Saturday, December 9, 2023

Boca’s New Club Hires Manager and the State Legislative Session’s Impact on Delray

Boca Raton has a manager for Boca Country Club, which soon will have a new name. Jason Hayes began work on June 14. He will run the golf/tennis/swimming facility that the Boca Raton Resort & Club donated to the city. The takeover happens Oct. 1.

Boca Raton has a golf course, a tennis center and pools, but the city never has had all of that in one place. There also will be a restaurant. The venue can host private events.

Under city management, the name will be the Boca Raton Golf and Racquet Club. (As the Greater Boca Raton Beach and Parks District does for its tennis complex, the city will use the country club spelling of “racket.”)

According to a city spokeswoman, Hayes has worked at five clubs in Palm Beach and Martin counties, ranging from public to semi-private to private. Most recently, from 2010 to 2019, Hayes managed the Preserve at Ironhorse in West Palm Beach, taking over after it was bought out of bankruptcy.

In response to emailed questions, Hayes cited two reasons for his interest in managing the new club. “The reputation of working for the city of Boca Raton and its first-class recreation services” was the first. “The challenges involved with transitioning a private club to a high-end public facility was also a contributing factor.”

Asked for a local comparison to Boca Raton’s new facility, Hayes cited the North Palm Beach Country Club. That makes sense. It’s the community hub for the town of 13,000 and offers golf, swimming, tennis and dining, with memberships for each.

The job at Ironhorse, Hayes said, was the reverse of what he must do in Boca Raton. That transition was from bankruptcy to private club. But, Hayes said, “The transformation included extensive capital improvement projects and community relations within the gated community. I believe that experience will serve me well in my new position.” Boca Raton plans a multi-million renovation of its new facility, and the city must work with Boca Country Club homeowners on terms for the new setup.

Hayes’ top priority, the spokeswoman said, will be to open the golf course this fall. It will replace Boca Raton Municipal, which the city is selling to GL Homes. Closing on the property is scheduled for Oct. 31.

Legislative session results

Two weeks ago, just before they chose a new manager, Delray Beach city commissioners heard from State Sen. Lori Berman about this year’s legislative session. Berman’s district includes Delray Beach.

As in Boca Raton, Delray Beach’s elected officials regularly approve resolutions asking Tallahassee not to strip more from the power of cities to run themselves, known as home rule. Again this year, Tallahassee ignored them.

Berman ran through the bills that preempted regulation to the state. The Legislature made it harder for cities to keep home-based businesses from acting more like traditional businesses and potentially damaging neighborhoods. The Legislature lowered the amount of impact fees local governments can get from developers to pay for growth-related services.

In addition, the Legislature limited the ability of cities and counties when it comes to energy choices. A bill that raised the minimum age for e-cigarettes from 18 to 21 also prevents local governments from regulating those products, which is why public health experts opposed the bill.

Finally, the Legislature also dealt another blow to good planning by expanding the Bert Harris Property Rights Act. 1000 Friends of Florida, which advocates for growth management, said the new law “will have a chilling effect on the ability of local governments to enforce their comprehensive plans and land development regulations and adopt new provisions related to resilience and other critical issues.”

Berman, a Democrat, voted against all those bills. Mike Caruso, the Republican whose House district includes eastern Delray Beach and all of Boca Raton, voted for each one.

Budget requests


The city commission also didn’t like Gov. DeSantis’ vetoes of two budget requests.

Delray Beach wanted $80,000 to tutor at-risk children because of the pandemic. The city also wanted $250,000 to upgrade its water storage tank.

During that June 8 presentation, Delray Beach’s lobbyist tiptoed around the obvious: DeSantis probably wasn’t going to give a quarter-million to a city that faces a $1.8 million fine from the state for 13 years of water safety violations.

As for the tutoring money, the school district got a lot of money from the American Rescue Plan. Look there for money.

Ant-riot law and defacing of intersection

Critics of Florida’s new so-called “anti-riot” law claimed that Republican legislators passed it in response to demonstrations after the murder last year of George Floyd. In Florida, a few of those protests led to acts of violence.

Now, however, there are calls to apply that same law to the man who defaced Delray Beach’s LGBTQ street mural.

On June 12, the city dedicated the mural in Pineapple Grove. The gesture meant a lot, given the city’s history. Former City Manager David Harden, who retired in 2012, opposed benefits for same-sex couples and same-sex marriage.

The Palm Beach County Human Rights Council and the AIDS Healthcare Foundation paid for the $16,000 artwork. On June 12, the city threw a party to dedicate the “Pride Intersection.”

Two days later, supporters of former President Donald Trump held a parade to mark his 75th birthday. It began at Delray Marketplace and headed east. According to the police report, 19-year-old Alexander Jerich was in that parade and used his truck to leave 15-foot tire marks in what is known as a “burnout,” thus defacing the mural.

Videos and eyewitness accounts led police to 19-year-old Alexander Jerich, who was in the parade and whose truck carried a Trump flag. He faces charges of criminal mischief, and “evidencing prejudice.” The arrest report states that Jerich “perceived, knew, or had reasonable grounds to perceive or know that the City of Delray is an ally to the LGBTQ community and the owner of the Pride Streetscape.” He faces another charge of reckless driving, since the truck could have injured bystanders.

Now there are calls to also charge Jerich under the “anti-riot” law, since it criminalizes destruction of “memorials.” Legislative intent surely meant that term for, say, statues of Christopher Columbus or perhaps Civil War figures. Prosecutors have not said whether they believed that the Pride Streetscape qualifies. If it does, however, call that political irony.

My next post will be on July 6.

Happy Fourth of July, everyone.

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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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