Boca and Delray Election Updates, Ocean Breeze Progress Report & More

And they’re OFF!

Barring something unexpected, the field for Delray Beach’s March 14 election is set and the fundraising is on.

Qualifying ends Wednesday. Unless there is a late change—there could be at least one—here’s the lineup:

MAYOR – City Commissioner Jim Chard against Commissioner Shelly Petrolia. Michael Wind had filed paperwork to run, but he dropped out. Given the odd comments he made to me about his candidacy and the city, Wind wouldn’t have been a serious candidate anyway.

Chard entered the race much later than Petrolia, who announced her intent in August. So November was his first campaign finance report. Chard raised almost $24,000, including 20 contributions of $1,000.

Three came from members of the Walsh family that controls Ocean Properties. The company owns the Delray Beach Marriott among many other hotels and resorts. Other four-digit contributors included real estate investment broker/Arts Garage board member Brian Rosen, the law firm that represents Fourth and Fifth Delray —developer of the iPic project—and developer Richard Caster, whose company owns a vacant site on Southeast Sixth Avenue.

In addition, Chard got $2,000 through Atlantic Bakery, $1,000 from Caffe Luna Rosa owner Fran Marincola, $1,000 from Old School Square Chairman William Branning and $1,000 from Carl DeSantis, whose Atlantic Plaza site will become Atlantic Crossing. Chard got $1,000 from Arts Garage Chairman Chuck Halberg, $500 from former Mayor Jeff Perlman and $250 from former Commissioner Jon Levinson.

Petrolia raised just $4,300 in November, but she previously had raised nearly $80,000, almost half of that in personal loans. Judging by the contributions, Chard will be the establishment candidate, even though Petrolia has been on the commission since 2013 and Chard won his seat last March. Chard, though, had been very active before his election, serving on the site plan review and advisory board, among other things.

SEAT 1—Former Commissioner Adam Frankel against Eric Camacho, Jordan Truchan and Richard Alteus. Michael Caruso filed his paperwork and then withdrew. So did Kelly Barrette, who lost her commission race against Chard last March. Truchan told me Monday that he won’t decide until Wednesday whether to run.

Frankel has a big early advantage. Camacho hasn’t filed a report showing contributions, Alteus won’t be any more of a credible candidate this March than he was last March in the Seat 4 race. Truchan may not run.

Meanwhile, Frankel raised nearly $21,000 in November, which was his first month. Like Chard, much of the money came in $1,000 contributions. A few of his donors also are Chard donors—Marincola, for one—but others for now are unique to Frankel.

Most notably, Frankel received $3,000 from the law firm that bought Artists Alley. The owners have submitted no plans to the city, but firm principal Joseph White made clear that he wanted to develop the Pineapple Grove site. Frankel received $1,000 from Megan Lemmons, whose address matches that of a Tropic Isles home owned by Steven Michael. He’s the developer of Midtown, formerly Swinton Commons.

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Frankel served for six years on the commission, leaving in 2015 because of term limits. He sat out the required time and wants back on. Seat 1 is open because Petrolia left it to run for mayor.

SEAT 2—The only candidate is William Bathurst, managing partner of Golden Bear Realty. Seat 2 is open because Chard left it to run for mayor.

In his first campaign report, Bathurst listed just $1,000 in contributions and $4,250 in personal loans. That’s not much, but if no else qualified for Seat 2 it won’t matter. Bathurst will win without opposition.

SEAT 3—Incumbent Mitch Katz against Ryan Boylston, founder of Woo Creative. Boylston tried to run for the seat in 2015, but the supervisor of elections office ruled that he hadn’t obtained enough petition signatures.

Katz raised just $3,850 in November. Still, that brings him to roughly $40,000 overall. Katz got $2,000 from Atlantic Bakery. Owner William Himmelrich is very interested in what the commission does with Old School Square, which is across the street from his business.

Boylston got $10,750 in November, to go with about $23,000 in October—$5,000 of that in a personal loan. Like Frankel, Boylston got $1,000 from Match Point. The company has a contract to run the annual pro event at the city’s tennis center. Delray Beach has sued Match Point, seeking to get out of the contract. The commission will hold an executive session on the lawsuit next month.

But Boylston’s most interesting contribution is the $1,000 from former Commissioner Jordana Jarjura. She and Katz disagreed often, the low point coming when Katz accused Jarjura—an attorney—of an ethics violation for trying to keep Noel Pfeffer as city attorney on a temporary basis after he had announced his resignation for a job in private practice.

At the next meeting, Katz apologized to Jarjura. She doesn’t seem to have accepted the apology.

Boca fundraising

Fundraising continues in Boca Raton—for this year and next year.

In March, Monica Mayotte will oppose Seat D Councilman Robert Weinroth. Their reports for November track with how the race is shaping up. Weinroth is the establishment/business candidate while Mayotte is running as the outsider.

If that sounds like the Andrea O’Rourke-Andy Thomson race last March, it should. O’Rourke campaigned against overdevelopment while the Greater Boca Chamber of Commerce endorsed Thomson.

In fact, stereotypes fit neither candidate. O’Rourke has voted for the large Mizner 200 condo project. Thomson ran on a quality of life platform that included the economy and growth management. Still, Mayotte as campaigning as O’Rourke did, calling herself “resident- friendly.”

Weinroth raised another $17,350 in November, giving him about $105,000 in all. For perspective, that’s only about $30,000 less than Susan Haynie raised when she ran this year for another term as mayor.

Weinroth’s contributions included $1,000 from the chamber and $2,000 from the Chicago-based company that would like to develop eight acres near Florida Atlantic University as student housing. Another $1,000 came from Wendy Larsen, one of the attorneys representing Crocker Partners. The company wants Boca Raton to set rules for redevelopment of the Midtown neighborhood, where Crocker is a major landowner.

Mayotte raised $11,700 in November to go with the $25,000 loan that started her campaign. Among Mayotte’s notable contributions was $1,000 from Gerald Gagliardi. He is one of two residents suing the city over approval of Chabad East Boca. Gagliardi and Katherine MacDougall, who gave Mayotte $250, allege that Boca Raton violated the Christian plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights to help the Jewish congregation.

BocaWatch regularly touts Mayotte’s candidacy. Not surprisingly, she received about $1,000 from BocaWatch Publisher Al Zucaro and regular contributors to Zucaro’s website. Mayotte also got $250 from O’Rourke.

Singer running for Mayor

Councilman Scott Singer isn’t on Boca Raton’s 2018 ballot. He’s running for mayor in 2019. As of November, Singer has raised about $34,000 for that campaign.

Ocean Breeze closing

The new closing date for the Greater Boca Beach and Park District’s closing on the former Ocean Breeze golf course is Feb. 28.

Though the last extension had been to the end of January, district officials have negotiated with Wells Fargo —an entity of which owns Ocean and Lennar, which has a contract to buy it. Because the city of Boca Raton is underwriting the bonds, the two sides must draft—and the respective elected officials must approve–an agreement on the sale. That is taking some time.

In addition, the price has changed. The district’s contract is for $24 million, but for a time it seemed that the site zoned for a hotel might not be part of the deal and the price might drop by about $3 million.

District board chairman Bob Rollins, though, told me Monday that the purchase will cover the entire site of roughly 200 acres and be for the full $24 million. At one point, the district had hyped the possibility of a teaching academy affiliated with Greg Norman and a small hotel for students at the academy. Rollins said the clubhouse for the new course could go on the hotel site and the course might have “a small learning center” like the one at county-owned Osprey Point.

Wednesday is the deadline for applications from companies that would create the new course. The district will ask the city to underwrite the cost of that project in a separate bond issue. If the district chooses a contractor promptly and minimal problems arise, Rollins said, the new course could open in the fall of 2019.

Yamato Villas

Having heard that they can’t reject a development because the project would add students to the city’s schools, Boca Raton City Council members need to drop the subject when Yamato Villas comes back to the council, probably next month.

The developer seeks changes that would allow 20 townhouses on Yamato Road east of Interstate 95 where zoning allows only single-family homes. Discussion of Yamato Villas led to the council asking for a presentation by the school district on the causes of school crowding.

As council members heard, Boca Raton schools have crowding issues mostly because young families are moving to the city. Boundary changes and new construction with money from the sales-tax increase will ease the crowding.

The council may reject Yamato Villas. Neighbors don’t like the idea of townhomes. They fear that Florida Atlantic University students would rent them. City staff supports the change, believing that townhomes now work better along that stretch of Yamato.

If council members kill the project, however, they better not mention school crowding. They may already have said too much to vote no.

The viability of rental projects

Critics have questioned the marketability of large rental projects Boca Raton has approved in the last five years. Many of the same critics raise the same issue with changes that would allow rentals in Midtown.

As it turns out, these projects could be well-timed.

The New York Times reports that the Republican tax bill, which Congress will approve this week, does much to discourage homeownership by removing tax incentives. Realtors opposed many aspects of the legislation other than the decrease in the mortgage interest deduction from $1 million to $750,000.

Homeownership nationwide has been dropping in the last decade in a reaction to the real estate crash. Obviously, people will continue to buy homes. Rentals, though, may become more attractive. Those Boca Raton projects, which already are doing well, may be the future.

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