Monday, December 4, 2023

Chick-fil-A Gets a Thumbs Down and More on Boca Term Limits

Breaking: Brightline Boca to begin service

Brightline will begin service at its Boca Raton Station on Wednesday.

At 9 a.m. Tuesday, a ribbon-cutting will open the station, east of the downtown library. The company also will start service next week at its Aventura station in northern Miami-Dade County. Boca Raton contributed roughly $10 million toward the station garage, which also will have spaces for library patrons.

For information about train schedules, visit

East Boca Raton residents defeated a proposal that would have brought a Chick-fil-A next to their neighborhood.

At Tuesday night’s meeting, the city council unanimously overturned the planning and zoning board’s conditional approval of the project at 2700 North Federal Highway. It would have had several elements, but the Chick-fil-A prompted the opposition because of concern about traffic from its drive-through lane.

Several residents told council members that approving the Chick-fil-A so close to single-family neighborhoods east of the site would go against the council’s October vote to make Boca Raton part of the Vision Zero program. It seeks to eliminate all traffic fatalities and generally make walking and biking safer.

City planners found that only three accidents had occurred within the last year in the area around the site. Residents claimed that the numbers were higher, though their study period was longer and covered a wider area. City Attorney Diana Frieser said council members were free to consider whichever information they preferred.

The outcome was not a surprise. In October, when it appeared that the developer had satisfied the residents’ worry and worked out a deal with the city on two issues, council members essentially asked for a do-over. By Tuesday, residents had framed the project as a threat. “Would you sacrifice our safety?” one speaker asked Tuesday night.

The developer argued that the site plan’s configuration would hold as many as 44 cars at the drive-through without backing out onto city streets. Development Services Director Brandon Schaad said the proposed Chick-fil-A was in a “much better position” to deal with the traffic than restaurants in other cities where residents cited traffic problems.

Residents, though, were organized and persistent. “The residents said it all,” said Councilwoman Andrea O’Rourke. Yvette Drucker said, “This community has said they don’t want it.” She called that “food for thought” for the developer.

Perhaps sensing the potential problem with such a comment, Frieser stepped in to note that community opposition alone can’t determine how council members vote. She swung the debate back to the site plan itself.

An attorney for the developer argued that the council should focus only on the two issues that staff had raised with the project. Those are the issues that apparently had been resolved before the October council meeting. Frieser responded that the council could take a wider look.

Before the vote, Monica Mayotte asked Frieser if denial could “leave us open to litigation.” Frieser noted the obvious— anyone can sue—but said, “I feel very confident” about the city’s position.

The vote followed. So did cheers from the neighbors.

Extend city government terms?                                     

Voters in Boca Raton will decide in March whether to give the mayor and council members longer terms.

By a 3-2 vote Tuesday night, the council put that charter change on the city election ballot. Mayor Scott Singer, who proposed the idea, and Drucker and Mayotte voted yes. Francine Nachlas and Andrea O’Rourke voted no.

O’Rourke noted that she is the only council member whom the change would not affect. She is term-limited in March after serving two three-year terms. Under the change, council members still could serve no more than two consecutive terms, but the terms would increase to four years. Terms would increase for all four of O’Rourke’s colleagues.

Nachlas opposed the change because “it would benefit me.” She also said no residents had expressed support for it to her. To the argument that council members need time to learn the job, O’Rourke said candidates should be prepared when they run, not expect to learn the basics once in office.

Drucker and Mayotte countered that while preparation matters, so does experience. “You live (the job) every day,” Mayotte said.

Brian Stenberg, who has served on city boards and ran unsuccessful against Mayotte last year, asked rhetorically if the change would improve Boca Raton’s quality of life. Singer acknowledged that he has heard favorable and unfavorable comments but thinks that the voters should decide.

In three months, they will.

Another significant FAU donation

Photo: Alex Dolce, Florida Atlantic University

Florida Atlantic University has received a $5 million donation from Michael and Michelle Hagerty that will create the Hagerty Family Athletics Village.

According to a news release, the complex will include all athletic department facilities except the football stadium and the Schmidt Family Complex. It will include facilities for the baseball, softball, soccer, basketball, swimming, tennis, track and field and volleyball teams.

The money will finance improvements to all those facilities. The Hagertys previously gave $2.5 million toward endowing the head football coach position.

Boca Regional receives another large gift                           

Boca Raton Regional Hospital. Photo by Aaron Bristol.

Speaking of local philanthropy, Boca Raton Regional Hospital has received another major gift toward its Keeping The Promise campaign. This $1 million donation comes from Marla and Steve Garchik. The campaign has raised $240 million, just $10 million short of its goal.

Honoring the Martin name                                           

Lois Martin; photo courtesy of the Boca Raton Historical Society

Boca Raton wants the state to name a portion of Glades Road after one of the city’s African-American pioneers.

Lois D. Martin was a Dolphus, one of the city’s original families. Mary Csar, executive director of the Boca Raton Historical Society, said in an email that Ms. Martin “led the charge to get Pearl City (the historic African-American community) designated.” Csar added, “She was often the spokesperson for the community with the city.”

Martin died nearly a year ago at 93. Her history with the city dated back even farther, since her family moved to Boca Raton before she was born. The family lived as squatters in the Yamato community before earning enough money to buy the house in Pearl City where Martin spent her life.

During Tuesday night’s city council meeting, speakers recalled Martin’s many contributions and explained the significance of that stretch of Glades Road, which bisects Pearl City and the Dixie Manor housing complex. Its community center is named for Martin, who taught at the first school in Pearl City. Among her many honors was a lifetime achievement award from Boca Helping Hands.

O’Rourke suggested the tribute. It will require approval by the Legislature, since Glades is a state road. That will require a local bill in this year’s session.

More on Delray’s golf course proposals                                       

delray beach golf club
Photo from Delray Beach Golf Club

I wrote last week that Delray Beach has received six proposals for a public-private partnership to renovate the city’s municipal golf course. One is from Bobby Jones Links, which I called an “outlier proposal” because it seemed limited just to the course and not residential development, like the other five bids.

A company representative emailed to say that the proposal actually is a partnership that includes Bobby Jones Links to operate the course, Reese Jones Design to design the course and Mill Creek Residential Trust. That Boca Raton-based company is one of the country’s largest developer of rental communities.

The representative said, “As the city’s ultimate goal is to provide a renovated and enhanced golf course, with any residential or commercial development being a ‘means to an end,’ it seemed natural for Bobby Jones Links to formally submit the proposal to the city.”

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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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