Ongoing BH3 Tweaks in Delray, Election Updates & More

(Rendering by BH3)

Getting that grocery store for West Atlantic Avenue in Delray Beach has become challenging. But the developer believes that it’s not too big of a challenge.

Last April, the community redevelopment agency chose BH3 to develop the three blocks east of the Fairfield Inn. Under the agreement to buy the roughly six acres, BH3 had until Nov. 18 to submit applications for city approval. Mayor Shelly Petrolia and the four city commissioners, all of whom sit on the CRA board, wanted quick action.

Last month, however, BH3’s attorney asked the CRA for an additional 60 days. Neil Schiller said the company had received lots of  “feedback,” much of it concerning the original location of the grocery—on a second floor. Prospective tenants want the store to be on the street.

Schiller said BH3 is negotiating with a “prominent” national chain and a “prominent” regional chain, though he would not divulge names. He promised to meet with board members individually before the new deadline of Jan. 17. There still might be “some tweaks,” he said, before the “final, final” version.

(Rendering by BH3)

The board approved the extension unanimously with little debate. Schiller, though, hinted that the new design would increase the size of the public space—known as Frog Alley—by 20,000 feet. He also said BH3 had made progress with existing tenants in the 600 block, which is farthest east. The grocery would be in the middle block.

Though the project also would include housing and office space, the grocery has remained the city’s priority. In a letter, Schiller said, “While most parties liked the concept of our site plan selected earlier this year, we had some strong feedback about the location of the grocer in relation to Atlantic Avenue, certain parking requirements, back of house and loading requirements, etc.

“So we took that feedback and have been revising our site plan accordingly. We recognize that the grocery is of the utmost importance to the board and the community. We are dealing with a handful of grocers, all of whom have accepted our revised site plan, and thus we are revising the plan even further to meet your approval and ensure the project’s success at launch and for years to come.”

Boca war chests

Boca Raton Mayor Scott Singer will have more than $100,000 for a campaign he may not have to run.

Boca Raton Mayor Scott Singer

Singer raised another $20,225 in October, the most recent fundraising report the city has made available. That brings his total for the March election to about $102,000. Singer is running for a full, three-year term. In August 2018, he won a special election to complete the term of Susan Haynie. Then-Gov. Rick Scott suspended her four months earlier, after her arrest on seven public corruption charges. Her trial is scheduled for March 23.

The only candidate who has filed paperwork to challenge Singer is gadfly Bernard Korn. He has loaned himself $3,500. He got three percent in that 2018 election, when Singer defeated BocaWatch Publisher Al Zucaro. Korn still has not qualified.

Indeed, Korn is the only person who has filed paperwork to challenge the three council incumbents who are on the ballot in March. Candidates must qualify between Jan. 2 and Jan. 10.

Though he’s unopposed in the Seat A council race, Andy Thomson has about $66,000, with $29,000 coming in October. Seat B incumbent Andrea O’Rourke has loaned herself $1,200 and raised another $22,000. Though O’Rourke began her political career by complaining about overdevelopment, her contributors now include prominent members of the development industry.

And when it comes to collegiality among council members, Singer is paying it forward. He has donated $250 to Thomson and O’Rourke.

And in Delray

In Delray Beach, we will know this week who’s running in that city’s March election. We do know, however, that both incumbents will have challengers.

Delray Beach City Hall (Photo by Christiana Lilly)

Two candidates—Julie Casale and Jennifer Jones— have qualified to run against Bill Bathurst in Seat 2. Angela Burns has qualified to oppose Shirley Johnson in Seat 4. Qualifying ends Friday.

I wrote about Bathurst’s astonishing October fundraising haul of $44,000. His campaign eased off in November, bringing in about $6,000. One-third came from entities associated with that important development project on West Atlantic Avenue. Casale has raised about $6,600 and Jones only $200.

As for Johnson, she raised $15,000 in November, giving her a total of $32,000. Burns has $3,600. Incumbents usually outraise challengers, who must rely more on grass-roots campaigning.

Boca roads

Last week, the Boca Raton City Council pushed back against Palm Beach County’s plan to widen roads that the city doesn’t want widened.

The Palm Beach Transportation Planning Agency— made up of local elected officials—was completing the county’s road-building program for the next 25 years. On that list of projects were seven in Boca Raton, most of which council members opposed because they would conflict with the city’s long-range transportation plan.

At Thursday’s meeting, the city’s representatives succeeded in having six of those seven projects removed from the county’s plan. The only one remaining—which the city likes—would widen Old Dixie Highway from two lanes to four lanes between Yamato Road and Linton Boulevard in Delray Beach.

There’s a back story.

Boca Raton and the county have argued for years about the use of impact fees. Developers pay them to offset, in part, the cost from their projects in added public services.

Boca Raton gets back less than the city contributes to that impact fee fund. The city also would like to spend more of the money for things like a downtown shuttle service, not just wider roads. With approval of the Brightline station, Boca Raton also might want to use that impact fee money for a pedestrian bridge from the station to downtown.

City Councilman Andy Thomson, who serves on the TPA, said he suspects that the county tried to make Boca Raton accept those unwanted projects so the city couldn’t complain about being shorted. This resistance likely is a prelude the larger fight for the city to spend more money on what the city wants.

Vacant Kmart rumors

Over the weekend, Singer went on the Nextdoor website to address what one resident called “rumors” about the vacant Kmart space in the Palmetto Park Square shopping center just east of Interstate 95.

The mayor stressed that the city has received no applications for any new use of the space. From that standpoint, nothing is official. But it does appear that change is coming.

I’m told that a Chick-fil-A will go on the outparcel next to Denny’s that previously was home to a bank. Atlanta-based Selig Enterprises owns that site, the outparcels to the west on which a Taco Bell and a TD Bank sit and almost everything else on the 10.5-acre property.

The rumors, though, persist. One current one is that the Publix will move to the Kmart space from its location in the center of the plaza. Selig’s website—which still lists the Kmart that closed in October—notes that affluence of that neighborhood, and the Kmart space is more than two times larger.

Overall, the plaza is healthy. Selig says that former bank site is the only empty space. I left a message for the company’s listing agent but did not hear back by deadline for this post.

Time change for Delray meetings

Seeking to boost attendance, Delray Beach will shift the time for community redevelopment agency meetings.

City Commissioner/CRA board member Ryan Boylston conducted what he acknowledged was a “not incredibly accurate” survey based on speaker signup cards for city commission and CRA meetings. He concluded that attendance rose when the commission began starting meetings at 4 p.m. rather than 6 p.m. Residents may like the idea of avoiding late-night discussions.

But attendance dipped, Boylston said, when CRA meetings moved from 4 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. Since the commission took over the CRA last year, there occasionally have been issues with scheduling commissioners for extra meetings.

After a brief discussion, the CRA board decided to begin 2020 by starting the meetings at 4 p.m. with the option to change back.

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