Thursday, May 23, 2024

Boca’s Pearl City Vote & Changes to Delray’s CRA

At tonight’s meeting, the Boca Raton City Council will vote on a resolution in support of the attempt to put Pearl City on the National Register of Historic Places. The issue might seem to be straightforward. Apparently, however, it’s not.

One component of Pearl City is the Dixie Manor public housing complex. The Boca Raton Housing Authority has hired a developer—Atlantic Pacific Communities—to demolish the 95 units and build a new project that could have twice as many units. Some are nearly 80 years old. None of them has central air-conditioning.

The developer has submitted preliminary drawings to the city, which must approve a site plan. Now, however, the authority’s chairman, Gary Richardson, and Executive Director John Scannell wonder whether historic designation could affect approval of the new project, to be called Martin Manor.

On June 10, a representative of the Florida Department of State explained the designation process during a meeting at Ebenezer Mission Baptist Church in Pearl City. Attendees, who included Councilwoman Monica Mayotte, expressed support. Mayotte then asked for the resolution that comes up tonight.

On June 28, the authority received a letter from the Department of State about the possible designation. In an email to board members, Scannell noted that the state official at the June meeting had “assured” the authority that the designation would have no bearing on Martin Manor.

But because the project will use federal money, Scannell said, language in the letter suggests that the state might need to review the plans to prevent any “adverse effects” on Dixie Manor’s history. The oldest units date to World War II and were built to house Black families working at the airbase that is now Boca Raton Airport.

Complicating matters is that Scannell just announced his resignation, effective Sept. 30, for a job with the Pulte Family Foundation. Scannell told me that he felt comfortable leaving, with the “repositioning” of Martin Manor now basically in the hands of the developer. Atlantic Pacific will own Martin Manor and pay taxes on the roughly 10-acre property.

Things are happening quickly. Last Friday, Martin Manor received approval of the state financing it had requested. “It’s not the biggest piece,” Scannell said, “but it’s a very important piece.” Without it, a delay would have resulted.

And on Aug. 3, the Florida National Register Review Board will discuss the Pearl City designation. If the state determines that Pearl City meets the criteria, it will forward the request for federal review.

The housing authority uses no city money. Council members appoint the board members. Until discussion of a new Dixie Manor three years ago, the authority rarely came up during council meetings. After residents accused the authority of not communicating, however, the council added two board members. Both are residents.

Though the name Pearl City generally applies to the area between Dixie and Federal highways and between 15th and 10th streets, it technically has three components. One is Dixie Manor. The others are the Pearl City and Lincoln Park neighborhoods.

I’ve heard that the authority might ask to separate Dixie Manor from the designation. The board, which at first backed the designation, held a meeting Monday night.

I’ll have more after the council meeting.

Changes to Delray’s CRA

delray

More change will be coming to the Delray Beach Community Redevelopment Agency at today’s meeting.

One item will codify the new board makeup to include only the mayor and commissioners. Previously, the board had included two members whom the commission appointed. That hybrid system had been in place since April 2018, when a previous commission abolished the seven-member appointed board that had set policy for decades.

Once that happens, the board will debate how to create a five-member committee to advise the CRA. Agency staff have researched the issue and will “present suggestions.” Once board members have agreed on the committee’s structure, staff will write a resolution to make it official. The most likely outcome probably will be a five-member board with the mayor and each commissioner getting one appointment.

Small change in Boca property tax rate

Boca Raton’s property tax rate would be virtually unchanged under the budget proposal before the city council at tonight’s meeting.

City Manager Leif Ahnell proposes a rate of $3.69 per $1,000 of assessed value to support the operating budget and service bond payments. The owner of a home assessed at $500,000 would pay $1,840. That would be more than last year, given that property values have increased. Ahnell proposes no increase in the fire fee of $155.

For homeowners’ tax bills to stay the same, Boca Raton would have to set the rate at $3.31. Council members could lower the rate during budget discussions even if they go with Ahnell’s number for now. They just couldn’t raise it. The city will hold two public hearings on the budget in September. The budget year begins Oct. 1.

More details on Delray’s budget

More details of Delray Beach’s budget emerged during a second city commission workshop meeting.

The city will add the position of special events coordinator to handle growing demand. The budget will include $1 million for the Downtown Development Authority to operate Old School Square, principally the Cornell Museum, in the second year of a contract that expires on Sept. 30, 2024.

Delray Beach’s operating budget will be $184 million—an increase of about $15 million. Higher personnel costs, notably for insurance and pensions, explain most of the increase. Commissioners also want more emphasis on maintenance and appearance. Ryan Boylston said he wants Delray Beach to have “award-winning” bathrooms. Nervous laughter followed.

Mike Burke’s new contract

Mike Burke

Palm Beach County School Superintendent Mike Burke got a new, five-year contract last week.

School board members agreed with the proposal from Chairman Frank Barbieri to extend Burke’s deal. He will make $340,000 a year. Board members praised Burke for his knowledge of Florida’s complex school financing formula and his commitment to students.

One of Burke’s priorities will be to market traditional public schools, given new competition from the private school voucher program. This year, the Republican-led Legislature removed all income requirements for the vouchers, which two analyses estimate will cost the state about $4 billion.

Mizner Park outdoor seating complaints

mizner park

It seems ironic, given the heat dome that has settled over this area, but Boca Raton is getting complaints about outdoor seating at Mizner Park restaurants.

The topic came up during Monday’s city council workshop meeting. Deputy City Manager George Brown said the number of outdoor seats restaurants receive is based on how much parking they provide. The formula to determine that seating, Brown said, has not changed since before the pandemic. Boca Raton is now updating it.

While that happens, Brown said, the city is holding off on strict code enforcement of those seating issues. Brown said the city will continue to make sure that tables don’t obstruct walkways or block fire hydrants.

Delray Beach underrated?

delray
Photo courtesy Delray Beach Downtown Development Authority

Would you consider Delray Beach an “underrated” destination? Travel & Leisure magazine does.

A recent item helpfully tells non-locals that the city is “nestled” between Boca Raton and Boynton Beach and is “yet to be uncovered by the masses.” Tell that to residents who complain about weekend noise on East Atlantic Avenue.

There is “so much more” to Delray Beach, the magazine says, than the city’s “pretty beaches.” Visitors can find “trendy hotels” and “vibrant street art.” For hotels, the article touts The Ray and Delray Sands Resort. For restaurants, it lists The Modern Rose, Lulu’s Café & Cocktails, Rose’s Daughter, Mussel Beach and Joseph’s Wine Bar and Café.

Amusingly, the article advises travelers to “stroll through” the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens. Good advice on the destination, except the Morikami is several miles from Delray Beach. Like the city, it’s not underrated.

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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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