Golf Course and Atlantic Crossing Update Plus Post-Election Notes

ocean breeze

Golf course vote

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On Friday, GL Homes Vice President Larry Portnoy wrote to Boca Raton City Manager Leif Ahnell, asking that the city council decide at its March 28 meeting which bid to accept for the western golf course.

The council had not scheduled a vote on selling the course to GL, Lennar or Compson, all of which have offered $73 million for the roughly 200 acres. On April 24, the council will hear a presentation from Greater Boca Raton Beach & Parks District Director Art Koski about Lennar’s offer to sell the Ocean Breeze course to the district for $24 million. There no longer is any link, however, between the two deals.

GL executives obviously believe that their chances are better with Mike Mullaugh on the council than with Andrea O’Rourke, whom voters chose last week to succeed Mullaugh in Seat B. She will take over at the organizational meeting on March 31. Why they believe that is unclear. GL largely stayed out of the recent campaigns. Mayor Susan Haynie and Councilman Scott Singer did receive donations from individuals and entities of Compson and from individuals who have been advising Lennar.

At the last regular meeting, Jeremy Rodgers proposed that the council choose a buyer on March 28. He got no support. If the council doesn’t decide at that meeting, the next regular meeting won’t take place until April 25.

GL’s letter may have less to do with personalities and more to do with timing. The company was the first to offer $73 million, and GL continues to criticize Compson and Lennar for raising their bids after the city’s deadline last November for “last, best and final offers.”

Councilman Robert Weinroth said he would not move for the March 28 date. For the two days prior, Weinroth plans to be in Washington for the annual meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. If weather delays his return the next day, Weinroth said, he wouldn’t want to have pushed for the date and missed the vote.

Weinroth, though, does oppose prolonged delay. “We’ve kicked that can as much as we can.” He also dislikes the presence of so many “advisers” on the issue. Mark Guzzetta, a Haynie political ally, has been helping Lennar. Todd Richardson, Councilman Scott Singer’s campaign consultant, has been a consultant for Ellyn Bogdanoff, the lawyer and former state senator who is representing GL Homes. Singer said he has “built a firewall” between himself and Richardson on the golf course issue.

Mullaugh told me Monday that he “agrees completely” with Portnoy that the council should vote “sooner or later.” But Mullaugh would want to have the staff’s analysis of all three bids—“to know if we have had all our questions asked”—and to give the bidders a chance to say whether they agree with the analysis.

Rodgers said he would ask again for a vote on the 28th. He believes that council members “were given enough analysis to move forward with a decision.” Rodgers also said he has received emails from “quite a few residents wondering why we aren’t moving forward on it.”

Atlantic Crossing

There is still no settlement in Delray Beach of the Atlantic Crossing lawsuit.

In January, the city commission rejected a settlement to which the developer—Edwards Companies—had agreed. This month, the commission approved a new proposal to which Atlantic Crossing had not agreed. The company had until last Thursday to decide.

Edwards finally responded by offering an addendum. Through a public relations representative, Edwards COO Dean Kissos called the new agreement “acceptable with a few minor but critical clarifications. It’s important to specify how each party will satisfy its obligations when it comes to executing the project’s conditions of approval.”

Edwards’ decision means that the new commission—with Jim Chard succeeding Jordana Jarjura and Shirley Johnson succeeding Al Jacquet four-plus months after he resigned—will inherit the decision. The commission holds its organizational meeting on March 30, and City Attorney Max Lohman told me Friday that he likely will ask for an executive session—lawyers, commissioners and administrators only—before the next regular commission meeting on April 4.

Kissos said, “We’re ready to move forward once the city signs the addendum.”

East Side Story

A look at precinct-by-precinct results shows that the east-side divide in Boca Raton has become somewhat sharper in the last three years.

In 2014, Susan Haynie won 28 of Boca Raton’s 37 precincts against Anthony Majhess. Sixteen of those precincts were east of Interstate 95. Last week, Haynie won 22 precincts in her successful re-election campaign against Al Zucaro. Only 10 of those precincts were east of I-95.

Majhess lives in the Golden Triangle, and he campaigned as the anti-development candidate. So did Zucaro, who lives near the Golden Triangle. Zucaro, though, had his BocaWatch website.

So Zucaro was able to flip those six precincts, where voters cast ballots at Boca Raton Middle School, Calvary Chapel (two polling places), Grace Community Church, St. Gregory’s Episcopal Church and the downtown library. The shift in those six precincts between 2014 and 2017, however, was only about 260 votes. Example: Haynie went from winning at Boca Middle three years ago by six votes to losing it this year by 13 votes.

Still, Haynie won a minority of the 21 precincts east of I-95. Though Haynie is the only member of the current council who doesn’t live west of the highway, she continued to enjoy enormous support from key western areas. Example: In the three precincts at Broken Sound Club, Haynie got 605 votes compared to 65 for Zucaro. That difference was more than half of Haynie’s margin.

Next year, Jeremy Rodgers and Robert Weinroth are up for re-election. Both live west of I-95. One can assume that they and any potential challengers are looking at those precinct numbers and noting that elections without a mayor’s race draw fewer voters. This year, nearly 12,000 residents cast ballots. In 2015, a single council race drew slightly fewer than 7,000 voters.

Between now and then, the council will consider several issues that might look different to residents, depending on where they live. Strategists might be wondering how votes might position candidates based on geography. Or someone—or more than one person—might find a way to unite east and west. Haynie said last week that her goal was “heal this divided city.” The 2018 campaign will begin soon.

O’Rourke won an impressive 23 precincts in her Seat B race against Emily Gentile and Andy Thomson. Both were credible challengers, and Thomson raised about as much money as O’Rourke.

Thomson did better in the west, but not enough to overcome O’Rourke’s expected strength in the east. In one precinct that includes the Golden Triangle—where O’Rourke lives—her margin over Thomson was roughly 350 votes. Overall, she beat him by about 1,000 votes. Like Zucaro, O’Rourke had campaigned against what she called overdevelopment, especially downtown. Thomson won the other 15 precincts.

Better late?

The Greater Boca Chamber of Commerce might want to check its election operation. A flier touting the chamber’s endorsements of Haynie, Thomson and Scott Singer (in Seat A) arrived hit mailboxes after the election.

Project Orchid

While Gov. Rick Scott and House Speaker Richard Corcoran argue in Tallahassee over money for job incentives, Boca Raton continues to recruit.

Palm Beach County Commissioner Steven Abrams, who represents Boca and Delray Beach, told constituents about Project Orchid. It’s an effort to keep a company’s headquarters in Boca Raton and expand. The company, Abrams said, would spend $6.1 million on a new facility, keep its 92 jobs and add 100 jobs with a median salary of $90,000. The investment from Boca Raton’s retention/recruitment fund would be $70,000, matching what the county would put up.

New projects

Soon enough, the new Boca Raton council will start facing big issues.

Before the planning and zoning board Thursday night are two major projects. One is Ocean Palm, the 70-unit condo that would replace a 20-unit complex and office building at A1A and Palmetto Park Road. The other is GEO Group’s expansion of its headquarters on Yamato Road just west of Interstate 95. I will have more about these projects in my Thursday post.

Correction

In this post, I originally referred to the American Israel Political Action Committee. It is, of course, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, and the post now reflects the correct title.


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