Sunday, October 17, 2021

Boca Country Club Airing Grievances Ahead of City Takeover & More

In two weeks, Boca Raton will take over the Boca Country Club. Though city officials have been meeting for a year with residents of the surrounding homes, some of those residents remain unhappy about the transition from The Boca Raton ownership to city ownership.

One of those residents, Marvin Weinstein, spoke during Tuesday night’s city council meeting. Like other homeowners, he wants Boca Raton to expressly state that the city won’t sell the golf course for development.

“Traffic is a huge concern,” Weinstein added. The main entrance to Boca Country Club is on the west side Congress Avenue, across from the Costco store north of Clint Moore Road. The golf course, which had been used only by guests and members of the Boca Raton Resort & Club—now The Boca Raton—will become the city’s municipal course. That will mean many more cars entering the community.

Homeowners are mad that they didn’t know about the resort’s donation of the course and related facilities to the city until the news became public. Though homeowners didn’t have access to most of the facilities unless they were Premier Club members, some of their comments imply that city ownership will ruin what has been a private enclave.

After Weinstein spoke, Mayor Scott Singer noted that city representatives have had “extensive conversations” with the residents, whose attorney is former U.S. Rep. Ron Klein. City Manager Leif Ahnell pointed out that while Boca Raton is “committed to a golf course,” the city “is not even in custody” of the property and can’t make any declaration.

The immediate timetable is tight. The city wants to shift golf operations from Boca Municipal to Boca Country Club—to be named Boca Raton Golf and Racquet Club—on Nov. 1. That must happen because GL Homes’ purchase of Boca Municipal closes the same day.

After that, the city also will focus on renovating the clubhouse and tennis facility. Most likely, some tennis courts will remain and the city will add pickleball courts.

One decision already has upset some homeowners. The city will not retain the club’s pool because, Ahnell said, the city has no need for another municipal pool that would cost between $250,000 and $300,000 a year to operate. The city hopes to attract a restaurant as an added amenity.

As for traffic, homeowners want the city to prohibit u-turns on Congress Avenue. City traffic engineers, however, determined that such a change wouldn’t be effective. Ahnell said the city proposed a year ago that homeowners open the northern entrance to Boca Country Club. The overall issue remains unresolved, so discussions about traffic will continue.

Finally, some homeowners want the city to annex Boca Country Club. But that couldn’t happen without also annexing Costco, because Boca Country Club doesn’t share a border with Boca Raton. Officials determined that the city would lose money on the annexation. No council member has suggested it.

Ahnell pointed out that the city plans to invest roughly $8 million to renovate all the facilities. Though the homeowners aren’t Boca Raton residents, they will be able to use all the facilities at rates that city residents will pay. It’s unclear how many homeowners have full access now.

Weinstein said the city hasn’t been doing much at the club. Ahnell responded, “We’ve done a lot. We may not be doing what they want at this point in time.”

And Costco

One other point about Boca Country Club.

Twenty years ago, the homeowners fiercely opposed the Costco. They claimed that the traffic would harm the community and drive down property values.

A decade later, attitudes had changed. A former president of the homeowners association said the Costco had brought “no problems. People are quite satisfied.” Boca Country Club residents were among the store’s best customers. When the company wanted to add a gas station, there was no strong organized opposition.

BRPL hiring struggles

miami book fair

If you live in Boca Raton and would like to visit the library on Sundays, the city would like to make that happen.

Unfortunately, Ahnell said, the city can’t find employees to make it happen. “We have a lot of vacant positions,” Ahnell said. Like so many other employers, Boca Raton is finding that people have reassessed during the pandemic and remain wary because of Florida’s inability to control COVID-19. Hiring is harder than ever.

Boca CRA expiration date

downtown boca

During Monday’s budget hearing, Ahnell again warned council members of a looming problem.

It will come when the community redevelopment agency no longer has to send property tax money to the city. The CRA, formed in 1980 to eradicate downtown blight, is supposed to go out of existence in 2025. If the change kicked in now, the budget gap would be about $7.5 million.

“Have we thought of any creative ideas,” Councilwoman Andrea O’Rourke asked. Ahnell: “We’re looking at options.”

Boca deputy CM to retire

Boca Raton is adding an assistant city manager position next year because Deputy City Manager George Brown is retiring at the end of 2022.

Council members have talked about “succession planning” at recent goal-setting meetings. Ahnell has been city manager since 1999 and must retire by 2024. With Brown’s departure, there will be just one deputy manager, Mike Woika. The new assistant will join Chrissy Gibson in that role.

Mask mandate lawsuit

While fights over school mask mandates continue in state court, a federal lawsuit seeks to overturn the Palm Beach County School District’s mandate that allows exemptions only for disabilities under federal law.

Among the plaintiffs is the guardian of three students who attend Addison Mizner School in Boca Raton. Another plaintiff attends Boca Raton High School.

The plaintiffs’ attorney is Louis Leo, last seen losing a lawsuit that sought to overturn Palm Beach County’s mask mandate. Leo also represented former Florida Atlantic University professor James Tracy, who claimed that the Sandy Hook School shooting didn’t happen.

Leo argues that masks violate the students’ rights to “personal autonomy and bodily integrity,” among other things. The lawsuit refers to “Adison (sic) Mizner School.”

Delray Pride Intersection vandal update

Monday’s plea conference in the case of Alexander Jerich was delayed until Oct. 5.

Jerich faces one felony and one misdemeanor charge for defacing Delray Beach’s LGBTQ Pride streetscape. According to court records, the lead prosecutor and Jerich’s attorney are “working to resolve this case and need more time to resolve it.”

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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