Ocean Palm on the Boca Docket and Delray Post-Election Notes

ocean palm

Ocean Palm update

ocean palm

We hear often in Boca Raton that developers should meet early and often with residents who live near their proposed projects. With the Ocean Palm condo, which goes before the planning and zoning board tonight, we may learn whether that tactic pays off.

The project would be on two parcels, totaling 3.5 acres, on the southwest corner of Palmetto Park Road and A1A. Ocean Palm would displace a commercial property and the 20-unit Breakers at Boca condo for a six-story condo with 70 units. The developer needs a land-use change on one parcel from Commercial to Residential, rezoning and approval of the site plan. The land-use change requires a supermajority of four votes from the city council. One Ocean Plaza Venture bought the site in October 2012 for $6.8 million.

In a March 6 letter to the city, Ocean Palm attorney Bonnie Miskel said the developer and architect met with four groups—residents of Breakers at Boca, the Meridian condo across Palmetto Park Road, the Riviera neighborhood to the west and the beachfront Marbella condo to the south on A1A. The developer also met with Jim Batmasian, who owns commercial land nearby.

Miskel said in her letter that Breakers residents “love the concept. . .and expressed no concerns.” They would get “first opportunity of buying on the condo.” Meridian residents, according to Miskel, also raised no issues. The first concept was for a hotel, which Miskel said Riviera residents opposed, in part because it would have been 110-feet tall. The developer addressed those concerns, Miskel said, by shifting to the 65-foot condo. Marbella also preferred the condo to the hotel. As for Batmasian, he “very much favored the project.”

City staff recommends approval of all three items. The combined property would have just three entrances, rather than the current seven on the two parcels. Staff finds that the land-use change is “consistent” with Boca Raton’s comprehensive plan. Though the site is in a hurricane evacuation zone, city planners see no problems.

By the way, if the architecture (see rendering) reminds you of the proposed Mizner 200 condo on Mizner Boulevard, that’s because the same firm,GS4, designed both projects.

Mizner 200, however, remains controversial. It’s much bigger—384 units and 900 feet long—and it would be next to the politically active Townsend Place condo. The developer also has met with residents, but BocaBeautiful President John Gore, who lives in Townsend Place, still calls the project “the Monster on Mizner.”

Residential development generates much less traffic than commercial. So the impact from Ocean Palm would be much less than what the owners could build. That also was true of Chabad East Boca, which was proposed for East Palmetto Park Road not far from Ocean Palm. That project, however, drew lots of neighborhood opposition, including a lawsuit that killed it. The chabad likely will file a new application with a new site plan.

Ocean Palm seems like an upgrade for the site and the area. If the project gets through the planning and zoning board tonight, it could go before the city council at its April 25 meeting. If Ocean Palm draws no controversy, it might validate the theory of involving the neighbors. Or it might show that controversy depends on which project it is and which neighbors are involved.

ForBoca vs. City of Boca Raton

ForBoca has voluntarily dismissed its lawsuit against Boca Raton, but the litigation will return in a different form.

After voters approved the waterfront—aka Wildflower —ordinance in November, ForBoca challenged the ordinance, claiming that state law prohibits referendums on development orders. The lawsuit alleged that the proposed lease for the Wildflower site between the city and Hillstone Restaurant amounted to a development order. The founder of ForBoca is former Greater Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce Director Mike Arts. He started ForBoca as a counterweight to BocaWatch. The group helped to finance the unsuccessful campaign against the ordinance.

The first lawsuit sought a hearing in circuit court. A hearing had been scheduled for Friday on the city’s motion to dismiss. Attorney Gerald Richman, who represents ForBoca, told me Wednesday that by Friday of next week he would refile the case, this time seeking a hearing before an administrative law judge. “It’s a technical change,” Richman said, “but it’s the better approach.”

Delray post-election notes

A review of precinct-by-precinct results shows that last week’s Delray Beach election was one of the most demonstrative in recent years.

In the four-candidate Seat 2 race, Jim Chard lost just two precincts—one to Kelly Barrette and one to Anneze Barthelemy. In the Seat 4 race, Shirley Johnson lost only one precinct to Josh Smith. Interestingly, Barrette and Smith won the same precinct—at Plumosa Elementary School on the city’s north side.

Notably, Chard, who lives in Osceola Park, outpolled Barrette 488-395 at Veterans Park. Barrette lives on the beach, and beach residents vote at Veterans Park. Johnson also won the Veterans Park vote, though by a smaller margin. Most of the support for Barrette and Smith came from the beach.

More notably, however, Chard and Johnson ran up big margins over their opponents in Delray Beach’s minority neighborhoods. The other two candidates who ran in Seat 2 are minorities. Johnson and Smith are African-American.

In the four precincts that held voting at Spady Elementary, Pompey Park, Village Academy and the city library, Chard defeated Barrette 777-216 and Johnson defeated Smith 940-294. The results get even more lopsided if you leave out the Spady precinct and use just those other three in the county commission district of Mack Bernard. At Pompey Park, for example, Chard beat Barrette 237-27 and Johnson beat Smith 294-59.

Chard told me Wednesday that he spent considerable time courting those voters and—like Johnson—had received the endorsement of the Northwest Southwest Neighborhood Alliance. But Chard said the main factor was the deadlock over filling Al Jacquet’s commission Seat 2 vacancy.

Mayor Cary Glickstein and Commissioner Jordana Jarjura favored Yvonne Odom, who said she would not run for a full term. Commissioners Mitch Katz and Shelly Petrolia wanted Smith. At the meetings when the commission deadlocked, all the speakers—most of them African-American—wanted Odom.

Katz and Petrolia then endorsed and campaigned for Smith in the Seat 4 race. Katz contributed to Barrette’s campaign. Petrolia’s husband donated to Smith and Barrette. Odom supported Johnson.

“At one point,” Chard said, “Mitch said something to the Odom supporters in the audience like, ‘If you don’t agree with what we’re doing, you can come out in March.’ I think they did.”

De Jesus for manager?

One effect of the victories by Chard and Johnson is that Acting City Manager Neal de Jesus might be more inclined to consider taking the job permanently.

De Jesus previously had said that he would return to his previous role as fire-rescue chief after the new commission picked a successor to Don Cooper. In the roughly three months that de Jesus has been Delray Beach’s CEO, however, all the commissioners have praised his performance. City managers want stability among their bosses. Chard and Johnson campaigned on finding solutions, not seeming to promote a political agenda that could entrap a manager.

Another factor will be de Jesus’ assessment of Acting Fire-Rescue Chief Keith Tomey. Given the city’s sober house/opioid problem, that department might be the most important in Delray Beach government. If de Jesus believes that Tomey could handle the job, de Jesus might be more receptive to a commission request that he continue. Deciding on a manager will be the first major decision of the new commission.

Assistant city manager

Whatever his future, De Jesus wasted little time in hiring a second assistant city manager.

The new person is Caryn Gardner-Young, who had worked for the northwest Broward County city of Parkland since 2005. She became manager in 2007.

Based on reporting in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Gardner-Young’s departure last fall was unusual. Rather than resign, she asked for a separation agreement. The city commission had allowed her to remain as a consultant, at her previous salary of nearly $204,000, while Parkland looked for a permanent manager. The agreement contained a “non-disparagement” clause, meaning that Gardner-Young and commissioners couldn’t criticize each other.

Parkland and Wellington, where Gardner-Young worked previously, don’t have traditional downtowns like Delray Beach. Gardner-Young, however, started as planning director in Parkland and held the same job in Wellington. That background could bolster Delray’s planning, zoning and building department, which under Tim Stillings has been hiring new talent.

If de Jesus doesn’t remain as manager, he will have left his mark on the city. Since de Jesus took over in late December, one assistant city manager and the chief financial officer have departed.

Correction

In Tuesday’s post, I referred to the American Israel Political Action Committee. It is, of course, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.


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