Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Mizner 200 Decision, Boca Raton’s Money Trail and More

No surprises with Mizner 200

There will be nothing much new Monday when the Boca Raton Community Redevelopment Agency—the mayor and city council—considers Mizner 200.

City staff recommends approval, as the staff did before the luxury condo project got favorable votes from the community appearance board and the planning and zoning board. Opposition again will come most strongly from some residents of Townsend Place, to the south along Mizner Boulevard, and possibly from the owners of Royal Palm Place, on the west side of Mizner Boulevard.

After the developer, Elad Properties, changed the design several times in response to concerns from the community appearance board, the staff believes that Mizner 200 meets all requirements for downtown development under Ordinance 4035. The city’s architectural consultant agrees. The planning and zoning board did recommend that, if the CRA approves Mizner 200, the CRA require the developer to install a barrier—with plants and/or art elements—to protect pedestrians on Mizner Boulevard.

This project began in 2014 as New Mizner on the Green, which would have been four towers averaging 300 feet. That version went nowhere.

Mizner 200 has 384 units. Elad didn’t seek added height under Ordinance 5052. Whatever the objections of neighbors who would lose their views to the east, I don’t see any reason for the CRA to reject Mizner 200 that wouldn’t invite a lawsuit.

Boca’s shortage of downtown parking

Also on Monday, the CRA will discuss downtown parking in Boca Raton. The city’s consultant will present a report that includes options.

Kimley Horn calculates that the city is short about 100 downtown spaces at highest demand. Boca Raton will need as many as 50 more over the next five years, the report says, and as many as 250 more over the next 25 years.

The report proposes five options: parking lots, a garage—construction costing between $6.5 million and $10 million—remote parking with shuttles, spaces at the new government campus and the ever-popular public-private partnership. I will have more after Monday’s discussion.

Follow the election money

All the campaign contribution numbers for Boca Raton’s 2017 election are in. The final reports, which candidates had to submit last month, are partly predictable and partly surprising.

• Susan Haynie

Despite a late start, because it appeared that she might not have an opponent, Mayor Susan Haynie raised the most of the seven candidates—roughly $133,000. Not surprisingly, as the establishment choice, Haynie received lots of donations from individuals and entities with business before the city and from political supporters.

Early on, for example, Haynie got $1,000 from Freedom Medical Services. City Councilman Robert Weinroth and his wife, Pam Weinroth, own the company. Though Weinroth is a Democrat and Haynie is a Republican, their votes on city matters often align. Weinroth had criticized BocaWatch Publisher Al Zucaro, who ran against Haynie. BocaWatch remains regularly critical of Weinroth.

Haynie got $1,000 from Susan Whelchel, who preceded Haynie as mayor. Whelchel has been similarly opposed to Zucaro. Haynie received $500 from William Fairman’s company. As chairman of the planning and zoning board, Fairman is the most important unelected official in the city. Haynie got $400 from Gene Folden. A regular at council meetings, Folden serves on the marine advisory board and moderated the candidate debate before the federation of homeowners.

On Monday, Haynie and the council will decide whether to approve Mizner 200. Haynie received $5,000 from representatives of Elad Properties, the Mizner 200 developer. She also received $3,000 from individuals or entities that support residential development in the Midtown neighborhood. That decision should come before the council this year. Haynie got $5,000 from GEO Group, the Boca Raton company that runs federal and state prisons and detention centers. GEO had requested changes to accommodate its redesigned headquarters. The council approved the changes this year, as staff had recommended.

A new political player this year was Ouzo Bay, the restaurant in Mizner Park. Through individuals and entities, the Maryland-based chain gave Haynie $5,000. Haynie got a similar amount from entities associated with Preferred Developers, which has offices on West Palmetto Park and Powerline roads. Preferred, which I’m told is more of a broker than developer, has no applications before the city. Haynie got $2,500 from entities of Penn Florida, which is developing Via Mizner and University Village.

Finally, Haynie received $4,000 from Compson Associates, one of three bidders for the western golf course, and $1,500 from representatives of GL Homes, one of the other bidders. She got $1,000 from Marta Batmasian of Investments Limited and $500 from Doug Mummaw, the company’s architect. Haynie’s property management company has a contract with the master association of a Deerfield Beach condo where Investments Limited owns many of the units.

Interestingly, Haynie also got $2,000 from Florida Crystals, one of the two large Everglades sugar growers. The company has no business before the city, but that contribution could be aimed at Haynie’s possible run in 2018 for the county commission, before which sugar companies sometimes have business.

 • Andrea O’Rourke

Since Andrea O’Rourke ran for the city council as Boca Raton’s non-establishment candidate, it’s also no surprise that her contribution list reflects that campaign theme.

No candidate relied more on small and medium contributions —$50 to $250—than O’Rourke, who raised about $83,000 for her Seat B race. All but two of O’Rourke’s $1,000 donations came from individuals, one exception being $1,000 from GEO Group.

O’Rourke was her own biggest contributor, loaning the campaign $25,000—roughly 30 percent of the total. O’Rourke then reimbursed herself nearly $20,000 of the loan amount from unspent contributions. That is one of several legal ways to distribute leftover funds.

O’Rourke had been editor of BocaWatch before running, and she received $1,750 from corporate entities tied to Zucaro and his wife, Yvonne Boice. O’Rourke also used BocaWatch’s website developer. O’Rourke got $250 from former Councilman Peter Baronoff, whom I’m told considered running against Haynie. O’Rourke got $500 from Anthony Majhess, who lost to Haynie in 2014 and lent his name this year to a deceptive anti-Haynie mailer.

One of O’Rourke’s $1,000 donations came from Boca Beautiful’s John Gore, who opposes Mizner 200. Another came from Nancy Hendrey. With her husband, James, Hendrey had fought against allowing a restaurant on the Wildflower property. The Hendreys live across the Intracoastal Waterway from the Wildflower. O’Rourke got $500 from Katherine MacDougall, who is suing the city over approval of Chabad East Boca.

Another of O’Rourke’s $1,000 donations, from attorney Adam Beighley, has a Midtown connection. Beighley represents Via Verde, the largest of four neighborhoods surrounding Midtown, and lives in Boca Raton Bath & Tennis Club, one of Midtown’s other neighbors. In his work for Via Verde this year, Beighley asked the council to impose earlier closing times on two Midtown bars. The council did so.

• Scott Singer

Scott Singer had a far easier race than Haynie or O’Rourke, but he nevertheless raised almost $120,000. Though O’Rourke gave Singer $100, his contribution list reads more like Haynie’s than O’Rourke’s.

Singer received $2,000 from the lawyer and the firm representing Mizner 200 and other projects, though he received $500 from John Gore, Mizner 200’s most relentless opponent. Another $1,000 came from Edward Weinstein, a consistent Mizner 200 critic. Like Gore, Weinstein lives in Townsend Place. Singer got $1,000 from Angelo Bianco of Crocker Partners, which has been leading the effort to get approval for as many as 2,500 residential units in Midtown.

Singer got $4,500 from Compson Associates and another $1,000 from Carole Siemens. Her husband, Richard, supports sale of the western golf course to Compson because Compson’s plan would include land for a new Torah Academy campus. Singer got $1,000 from representatives of GL Homes, which also wants to buy the golf course.

Like Haynie, Singer got contributions from Ouzo Bay, though they totaled $3,000 less. Singer also received $5,000 from northwest developer Jamie Danburg and his corporate entities. When he considered a run for mayor, I’ve heard, Singer told developers in that part of Boca Raton that the city was moving too slowly on their permits.

Singer received $250 from Katherine MacDougall, the Chabad East Boca plaintiff. He received a combined $1,500 from Marta Batmasian, Investments Limited and Doug Mummaw. Another $1,000 to Singer came from Preferred Developers.

• Al Zucaro

The remarkable thing about Al Zucaro’s campaign remains how much money came from him.

Zucaro’s contributions totaled roughly $111,000. Almost $64,000 was checks or loans from Zucaro. Another $10,000 came from one of his wife’s companies.

That would be a very high level of self-funding under any circumstance. Zucaro, however, still owes a former business investor $406,000 from a 2009 court ruling. The judge said Zucaro used the money for personal expenses, not on the business.

Since Zucaro found that much money to run for mayor—and repaid himself only about $83—I asked if he planned to address the judgment. The former investor’s lawyer said the judgment remains unpaid. In an email, however, Zucaro said he made a settlement offer and is waiting to hear back. Either way, no money has changed hands.

• More on Zucaro

During the campaign, I also reported on a New York State court ruling that Zucaro had wrongly taken $137,500 from his late uncle’s estate. The executor sued over the transfer to a private account, and the trial court ruled that Zucaro’s action had been “fraudulent.”

Zucaro appealed. In an email, he said the appeals court in April had ruled that the executor “failed to establish any of the elements of fraud. . .” Zucaro claimed that the decision “reversed the lower court’s ruling.” He added, “No further proceedings are pending in the NY courts.”

That isn’t how the executor’s lawyer sees it. First, the text in the appellate ruling refers to “modify,” not “reverse.” And attorney Brian Sichol told me that he will seek to reargue before the appeals court or go to trial.

In fact, Sichol said, the appeals court said the executor had not at this point presented a persuasive case for summary judgment—winning just on the facts, without a trial. “Summary judgment,” Sichol said, “is very hard to get in New York State, but we remain confident.”

I asked Zucaro for a response: “No comment.”

Median update

There’s more clarity in Boca Raton to the case of the Mysterious Median.

I reported last week on the plan to close the median opening on West Palmetto Park Road into the Kmart Plaza. It’s a county project, but the city signed off, as a way to reduce left-turn backups at Palmetto Park and Northwest 12th Avenue.

As I wrote on Tuesday, news of the project surprised Mayor Haynie, who had asked the county for relief from backups west of Interstate 95. Haynie got back to say that the eastbound median had been a separate city request, and she supports it. Closing the median, Haynie said in an email, will allow turn lanes onto Northwest 12 Avenue to be “lengthened significantly.” More cars, Haynie said, could turn north at each light change, thus relieving eastbound through traffic on Palmetto Park Road.

The issue still may get to the council for discussion.

Delray and Big Pharma

The Delray Beach City Commission did vote Tuesday night to begin discussions with a law firm over a lawsuit against drug companies and other potential defendants for damages from the overuse of prescription painkillers that has created the city’s opioid crisis.

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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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