Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Mizner Arts Center and Chick-fil-A on Boca Agenda

On Wednesday, the Boca Raton City Council likely will approve the lease for a performing arts center in Mizner Park.

In his memo to the council, City Manager Leif Ahnell recommends approval. Last month, the council delayed a vote on that 1.8-acre parcel because of differences between the city and The Center for Arts and Innovation (TCA&I) over liability issues. TCA&I President Andrea Virgin told me Monday, however, that the two sides crafted a compromise after three weeks of negotiation. TCA&I’s board, Virgin said, already has “executed the documents.”

Because TCA&I worried about specific scenarios—however unlikely—the group and the city, Virgin said, “wrote in language around them.” The wording satisfied what Virgin called the project’s “cornerstone donors” who wanted to protect their investment against all possibilities.

One scenario related directly to what happened in Delray Beach, where the city commission last year terminated the lease for Old School Square after 32 years. The city also refused to negotiate with Old School Square, which has sued. The decision came without being listed on the meeting’s agenda.

Under the agreement, the city could not begin eviction proceedings against TCA&I without giving 30 days’ notice and without giving the group time to—in legal terms— “cure” the problem. TCA&I thus would have time to seek an injunction and, if successful, keep operating.

The group plans to redo the Mizner Park amphitheater and combine it with the new arts center. The city would retain the right to hold its own events on a set number of dates. Among the other issues was what would happen if the city held an event and had no insurance for it. In some cases, TCA&I will self-insure against such damages.

As it did in August, the council has called two special meetings on the lease for the site on the east side of the amphitheater. Acting as the community redevelopment agency—which owns the property—council members first would approve the lease. Then, as the council, they would approve ordinances to implement the lease agreement.

If it happens—and I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t—TCA&I would submit a conceptual plan to the city and meet with those major donors who Virgin said are waiting for lease approval before making their pledges. Once it has a better idea of how much money it can raise, TCA&I will start work on a detailed design. A site plan might be ready for city review by June.

It has been four years since the city’s cultural consortium approached the council with the idea of leasing 21 acres next to the Spanish River Library for a multi-building arts complex. This right-sized, relocated project would fulfill the promise of making Mizner Park the city’s cultural hub.

Unless something unexpected happens, there will be much celebrating Wednesday afternoon—and much talk of all the work that remains.

Boca to discuss Chick-fil-A proposal

Chick-fil-A
Rendering of proposed project at 2600 N. Federal Highway from RLC Architects

On the agenda for Wednesday’s regular council meeting is the proposal for the third Chick-fil-A in Boca Raton, this one at 2600 North Federal Highway.

The restaurant would be part of a project replacing a Best Western hotel. Directly east of the site is Harbour East, a single-family-home neighborhood whose residents had opposed the project because of worries about traffic problems from the restaurant’s drive-through line.

Attorney Larry Schner represents Harbour East. He told me Monday that the residents and the developer have “resolved their differences.” It happened, Schner said, because the developer showed that the design would prevent vehicles from spilling onto North Federal and blocking Harbor East.

The residents presumably will drop their appeal of the planning and zoning board’s vote to approve the project, which also would include an Aspen Dental, a financial office and another restaurant. But that isn’t the only appeal.

As part of their approval, planning and zoning board members required the developer to pay for burying power lines serving the project. According to Florida Power & Light, that will spill over from the property of private homes. Doing so would mean much higher costs.

In addition, the developer wants to build the third phase of the project—the Chick-fil-A—with the first phase. City planners say the phases must go in order.

The developer has appealed both conditions. I tried to reach the developer’s attorney but did not get a response by deadline for this post. The attorney had said previously that if negotiations with the city failed, the developer would argue the appeal and hope for a favorable council vote.

Singer proposes Boca election law change

Also on the council’s regular meeting agenda is a change to Boca Raton’s election laws. This ordinance would require candidates for mayor and council to submit two proofs of residency, not just one.

The proposal comes from Mayor Scott Singer. He is running next March against perpetual—and perpetually unsuccessful—candidate Bernard Korn. In previous races, Korn’s residency has been questioned. Records still do not show Korn owning property in Boca Raton.

Disputes continue over proposed ALF

Boca Raton and the owner of property near Addison Mizner School continue to argue over the city’s denial of an adult living facility for the site.

In March, the city notified the developer—whose contract to buy the 3.6-acre property depends on city approval—that the ALF needed a comprehensive plan amendment. Such amendments require four council members to support it, not a simple majority of three.

The owner then sued, claiming that the city made that finding months into its review. As I read it, the owner believes that the city made the requirement as a way to kill the project because of strong neighborhood opposition.

Boca Raton responded with a motion to dismiss the suit. A hearing scheduled for last week was cancelled. The owner has filed an amended complaint. Meanwhile, the building on the site that once served as a church continues to deteriorate.

Clarification

I wrote last week about Delray Beach’s $100 million public safety bond that will be on the March ballot. I implied that the end of the city’s contract to provide fire/rescue service to Highland Beach influenced the fire department projects that the bond would finance.

According to a department spokeswoman, the contract was not a factor. The bond would pay to rebuild one fire station that is more than 30 years old and for a new ocean rescue headquarters that would include a fire station.

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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