rules and now is helping Boca Raton plan for a college student district near Florida Atlantic University. Staff member Kim Delaney said the council and the MPO have been helping cities “with their reviews of conditions, meeting with (the Federal Railroad Administration), local meetings, compliance with federal code and the overall process.”

Delaney said one issue affecting the construction schedule has been the need for Florida East Coast Industries to “synchronize” signaling for freight trains and the new passenger trains. The company has added a second track to accommodate Brightline.

So for those keeping score of the acronyms, we have the FRA, the MPO, the TCRPC and FECI and AAF, working with cities that need to file NOIs and NOEs. Once a city files that NOE, there’s a 21-day waiting period before implementation of the quiet zone. Haynie told me that the plan is for the zone from West Palm Beach to Lantana to go first, with the Lantana-Boca Raton section following. Therefore, horns could be sounding in Boca and Delray for 42 days after the Brightline trains—16 per day in each direction—start running.

My sense is that everyone really wants the quiet zone to come off on time. Still, those are a lot of acronyms, and no entity is fully in charge. Haynie, who chairs the MPO, said she will “ask for an update” on the quiet zone at the agency’s meeting next Thursday. Good thought.

Atlantic Crossing settlement

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Delray Beach City Commission Mitch Katz said Monday that the settlement agreement before the commission at Wednesday’s special meeting “could be the last hurdle” in resolving the Atlantic Crossing lawsuit.

Last month, the commission approved a second settlement proposal. Edwards Companies, the developer of Atlantic Crossing, accepted the terms but suggested an addendum of five items. Katz will vote to accept the addendum. Indeed, one assumes that the item wouldn’t be on the agenda unless the commission had accepted it during the recent executive session meeting on the lawsuit, in which Atlantic Crossing seeks $40 million for the city’s alleged delay in approving permits.

One addendum item would free Atlantic Crossing from any delay if the city did not receive permits from the Florida Department of Transportation. Edwards might have taken notice of the delay of Fourth and Fifth Delray while iPic awaits a permit from the state.

Two other items would require the city, not Edwards, to actually make traffic calming and signal improvements related to Atlantic Crossing. The developer would reimburse the city. “They don’t want to be road builders,” Katz said. Another would set the expiration date for the development approval as Sept. 9, 2021.

That date could get later if the state declares a public emergency. Apparently, the Zika and Hurricane Matthew emergencies each extended all development applications in the affected areas by six months. Finally, two other items would apply the city’s 2013 development rules to Atlantic Crossing and create a new development agreement.

If the commission approves the addendum, a third-party challenge would give Atlantic Crossing the option of trying to void the settlement. Until any resolution, the lawsuit continues.

Ocean Palm takes a time out

The developer of the proposed Ocean Palm condo has asked to withdraw the project from the Boca Raton City Council’s April 19 agenda.

Since the project got a unanimous recommendation from the planning and zoning board and seemed headed for easy council approval, the decision is surprising. I’m told that the developer intends to submit a revised application, but the city had received nothing as of Monday.

Florida Constitution revision

Friday morning brought a packed house to the Delray Acura Club at Florida Atlantic University Stadium. The event, however, had nothing to do with sports.

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission was holding a public hearing. Ours is the only state with such a body. It gathers every two years, and can put proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot without having to go through the Legislature or obtain 600,000-plus signatures. The 37 members thus have much potential power, even if 60 percent of voters would need to approve the amendments.

Ideally, the commission would confine itself to topics related to the structure of state government. In 1998, for example, the commission proposed—and voters agreed—to abolish the elected education and insurance commissioners. That commission also proposed—and voters agreed—to expand ballot access for presidential candidates. That change led to the crowded 2000 ballot, and the decision by then-Palm Beach Supervisor of Elections Theresa LePore to create the “butterfly ballot” that cost Al Gore enough votes here to give George W. Bush the presidency.

Gov. Rick Scott and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, however, said they would appoint members with the idea of using the commission to make policy changes. On Friday, two issues drew the most speakers.

Abortion opponents want the commission to propose an amendment that would overturn a 1989 Florida Supreme Court ruling that relied on the state’s privacy clause in the constitution to allow minors to have abortions without obtaining parental consent. Advocates, among them Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher, of the state automatically restoring the civil rights of ex-felons asked the commission for an amendment that would overturn the draconian system Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet imposed in early 2011. Facing the speakers was commissioner/Attorney General Pam Bondi, who helped to orchestrate that rollback of changes that under Gov. Charlie Crist had earned bipartisan approval.

Boca Raton City Councilman Scott Singer joined others in asking the commission to preserve local governments’ prerogative to set their own rules. Home rule is under attack from the Florida House. Twenty-two of the 37 members must agree to put an amendment on the ballot.

Christine Braswell

Officer Bernendea Marc, left, and Officer Christine Braswell. Photo provided by the Delray Beach Police Department,

Officer Bernendea Marc, left, and Officer Christine Braswell. Photo provided by the Delray Beach Police Department,

With sober homes and overdoses, Delray Beach has many public safety challenges. Sadly, the city now has another, in a very personal way.

Police officer Christine Braswell was killed Saturday while riding a motor scooter in Key West. Sharing the scooter was fellow officer Bernendea Marc. A department spokeswoman said Marc is recovering from serious injuries. Chief Jeffrey Goldman called Ms. Braswell “masterful at her job and dedicated to her community.

Randy Schultz has lived in Boca Raton since 1985 and has worked as a journalist in South Florida since 1974. He spent 37 years at The Palm Beach Post, the last 23 as editorial page editor. He has written the City Watch blog for Boca Raton Magazine since February 2014. He also writes a weekly oped column for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
Randy is married to Shelley Huff-Schultz, director of Access PC at Pine Crest School. Their son, Alec Schultz, and daughter-in-law, Meredith Schultz, are lawyers in South Florida. They live in Boca Raton and have three children: Carter, 8; Preston, 6; and Lila, 4. Their daughter, Mara Howard, is a veterinarian practicing in Hunt Valley, Maryland. She lives with her husband, Chip Howard, in Reisterstown, Maryland.
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Will De Jesus Stay, Update on Atlantic Crossing, News from Delray and Boca

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“Should I stay or should I go…”

Delray Beach Mayor Cary Glickstein wants to remove the “Interim” from Interim City Manager Neal de Jesus’s title. OK, but then what is he?

In a city that argued for hours over a dog beach, almost everyone seems to love de Jesus. If he was popular as fire chief, he’s approaching deification as the supposed fill-in until the city commission chooses a permanent replacement for Don Cooper, who resigned in December because of family health reasons.

Residents like de Jesus because he’s approachable. Commissioners like de Jesus because he’s made the meetings more focused. Tuesday’s meeting lasted only about two hours. Previously, even meetings with similarly light agendas could last twice as long. Everything possible now goes on the consent agenda, with commissioners retaining the right to pull items for debate.

If de Jesus indicated that he wanted the job, the commission probably would give it to him. But de Jesus has said that he would return to the fire department. Still, he hasn’t presented to the commission even a plan for choosing a permanent manager.

Will someone call the question? At her first meeting, new Commissioner Shirley Johnson said of de Jesus, “I heard that he does not want to be (the permanent manager.) If that’s his desire, we shouldn’t force him to continue.”

It had been clear that de Jesus would stay until after the election. Jim Chard, who also is new to the commission, said, “I think it’s up to him” to decide what happens now. Perhaps, Chard suggested, the commission could discuss the next step during one of what will be three goal-setting sessions.

If a majority of commissioners want de Jesus to stay, however, wouldn’t it be important to decide that before goal-setting? Also, the city’s top administrators should know if de Jesus is staying.

“That’s the problem with the substitute teacher,” Glickstein said. He wants the commission to “formalize” de Jesus’s role, which would include paying him closer to the $250,000 the commission envisioned might be necessary to attract a top-flight manager. That higher-paid status could last indefinitely or settle the issue. Whatever outcome de Jesus and the commission prefer, Glickstein said, “That dialogue is going to have to start soon.”

House Bill 17

Elected officials from Boca Raton, Delray Beach and many other cities have been in Tallahassee to speak against House Bill 17, which would prevent cities and counties from regulating most businesses. Local governments would have to abolish any existing regulations by mid-2020. It’s one of the worst ideas to kick around Tallahassee in recent years, and that’s saying something.

Despite Florida’s opioid crisis, under HB 17 cities likely could not regulate sober homes. That’s how Delray Beach Mayor Cary Glickstein reads the bill. The push behind the legislation may be coming from other businesses that want to buy off one group of politicians rather than many, but the sweeping nature of it can produce the same sort of unintended consequences that could come from the waterfront ordinance in Boca Raton.

In Delray, the impatience for progress on the opioid epidemic and sober house proliferation continues. The subject arose during Tuesday night’s city commission meeting. City Attorney Max Lohman asked for patience while the city’s consulting attorneys prepare a review of laws that could allow regulation of what until now have been unregulated sober homes.

Lohman cited Prescott, Ariz. Like Delray Beach, its quality of life has drawn many young addicts who go through treatment and then seek to stay clean in a sober home not connected to the treatment center. Last year, the Arizona Legislature allowed local government to regulate health and safety standards for sober homes. The Florida Legislature might go in the opposite direction.

HB 17 has gone through just one committee, and there is no Senate companion bill. Still, if the legislation is a priority of House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Lutz, it could be up for trading during the last days of the session between Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart. The session ends on May 5.

Substance use disorder talks

Suzanne Spencer said she has “stepped down” as director of the Delray Beach Drug Task Force, but she still hosted last month’s SUD—Substance Use Disorder—Talks at the Crest Theater.

The third annual event brought together experts in a format similar to the TED—Technology, Entertainment and Design—Talks that are popular in Silicon Valley. As always, the range of issues showed that the problem is much bigger than Delray Beach, but Spencer said Delray is also positioned to respond.

“We are such a unique city,” she said. “We have such a progressive (police) chief,” Jeffrey Goldman, who presented at the SUD Talks. Spencer also believes that the county’s sober homes task force is “well on their way to making a great impact.”

Whatever happens with regulation, Spencer favors a stronger emphasis on prevention. “What are our choices?” she asked. “Harm reduction.”

Atlantic Crossing settlement

The Delray Beach City Commission will hold a special meeting next Thursday to discuss and likely approve a new Atlantic Crossing settlement proposal.

The commission met Tuesday in executive session to discuss the lawsuit. Last month, the commission approved a settlement, but Edwards Companies—the Atlantic Crossing developer—asked for changes. Presumably, this new offer from the city will reflect the discussion that took place during Tuesday’s meeting. Edwards is seeking $40 million in damages because the project remains unbuilt.

Boca Colonnade

The debate tonight at the Boca Raton Planning and Zoning Board over a project in the city’s northwest may foreshadow the coming debate over proposed zoning changes for the Midtown neighborhood.

Boca Colonnade, which now includes two office buildings on the northeast corner of Yamato Road and Congress Avenue, wants to add its third and final phase—a 322-unit apartment building. The eight-story tower would require changes to past approvals but no technical deviations. Staff recommends approval.

The interesting thing is that Boca Colonnade is a planned mobility development, a category the city created to encourage creative ideas on traffic. The project is in the Park at Broken Sound—formerly the Arvida Park of Commerce. According to the backup material, it would be the seventh planned mobility project proposed for the city, all but one of them in the Park at Broken Sound.

Residents of Broken Sound approached the city several years ago with an idea that became the planned mobility concept. Though the park had succeeded in attracting businesses, a lot of traffic had resulted, because office space generates the most traffic. Broken Sound residents suggested that housing might attract some of those employees, who then would have almost no commute. Those who live at Boca Colonnade also might use the shuttle to the Yamato Road Tri-Rail station and avoid commutes to jobs elsewhere.

The city also designated Midtown—the area between Town Center Mall and Interstate 95—for Planned Mobility Development. Only recently, however, has the city started to implement rules under which the four property owners in Midtown could add residential. There has been concern from the four surrounding neighborhoods: Via Verde, Boca Bath & Tennis, Paradise Palms and Fairfield.

At this point, 2,500 units are proposed for the roughly 300 developable acres of Midtown. That’s the same number of units allowed in the Park at Broken Sound. The city has approved 1,320 units, all of which are under construction. Boca Colonnade would make the total 1,642.

Whatever happens with this project, I would expect lots of discussion about the expected effect of the new residents on the Park at Broken Sound when the proposals for Midtown go before the planning and zoning board. That could happen this month or next. The questions will be whether those 2,500 units would be too many and where those units might be.

Still waiting for Louie

Things continue humming at the new Hyatt Place Hotel in Boca Raton, but the Louie Bossi restaurant that will front onto East Palmetto Park Road hasn’t opened. Audra Durham, the hotel’s marketing director, told me the plan is for the restaurant to open in early May.

CORRECTION:

I wrote on Tuesday that Delray Beach is a finalist for what would be its third All-America City award. In fact, the city is under consideration as a finalist.

Randy Schultz has lived in Boca Raton since 1985 and has worked as a journalist in South Florida since 1974. He spent 37 years at The Palm Beach Post, the last 23 as editorial page editor. He has written the City Watch blog for Boca Raton Magazine since February 2014. He also writes a weekly oped column for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
Randy is married to Shelley Huff-Schultz, director of Access PC at Pine Crest School. Their son, Alec Schultz, and daughter-in-law, Meredith Schultz, are lawyers in South Florida. They live in Boca Raton and have three children: Carter, 8; Preston, 6; and Lila, 4. Their daughter, Mara Howard, is a veterinarian practicing in Hunt Valley, Maryland. She lives with her husband, Chip Howard, in Reisterstown, Maryland.
mizner 200

Mizner 200 Fails, Then Passes, and The Latest From Boca and Delray

Apparently, Mizner 200 hit a snag, and then suddenly got unsnagged

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Concept view of Mizner 200.

The 384-unit condo project across from Royal Palm Place has already had two advisory hearings before the Boca Raton Community Appearance Board, which recommended design changes. No formal appearance before the board has been set.

In a draft report sent on March 17, however, the city’s design consultant found that Mizner 200 “as currently proposed, does not fully satisfy the design standards included in Ordinance 4035,” the document that governs downtown development. The Mellgren Planning Group, of Fort Lauderdale, compiled the two-part report.

Downtown applicants must undergo a review of items contained in Ordinance 4035. Even before this report, there was general agreement that Mizner 200 complied with many of them. The project does not exceed the nine-story, 100-foot height limits for the area. It meets and sometimes exceeds requirements for setbacks, parking, landscaping, lighting and open space. The exterior is just 34 percent glass; the maximum allowed is 40 percent.

The issue with Mizner 200 has been design—specifically compliance with additions made to Ordinance 4035 since the city adopted it a quarter-century ago. One requirement is for an Addison Mizner-style design, which the Mellgren report said “should be easily distinguishable throughout the development.”

The draft report found “two primary concerns with this project. The first is the limited demonstration of Mizner-esque qualities. The specific application of Mizner design can vary, but in general Addison Mizner envisioned Boca Raton as an architectural playground with charm and character. While the ordinance does allow for a modern interpretation of Mizner design, it is (our) professional opinion. . .that this project should further enhance the existing architectural embellishments through additional changes in color and material and consider further articulation in the spirit of Mizner design. These changes will accentuate the Mizner character and positively contribute to the overall design.”

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Concept view of Mizner 200 from Mizner Boulevard.

Mizner 200’s critics have focused on the fact that the condo would stretch for roughly 900 feet on Southeast Mizner Boulevard as essentially one building. The revised design makes the project more open and inviting, but not enough to satisfy Mellgren in that March 17 report.

“The second concern,” the report said, “is the development’s visually substantial scale and mass, which reduces the project’s contextual awareness, human scaled design, and pedestrian-oriented design.” Translation: The project overwhelms the site.

Because Mizner 200 has little variation within its design components, Mellgren said, the result is “a linear and horizontally redundant building.” The architect should break up the facades “to reduce the vast appearance of this continuous development.” The roof line “should be further vertically articulated to avoid the overall appearance of a flat roof.” The building uses three paint colors and two body materials.

“The lack of easily distinguishable changes in material and color,” the Mellgren report added, “contributes to the perceived mass.” Mellgren recommended that the rear of Mizner 200 have as much “articulation”—variation—as the front, because the project would back up to the Boca Raton Resort & Club golf course.

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Concept view of Mizner 200 from Mizner Boulevard.

Finally, Mellgren said the scale of Mizner 200’s facades “is not sensitive to the pedestrian realm.” Here again, the report recommends articulation give the project more of a human scale. “The additional embellishments should be representative of Mizner design qualities.”

Mellgren replaced Pittsburgh-based Urban Design Associates, which fell out of favor after general unhappiness with the appearance of the Mark at Cityscape. UDA had reviewed that project, the first to obtain approval under Amendment 5052. Though the recommendation on Mizner 200 is advisory only to the community appearance board and city council, Mayor Susan Haynie told me that the report is “important guidance.”

Late Monday, however, a city spokeswoman told me that after the draft report, Mizner 200 representatives met with Mellgren. They brought a three-dimensional version of the project, the spokeswoman said, that addressed the consultant’s criticism. The spokeswoman said a new report from Mellgren would find the project to be in compliance with Ordinance 4035. I sought comment from the project’s architects but did not hear back by deadline for this post.

Deputy mayor no longer shoe-in in case of a mayoral vacancy

Before last August, the choice of deputy mayor in Boca Raton at last Friday’s organizational city council meeting would have been a big deal.

Last month, Susan Haynie won her second term as mayor. But she may decide to leave early and run for the Palm Beach County Commission next year, when Steven Abrams —also a former Boca Raton mayor—is term-limited in District 4.

If that happens, and if Haynie wins, the city will hold a special election in March 2019 to fill the mayor’s term until March 2020. Boca Raton otherwise has no election scheduled for 2019. Previously, the deputy mayor would have taken over as mayor and served until the term expired. Voters changed the rule last year by approving an ordinance proposed by Councilman Scott Singer, who had considered challenging Haynie before choosing to seek re-election in Seat A. He easily defeated his challenger.

Without the drama, the council chose Jeremy Rodgers to succeed the term-limited Mike Mullaugh as deputy mayor. Rodgers is up for re-election next March. Singer will continue his role as chairman of the community redevelopment agency, which oversees downtown. The council acts as the CRA. Traditionally, however, the mayor has not been the CRA chairman. Newly elected Andrea O’Rourke will be vice-chairman.

Delray commission newcomers

Mitch Katz and Shelly Petrolia said all the right things during last Thursday’s organizational meeting of the Delray Beach City Commission.

Katz and Petrolia campaigned against Jim Chard and Shirley Johnson, who won seats 2 and 4, respectively. Petrolia’s husband also donated to candidates who ran against Chard and Johnson. Yet Chard and Johnson each won by nearly 30 points—Chard in a four-way race. Glickstein favored the winners.

After the swearing-in, Katz and Petrolia welcomed the newcomers and pledged their cooperation. It became clear quickly, though, how different this commission alignment is from the one Katz and Pertolia hoped to create. Glickstein, Chard and Johnson immediately filled the ceremonial posts of vice mayor and deputy vice mayor with Chard and Johnson.

Award could validate Delray’s efforts to improve school readiness, reading levels

Delray Beach is a finalist for what would be its third All-America City award. The city would be the first in Florida to receive the award for the third time

Delray previously won the award in 1993 and 2001. That first campaign was part of Delray’s early efforts at redevelopment and changing the city’s image. The application to the National Civic League, which presents the award, is extensive and continually upgraded.

This year, for example, one new category is how cities perform as part of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. Winners must have made “measureable progress” for low-income children on school readiness and attendance and summer learning, in addition to helping those children read at or above grade level.

Almost every Delray Beach commission meeting includes a presentation to recognize the successes of at-risk children and those who help them. Glickstein said in an email that if the city wins again, Delray Beach’s work in that area will make the difference. The city’s competitors include Denver, Salt Lake City and Portland, Ore., but Glickstein said, “I think we have a great shot.”

Ocean Palm update

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Ocean Palm concept rendering.

Ocean Palm, which the Boca Raton Planning and Zoning Board unanimously approved, is scheduled to go before the city council at the April 19 meeting. The 70-unit condo would displace a 20-unit condo and commercial building at Palmetto Park Road and A1A.

Closing time

That April 19 meeting also will include discussion of Mayor Haynie’s proposed ordinance to phase out the 5 a.m. closing for Blue Martini and Nipper’s.

At last week’s workshop meeting, council members heard from employees of both bars. They can serve alcohol past the otherwise citywide 2 a.m. last call because they are in the area the city annexed from the county, which allows the later closing. Haynie said the city did not grant the change in perpetuity, and that noise and police calls at Blue Martini have become chronic and problematic.

Employees argue that the bars serve those who work other late-night jobs and want to relax before going home. That argument seems unlikely to sway Haynie, but the full council will make the decision.


Missed the last City Watch? Visit our Community/ City Watch page to read earlier posts, and subscribe to the magazine for the best coverage of Boca and beyond. 

Randy Schultz has lived in Boca Raton since 1985 and has worked as a journalist in South Florida since 1974. He spent 37 years at The Palm Beach Post, the last 23 as editorial page editor. He has written the City Watch blog for Boca Raton Magazine since February 2014. He also writes a weekly oped column for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
Randy is married to Shelley Huff-Schultz, director of Access PC at Pine Crest School. Their son, Alec Schultz, and daughter-in-law, Meredith Schultz, are lawyers in South Florida. They live in Boca Raton and have three children: Carter, 8; Preston, 6; and Lila, 4. Their daughter, Mara Howard, is a veterinarian practicing in Hunt Valley, Maryland. She lives with her husband, Chip Howard, in Reisterstown, Maryland.
ocean breeze

Golf Course Updates, Chabad News, and the Delray Beach Headache

Golf course sale

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“This is getting out of hand,” Boca Raton Mayor Susan Haynie said Tuesday night. Yes, and it’s been getting out of hand for months.

The issue was the city’s planned sale of the western golf course. It was added to the agenda only the day before. Deputy City Manager George Brown, who has been handling the negotiations, had to rush back from out of town, since the council seemed ready to choose from among Compson, GL Homes and Lennar.

If the goal was to let Councilman Mike Mullaugh have a say during his last meeting, it didn’t work out that way. Indeed, the evening ended with nothing resolved. The city still might get $70 million-plus for the course, but the celebrating seems far off.

Since the offers are all for $73 million or very close to it, the debate is over details of the various contracts. What contingencies, for example, would apply?

Two GL executives ripped Lennar’s contract as being filled with contingencies compared to GL’s clean deal. Mitch Kirschner, a lawyer for Lennar, countered that GL was referring to an outdated contract, and that Lennar’s new version was almost contingency-free.

Outrage built. GL implied that Lennar had raised its bid to match GL’s only because Lennar might sell the Ocean Breeze course—on which it has a contract—to the Greater Boca Raton Beach & Parks District for $24 million. Kirschner responded that it would be “foolish” to suggest that Lennar—a publicly traded company with a market value of nearly $12 billion—would need to secure $24 million to make a $73 million deal.

Neil Schiller, a lawyer for GL Homes, accused Kirschner of using “alternative facts.” Kevin Rattery, a GL vice-president, said his character had been impugned. Kirschner complained stridently when Schiller got five minutes to speak after GL had made its 10-minute presentation. Mayor Susan Haynie and the council agreed to this unusual free-for-all last fall, hoping that looser rules might cause the bids to rise, auction-like. That has happened. Compson and Lennar eventually matched GL, which offered $73 million at the start. Lennar stripped out a conveyance of Ocean Breeze, making the deal cleaner.

By prolonging things, however, the council still doesn’t have a credible comparison of the contracts. The short notice for Tuesday’s meeting—after a GL vice-president on Monday had asked the council to schedule the item—left some principals unprepared.

In a text message, Haynie said, “Staff will do a line-by-line comparison of the contracts and address the accusations that Lennar has contingencies, or not.” The timetable for such an analysis is “unknown at this time.” Brown also said the city could get more “revised offers.”

You get the sense that one or both losers will sue. Litigation could delay the sale by at least a year and perhaps two years beyond the usual due diligence period of several months that any buyer would have.

“In the end,” Haynie said, “the city will derive the greatest benefit from this less-than-pretty process.” If she’s right, the question is when.

Not so fast

I wrote recently that GL Homes didn’t involve itself in Boca Raton’s March 14 election. As they say in the National Football League, after further review I will have to reverse that call, if just a little.

According to campaign finance reports, GL didn’t donate through the company. But Mayor Haynie received $1,000 from the Arnstein & Lehr law firm that employs Schiller, one of the attorneys representing GL Homes. Haynie also received $500 from Schiller’s wife, Robyn, and $500 from Becker & Poliakoff. Ellyn Bogdanoff, the other lawyer representing GL Homes, works for that firm. Haynie got $500 from Wendy Larsen, a lawyer for GrayRobinson, which represents Lennar.

Councilman Scott Singer received $500 from Arnstein & Lehr, $500 from Neil Schiller and $500 from Becker & Poliakoff. He also got $500 from Larsen and $150 from Kirschner. Andrea O’Rourke, who takes office on Friday, also got $150 from Kirschner. Haynie and Singer also received money from individuals and entities associated with Compson.

And the other golf course issue

There also will be a delay in the other golf course issue before the Boca Raton City Council.

Lennar has offered to sell the Ocean Breeze course at Boca Teeca for $24 million. The city, however, would help to finance the sale and the cost of returning the course to playing condition. At its April 24 workshop meeting, the council was to hear a presentation from Art Koski, the district’s executive director, on the Lennar offer.

That presentation now will happen at the May 8 workshop meeting. To accommodate Councilman Jeremy Rodgers, the council moved the April 24 workshop and April 25 regular meeting to April 18-19. In an email, Koski said, “Some issues with the revenue bonds to be issued by the city for Ocean Breeze needed added time to resolve.  May 8 was a date we could live with.”

Chabad update

Boca Raton has won its second victory in federal court against two residents who challenged the city council’s approval of Chabad East Boca.

Gerald Gagliardi and Katie MacDougall invented a conspiracy theory under which the city placated Golden Triangle residents who opposed the chabad’s effort to build a new synagogue east of Mizner Park by helping the congregation find a location near the beach on East Palmetto Park Road. The plaintiffs live nearby.

The council approved Chabad East Boca in 2015. The lawsuit came in February 2016. Five months later, U.S. District Court Judge Kenneth Marra granted the city’s motion to dismiss. The plaintiffs then filed an amended complaint. Each called himself and herself “a member of the Christian religion” whom the city had victimized by violating the First Amendment ban on government establishment of religion.

They also alleged that the chabad would increase flooding and make it hard for emergency vehicles to reach the area. We should note here that the chabad amounted to a less intense use than other uses allowed on the site—770 East Palmetto Park Road.

This week, Marra again granted the city’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit, all but calling the action frivolous. He noted that the supposed “injuries” the plaintiffs cited “represent only a potential, hypothetical outcome that may result from building the chabad, not one that is imminent.”

As for the First Amendment issue, Marra wrote that the plaintiffs “have not alleged that they have been subject to unwelcome religious exercises, nor have (they) alleged that they have been forced to assume special burdens to avoid religious exercise, nor have Plaintiffs’ own religious practices been impacted by the City’s zoning decision.

“Indeed, Plaintiffs have not alleged any injury concerning religious activity—beyond noting that a party to the challenged zoning decision is a religious organization. Instead, plaintiffs’ alleged injuries relate to increased risk of flooding, increased traffic congestion, increased difficulty of emergency service access, and changes to the character of the plaintiffs’ neighborhood. These injuries are not within the zone of interests protected by the Establishment Clause.” The plaintiffs’ attorney said his clients would decide whether to appeal “most likely next week.”

This lawsuit essentially became moot after a successful challenge in state court. The judges ruled that the city wrongly allowed a museum as part of the project. The chabad appealed and lost, after which the rabbi said the chabad would seek a new site plan without the museum.

But more than a whiff of anti-Semitism came through during discussion of the project. You can smell it in this lawsuit. Symbolic victories usually don’t matter. For Boca Raton, however, this one does.

Public comment on waterfront coming up

As Boca Raton determines how to improve public access to the waterfront, residents on Monday will have their chance to speak up.

EDSA—the city’s consultant—will hear public comment on the waterfront plan from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the downtown library. According to a city news release, EDSA will present its inventory of public waterfront land and take questions and comments.

One major topic will be the Wildflower property. The city council envisioned a revenue-producing restaurant, but last November’s ordinance limited the site to just four public uses. Some council members and residents hope to link the Wildflower with Silver Palm Park.

Delray beach makeover

Work begins this weekend on a project that will test the patience of Delray Beach residents.

That would be the makeover of the public beach, a 1.3-mile project that the city first hoped would be done last fall. The goal now is to finish the work by next high season.

While the Beach Master Plan work goes on, there will be no public parking on A1A, though access to the beach will be available through the construction area. The city is arranging parking and transportation, including a trolley.

Groundbreaking took place on Wednesday. When the $3 million project is done, the promenade will have new fountains, showers, sidewalks, gazebos and smart parking meters. The city will move the memorial benches to a new portion of the promenade.

Construction will move from south to north. Mayor Cary Glickstein said that if the contractors perform, “We’ll be in good shape. In the meantime, parking and pedestrian access will be problematic, but folks need to be patient. It will be worth it.”


Missed the last City Watch? Visit our Community/ City Watch page for the latest updates, and subscribe to the magazine for the best coverage of Boca and beyond. 

Randy Schultz has lived in Boca Raton since 1985 and has worked as a journalist in South Florida since 1974. He spent 37 years at The Palm Beach Post, the last 23 as editorial page editor. He has written the City Watch blog for Boca Raton Magazine since February 2014. He also writes a weekly oped column for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
Randy is married to Shelley Huff-Schultz, director of Access PC at Pine Crest School. Their son, Alec Schultz, and daughter-in-law, Meredith Schultz, are lawyers in South Florida. They live in Boca Raton and have three children: Carter, 8; Preston, 6; and Lila, 4. Their daughter, Mara Howard, is a veterinarian practicing in Hunt Valley, Maryland. She lives with her husband, Chip Howard, in Reisterstown, Maryland.
park delays

Park Delays, Last Call Concerns and More Boca and Delray News

Procrastination at the park

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Sugar Sand Park. Photo by Randy Schultz.

 

The playground at Sugar Sand Park reopened last weekend, four months after the first projected date. It’s very impressive. Everyone was having a good time.

It’s also been nearly two years since the Greater Boca Raton Beach & Parks District rejected the city’s proposed master agreement for operations and maintenance at the existing parks. The two agencies have since worked out an agreement on beach restoration, but the master agreement remains unresolved.

A city spokesman said, “Both sides recognize that it’s a priority that needs to be finalized.” District board chairman Bob Rollins said he does not know the reason for the delay.

Because of the impasse, work can’t start on the second phase of fields at Countess de Hoernle Park. Rollins said he suggested that the city and district do the work under the old agreement but hasn’t heard back.

During the campaign for this month’s election, all the candidates in Boca Raton agreed that the council should be more assertive toward City Manager Leif Ahnell, such as holding a public evaluation each year. One sign of that new assertiveness would be a directive that in two months Ahnell bring the council a proposed agreement with the district. It’s been circling long enough.

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Sugar Sand Park. Photo by Randy Schultz.

Last call concerns

In 2014, the Boca Raton City Council rejected the idea of allowing downtown businesses to serve alcohol two hours past the 2 a.m. closing time. The issue now is whether the city should roll back last call at two clubs from 5 a.m. to 2 a.m.

Those would be Blue Martini on the south side of Town Center Mall and Nippers just to the east on Military Trail. They are in the area that the city annexed in 2003. Palm Beach County allowed 5 a.m. closing times, and the council allowed that to continue, even though the city’s code prohibits alcohol sales after 2 a.m.

At tonight’s meeting, however, Mayor Susan Haynie will introduce an ordinance that would standardize the 2 a.m. closing time throughout Boca Raton and apply it to any areas the city might annex. Blue Martini and Nippers would have 120 days to comply. There will be no discussion or public comment until the proposal comes up for second reading, likely at the April 25 meeting.

Haynie told me that she has discussed the noise problem with Blue Martini’s neighbors for about two years. When temperatures drop, Haynie said, the club opens its doors. Between nearby residences to the south and Blue Martini are just a parking lot and a pond. “The booming bass” from the club, Haynie said, has caused residents to go outside with noise monitors at 3 a.m., among other things.

Stricter code enforcement, Haynie said, hasn’t worked. According to the police department, there have been 10 calls this year to Blue Martini after 2 a.m. Two of the calls have been for battery on a police officer.

That earlier attempt to extend closing hours involved Jazziz, the club/restaurant that used to be at the south end of Mizner Park. The club owner thought the added time would boost business. Former Councilwoman Constance Scott introduced the ordinance, but it ran into legal issues. It would have been hard to confine the change just to Jazziz, and the noise issue also arose. Since the later hours couldn’t work downtown, Haynie said, they can’t work in a suburban area.

Though two clubs are involved this time, Blue Martini is the focus. Nippers is in the Midtown neighborhood that could see significant change if the city allows residential development. Haynie also said Simon Property Group, which owns the mall, has had issues with Blue Martini.

Councilman Jeremy Rodgers said he supports the concept but wants to hear from the city’s legal department if Haynie’s ordinance “is the best way.” Councilman Robert Weinroth “agrees that we need to address it, but I expect legal pushback from Blue Martini.” Haynie said, “They’ll probably sue us.” The prospect didn’t seem to bother her.

Ocean Palm prospects

It’s looking good for the proposed Ocean Palm condo project near the beach in Boca Raton.

Last week, the city’s planning and zoning board recommended approval of a land-use change, a rezoning and the site plan for Ocean Palm. The 70-unit condo would replace a 20-unit condo and a commercial building on the southwest corner of Palmetto Park Road and A1A. All three votes were unanimous. The project could go to the city council for approval next month.

Some speakers who live in condos worried about traffic, even though projections show that Ocean Palm would mean less traffic than the site currently generates and much less than the maximum use of the site. Residents of the Riviera neighborhood to the west, however, praised the developer for meeting with residents and praised the city for encouraging those meetings.

The main entrance would be on A1A. The board added conditions under which the developer would post signs alerting condo owners about the many cyclists and pedestrians who would pass Ocean Palm on A1A.

Mizner Park’s offerings could soon include a spa

Apparently, the day spa market in Boca Raton is not saturated.

On Monday, the city council–acting as the community redevelopment agency–approved the use of about 8,000 square feet in Mizner Park for a Woodhouse Day Spa. Though the Mizner Park Cultural Arts Center leases that south-end space from the city, Downtown Director Ruby Childers told council members that the plan always has included retail. Scott Singer pressed for confirmation that there will be no net loss of cultural space.

Woodhouse is a national chain that operates spas in Palm Beach Gardens, Naples and Orlando. Six years ago, the plan had been to attract a bookstore to this first-floor location. To some in Boca Raton, however, the day spa culture can be just as satisfying as a day at the museum.

BRPD up for reaccreditation

The Boca Raton Police Department has been nationally accredited since 1989 and state accredited since 1997. Staffers from the national group–the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies–are here this week as the department seeks reaccreditation, as it must do every three years.

Residents who want to provide comment can do so at 5:30 tonight during a hearing at the city complex at 6500 Congress Avenue. According to a spokesman, the police department must meet nearly 500 standards to retain its accreditation and then must submit annual reports verifying the department’s compliance.

Delray’s jaywalking crackdown

When I read that Delray Beach intended to crack down on jaywalking, I thought of Rudy Giuliani.

During his second term as mayor of New York, Giuliani started something of a crusade against jaywalking. He raised the fine from $2 to $50. An aide to the mayor told The New York Times, ”Jaywalking is unsafe, not only for those who do it, but also for others. It’s not just a matter of common courtesy.” New Yorkers, however, consider jaywalking to be their right. More important, New York cops refused to issue the citations.

But Delray Beach officials long have tried to make the city safer for those on foot or on bicycles. A police department spokeswoman said the current program began with an educational phase–“gentle reminders about traffic safety”–and has moved to the “enforcement phase, which will include citations.” It will continue through May 31.

When I asked about the emphasis on jaywalking, the spokeswoman said, “There are always a few people who think it’s a waste of time, but usually they are complaining to the same officers who have to investigate the pedestrian fatalities. So to say the complaints fall on deaf ears is an understatement.”

Honoring Leon Charney, billionaire and peacemaker

In a news release Monday, Florida Atlantic University announced a $1 million donation from the family of Leon Charney. The ceremony will take place today at 2:45 p.m. in FAU’s Theatre Lab.

Charney, who died a year ago, had a fascinating, successful life. Born in Bayonne, N.J., his father sold sewing supplies. According to his Bloomberg News obituary, Charney helped to put himself through college and law school by singing in synagogues.

By 2008, having amassed a portfolio of New York real estate, Charney made the Forbes list of the country’s richest people. His net worth was estimated at $1.5 billion. One of his acquisitions was One Times Square, where the ball drops on New Year’s Eve.

Outside of business, Charney’s biography is also impressive. He was an unofficial advisor to President Jimmy Carter during the 1978 negotiations with Egypt and Israel that led to the Camp David Agreement. In 2014, Charney won a New York Emmy for a documentary about the negotiations. Starting in 1988, he hosted an interview show on New York City’s public television station that often focused on the Middle East.

When Charney got married in Israel, his witnesses included former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and former Defense Minister Ezar Weizman. FAU awarded Charney an honorary degree in 2015 for “his lifelong commitment to peace through diplomacy.”

Mullaugh’s last hurrah

Tonight will be the last meeting for Boca Raton City Councilman Mike Mullaugh. As I wrote recently, Mullaugh invariably says the most while talking the least. Andrea O’Rourke, who will succeed him, told me that Mullaugh set a standard for how a council member should serve.

Mullaugh was appointed in late 2008 to fill the vacancy created by Peter Baronoff’s resignation. He ran unopposed for a full term in 2011 and won a majority three years ago in a four-way race. He never sought higher office. His last accomplishment was the ordinance that led to voter approval of higher council salaries. Boca Raton residents got their money’s worth from Mike Mullaugh.


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Randy Schultz has lived in Boca Raton since 1985 and has worked as a journalist in South Florida since 1974. He spent 37 years at The Palm Beach Post, the last 23 as editorial page editor. He has written the City Watch blog for Boca Raton Magazine since February 2014. He also writes a weekly oped column for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
Randy is married to Shelley Huff-Schultz, director of Access PC at Pine Crest School. Their son, Alec Schultz, and daughter-in-law, Meredith Schultz, are lawyers in South Florida. They live in Boca Raton and have three children: Carter, 8; Preston, 6; and Lila, 4. Their daughter, Mara Howard, is a veterinarian practicing in Hunt Valley, Maryland. She lives with her husband, Chip Howard, in Reisterstown, Maryland.