Saturday, April 20, 2024

Mizner 200 nearing approval & other items of note in Boca and Delray

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Mizner 200

Boca Raton planners are recommending that the city approve Mizner 200.

The 384-unit luxury condo, which would replace the 246-unit Mizner on the Green rental complex, goes before the Community Appearance Board today. On Thursday, it is scheduled for the planning and zoning board. It is the first major downtown project to go through city review since Via Mizner Phases II and III. City council members will decide on the project in their role as commissioners of the Community Redevelopment Agency, which supervises downtown development.

Bonnie Miskel, the attorney who represents Mizner 200, had said all along that the project follows the rules laid out in Ordinance 4035, Boca Raton’s downtown blueprint. Senior Planner Susan Lesser, who wrote the staff report, agrees. “Based on staff’s review of the submitted petition,” Lesser wrote, “the request complies with the development parameters of the proposed structure as it relates to the provisions of Ordinance No. 4035. . .”

In keeping with the ordinance, Mizner 200 would be nine stories with a maximum residential height of 100 feet. According to the staff report, 40.7 percent of the project would be open space. The requirement is 40 percent. The project would have the required 672 parking spaces. The developer would replace the standard sidewalk on Mizner Boulevard with an eight-foot sidewalk to make the stretch more pedestrian-friendly.

There is room for Mizner 200 in the allotment of development units in that section of downtown, just east of Royal Palm Place. The developer changed the design to reduce the massing.

So the review should be routine, right? Doubtful.

Mizner 200’s potential neighbor to the south is the Townsend Place condo complex. Boca Beautiful President John Gore lives in Townsend Place, and Boca Beautiful is basically other residents of Townsend Place. Some of those residents would lose their views of the ocean and the Boca Raton Resort & Club golf course if the city approved Mizner 200. Mizner on the Green is just three stories. Boca Beautiful was formed two years ago when Elad Properties, which owns the nearly 9-acre site, proposed four condo towers that averaged 200 feet more in height than is allowed in the area.

Some time back, Boca Beautiful linked up with Royal Palm Place. They share the goal of stopping Mizner 200, at least in its current version. If Royal Palm Place proposed its own residential project, Mizner 200 also would obstruct those views. Royal Palm Place previously got approval for a project that included 344 units, a hotel and office and retail space, but the project never was built and the development order expired.

Recently, Gore wrote a fairly misleading item on the BocaWatch website in which he called Mizner 200 “another monster construction project.” The accompanying photo showed the earlier design. Ironically, the architect revised it after an architect hired by Boca Beautiful criticized the first version.

Gore also claimed that the city’s consultant found that Mizner 200 didn’t comply with Boca Raton’s requirement that downtown architecture be harmonious and in the style of Addison Mizner. In fact, the consultant’s final memorandum finds that Mizner 200 complies with those guidelines. According to the consultant, the project meets all other city requirements or the requirements don’t apply. Unlike some projects, Mizner 200 seeks no technical deviations. The development order would come with routine conditions.

Most likely, opponents will argue that Mizner 200 is too big for the site and incompatible with the area. Gore compares it to the nearby Palmetto Promenade/Archstone, which he says is “currently tying up traffic on East Palmetto Park Road.” Well, yes, because it’s under construction. He notes that Mizner 200 would run more than 900 feet and is basically one building.

In her memo to the city, Miskel counters that the project would separate that one building into “three distinct zones,” which then are “broken down further in scale. . .” Miskel compares those north and south “wings” to the Palmetto Place and 200 East projects. She points out that the central portion would be 120 feet from the road.

Regarding the views from Townsend Place, Miskel writes, “Views through another property to an asset like the golf course or ocean are not the rights of the adjacent property, they are the sole rights of the entity that owns and paid the premium to own those rights. As long as their proposed solution obeys and respects the criteria set forth in the development guidelines in Ordinance 4035, then the Mizner 200 has the right to exist as designed.”

There are votes in Townsend Place, and Boca Raton holds elections in March. Mizner 200, however, may have something stronger on its side—the law.

Delray city attorney search

At a special meeting last Thursday, the Delray Beach City Commission cut to four the list of law firms seeking the city attorney’s job.

Two are large, statewide firms: Gray Robinson and Greenspoon Marder. Gray Robinson has 13 offices in Florida, one of them in Boca Raton. Greenspoon Marder has offices in Boca and West Palm Beach. Two others are small firms. Nason Yeager has two offices, in Boca Raton and Palm Beach Gardens. The website for Jupiter-based Lohman Law Group lists just two lawyers on staff. The firm specializes in government law.

Some commissioners had expressed a preference for firms that have an office in Palm Beach County, though not necessarily the main office. If that still matters, all these firms qualify. Commissioner Jordana Jarjura asked city staff to check for possible conflicts—firms with clients who already have issues before the city. Lawyers in Gray Robinson’s Boca Raton office appear regularly before the city council, but I don’t know of any work involving Delray Beach.

Before their regular meeting on Oct. 18, commissioners will interview the firms and choose one. The issues will be how much to pay the firm and how long the contract will last. Delray Beach already has three lawyers in the city’s legal department. Under former City Attorney Noel Pfeffer, the staff numbered five.

Uncertainty on the commission could affect the choice. Mayor Cary Glickstein and commissioners Al Jacquet and Jordana Jarjura have tended to favor keeping the city attorney in-house, while Mitch Katz and Shelly Petrolia have tended to favor outscourcing the work. Jacquet leaves the commission next month after his election to the Florida House.

Delray fire and pension boards

Mayor Glickstein said he had “a long conference call” on Friday with state agencies that the city wants to bless Delray Beach’s new fire and police pension boards. Unfortunately, the city received no such blessing, which it began seeking months ago.

The agencies “still have not articulated a specific reason why we cannot implement our collective bargaining agreements,” Glickstein said in an email. He called the delay “very frustrating, to say the least.”

Commission approval of the new boards, which would have five members and be less weighted toward the unions, is again on tonight’s agenda. Glickstein, though, isn’t sure that the city will have an answer from the state.

The worry had been that if the commission didn’t ratify the agreements by Saturday—when the city’s budget year starts—the city could lose $1.3 million from the state programs that provide money for cities that have police and fire pension plans. But Glickstein said the city has a legal opinion that delay won’t cause a problem. Of the dispute with the state, Glickstein said, “I’m comfortable we have some time to resolve it.”

Arts Garage lease

Also on tonight’s city commission agenda is approval of a new lease with Creative City Collaborative for use by Arts Garage of the group’s space in Pineapple Grove.

As the commission requested, the lease would be for five years, not the 10 years that Arts Garage first had wanted. The current monthly lease payment of $800 would increase to $866 and increase slightly each year.

Approval would end nearly a year of negotiations between the city and Arts Garage over commission complaints about previous management. In response, the Arts Garage board has replaced the former CEO, Alyona Ushe, and made other changes. Ushe now runs the amphitheater in Pompano Beach, which Creative City Collaborative took over without notifying the city commission in Delray Beach.

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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