Sunday, April 14, 2024

Mizner 200 Approved but Still Has Hurdles, Possible Special Election and more

Fourteen months ago, I reported on Crocker Partners’ plan for a remake of Boca Center that would be part of a larger plan for redeveloping the section of the city around Town Center Mall known as Midtown. Before the planning and zoning board tonight are the proposed changes that would allow such a transformation.

The backup material runs to 113 pages and the details are technical, but here’s the basic premise:

Within the area bounded by Military Trail, Glades Road, Town Center and Boca Center are many offices and many stores. There is no residential. The changes would allow residential development, marketed to people who work nearby or commute using Tri-Rail. A second Tri-Rail station is planned on a site just north of Boca Center.

Two years ago, Crocker Partners bought back the office-retail Boca Center and three office projects that Tom Crocker had developed nearly three decades ago. Since the combined price was $350 million, it was obvious that Crocker Partners didn’t just want to manage them.

The planning, however, doesn’t involve Crocker Partners. It also includes: Simon Property Group, which owns the mall; Cypress Realty, which owns the Strikes bowling center east of Town Center and the former Bally’s health club building on Military Trail; and Trademark Property Co., which owns Glades Plaza on the south side of Glades Road. If the city approves the changes, all four owners would use common signage and other design elements to create a village feel in what Crocker Partners’ Angelo Bianco envisions as a “lifestyle enclave.”

Key to the debate, of course, will be traffic. The backup material includes many pages of traffic studies. I’m told that the developers have been working for months with the four surrounding neighborhoods – Via Verde, Boca Bath & Tennis, Paradise Palms and Fairfield – and have obtained letters of support.

To make the approach work as well as possible with Tri-Rail, the city would create what planners call a Transit Oriented District. In a letter last April to Mayor Susan Haynie, Tri-Rail hoped for a district that would feature the same sort of shuttle system that carries commuters from the Tri-Rail station on Yamato Road – the busiest on the line – to nearby jobs.

The proposals before the planning and zoning board would create two new zoning districts. The proposals are not specific to one project; they are designed to make the projects possible. There is some time sensitivity. Tri-Rail faces a March deadline to seek $10 million in federal and state grants for money to build the station and buy the cars. The staff recommendation is for approval.

 



 Wildflower property to be fenced off for now

With Boca Raton’s boat parade over, what happens with the Wildflower property? The city installed temporary bleachers that allowed people to watch the parade from the site that was to have been home to a restaurant. A voter-approved ordinance has halted that project.

According to a city spokeswoman, the Wildflower now likely again will be fenced off “as we evaluate what else needs to be done on a more permanent basis to make it safe for the public. (Seawall, lighting, pavement, etc.)” The spokeswoman notes that the property is “included in the work order for the (citywide) waterfront plan, so, hopefully we’ll see a design concept. . .sooner than later.”

Those who opposed the Hillstone Restaurant Group deal suggested lots of ideas for the site, some in conjunction with Silver Palm Park on the other side of the Palmetto Park Road Bridge. Opponents, however, didn’t get into potential costs of some of the more ambitious ideas. The restaurant would have brought the city money from lease payments.

The opponents, among them Councilman Scott Singer, have been playing with other people’s money. The land cost $7.5 million, and it never was intended to be simply a passive park, despite what some revisionist historians claim. It’s easy to knock down an idea, especially when you use deception. It’s much harder to craft a solution. Let’s hope to see one in 2017 that works for the whole city, not just those who opposed the restaurant.

 



A few more hurdles for Mizner 200

It wasn’t a formal recommendation, but the Community Appearance Board majority approved Mizner 200 on Tuesday night. Apparently, the developer’s additional changes went over well. Ahead still remain a formal community appearance review and a stop at the planning and zoning board before the project gets to the city council.

 



Update on Rutherford Park and Lake Wyman restoration

Boca Raton continues work on finally restoring Lake Wyman/Rutherford Park.

Neighborhood opposition killed a 2011 plan for opening up canoe trails that have been closed for years and rebuilding the coastal boardwalk through the many mangroves. That opposition now seems muted, and the city council in October told staff to proceed with a plan that would clear out invasive plants, create a launch site for kayaks and canoes on the north end, address the canoe trails and create a coastal hammock. The council rejected an option that would have provided less parking.

Even in the best case, however, the project would not be complete until late 2019. Obtaining permits from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will take a year. The city must move quickly during this early phase, however, because of an April deadline to apply for money from the Florida Inland Navigation District.

Because the boat launch pushes the projected cost above $2 million, a city spokeswoman said, the staff must seek bids for design work. That also will take time. Boca Raton also might seek money from the county. Still, momentum seems to be building toward a project that the city allowed a few naysayers to delay.

 



Sober home regulation

On Monday night, the Delray Beach Planning and Zoning Board unanimously approved a change to the city’s land-use rules that Delray Beach officials hope will allow regulation of sober homes. The city wants to prevent the clustering of homes in certain areas and to limit the number of residents in each home. The proposal should go to the city commission next month.

 



Special election possible

A Dec. 30 hearing could determine whether Delray Beach is forced to hold a special election to fill former City Commissioner Al Jacquet’s seat.

The commission deadlocked on a replacement. According to the charter, the commission should schedule an election to be held within 60 days. The seat, however, will be on the March 14 ballot, so the winner might be present for just two meetings. Mayor Cary Glickstein said an election could cost $100,000.

Despite the charter, this seems like a no-harm, no-foul occurrence. But J. Reeve Bright, a disbarred attorney who once was part of Mary McCarty’s inner circle, is representing himself in a lawsuit demanding that the city hold an election. The hearing will take place before Palm Beach County Circuit Court Judge Jeffrey Gillen.

 



More back-and-forth for the Office of Inspector General

Unfortunately, the Boca Raton City Council and the city’s legal department had reason to celebrate this week.

The 4th District Court of Appeal reversed a trial judge’s ruling that Palm Beach County cities must pay their share of expenses for the Office of Inspector General. In 2010, voters in all of the 38 cities approved inspector general oversight. The county had created the office a year earlier. With that creation came oversight of county government. The 2010 voted added the cities.

Most cities began allocating their share of the expenses. But 15 cities, Boca Raton among them, challenged the financing system, arguing that the county was illegally forcing them to pay and thus infringing on their sovereign immunity. Delray Beach initially joined the lawsuit, but then withdrew after a new commission took a different approach.

Legally, the Office of Inspector can take complaints from all cities and investigate when the complaint seems credible. Because the lawsuit has limited the office’s operating budget, however, the office has been operating with a staff of just 23, even though it is authorized for 40. So the office, which also can offer advice on matters like purchasing, can’t run at full speed.

Critics of the lawsuit – I’m one — have theorized that the litigation is less about protecting the cities from county overreach and more about trying to avoid the oversight that 72 percent of city voters demanded. The county, which is the defendant, does have one more chance. The 4th DCA certified the case as a matter of great public importance and sent it to the Florida Supreme Court.

In a statement, Inspector General John Carey said, “I hope the issue for a fully funded (Office of Inspector General) will be settled sooner than later. In the meantime, I and my dedicated small staff of professionals will continue to provide the best oversight with what we have to all those under our jurisdiction. This we owe to all the citizens who voted for an independent ‘watchdog’ to guard their taxpayers’ dollars and to promote integrity, efficiency, and effectiveness in government.”

 



 

I disliked the satanic display that a man erected in Boca Raton’s Sanborn Square with traditional holiday displays. But I really disliked the destruction of that display by someone who drove into the square, leaving tire marks and other damage for the city to repair.

You want to make a statement? Make it on your own dime. In the meantime, Merry Christmas to all – even to the self-absorbed satanic worshiper.

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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