Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Longer Council Terms in Boca? And Delray Streamlines Permitting

Boca Raton Mayor Scott Singer wants to extend the terms of his office and city council members from three years to four years.

At tonight’s meeting, the council will consider an ordinance that Singer has proposed that would change the current system. The council will decide whether to place the proposal before voters in the March 14 election.

If the council does so and voters approve it, Singer’s term would end in March 2027. He already has won a new term—until March 2026—without opposition. The terms of Francine Nachlas, who will take over Andy Thomson’s seat, and the winner of the race between Christen Ritchey and Mark Widger to succeed term-limited Andrea O’Rourke also would serve until March 2027.

The terms of council members Yvette Drucker and Monica Mayotte are scheduled to end in March 2024. They would be able to serve until March 2025. Drucker could run for another term. Mayotte is term limited.

The memo from City Attorney Diane Frieser does not state why Singer wants longer terms. For years, Boca Raton and many other cities had two-year terms. The argument then became that two years wasn’t long enough to learn the job.

So Boca Raton and Delray Beach went to three years with term limits after six years. Ex-council members must sit out one cycle before running again.

Though Palm Beach County commissioners serve four-year terms, elected city officials still generally serve for two years or three years. In Broward County, however, four-years terms are more common. Fort Lauderdale, Pembroke Pines, Hollywood, Miramar and Coral Springs—the five largest cities—allow the mayor and commissioners to serve four years.

Singer’s proposal would not change the ban on serving more than two consecutive terms. But mayors and council members could serve more than eight years in unusual circumstances—like Singer’s.

He became mayor in a 2018 special election to fill out the term of Susan Haynie, whom then-Gov. Rick Scott had suspended following her arrest on corruption charges. Singer then won a full term in 2020. Under the charter change he proposes, Singer would spend nearly a decade as mayor.

Another argument in favor of longer terms is that cities can spend less on elections by having fewer of them. The counterargument is that the public must wait longer to remove someone for bad performance.

To make the March ballot, the council would have to approve the ordinance tonight. I’ll have more after the meeting.

Boca council to make decision on Thomson’s seat

Also tonight, the council also may decide whether to fill Thomson’s seat on an interim basis until March. As I noted last week, given that Nachlas already has won the seat, naming her now could give her a head start and eliminate the chance of a tie vote on major issues.

Delray Beach streamlines building permits

Delray Beach finally can process building permits online.

The service, called ePlans, should save time and costs. It can handle requests for roof repairs and new roofs, air conditioner and water heater replacements and all manner of routine work. Residents can track their applications through the site. This change has been a priority for Delray Beach since I’ve been writing this blog, which is nearly nine years. Boca Raton has offered this service for more than a decade.

Change of plans for Boca’s proposed ALF

Opponents of an assisted living facility near Addison Mizner School have challenged the developer’s idea that there is high demand in Boca Raton for such senior residences. What happened Monday might bolster their argument.

Before the city council, acting as the community redevelopment agency, was a request to extend the time for developing a senior facility in the city’s downtown. Approvals of development projects have deadlines. If developers don’t meet those deadlines, the approvals can lapse.

The 0.6-acre site, at 22 Southeast Sixth Street, sold for $10.2 million in April 2021 to a Maryland-based entity. Two years before, it had sold for $6.15 million. The CRA had approved the senior facility, known as Concierge, in 2018. It would have had 88 beds and been nine stories high.

Now, however, that plan has changed. The developer’s attorney said the new application will be for a 48-unit standard residential project. That application, the attorney said, will go to the city very soon.

This switch doesn’t seem to support the idea of pent-up demand for ALFs. The project near Addison Mizner is in litigation after the city claimed that it needs a change to the city’s comprehensive plan.

Hurricane Nicole leaves its mark on Delray Beach

Delray Beach didn’t suffer as much beach damage from Hurricane Nicole as Daytona Beach, but the storm left its mark.

According to Chris Bell, the fire department’s emergency manager, as much as four feet on the north end of the city’s beach was scarped. That happens when waves chew away enough sand that the edge of the beach looks like a cliff, with a very sharp drop.

Bell said officials from Delray Beach, the county and state have met with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers “to assess the beach conditions.” Information should be available “within the next few weeks.” Bell also said that the storm “displaced” a lifeguard stand that the city needed to move.

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving. My next post will be on Nov. 29.

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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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