Mizner 200 Decision Nears, Delray Looks For City Manager, More on Boca Downtown Campus

mizner 200
Concept view of the entrance of Mizner 200.

Game time for Mizner 200

Mizner 200 made today’s agenda for the Boca Raton Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA). Whether the city council approves the revised project remains, like the question of whether an injured athlete can play, a game-time decision.

As the staff memo for the city council—which acts as the CRA board—notes, the new drawings for the 384-unit condo got to the city last Monday, barely in time to make the agenda. Elad Properties, the developer, very much wants the council to settle the issue today rather than hold the decision again, to the Sept. 11 meeting. The council delayed a decision at the July 24 CRA meeting, asking Elad to work with those who opposed the previous design as being too massive for that stretch of Mizner Boulevard. The opponents were Investments Limited, Boca Beautiful and Townsend Place.

Because the plans arrived so late, staff had “an insufficient amount of time to analyze the modifications to the proposed project prior to the agenda publishing,” the memo reads. “Due to the time constraints relating to the delayed submittal, the revised plan sheets have been provided to you absent any staff review or comment.” In addition, the new version has not gone before the community appearance board or the city’s urban design consultant, though the consultant had approved the earlier version. Staff review “will be conducted to the greatest extent possible prior to the CRA meeting.”

Investments Limited architect Doug Mummaw told me Friday that his group had sent a letter to the city saying that the parties are satisfied with “the intent” of the changes that Elad architects Peter Stromberg and Jorge Garcia had made. The question, Mummaw said, is whether the drawings before the CRA will accurately reflect that intent.

“Nobody wants another Mark,” Mummaw said, referring to the Mark at Cityscape. It was the first project approved under downtown design guidelines, and there was general agreement that the finished product was an unhappy surprise. “We want to be sure that everyone knows what (Elad is) committing to.” Mummaw praised Stromberg and Garcia for being “super great and cooperative” and working at “unprecedented speed.”

Still, the 1:30 p.m. meeting may not leave enough time for adequate review. Bonnie Miskel, Elad’s attorney, also worried about commitments asked of Elad that might extend past approval. “When (the CRA) approves a development order, that’s it. You can’t add something later.” She remained optimistic, but added, “My clients have property rights.”

With luck, the CRA will approve the redone Mizner 200 and everyone can claim victory. This late rush, however, is risky and likely could have been avoided. More about that soon.

Delray seeks city manager

Delray Beach’s search for a permanent city manager has begun.

After interviewing city commissioners this month to develop a profile of what they’re looking for, representatives of The Mercer Group began running ads last week. Applications are due by Sept. 15. The consultant will screen the applicants and recommend semi-finalists to the commission by Sept. 19. A week later, the consultant and the commissioners are to decide the finalists. The schedule then calls for the commissioners to interview the finalists on Oct. 9 and 10, making their choice on the second day, before a workshop meeting.

You can’t overstate the importance of this choice to Delray Beach. Since David Harden retired at the end of 2012—having spent two decades in the role—the city has had four managers. No one on the current commission was in office when Louie Chapman was picked to replace Harden. The search and selection were slipshod, largely because Harden clearly wanted one of his assistants to succeed him. The result was Chapman, who was so bad that the commission—correctly—forced him out after barely six months. He lasted that long only because Adam Frankel and Al Jacquet refused to fire him. The voters then approved a change to require just a simple majority to remove the manager.

After Chapman came an interim, Terry Stewart. In November 2014, the commission hired Don Cooper. He had run Port St. Lucie for 20 years and had private-sector experience, but the demands of the job and his wife’s illness caused Cooper to resign last December.

Fire Chief Neal de Jesus took over. Though the commission liked his efficiency, de Jesus eventually decided that he would return to his old job, which in Delray Beach is almost important as being manager, given the opioid epidemic.

Ideally, the city would get someone who stays for at least five years and brings stability. The commission has tried to make the job more attractive by advertising a salary range of between $200,000 and $275,000. That could draw more applicants, but the key may be how potential applicants see the city’s politics.

Three seats are up next March—Mayor Cary Glickstein and commissioners Mitch Katz and Shelly Petrolia. All can run for reelection. Katz has announced his candidacy. If Glickstein or Petrolia announced before the choice that either would not run, it could give some potential applicants pause.

Candidates may not want to risk that the people who hired them wouldn’t be there in six months. Just the fact that a majority of seats are up could be a factor, but there’s no way around that. The commission can’t wait until 2019, the next year that no elections are scheduled. Nor is there collective sentiment to promote Assistant City Manager Caryn-Gardner Young, who’s been with the city only a few months.

Still, there’s much about Delray Beach to attract a good manager from a smaller city looking for a move up or an assistant at al larger city who’s ready to run his or her own show. Delray Beach very much needs a such a person.

Delray parking plan

parking-meter-216511_1280

With luck, Delray Beach will have agreed on a preliminary parking plan before the city commission hires a new manager.

If you imagine a kitchen in which five sous-chefs are offering advice to head chef, you have an idea of what happened last week as the commission took its third look at a program for parking downtown and on the beach. Each commissioner wanted to add an ingredient, and the commission was working off a recipe from the Downtown Development Authority. Periodically, de Jesus or Gardner-Young would ask for confirmation that their list was complete.

After hearing the DDA’s plan, Mitch Katz said he liked it, but recommended “a little bit of tweaking.” There was more than a little bit.

Katz and Mayor Cary Glickstein wanted meters and more enforcement of the city lot behind Hand’s Office and Art Supply, near the railroad tracks. Katz suggested space for Uber pickups. Jim Chard spoke of how tougher enforcement— meaning more tickets—could bring in money.

Meanwhile, Shelly Petrolia worried that tougher enforcement would “push” cars to the wrong places, citing what happened in the marina district. She noted that construction for Atlantic Crossing and iPic would cause a temporary loss of parking spots. After others worried that rates for employees were too low, Petrolia said employees might wind up too far away. She wants the city to be “cautious.” Her comments drew applause from business owners.

Glickstein remained the strongest advocate for an ambitious metered program. “What is the objective?” he asked. To the city’s consultant, the goals are to better circulate traffic and generate revenue with which the city could maintain the downtown areas that draw residents and visitors. He especially wants a focus on the lots.

To those who might criticize Glickstein for being preoccupied with revenue, he reminded everyone that Delray Beach likely will lose $1.5 million after voters in 2018 approve —as they surely will—a constitutional amendment that would increase the homestead exemption to $75,000. The proposal is on the ballot to help House Speaker Richard Corcoran if he runs for governor. Delray Beach would have to raise taxes or cut services. If downtown streets “aren’t clean and safe,” Glickstein said, meters won’t matter.

Petrolia disagreed, calling Delray Beach “different” and saying that business owners gave up parking spaces. Shirley Johnson agreed.

When it was done, the commission had decided tentatively on a plan that would put meters on Atlantic Avenue between Swinton Avenue and the Intracoastal Waterway at a rate of $2 per hour and generally ease into a parking program. Administrators will be back soon with the dish the commission asked them to cook up.

Boca downtown campus

Photo courtesy of the City of Boca Raton.
“There’s strong support for a performing acts center and an amphitheater that would replace the Miner Park Amphitheater.” Photo courtesy of the City of Boca Raton.

At today’s Boca Raton City Council workshop, the city’s consultant will present the results from a public meeting on the proposed downtown campus.

According to Song & Associates, residents strongly favor keeping City Hall and the police station in the 28-acre campus. Ditto for the library, to which the meeting’s participants gave the most love.

There also was much support for “an outdoor civic gathering space” and public art. Residents want a new community center in the campus, preferably with more classes for children. There’s strong support for a performing acts center and an amphitheater that would replace the Miner Park Amphitheater. Participants gave mixed reviews to the tennis center, ballfields and skate park that are in those 28 acres. They want the ballfields moved, though not far away, and the tennis center and skate park moved.

Participants were divided on making residential development part of the campus. But they most definitely want a parking garage in the campus. The city certainly has the land, but it’s across the FEC railroad tracks from the rest of downtown, and 32 more trains will be running on those tracks by the end of the year.

Today, the city council is supposed to offer its collective vision. The discussion could resemble Delray Beach’s on parking. City staffers should be ready to take lots of notes.

Boca hospital parking garage lawsuit filed

 

Boca Raton Regional Hospital. Photo by Aaron Bristol.
Boca Raton Regional Hospital. Photo by Aaron Bristol.

Residents of an apartment complex next to Boca Raton Regional Hospital have sued the city over its approval of the hospital’s parking garage.

As the lawyer for Spanish Oaks suggested during the city council meeting in May, the residents contend that the issue was quasi-judicial, like a development application, and should have been handled accordingly. That would have meant sworn testimony with rebuttal and cross-examination. In its response, the city maintains that the decision was legislative; the council was applying policy.

The garage—50 feet high, with 700 spaces—would be 54 feet from Spanish Oaks. In its response, the hospital points out that under current zoning rules it could have built a 50-foot garage just 27.5 feet from the residential complex. The city and the hospital also urge the court to dismiss the lawsuit on technical and procedural grounds.

Boca Regional also faced criticism from Old Floresta residents who live in single-family homes across the canal on the south side of the hospital. But Boca Regional made changes to the lighting and shutters that satisfied those neighbors. The plan allowed the garage to be 100 feet from the homes compared to the 250-foot requirement that had been in place. The zoning code, though, does not speak to setback requirements for multi-family housing.

Since the garage is the first part of Boca Regional’s roughly $260 million, first-phase renovation plan, the lawsuit is delaying the whole plan. CEO Jerry Fedele said, “We’re disappointed with the delay, of course, but we will prevail.”

Boca council agenda

Sanborn Square. Photo courtesy of the City of Boca Raton.
Sanborn Square. Photo courtesy of the City of Boca Raton.

Three items of note are on the agenda for Tuesday’s regular meeting of the Boca Raton City Council.

The council will affirm the policy change to prohibit private displays at Sanborn Square. The aim is to keep grandstanders from turning this public space into a garden of controversy every holiday season. Amen.

Also before the council is the proposal for an adult living facility and memory care center on North Congress Avenue. The planning and zoning board recommended denial, as does city staff, because of the new traffic the project would bring to an area zoned for Planned Mobility Development. It would take four votes to approve the necessary changes.

And the council will introduce an ordinance related to reasonable accommodations for group homes. This most likely is related to sober homes. More to come.

CORRECTION

Due to an error on the Boca Raton Airport Authority’s website, I referred last week to authority board member Gene Folden as the chairman. The chairman is Mitch Fogel.