Thursday, December 1, 2022

Boca Arts Center Issues, and Delray Votes No on Boca Art Museum Bid

Three issues remain between Boca Raton and the group that wants to build a performing arts center in Mizner Park.

Boca Raton Arts District Exploratory Corporation (BRADEC) has asked the city to lease it the property next to the amphitheater. BRADEC would build a complex that includes the amphitheater, which the group would renovate.

The city wants assurance that BRADEC not only could build the center but operate it without seeking subsidies from the city. Last May, the city council authorized staff to begin negotiations on a lease. Council members will get an update at Monday’s workshop meeting.

According to the staff memo, the city and BRADEC agree on many points. 67 percent of events at the center would be open to the public. BRADEC would have to raise 75 percent of hard construction costs—actual building, as opposed to design—within three years. That amount would have to be at least $55 million. The city, which now operates the amphitheater, could hold as many as 18 events each year. BRADEC would have to raise at least $6 million in working capital toward operations.

One unresolved issue concerns BRADEC’s reserve fund. The city wants the group to finance just 25 percent of that from unfunded pledges. BRADEC wants to finance 50 percent.

Another issue is insurance. BRADEC wants the city to cover the full replacement cost of the center—possibly $30 million. The premiums could run to $150,000 per year. The city wants the coverage to be included as part of its umbrella policy.

Finally, BRADEC wants the lease to run for 94 years. The city prefers a limit of 50 years. Staff is seeking “direction” from the council on these issues.

BRADEC co-founder Andrea Virgin said the two sides have “a good working relationship.” The group would like resolution in time for the lease to go before the planning and zoning board next month and then to the council this summer.

Virgin said BRADEC is moving into an office suite in Mizner Park. Fundraising is going “very well,” but it remains in what BRADEC calls the “quiet phase.” Approval of the lease is “critically important,” she said, because it will give assurance to potential donors and energize fundraising.

Delray rejects Boca Museum bid to run Cornell

old school square
Cornell Art Museum in Old School Square; photo courtesy of the Delray Beach DDA

In a surprise move, the Delray Beach City Commission on Tuesday rejected the proposal to have the Boca Raton Museum of Art operate the Cornell Museum.

Mayor Shelly Petrolia and City Commissioner Juli Casale voted to pay the museum $125,000 through Sept. 30. The agreement would have lasted for another year after that. Petrolia and Casale voted to end the lease with Old School Square, which had been operating the Cornell. Ryan Boylston and Adam Frankel, who opposed terminating the lease, voted against.

The surprise was that Shirley Johnson joined them. Johnson had joined Petrolia and Casale in voting to end the lease. But she agreed with Boylston that the commission would have been rushing the agreement with the museum.

No changes in term limits for PBC commissioners

Palm Beach County Commissioners; photo from discover.pbcgov.org

Palm Beach County will not ask voters to change term-limit rules for county commissioners.

Since 2012, the policy has been that commissioners can serve two consecutive four-year terms. The length of service can be longer if, as in the case of Steve Abrams, someone fills a vacancy and serves fewer than four years. After sitting out for at least one term, a commissioner can run again.

The county imposed term limits in response to a lawsuit. Some commissioners wanted to place on this year’s ballot a proposal to raise the limits to 12 years, which is the rule in Broward County. State legislators also have 12-year term limits. The Legislature just limited school board members to 12 years.

As County Mayor Robert Weinroth acknowleded, however, many voters react in a visceral and bipartisan manner to any seeming attempt by politicians to help themselves. Individual priorities can take longer than eight years to accomplish, and there’s no evidence that term limits lead to better governance, but the commission rejected the idea.

PBC to address affordable housing and water

Commissioners may not have wanted to anger voters because they may ask them to approve two expensive bond issues. The school district also will ask the public to extend a property tax to help finance the operating budget.

One bond program, which could cost as much as $200 million, would address the county’s affordable housing crisis. The other, which could cost $150 million, would provide money to deal with water quality issues.

Based on discussions at last week’s meeting, the water plan is more detailed at this point. The housing plan seems vague. As Weinroth acknowledged, however, the Economic Council of Palm Beach County has made clear that housing costs are creating hiring problems for its members.

For now, Weinroth is the outlier. He favors neither proposal, believing that it’s the wrong time to ask taxpayers for money. But he would be “more inclined” to support the affordable housing bond issue.

If the commission approves both items, one would go on the Aug. 23 primary ballot and the other on the Nov. 8 general election ballot. The school tax will go to voters in November.

Weinroth speaks out against new bill

Mayor Robert Weinroth

Weinroth, who represents Boca Raton and Delray Beach, also spoke out strongly last week against Senate Bill 620, which the Legislature passed during the recent session.

If Gov. DeSantis signs it, businesses could sue cities or counties over regulations that owners claim caused at least a 15 percent drop in revenue. Because the legislation exempts certain businesses and allows local governments to exempt other businesses, the Florida League of Cities had changed its opposition to a neutral position. Boca Raton and Delray Beach had opposed the original bill.

Weinroth, though, said the bill would make it “financially difficult” to impose any regulation, no matter how public-minded. He expressed the frustration of many local officials at Tallahassee’s continued attacks on home rule.

“They think that they’re the adults in the room, and we should just be happy for what they give us,” Weinroth said. “This is the classic slippery slope. [The bill] is too broad and would lead to lots of lawsuits.”

SB 620 has not gone to DeSantis.  When it does, he will have 15 days to sign it, veto it or allow the bill to become law without his signature.

Boca Regional receives $1 million gift

Boca Raton Regional Hospital. Photo by Aaron Bristol.

The latest seven-figure gift to Boca Raton Regional Hospital’s Keeping the Promise campaign comes from Marla Schaefer and Steve Weishoff.

According to a news release, this $1 million gift is their second toward the campaign, which has raised $225 million of its $250 million goal. Groundbreaking for the signature building of the campaign, the Gloria Drummond Patient Tower, took place last month.

Schaefer and Weishoff noted the increased demand that the COVID-19 pandemic has placed on the hospital. In addition to their record of local philanthropy, Schaefer and Weishoff are major donors to Watauga Medical Center in western North Carolina, where they also have a home.

Disclosure

On Tuesday, I wrote about the $45 million sale of an oceanfront mansion in Highland Beach. I included the name of the seller and the price he paid for the property in 2011.

The closing agent wanted me to note that I did not obtain that information from her. It came from public records available on the property appraiser’s website.

Randy Schultz
Randy Schultz
Randy Schultz, a native of Hartford, Connecticut, has been a South Florida journalist since 1974. He worked for The Miami Herald until 1976 and for The Palm Beach Post from 1976 until 2014, where he served as managing editor and editorial page editor. Since 2014, he has written a politics blog, commentaries and other articles for Boca magazine. His writing has earned first-place awards from the Florida Magazine Association and the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors. Randy has lived in Boca Raton with his wife, Shelley Huff-Schultz, since 1985. His son, daughter-in-law and their three children also live in Boca Raton.

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