Golf Course Update, Candidate Forum Observations & Other News

golf course

Golf course news

golf course

Monday could bring a major development regarding golf in Boca Raton.

The Greater Boca Raton Beach & Park District will hold a special meeting at 5:15 p.m. District Director Art Koski told me Wednesday that he expects to receive a purchase agreement this week from Lennar to buy the Ocean Breeze course at Boca Teeca. District board member Craig Ehrnst told me the same thing. The board would consider it Monday.

Ehrnst said the meeting had been called to address questions from the city about Ocean Breeze, including the issue of whether the district and/or the city could take the course by eminent domain if the city sold the western golf course. Obviously, there would no need for eminent domain if Lennar sold the 200 acres.

Lennar is one of three bidders for the western course, with GL Homes and Compson Associates. Lennar has offered $51 million, minus $10 million for Ocean Breeze. The company has a contract to buy it, and would convey the property to the city and/or the district. I’d been hearing that Lennar would raise its offer. GL and Compson are offering $73 million. I’m told that Lennar’s proposed purchase price would be at least $20 million, which would be double the value in the current offer.

Even if district board members get and like the offer, they would have to consult with the city. How much would it cost to make Ocean Breeze playable? Would the course have 27 holes, or fewer? Who would operate the course, and what would it cost? How much would the city net from selling the western course? Does the whole deal make sense for the city at large, or just for the Boca Teeca residents who don’t want Ocean Breeze developed?

“My understanding,”Ehrnst said in an email, “is, conceptually, a lot of details and due diligence needs to be worked out. As the details evolve, if the city does not provide funding it will not happen. It’s all still very fresh.”

I will have more after the meeting.

Candidate forum

We learned something during Monday night’s Boca Raton Federation of Homeowner Associations city council candidate forum. Among them:

  • We learned that the Seat B race to succeed Mike Mullaugh will be lively.
  • We learned that the Seat A race won’t be lively.

Let’s start with the lively.

Happily, all three Seat B candidates—Emily Gentile, Andrea O’Rourke and Andy Thomson—are qualified. All can speak credibly on most issues.

Most in the audience at the city complex on Congress Avenue were supporting O’Rourke. No surprise there. The federation long has been the counterweight to the Greater Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce, and O’Rourke is the candidate who talks most about overdevelopment. She got her strongest applause when talking about traffic and saying that she would “hold developers accountable.” The applause was more polite when Thomson, on the issue of development, said a city is “growing or dying.”

O’Rourke also is the candidate most linked to BocaWatch’s Al Zucaro, who is running against Mayor Susan Haynie. O’Rourke served as the website’s editor, and has received $2,500 from Zucaro’s wife, Yvonne Boice, and entities linked to Zucaro. BocaWatch’s core audience is in the Golden Triangle and some of the beach district. Many spectators Monday night wore O’Rourke and Zucaro campaign buttons.

So conventional wisdom would be that the race sets up most favorably for O’Rourke. She has support from BocaWatch. She has a strong base in the Golden Triangle, where she lives. O’Rourke will hold those voters, the theory goes, while Gentile and Thomson split the rest.

Based on Monday night, Gentile and Thomson therefore intend to portray O’Rourke as a provincial candidate whose appeal is deep but not broad and whose concerns are too narrow.

O’Rourke, Thomson said, “has represented her neighbors to the detriment of everyone else.” Regarding traffic, Thomson said the city had a plan to relieve congestion at Northeast Fifth Avenue and 20th Street, which is the northern boundary of the Golden Triangle. “Do you know who stopped it?” Thomson asked rhetorically. A Golden Triangle resident who has donated to O’Rourke’s campaign shouted back, “The neighbors, who opposed it!”

True enough. In 2012, Boca Raton turned down $38.2 million from the state to widen Federal Highway to six lanes from Glades Road to the Delray Beach line. The project also would have reconfigured the five-way intersection at Federal and 20th Street. Thomson was arguing that the council harmed the rest of the city while placating the Golden Triangle.

Similarly, Gentile defended the city’s attempt to put a restaurant on the Wildflower property. Many Golden Triangle residents—including O’Rourke—and some in the beach district across the Palmetto Park Road Bridge opposed it. That opposition, Gentile said, cost the “90,000 residents” of the city $40 million in lease payments. Gentile’s number was high, but she had made her point.

Of course, many in the audience didn’t want to hear those points. And O’Rourke stuck to the traffic issue, even taking a dig at Mayor Susan Haynie. “We’ve had a mayor for 16 years who’s a traffic specialist,” O’Rourke said, “and we’re stuck in traffic.” Haynie has been mayor for just three years, but O’Rourke had made her point.

Lively. And the vote isn’t until March 14.

And more on that…

Gentile did get it wrong on a question about whether the city or the county would provide fire-rescue service to any neighborhoods the city annexed from the county. Gentile said the county would continue service, and then doubled down on her answer when challenged.

In fact, the city would provide service. If annexation caused the county to lay off any firefighters, the city—at the local union’s request—would hire them. That policy was in place when Boca Raton annexed Town Center Mall and some surrounding properties in 2003.

Gentile emailed me Tuesday morning to correct what she called a “confusing” answer.

Seat A

By far, the most unimpressive candidate at Monday night’s forum was Patty Dervishi, who is running against incumbent Scott Singer in Seat A.

Many of Dervishi’s answers were rambling and unfocused. She tried to link overdevelopment to what people pay in school taxes. She falsely accused developers of wanting to “take away the beaches.” Without offering any examples, she accused the council of “breaking the zoning code” and developers of “trying to get into our parks.” She also said Boca has “too much crime,” a comment that seemed to puzzle the two police officers in the room. Dervishi also regularly mispronounces “city council” as “city consul.”

Singer called himself “a leader who listens.” He should have no trouble getting a second term.

Mayoral debate

The mayoral debate between Haynie and Zucaro was mostly predictable. Zucaro talked about Boca Raton’s problems, and Haynie talked about the solutions she has offered and plans to offer, accusing Zucaro of offering nothing but complaints.

Outside of BocaWatch, Zucaro has had no civic involvement since moving from West Palm Beach seven years ago. Haynie has served on the council almost continuously since 2000 and began working for the city in 1974. She’s president of the Florida League of Cities and serves on the Palm Beach Metropolitan Planning Organization.

Haynie caught Zucaro in obvious contradictions. He complains about development and traffic, but criticizes the council for not trying to recruit more businesses, which would bring more of both. He says the city has many problems, but says businesses would want to move because Boca Raton is so great.

Zucaro did raise an issue that he may use often. He cited the talk that Haynie, if she wins, will leave the mayor’s job early to run for the term-limited seat of County Commissioner Steven Abrams in 2018. Zucaro pledged a “36-month commitment”—the term is three years—and, ideally for him, a “72-month commitment.” Haynie mostly evaded the issue.

I fact-checked one exchange on traffic. When Haynie touted her work in securing money for the Interstate 95 interchange at Spanish River Boulevard, Zucaro countered that the road would be “failing” when the interchange opens. A “failing” road is one with Level of Service “F,” meaning the most congested. “A” is the least congested.

After consulting with city staff, Haynie emailed to say that Spanish River Boulevard is currently Level of Service “D” under county calculations and likely will drop to “E” when the interchange opens this year, slightly above the traffic volume needed for a “D” rating. Boca Raton’s comprehensive plan allows nothing worse than an “E.”

P&Z Board agenda

On tonight’s Boca Raton Planning and Zoning Board agenda is a proposed code change that is designed to end a lawsuit.

In 2012, Boca approved an ordinance to allow a student-only housing classification. The project in question was University Park, near Florida Atlantic University. The city sought the designation as a way to cluster college students, rather than have them dispersed among single-family neighborhoods.

Last year, the Fair Housing Center of the Palm Beaches sued the city, alleging that the ordinance prevented married students with children from living in such complexes. The city’s legal department believes that the ordinance is sound because it doesn’t expressly prohibit the children of students.

But it also doesn’t expressly allow them. So the proposed change would add “qualifying non-students”—the new legal name for a toddler—to those who can live in university housing. The legal department does not believe the change would undercut the intent of the ordinance, and would end the legal challenge.

The iPic issue

Ipic and the Delray Beach Community Redevelopment Agency still have not closed on the sale of the property that would be home to Fourth and Fifth Delray.

The closing had been planned for Jan. 31, but iPic didn’t get its permit from the Florida Department of Transportation. The permit will apply to work on Southeast Fifth Avenue—Federal Highway—on the east side of the theater/office/restaurant complex.

A state official said the permit application came too late for that Jan. 31 deadline. Several departments must review it. CRA Director Jeff Costello said Wednesday that he had been “talking to the team” at FDOT. Closing is now set for the end of the month. “We’re almost there.”

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