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Ocean Breeze Presentation Today, Delray City Manager Out-of-Staters

What to do with Ocean Breeze?

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Some things will be clearer this afternoon after the Boca Raton City Council hears a presentation on the former Ocean Breeze golf course. Read more

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.
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Irma Updates (Including Debris Pick-Up), the Downtown Boca Campus and More

Debris removal

Pieces of roofing on the curb at Briny Breezes have yet to be removed. Photo by Marie Speed.

Pieces of roofing and tree branches on the curb at Briny Breezes have yet to be removed. Photo by Marie Speed.

Just as Florida Power & Light asked customers to be patient while the company restored electricity, officials in Boca Raton and Delray Beach want residents to be patient while trucks pick up debris from Hurricane Irma. Read more

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.
A fallen tree atop a car in Boca Raton. Photo by Randy Shultz.

Boca Raton Nearly Back to Normal After Irma, Debris Remains a Problem

Cleaning up and restoring power

A fallen tree atop a car in Boca Raton. Photo by Randy Shultz.

A fallen tree atop a car in Boca Raton. Photo by Randy Schultz.

As of Monday morning, according to Mayor Susan Haynie, only 140 homes in Boca Raton still lacked electricity. Traffic signals were working, and except for all the debris it was a normal workday. Read more

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.
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City Watch After the Storm: Updates and Status

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Irma postscript

Too many homes and businesses still don’t have power. Debris clogs too many streets.

Yet Boca Raton and Delray Beach are not Cudjoe Key or Naples. Read more

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.
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How You Can Help Your Local Community After Hurricane Irma

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Hurricane Irma bowled over the Caribbean and Florida and left a path of fallen pins in its wake.

But that doesn’t mean they won’t be picked up.

Local businesses and community members are already working to clean up and help those in need after this devastating storm. This report is by no means comprehensive, but here are some relief efforts that you can donate to or volunteer with.

Junior League members Jena LaMendola and Reilly Glasser with baby supplies donated for victims of Hurricane Irma. Photo provided by the JLBR.

Junior League members Jena LaMendola and Reilly Glasser with baby supplies donated for victims of Hurricane Irma. Photo provided by the JLBR.

  • The Junior League of Boca Raton is holding a diaper drive until Oct. 1, and all diapers are being distributed to families in need in the Florida Keys through a partnership with Caring for the Keys. Diapers can be donated to the Vegso Community Center at 261 NW 13 Street, Boca Raton. For questions call 561/620-2553 or email [email protected] JLBR has already donated more than 1,000 diapers to babies who need them in the Florida Keys.
  • Signature Gives Back First Annual Fundraiser will donate 100 percent of sales to victims of Hurricane Irma. The fundraiser will be at Silverball Pinball Museum in Delray Beach Oct. 19 from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. and is open to children and adults. The event will feature prizes, raffles, a silent auction, unlimited pinball, a skeeball tournament, networking opportunities and more. For more information call 561/705-0140.
  • The City of Boynton Beach and the YMCA are hosting a Hurricane Irma Supply Drive Sept. 23-24 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Sept. 25-28 from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Drop off unused supplies like bleach, diapers, baby wipes and shampoo, tents, batteries, flashlights, toys and games. Drop-off locations are at the Boynton Beach Civic Center, DeVos-Blum YMCA, Boynton Beach Fire Station #2, Boynton Beach Fire Station #5 and the Boynton Beach Police Department. Please call Amy Blackman at 561/742-6236 for more information.
  • Kaufman Lynn Construction and United Way of Broward County are working together to collect non-perishable food and other unused supplies to aid victims of the hurricane. You can drop supplies off at 4850 T-Rex Ave., Boca Raton by Thursday, Sept. 21. All items will be delivered to The Pride Center at Equality Park in Fort Lauderdale on Friday, where they will then be distributed to those most in need.
  • The state and FEMA have opened a Disaster Recovery Center at the Carolyn Sims Center at 225 NW 12 Ave., Boynton Beach. There, people can get information about disaster assistance programs and are encouraged to share their personal situations. Representatives can also help people apply for federal disaster assistance.
  • See our post about local dining events that will contribute to relief efforts.
  • Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa is teaming up with the Young Professionals of the Palm Beaches to put on a Burger & Craft Beer Bash Saturday, Sept. 23 from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Breeze Ocean Kitchen. Tickets are $55 for unlimited burger and beer samples, and a portion of the event’s proceeds will go to local Hurricane Irma relief efforts. Tickets can be purchased here.
  • Boca Raton Fire Fighter & Paramedic Benevolent will collect donations to send to the Keys starting Sunday, Sept. 17 through Thursday, Sept. 21 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Fire Station No. 1 at 1151 N Federal Highway. Items needed include water, non-perishable food, bleach, hand sanitizer and camping equipment like tents, lanterns, cots and tarps.
  • There will be a benefit concert at CityPlace in West Palm Beach on Saturday, Sept. 16 from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. Donate money or bring supplies and listed to live music by the band Holidazed.
  • Wall Miami will donate 100 percent of door sales Friday through Sunday to the Red Cross for relief efforts related to Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma. Friday, Sept. 15 Leo Medina and Johnny Cash will be on the turn tables. Saturday Chicco Secci will start the party, and the weekly party Secret Sin Sunday will be hosted by Dilo and Jonathan Estallo with music by ATG and Nikolas.
  • Spodak Dental Group is acting as a supply drop-off center for AVDA, Aid to Victims of Domestic Violence, which needs nonperishables and supplies for its shelter without power. Spodak is at 3911 W Atlantic Ave, Delray Beach and is open Thursday 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., Friday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • The Adolph & Rose Levis JCC Sandler Center’s Beifield Auditorium on the Federation Campus, 21050 95th Ave. South in Boca Raton, is collecting donations today through Sept. 15 and Sept. 17 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sept. 13 and 14, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 15 and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sept. 17. There are volunteer opportunities on-site, and items in need include water, diapers, toothbrushes, underwear, snacks and more. For more information, call Summer Faerman at 561/571-1274 or email [email protected]
  • If you have to go back to work but you have children, the South Florida Science Center and Aquarium is hosting a Hurricane Break Camp for kids 4 to 12 Thursday, Sept. 14 and Friday, Sept. 15 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. It costs $45 for members and $50 for non-members and is first-come first-served. Visit sfsciencecenter.org for more information.
  • You can get a free hot meal at the BB&T Center Sept. 13 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. thanks to 20 food trucks and JetBlue.
  • Sign up to volunteer through Volunteer Florida here.
  • The Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County is accepting donations to its relief fund, which goes directly to those in need. Find out more here.
  • It goes without saying, but you can always find volunteer opportunities through the American Red Cross. You can donate here.
  • You can donate or volunteer with the United Way of Palm Beach County. Learn more here.
  • The Palm Beach Zoo will need volunteers, and it is asking those interested to monitor its Facebook page to see when people might be needed.

We’ve also seen random acts of kindness all over Florida. Take this girl, who delivered donuts to Florida Power and Light crews in Fort Pierce.

Even if you can’t donate money or go out of your way to volunteer, just being a great friend, neighbor and listener will help tremendously after Irma. It’s times like these that we see the absolute best in people.

We’ll update this post as often as possible to keep you informed of even more volunteer opportunities.


Last updated at 2:26 p.m., Sept. 21. 

Shayna is the Web Editor of Boca Magazine. She is a 20-something sorta-recent graduate from the University of Florida with a degree in journalism. Most of her time is spent fawning over cats and kittens; cooking food at home for her family; and observing Florida’s greatest asset: nature.
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Petrolia Announces For Mayor, Budgets in Boca and Delray and More

Petrolia’s announcement

Commissioner Shelly Petrolia.

Commissioner Shelly Petrolia.

Delray Beach City Commissioner Shelly Petrolia will run for mayor next March.

Petrolia announced her decision this week on the TakeBackDelrayBeach Faceboook page. Petrolia has held the District 1 seat since 2013 and could have run for another three-year term. She was unopposed in 2015.

The TakeBackDelrayBeach administrator is Kelly Barrette, who ran unsuccessfully against Jim Chard this year for the open District 2 seat. Petrolia openly supported Barrette in that race and Josh Smith in District 4. Barrette and Smith lost by wide margins, so Petrolia’s decision is interesting. Mitch Katz, who has filed for reelection to Seat 3, also backed Barrette and Smith.

Mayor Cary Glickstein is eligible to run for another term. He told me Wednesday that he hasn’t decided.

Boca and Delray budgets

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Boca Raton and Delray Beach have released their preliminary 2017-18 budgets.

City Manager Leif Ahnell proposes hiring 34 additional employees in Boca and increasing the operating budget by almost $10 million. The tax rate would not change, but residents would pay more because of rising property values. Ahnell also wants to raise the fire fee by $20 for every homeowner. Increases for commercial properties would depend on the size of the property.

Notably, Ahnell wants to create a deputy director position in the Development Services Department. The city council has heard complaints about the slow pace of development approvals. Ahnell also wants to hire another assistant fire chief, which would restore a position that was cut during the recession. He proposes adding four firefighters and four police officers.

Those hires align with the council’s stated goal to maintain levels of key services. The council also wants the city to promote itself more, so Ahnell’s budget includes two positions for public relations and digital media.

Similarly, Delray Beach Interim City Manager Neal de Jesus said his budget would address the basics: services and backlogged repair work. De Jesus wants five new police officers—all outside the Community Redevelopment Agency boundaries—and eight additional firefighter/paramedics. Obviously, that second request is to deal with the continuing opioid epidemic.

As in Boca Raton, the tax rate would be essentially unchanged, but bills would rise. Delray Beach’s tax roll, de Jesus said, is at a record level. He proposes an increase of roughly $460,000 to the operating budget.

Both cities must hold two public hearings on their budgets next month before approving them in time for the Oct. 1 start of the fiscal year. I will have more after digging deeper into the numbers.

Police and fire contracts

Boca Raton and Delray Beach both spend most of their operating budgets on public safety. So police and fire contracts are major financial factors.

A city spokeswoman said Boca Raton has not finalized new, three-year contracts with the Fraternal Order of Police and the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF). The next meetings are with the police union on Sept. 12 and the fire union on Sept. 19.

Delray Beach already approved a new firefighter contract. Mayor Glickstein and commissioners Petrolia and Katz all praised the union, with Glickstein saying the Police Benevolent Association “could take a page” from the IAFF. All three could be on the ballot next March. The police contract expires next year.

As part of pension reform during the last negotiations, Delray Beach and the unions agreed to create separate police and fire pension boards—they have been combined—and also combine their administrative functions with the general employees fund. The city commission believes that the change will increase accountability and improve returns on the funds’ investments.

The transition, however, is not finished, because of what Glickstein called the funds’ “significant assets and rules regarding them.” The city’s legal team, he said, is preparing a timeline to complete the transition.

Weinroth’s war chest

Boca Raton City Councilman Robert Weinroth had a good fundraising month in June and a better one in July.

After raising about $16,000 for his March reelection campaign for Seat D, Weinroth added $18,500. He has a major fundraising event next month. No one has filed papers to challenge Weinroth, who would serve seven years if he wins again. The city has six-year term limits, but Weinroth first won in 2014 to fill out the last year of a term. He won a full term in 2015 without opposition.

Among Weinroth’s new contributions is $1,000 from Arnstein & Lehr, the firm that employs one of the lawyers representing GL Homes. GL is one of the bidders for the western golf course. Weinroth also received $1,000 from Art Koski. He’s executive director of the Greater Boca Raton Beach & Park District, which wants the council to underwrite bonds for the district’s $24 million purchase of the former Ocean Breeze golf course and money to make the course playable. Koksi also is suing the city over approval of Chabad East Boca, which Weinroth supported.

And Weinroth got $1,000 from Marta Batmasian. Her company, Investments Limited, has applied to build Phase 2 of the Royal Palm Place redevelopment. Investments Limited would tear down and replace some retail space and build nearly 300 residential units. The project is in the early stages of city review.

Rodgers raising funds, too

Also on the 2018 ballot is Councilman Jeremy Rodgers, who holds Seat C. His fundraising total for July, his first month since filing for reelection, shows nearly $13,000, including a $5,000 loan from Rodgers.

Among his contributions, Rodgers got $1,000 from attorney Bonnie Miskel. She represented Elad Properties, developer of Mizner 200. Rodgers, like the rest of the council, voted for the revised project this month. Miskel also represents Boca Raton Regional Hospital and Town Center Mall, among other clients, before the council.

Rodgers got $500 from architect Doug Mummaw, who designed that Royal Palm Place Phase 2 project on which the council might vote. Rodgers received $500 from Boca Beautiful President John Gore, whose group might weigh in on Mummaw’s project. Another $500 came from the law firm that represents Via Verde, one of four homeowner associations that surround Midtown. This fall, the council could set rules for Midtown development.

In addition, Rodgers got $250 from Katherine MacDougall, one of Koski’s plaintiffs in that Chabad East Boca lawsuit. Rodgers received $250 from Neil Haynie, who is married to Mayor Susan Haynie, and $250 from Seat A Councilman Scott Singer.

Annexing Highland Beach?

As he promised during the Boca Raton City Council’s goal-setting session in May, Councilman Rodgers is exploring the idea of the city annexing Highland Beach.

Rodgers believes that costs would drop for both cities if they combined services, though he doesn’t have data to prove that. He is seeking online comment from residents of both cities. Highland Beach has about 4,000 residents, almost all of whom live in high-rise condos.

As Rodgers acknowledges, this annexation—which is his initiative, not the council’s—would be a heavy lift. Voters in both cities would have to approve it. If the Boca council and the Highland Beach Town Commission didn’t put the proposal on the ballot, getting it to referendum through petition would require signatures from 15 percent of Boca Raton voters who cast ballots in the most recent city election and 20 percent of registered voters in Highland Beach.

This issue also involves Delray Beach. In July 2016, the city signed a new 10-year contract to provide fire-rescue services in Highland Beach. The deal essentially gives Delray Beach an extra fire station. Mayor Haynie said Highland Beach approached Boca Raton, which decided that the deal wouldn’t work financially.

I get Rodgers’ point about Boca Raton’s need for revenue. More likely, though, the city will try again on annexing a few neighborhoods on the northwest border. But Rodgers certainly thinks big.

Rumor control

We saw recently in Boca Raton one more example of how rumors can run unchecked on social media.

Just north of Addison Mizner Elementary School on Southwest 12th Avenue is the Center for Spiritual Living. For years, the church has allowed Addison Mizner parents to use its parking lot. The school fits tightly into the residential neighborhood. Parking is beyond tight.

As school opened two weeks ago, however, word went out that the church had closed off the parking lot. Outrage followed. How could the church do this?

But as pastor Jill Guerra told me, the problem was not with the church. Addison Mizner had not obtained the usual insurance policy that indemnifies the church from any accidents related to school activities. Such a policy is normal and proper. The organizers of Boca Raton’s Boating & Beach for People With Disabilities must have similar policies when they use Spanish River Park.

The school obtained the policy, and the parking lot is back in use. If they haven’t already done so, those who criticized the church might want to apologize.

Boca Hoops a slam dunk

Boca Raton residents may argue about growth, but everyone agrees that recreation is one of the city’s best amenities. With that in mind, here’s a shout-out for the people who started Boca Hoops nearly three decades ago.

My son and daughter played just about every rec league sport in the city: baseball, softball, flag football, soccer. Until Boca Hoops, however, there was no basketball. In 1989, however, Jody Forstot—a Boca physician—Mike Doyle and Bob Mullin started the league.

My grandsons will play this year in the 29th season. As its website states, Boca Hoops helped to plan the Sugar Sand fieldhouse where most of the games take place. During last weekend’s jamboree, a banner saluted the 34 original sponsors of Boca Hoops. Thanks to them, thanks to the founders and thanks to all the people who each year make possible what not long ago didn’t exist and what now we can’t imagine the city without.


Missed the last City Watch? Visit our City Watch page, and subscribe to the magazine for more City Watch columns in every issue. You can also sign up for our City Watch e-newsletter, where you’ll get the latest column delivered directly to your inbox. 

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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.
The Boca Raton Tri-Rail station. Photo by Aaron Bristol.

The Facts About Midtown and Tri-Rail, Remembering Carol Hanson

Midtown in perspective

The Boca Raton Tri-Rail station. Photo by Aaron Bristol.

The Boca Raton Tri-Rail station. Photo by Aaron Bristol.

There are meetings today and Wednesday about a second Tri-Rail station for Boca Raton. Discussion of the station likely will lead to a discussion of Midtown. So let’s base the discussion on facts. Read more

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.
Private citizens will still be able to set up religious displays at Sanborn Square. Photo by Aaron Bristol.

Sanborn Square Private Displays Ordinance Fails, Boca City Council Lays Out Ocean Breeze Ordinance

Private citizens will still be able to set up religious displays at Sanborn Square. Photo by Aaron Bristol.

Private citizens will still be able to set up religious displays at Sanborn Square. Photo by Aaron Bristol.

Bring on Festivus. Or Satan.

Or whatever and whoever.

That was the overwhelming sentiment Tuesday night when the Boca Raton City Council heard from residents about an ordinance that would have prohibited private displays at Sanborn Square. Last December, a high school teacher—filled with the holiday spirit and a sense of vainglory—put up a “monument to Satan” as “a sacred memorial” for those “burned alive at the stake in city squares by righteous believers.”

Vandals repeatedly attacked the display, damaging the park in the process. The Boca Raton Interfaith Council put up a banner calling the satanic display “offensive and harmful to our community’s well-being.”

Yet a council representative was among the many who on Tuesday night criticized the ordinance, which the council had proposed. It would have allowed the city to display a Nativity scene, a menorah and a Christmas tree. Private citizens could not have repeated what happened last year. Yet the public still could have held rallies and demonstrations at Sanborn Square and carried signs honoring Satan et al.

Problem solved?

No. The crowd, which overflowed from the council chambers, regularly invoked the U.S. Constitution in asking the council to back off. Members of St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church wanted the privilege of being able to place their crèche at Sanborn Square, not the city’s crèche.

The ordinance was well-intentioned. It sought to make the celebration of Christmas and Hanukkah less of a cause for conflict while not having the city violate the First Amendment.

Obviously, however, the council could not approve it, given the opposition. The ordinance failed unanimously. Still, Councilman Scott Singer warned the critics about getting what they wished for. If 50 private displays go up this year in Sanborn Square, Singer said, the ordinance could look much more appealing.

What’s in a recommendation?

The Boca Raton City Council made clear this week that a staff recommendation on a development application is just that—a recommendation.

Example 1: Mizner 200

Concept view of Mizner 200.

Concept view of Mizner 200.

Last month, the staff recommendation was for approval of the 384-unit luxury condo project. Instead, the council agreed with critics who argued that—contrary to what the staff said—Mizner 200 did not comply with the downtown ordinance.

On Monday, the council— as the Community Redevelopment Agency board—unanimously approved yet another revision to Mizner 200. Much of it happened on the fly, and much of it will depend on trust. The architects for Elad Properties presented drawings that they, city staff and representatives of the critics contend will make the project intrude less on the Townsend Place condo to the south and fit better into Boca Raton’s maturing downtown.

If the staff recommendation had held, the council would have approved the previous version. A lawsuit from the critics might have resulted. If the council had held out for too much, though, a lawsuit from Elad might have resulted. The company’s lawyer repeatedly cited that staff recommendation, arguing that the project complied with the downtown ordinance. Before the vote, Bonnie Miskel told me again that Elad had been asked, “to do more than anyone else has been asked to do.”

If the mood in the council chambers Monday holds, all will be well. Council members congratulated both sides and all participants for making the project better. Elad CEO Amnon Safran high-fived council members. Now it’s up to the same staff the council ignored to make sure that all sides get what they are expecting.

Example 2: The Goray-Rosemurgy adult living facility on North Congress Avenue

It was on the city council’s regular meeting agenda Tuesday night.

The planning and zoning board had recommended that the council deny the application. So had the staff, saying that the facility and memory care unit were incompatible with the land use in that northwest sector. The staff report also warned about a sharp rise in calls for emergency medical services and the potential budget impact. The project, however, had timing and connections going for it.

Monday, the Boca CRA approved 374 Royal Palm, a senior living facility downtown.

Monday, the Boca CRA approved 374 Royal Palm, a senior living facility downtown.

On Monday, the council—as the CRA— approved a similar project downtown on Royal Palm Road. Though staff had recommended approval, the memo noted that such projects typically demand lots of expensive services.

The developer, though, suggested that the net overall impact might be slight. Many residents, the theory went, would be moving from elsewhere in Boca Raton. Service demand that had been scattered now would be concentrated, but the numbers citywide would not rise, or at least would not rise very much.

After the staff presentation on the North Congress ALF, Councilman Robert Weinroth asked if the expected burden on services really would materialize. Development Services Director Brandon Schaad called that “a great question.” Other council members noted that the land-use rules for the area are dated. With an aging population, they said, Boca Raton needs more such facilities.

For connections, the developer touted Boca Raton Regional Hospital. It will have an urgent care facility in the project, and the memory care unit will work with the hospital’s Marcus Neuroscience Center. There also will be a partnership with Florida Atlantic University.

Co-developer Gerald Goray claimed that the project—high-end like the one downtown—would seek to actually reduce the service demand. The council’s unanimous approval came with several conditions related to that promise and the loftier vision, which came from the developer’s attorney, to “make medical care better.”

Council’s plans for Ocean Breeze sale

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In Congress, Republicans wanted senators to vote on a health care bill they hadn’t seen. Tuesday night, Boca Raton City Council members introduced an ordinance they had seen but the public hadn’t.

The ordinance lays out how the council will proceed in selling the western golf course. The issue has been delayed while the city waits to hear details of the Greater Boca Raton Beach & Park District’s contract to buy the former Ocean Breeze course.

The council and the district board will meet on Sept. 26. Art Koski, the district’s executive director, is supposed to document the case for the $24 million purchase and the city underwriting bonds for the course and the cost of improvements. The meeting will take place from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. in the city’s complex at 6500 North Congress Ave. Given Koski’s drawn-out remarks at the May joint meeting on the same subject, it will be a race to finish in time. The council’s regular meeting is downtown at 6 p.m.

After all the delay since May, however, the ordinance shows that the council finally is turning into the wind on the western course. The three finalists—Compson, GL Homes and Lennar—must submit a $100,000 deposit by Sept. 18. Those that do must submit a contract by Oct. 18.

At the Nov. 14 meeting, the city council will hear staff analyses of each contract. Finalists will have 15 minutes to make their final pitches and five minutes for rebuttal. Finalists could raise their bids at that time, but they could not change the contract terms, which will cover such issues as how long the western course could stay open and how county approval of development on the course might affect the net price. The council could make a decision that night or extend it.

That’s where Ocean Breeze could come in. The district wants to close on that sale in October, and the council has resolved to keep golf in the city. Council members, though, also don’t want to be pushed.

And what if the council sells the western course, balks at the Ocean Breeze price and still wants a golf course in the city? “We could always condemn it,” Councilman Weinroth suggested. Ouch. It would shock me if Boca Raton wrapped up every golf issue in 2017.

Delray CRA’s new goals

The new Delray CRA wants nonprofit entities like Old School Square to become self-sustaining.

The new Delray CRA wants nonprofit entities like Old School Square to become self-sustaining.

For the new board of the Delray Beach Community Redevelopment Agency, it’s decision time.

After realignment in June that brought three new members to the seven-person board, the priority for new Chairwoman Annette Gray was communication. “There had been a lack of it,” she said Wednesday, “on the CRA side and on the city commission side.”

Gray started on her side. The board and the CRA staff held a daylong workshop to go over the basics—such as what the agency can and can’t do, based on the legislation that created it. “To have common goals,” Gray said, “we need to have common understanding.”

It has been commonly understood for some time that the city commission wants the CRA to align more with the commission’s priorities. Perceived failure to do so nearly led the commission to take over the CRA and did lead to Mayor Cary Glickstein offering suggestions to the CRA.

Most notably, the commission wants the CRA to pay for more services within the CRA district, so the commission can direct more money to needs outside the CRA. Consider the annual requests for money from non-profit agencies, such as the library, Old School Square and Arts Garage. The CRA board will discuss those requests at tonight’s meeting.

Old School Square wants $600,000 for master plan improvements. The group cites a revenue drop from the new special events policy and higher costs from its new lease with the city. Reserves, Old School Square says, are depleted, though Old School Square promises a three-year plan to improve private fundraising.

Arts Garage wants $275,000—the same amount as this year. The nonprofit that runs the library wants $453,000—a $9,000 increase. The Delray Beach Community Land Trust wants nearly $200,000.

Over the four years of Gray’s term, she wants the nonprofits to become “self-sustaining.” The CRA likely will grant most or all of next year’s requests, but Gray wants the agency to put the groups on notice. “It is not fiscally responsible” for nonprofits to assume that CRA funding “will continue into infinity,” especially if they plan to add services without checking first on money.

CRA & commission workshop

Next Wednesday, the CRA board and the commission will hold the first joint workshop since the commission made the new board appointments. With each body set to approve its budget next month, expect there to be last-minute shuffling on who pays for what.

Delray public budget meeting

Speaking of budgets, Delray Beach City Commissioner Mitch Katz will host a public session on the city’s budget from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Saturday at Pompey Park. The commission must approve the budget before the fiscal year starts on Oct. 1.

CORRECTION

I reported incorrectly that Boca Raton Police Chief Dan Alexander had supported the proposed ordinance to ban private displays at Sanborn Square. A police department spokesman said the chief was not asked to provide any statement on the ordinance, which failed unanimously after every speaker criticized it. This post has been edited to reflect this correction.


Missed the last City Watch? Visit our Community/City Watch page, and subscribe to the magazine for more City Watch columns in every issue. You can also sign up for our City Watch e-newsletter, where you’ll get the latest column delivered directly to your inbox. 

City Watch e-newsletter subscription

Subscribe to get City Watch columns with the latest Boca/Delray news sent directly to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday.
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.
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Customs Facility Delayed, No Marijuana in Boca?

Airport delays

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The customs facility at Boca Raton Airport will open at least two months late.

The plan was that the gateway, which will save private pilots and their passengers an extra stop at Palm Beach International or Fort Lauderdale Executive, was supposed to be ready by Labor Day. But Airport Authority Executive Director Clara Bennett and Authority Board Chairman Mitch Fogel confirmed Friday that the new construction completion deadline is mid-September, with the facility to open in mid-October.

Bennett first told the board in May about potential delays. She updated board members in July. Bennett said the contractor, West Construction, has gone through “a lot of turnover in management.” That’s been the main problem. There were some rain delays, though nothing that Bennett called “unusual” for a South Florida summer.

Executive Director of the Boca Raton Airport Authority, Clara Bennett. Photo by Eduardo Schneider.

Executive Director of the Boca Raton Airport Authority, Clara Bennett. Photo by Eduardo Schneider.

The contract with West is for $4.3 million. West was the low qualified bidder, and Bennett and airport authority board member Gene Folden said the authority board had to choose the low bid, in part because the authority received state and federal grants that come with procurement rules. The work covers construction of the building and improvements to the taxiway and the roadway. Still, it’s not a complicated project. There seems to be no good explanation.

In addition to the authority, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol and the city are monitoring the work. Bennett said the authority “cannot tell the contractor how to proceed. We only can document the progress.” Because that progress is behind schedule, the liquidated damages clause of the contract has kicked in. West is being fined $500 per day, plus engineering costs. “It’s disappointing,” Bennett said, “because there has been such excitement.”

Folden worries that, as with a commercial flight that is delayed and then delayed again, the facility may encounter more problems. “I’m not totally optimistic,” Folden told me, “that we’ll make the mid-October deadline.”

As Folden pointed out, “You worry that the fines will exceed the profit” for West, “and the contractor will walk.” The authority “has to balance” its deadline push so West “doesn’t leave.” A lawsuit, Folden said, could push the opening into mid-2018.

Folden said the authority is relying on its consultant, Ricondo and Associates. The firm also worked for the authority on construction of its administration building, which opened in 2015. Folden said the board will “raise more questions” at Wednesday’s meeting.

Mizner 200 crawls toward approval

Concept view of the entrance of Mizner 200.

Concept view of the entrance of Mizner 200.

Progress continues toward a version of Mizner 200 that the Boca Raton City Council could approve. At least one participant in the talks, however, doesn’t think that a final version can get to the city in time to make the agenda for Monday’s meeting of the city council acting as the community redevelopment agency.

Doug Mummaw is the architect for Investments Limited, which owns Royal Palm Place across Mizner Boulevard from where the condo project would replace the Mizner on the Green rental complex. Investments Limited has been representing itself, the Townsend Place condo to the south of Mizner 200 and Boca Beautiful in the discussions with architects Peter Stromberg and Jorge Garcia, who designed the project. Mummaw made a point of saying that the discussions, which began three days after the city council on July 25 asked for design changes, have not included lawyers from either side.

Though city staff and the city’s architectural consultant concluded that Mizner 200 satisfied the requirements of Boca Raton’s downtown ordinance, Mummaw argued otherwise before the council. Obviously, his argument was persuasive. Mummaw said the “collaborative” discussions have produced “major, significant” changes that will make Mizner 200 “an exquisite building with a lot of movement.”

Critics had said Mizner 200 would be too massive as it stretched for almost 900 feet, thus overwhelming the street and the neighborhood. Among the changes, Mummaw said, are varied rooflines and another 9,000 square feet of green space facing Mizner Boulevard. At the July 25 meeting, Mummaw raised six specific objections. The changes, he said Monday, have addressed all of them.

As others in the discussions have told me, relatively quick progress has been possible because the project manager for Elad Properties—the developer—has been present and can speak for the company. Mummaw praises Stromberg and Garcia for their willingness and ability to be flexible and work quickly.

Yet as Mummaw acknowledges, Mizner 200 is a large, complicated project. A change in one area affects other areas. “They have to put everything through the rinse cycle with their team,” Mummaw said, in preparing a modified development application for the city to review.

Obviously, the goal is a new application that everyone can endorse. The application would have to be ready no later than today, and that would be pushing it. The city will post the agenda Wednesday afternoon.

Royal Palm Place: Phase 2

Mummaw and Associate's rendering of Phase 2 of Royal Palm Place.

Mummaw and Associate’s rendering of Phase 2 of Royal Palm Place.

Coincidentally, on Thursday Mummaw and Investments Limited will present their plan for Phase 2 of Royal Palm Place to The Mellgren Planning Group. Mellgren is the consultant that found Mizner 200 in compliance with the downtown ordinance, after first finding the project not in compliance.

As I reported, Royal Palm Place Phase 2 is a major project, like Mizner 200. Its two key components are on the west side, facing Federal Highway, and in the northeast corner. That second component includes new residential development and would be across Mizner Boulevard from Mizner 200.

Delray to—again—attempt to put it’s downtown parking plans in drive

delray

Downtown Delray at night. Photo provided by the Delray Beach Downtown Development Authority.

The Delray Beach City Commission will try for the third time tonight on a downtown parking plan.

This presentation comes from the Downtown Development Authority, which notes that the DDA represents 1,000 business owners. The group favors a far less ambitious approach than some commissioners, calling it “start slow and grow.”

Rather than install smart meters at all 2,600 downtown spaces, the DDA wants meters at just 245 spaces on and near East Atlantic Avenue. The DDA wants free parking to remain on Atlantic west of the Intracoastal Waterway until noon, with a rate of $1 per hour until 5 p.m. and $1.75 per hour after that. The limit would be two hours until 5 p.m. and three to four hours after that.

East of the bridge, the rate would be $1.50 per hour—beginning at 9 a.m.—with a two-hour limit. On Northeast Second Avenue, the rate would be $1 per hour—starting at noon—with the limit ranging from two hours to three hours. On A1A, the DDA proposes a rate of $1.75 per hour with a four-hour maximum.

The DDA also proposes a flat rate of $5 for all city garages. After that, however, the group’s push is for free parking with longer limits. The DDA also wants the city to add spaces and create “a parking program that is consistent with and enhances the Delray Beach brand, a plan that provides a welcoming environment and supports the downtown small businesses.”

In addition, the DDA proposes a plan under which business owners could pay $150 per year or $20 per month for employee parking. The DDA says this aspect of the program is modeled after one in Sarasota. There also should be “incentives”—unspecified—for employees to commute using something besides their cars. City residents could pay $95 annually to park anywhere downtown.

The DDA helpfully suggests that the city commission can “Make Parking Fun!” So far, however, the process has been more like excruciating. The DDA wants the commission to ignore the city’s consultant, who recommends meters for all spaces and demand pricing. The DDA wants the commission to delay any decision until the DDA’s own studies are done.

The fun continues tonight.

Rundown of Boca P&Z’s Thursday agenda items

marijuana smoking

It’s an especially crowded, varied agenda for Thursday’s meeting of the Boca Raton Planning and Zoning Board. The highlights, in no particular order:

  • Boca Raton wants no marijuana dispensaries in the city. The council previously approved annual moratoriums while the Legislature debated how to implement medical marijuana in the state.

In 2014, the Legislature allowed use of non-euphoric marijuana to treat certain medical conditions. Last year, voters approved a constitutional amendment that expands the use of medical marijuana, though the Legislature has ruled that patients can’t smoke it.

Now Boca Raton wants to tell patients that they can’t get it within the city limits. If the city doesn’t specifically exclude them, dispensing centers could be at any licensed pharmacy. The ordinance would prohibit any person or entity from “acquiring, cultivating, possessing, processing, transferring, transporting, selling, distributing, dispensing or administering” marijuana or marijuana-related products.

Under the staff’s proposed schedule, the ordinance would go to the city council for introduction on Sept. 12. Two public hearings would follow on Sept. 26 and Oct. 11. Since 71 percent of voters approved the amendment, it will be interesting to see if the ordinance draws opposition.

  • Boca Helping Hands wants to convert a warehouse in the city’s industrial district south of 20th Street into a counseling center. The group has a wonderful record, but staff recommends against this change, calling it incompatible with land use in that area.

The group’s attorney counters in a letter to the city with Boca Helping Hands’ history of helping women, many of them victims of domestic abuse, and their children. As with the marijuana issue, this debate could be interesting.

  • As I had reported, the developer of the Ocean Palm condo on the southwest corner of A1A and Palmetto Park Road is before the board asking to add a floor to the six-story condo the council approved last spring. The number of units would stay at 70.

At 65 feet, staff noted in reviewing the initial application, Ocean Palm would be no taller than The Meridian condo. It’s on the northwest corner of the intersection, and drew lots of opposition from neighbors. Ocean Palm, whose developer spent considerable time with the neighbors and got their blessing for the shorter project, would be 10 feet taller than The Meridian.

  • A developer wants to put a 20-unit apartment and three single-family homes on nearly two acres at Yamato Road and Northwest Third Avenue. Though this item twice has been postponed after going on the agenda, the board took public comment.

Every speaker from the neighborhood opposed the change, saying that the apartments—Yamato Villas—would bring more traffic and drive down property values. According to the staff memo, the developer asked for the postponements “to meet with the public.” Despite that local opposition, the staff recommends approval.

October closing on Ocean Breeze unlikely

golf-2217600_1280

I wrote last week that the Greater Boca Raton Beach & Park District would like to close in October on its $24 million purchase of the former Ocean Breeze golf course. I sought comment from the city council, which would have to underwrite bonds for that purchase and the cost of improving the course for play.

Mayor Susan Haynie and council members Jeremy Rodgers and Robert Weinroth expressed varying degrees of skepticism, since the district hasn’t answered the city’s many questions about the deal. Chairman Bob Rollins proposed that the district board provide those answers for a September meeting with the council.

Councilman Scott Singer now has relayed his comment: “I don’t see how an October closing and bond agreement are feasible if the answers to the outstanding questions will not come until September.”

Correction

Due to an error on the Boca Raton Airport Authority’s website, I referred to authority board member Gene Folden as the chairman. The chairman is Mitch Fogel. The facts have been corrected in this post.


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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.
mizner 200

Letter to the Editor: Paradise Lost or Paradigm Found?

Concept view of the entrance of Mizner 200.

Concept view of the entrance of Mizner 200.

Written by John C. Gore

President, BocaBeautiful.org

This is a tale of two developers and the future of Boca Raton. The first is—or was—involved in a controversial project on Boca’s barrier island. But at the request of City leaders and staff, developer Ramon Llorens agreed to work directly with nearby residents to find a project that would be acceptable to all. The result, a 70-unit condominium called Ocean Palm on the southwest corner of Palmetto Park Road and A1A, stands as a model for future development in Boca.

Read more