Saturday, April 13, 2024

From more iPic details to Bowl buzz and Boca Center

iPic milestones

       Four months after receiving preliminary approval from the Delray Beach City Commission, the iPic project faces three milestones in just a few days.

       Today, the Community Redevelopment Agency votes on whether to amend for the fourth time the agreement under which iPic would buy land from the CRA for what is formally known as the Fourth and Fifth Delray project. The site—between Southeast Fourth Avenue and Southeast Fifth Avenue—is the former home of the city library and the Delray Beach Chamber of Commerce. The amendment would extend the purchase approval date to April 29, 2016 and the termination date to Dec. 31, 2016.

       The dates are based on a schedule that iPic’s lawyer sent to the CRA in late September. It presumes the last commission approval on March 1, after which there would be 30 days for anyone with standing to appeal. If that forecast holds up and there are no successful challenges, iPic would obtain a building permit by Dec. 30. The company is asking for the extra time based on what Bonnie Miskel calls “the levels of concerns, comments and opposition that we endured. . .”

       Expect the CRA board to approve the amended agreement. The CRA has supported the project through all the controversy about traffic and iPic’s impact on that portion of East Atlantic Avenue, which the nearby Atlantic Crossing project also will affect.

       To ensure that the city gets what it expects, the agreement would state that the theater would be an iPic. The agreement, though, would not require iPic to move its headquarters from Boca Raton to Delray Beach. A CRA board member asked that the condition be included, but it isn’t in the proposal. CRA Director Jeff Costello said Monday that the agency is having “continuing conversations” with the company, whose president said during commission debate that the headquarters would shift if Delray approved the project.

       After the CRA stop, review of the project’s preliminary plat goes before the planning and zoning board on Monday. IPic’s biggest date, however, is Wednesday before the Site Plan Review Advisory Board.

       Though the commission in August allowed the eight-screen theater and almost 12 feet of extra height, and abandoned part of an alley, the commission asked for changes to reduce the impact. Those changes must be in the site plan. The board will review not just the plan for the nearly 1.6 acres iPic would buy from the CRA but the 0.14-acre Martini property to the south that iPic would buy to make the traffic plan work. The commission made purchase of the property a condition for abandoning part of the alley.

       The Martini issue will prompt few, if any questions from the board. City staff recommends approval in just a few paragraphs. The staff also recommends approval of the iPic project, but with many conditions, the most important of which concern traffic.

       As the commission requested, iPic has made the project slightly smaller. The eight-screen theater would have 31 fewer seats. The retail space is down to 7,487 square feet and the office space to 42,446 square feet. On the third floor would be a roughly 5,000-square foot terrace to which the public would have access. The plan has new details about sidewalks, lighting and landscaping. The east-west alley behind stores fronting on Atlantic Avenue would be 24 feet wide, for maximum access.

       Cars would arrive through the main entrance on Southeast Fourth Avenue. There would be a pedestrian entrance from Fifth Avenue. The obvious point of concern is the block on Fourth Avenue between First Street and Atlantic Avenue. IPic argues that the project’s traffic circulation wouldn’t create a chokepoint on Fourth Avenue, even with a valet operation.

       The main traffic conditions proposed by staff are:

       — That iPic coordinate with the city during construction to make sure that the north-south alley within the project provides adequate access from Fourth Avenue.

       — That the city determine within two years of the project opening whether a traffic light is needed at Fourth Avenue and Southeast First Street. If one were needed, iPic would pay part of the cost.

       — That the city could ask iPic within the first two years to conduct a traffic study of the two intersections at Atlantic Avenue to determine if the timing of the lights needed to be changed.

       — That iPic address Palm Beach County’s review of the project’s revised traffic analysis.

       — That iPic station a security guard on Fifth Avenue to prevent drop-offs at the pedestrian entrance that could cause backups on the one-way, southbound road.

       — That iPic review valet and parking garage operations after six months and help with “commercial reasonable modifications,” if needed.

       Related to traffic is parking. The garage would have 315 shared spaces, 90 of which would be open to the public. The project would displace 98 public parking spots. Those public spots would be in front of the security gate. The staff report says the city, CRA and iPic would have to approve an agreement to make sure that the spots remained available to the public and weren’t being used by employees or customers. Some Atlantic Avenue merchants argue that 90 public spaces are too few.

       I would expect the site plan review board to propose other conditions. Indeed, Miskel’s schedule proposes resubmittal of the site plan in two weeks to address comments from board members, followed by a second appearance before the board on Jan. 13. There will be no rest over the holidays for those associated with this project.

Pay raises timetable

       With the Boca Raton City Council set to discuss next month a date for when voters might get to decide whether the mayor and council members get a raise, here are some numbers from previous elections.

       Three 2016 dates are possible: the city election in March; the state primary in August and the general election in November. No council member is up for election, but Boca could hold a vote in March on the raises.

       If the priority is to get the highest turnout, the decision is easy: November. Some council members wondered if voters might skip the issue, coming as it would at the end of a long ballot. History doesn’t support that argument.

       In 2004, when voters rejected an earlier raise proposal, turnout was almost 36,000. That was a general election during a presidential year, which we have in 2016. In 2002, a general election in a non-presidential year, turnout was 24,400 for the vote on bonds to build new fire stations.       But for the March 2014 mayoral election, which got a lot of publicity, turnout was just 11,037.

       Jeremy Rodgers favors an August vote, so the raises could start in the budget year that begins in October. For the widest, most reliable measure of whether to raise salaries, however, the vote should take place in November.

Note from Mr. Rodgers                                     

Speaking of Jeremy Rodgers, he emailed after my item last week on the Boca council’s decision to overturn the zoning board’s denial of a variance that would allow a single-family home on an undersized oceanfront lot.

       I wrote: “As the staff made clear, however, rejecting the variance would have led to a lawsuit, and the city’s position would have been weak.” Rodgers said readers could have inferred that the staff made this statement in its memo recommending that the council overturn the board.

       To clarify, that was my opinion, based on my reading of the staff report. Given the staff’s thoroughness, I think the city would have lost if the council had rejected the variance and the landowner had sued.

       Rodgers, who voted against the variance, disagreed. The issue was the width of the lot—85 feet, below the standard buildable width of 100 feet. That happened long before the current owner bought the property in 2011. But with that knowledge, Rodgers said, the buyer “should have had no expectations of being granted the variance. . .” The staff report concluded that because the lot size was not the owner’s fault, the owner should get the variance.

Trash Talk (again)

       Last spring, the Delray Beach City Commission dumped Waste Management as the city’s trash hauler in favor of Southern Waste Systems. Waste Management had served Delray for 12 years, keeping the contract without having to bid on the extension.

       The trash contract became an issue in the 2013 election that made Cary Glickstein mayor and put Shelly Petrolia on the commission. The commission successfully challenged the contract extension, and chose Southern Waste Systems, which came in much cheaper.

       The transition went smoothly. Now Waste Management is buying Southern Waste Systems. So the company’s name will be back on the trucks in Delray, but the new, lower price will remain.

Boca Bowl

       Not just an ESPN reporter believes that next week’s Boca Raton Bowl is one of the best matchups.

       In the current Sports Illustrated, media critic Richard Deitsch calls the game one of the best after the top-tier bowls set for New Year’s Day. The Boca Bowl at Florida Atlantic University stadium features Toledo and Temple.

       Ten conferences are in the Football Bowl Subdivision, which the NCAA once called Division I. Five are the so-called power conferences—Atlantic Coastal, Big 10, Big 12, Pacific 12 and Southeastern. Deitsch calls the Boca Bowl the best matchup of teams from the other conferences. Temple is in the American Athletic Conference. Toledo in the Mid-American.

       After the first game kicked off with many seats empty, ESPN—which operates the game—FAU and local organizers made it their goal to fill the 30,000-seat stadium. They’re getting the sort of hype they didn’t get last year.

Boca Center still on

       A few weeks ago, I wrote about the big changes Crocker Partners plans for Boca Center. No plans have gone to the city, but the changes are starting.

       Boca Center just sent out a mailer notifying residents that Crocker has moved the valet parking from the old spot facing Military Trail. The mailer says the move will free up more self-parking and make valet parking better.

       Crocker’s Angelo Bianco also told me that the makeover will make Boca Center food-centric. In saying that “good things are happening,” the mailer lists the project’s restaurants, along with Joseph’s Market and Total Wine. Expect 2016 to be a pivotal year for Boca Center.


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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