Monday, April 15, 2024

Boca can’t get no satisfaction, Mizner Trail getting close and more

Boca’s union blues

Boca Raton and Delray Beach both have pulled off public safety pension reform in recent months, but Boca Raton is having more trouble closing the deal.

In Delray Beach, the new contract involves just the police union, whose contract was up last October. Talks are underway with the firefighters union, whose contract ends Sept. 30. Last December, Delray reached a deal with the union in about a month, and then got it ratified by the members and approved by the city commission.

Boca Raton went to impasse with the police and fire unions, which announced in December that they had reached deals that would save the city roughly $100 million in pension costs over 30 years. There was no such confirmation from the city. It remained for the city and unions to get the proposals on paper.

At tonight’s meeting, the Boca Raton City Council is asked to approve a pair of ordinances that would implement the pension changes. But the memo from City Manager Leif Ahnell contains no financial breakdown of how the changes would affect the police-fire pension fund, which the LeRoy Collins Institute at Florida State University recently graded ‘D’ in terms of solvency. Ahnell says the city’s actuary will prepare an “impact statement” that the council will review at its March 24 meeting, with the idea of finalizing everything before the new city council convenes a week later.

When Delray Beach got the new police contract on Dec. 23, commissioners had a breakdown of the wage portion and the pension portion. They could see the estimate that the city would save $21.3 million in police pension costs over 30 years. They could see that the city was withdrawing from the state pension program—a move that ultimately will give Delray more control over the investments of the police-fire pension fund.

Delray Beach also had met in executive session—no reporters or the members of the public—three weeks earlier to discuss the negotiations. Florida’s open-meeting laws allow exceptions for labor and legal discussions.

The Boca council has had no such executive session. And I spent much of Monday trying to get some numbers about the pension proposals from Ahnell and Assistant City Manager Michael Woika. All Woika would say is that the impact statement is coming. I had contacted Mayor Susan Haynie, who apparently also wasn’t able to procure any financial information.

Haynie correctly made police and fire pension reform a priority in her campaign a year ago. It will be one of the most important items she and the council vote on. Though Boca is dealing with two unions, rather than just one, things in comparison to Delray are taking longer and happening with less transparency. Haynie and the council members might want to ask about that tonight.

Developers get the edge…again

The decade-long campaign to develop the former Mizner Trail Golf Coursewest of Boca Raton could end soon with development winning.

Last week, a three-judge panel of the Palm Beach County Circuit Court—Gregory Keyser, Meanu Sasser and Lisa Small, if you’re keeping score—denied a petition by neighbors in Boca Del Mar who had challenged the Palm Beach County Commission’s approval last June of the 253-unit residential project. It would go on the roughly 130 acres that until 2005 was Boca Del Mar’s south golf course.

At the same time, the judges denied the motion by the developer—Boca Raton-based Compson Associates—for sanctions against the Boca Del Mar residents. In non-lawyerese, the court decided that the residents didn’t make their case against the county commission but that their petition didn’t amount to a frivolous challenge.

The Boca Raton law firm of Sachs Sax Caplan represents the Boca Del Mar Improvement Association, the umbrella group of homeowner associations. In an email Monday, attorney Robert Rivas said the plaintiffs and their lawyers will hold a conference call this morning. Apparently, they have four options.

One option is to seek a rehearing with the circuit court or to ask the judges to write an opinion explaining their decision. The court denied the plaintiffs’ petition without comment, which is normal in such cases because the judges were upholding the commission’s decision. In a recent similar case in West Palm Beach, the court sided with the plaintiffs but told the city how to correct approval of a controversial condo tower.

To persuade the same judges to take another look at the Mizner Trail ruling, Rivas said, the plaintiffs would have to persuade the judges that they “overlooked or misapprehended” some aspect of the case or the law. With either option, the plaintiffs would have to file within 15 days of last Tuesday’s ruling.

Another option for the plaintiffs is to file a similar petition with the 4th District Court of Appeal, one level higher in the state court system. That would have to happen within 30 days.Then there’s the possibility of filing a separate lawsuit in circuit court. Technically, Rivas said, the appeal of the commission’s decision was not a lawsuit. If the plaintiffs sued, claiming that the development is illegal, the standard of proof and the legal aspects would be different from those for the appeal that the circuit court denied.

Still another aspect of the case is the settlement offer Compson made to the plaintiffs in December. It was for $700,000—$500,000 to the improvement association and $100,000 each to two individual plaintiffs—and followed an earlier offer of $250,000 to the association.

One could argue that Compson would have no reason to extend the offer again, having won in court. One also could argue that a settlement would allow Compson to avoid what could be more months of delay. I hope to have an update in my Thursday post.

Delray land regs

Unless the unexpected happens, the Delray Beach City Commission tonight will approve the new Land Development Regulations for the Central Business District. The commission approved them unanimously three weeks ago, and such harmony has been absent on major issues in Delray Beach for the last year.

Judging by the comments—or lack of comments—from residents, the public seems happy with the idea of limiting height on Atlantic Avenue and ending the height and density bonus program. Some opposition remains, though, to the idea of Delray supposedly messing with success. But even success can mean problems. If Delray Beach passes the new rules, the push will be to update the city’s master plan.

Petrolia in

There will be no third race in Delray Beach. On Monday, the same Judge Sasser who was part of the Mizner Trail ruling denied Ryan Boylston’s claim that the city and the supervisor of elections unfairly kept him from getting the required 250 petition signatures to challenge Seat 1 City Commissioner Shelly Petrolia.

Petrolia told me that she will refund to donors the roughly $9,000 she had raised in anticipation of a campaign against Boylston. She thus wins a three-year term without opposition. In 2013, Petrolia was elected to serve the remaining two years of the Seat 1 term. Delray Beach has six-year term limits based on serving two terms of three years. Petrolia said she will ask the city attorney whether she could run for another full term in 2018 or could serve just one additional year.

Time for an update

If you check the page on the Delray Beach website that lists the city commission’s meeting dates and provides the agendas, you will see a menu that include a link to “Goals Progress Reports.” Click, and you will see that the most recent report is from September 2012.

Maybe one of the goals for new City Manager Don Cooper should be up update the “Goals Progress Reports.”


You can email Randy Schultz at

For more City Watch blogs, click here.About the Author

Randy Schultz was born in Hartford, Conn., and graduated from the University of Tennessee in 1974. He has lived in South Florida since then, and in Boca Raton since 1985. Schultz spent nearly 40 years in daily journalism at the Miami Herald and Palm Beach Post, most recently as editorial page editor at the Post. His wife, Shelley, is director of The Learning Network at Pine Crest School. His son, an attorney, and daughter-in-law and three grandchildren also live in Boca Raton. His daughter is a veterinarian who lives in Baltimore.

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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