Park Delays, Last Call Concerns and More Boca and Delray News

park delays

Procrastination at the park

Sugar Sand Park. Photo by Randy Schultz.


The playground at Sugar Sand Park reopened last weekend, four months after the first projected date. It’s very impressive. Everyone was having a good time.

It’s also been nearly two years since the Greater Boca Raton Beach & Parks District rejected the city’s proposed master agreement for operations and maintenance at the existing parks. The two agencies have since worked out an agreement on beach restoration, but the master agreement remains unresolved.

A city spokesman said, “Both sides recognize that it’s a priority that needs to be finalized.” District board chairman Bob Rollins said he does not know the reason for the delay.

Because of the impasse, work can’t start on the second phase of fields at Countess de Hoernle Park. Rollins said he suggested that the city and district do the work under the old agreement but hasn’t heard back.

During the campaign for this month’s election, all the candidates in Boca Raton agreed that the council should be more assertive toward City Manager Leif Ahnell, such as holding a public evaluation each year. One sign of that new assertiveness would be a directive that in two months Ahnell bring the council a proposed agreement with the district. It’s been circling long enough.

Sugar Sand Park. Photo by Randy Schultz.

Last call concerns

In 2014, the Boca Raton City Council rejected the idea of allowing downtown businesses to serve alcohol two hours past the 2 a.m. closing time. The issue now is whether the city should roll back last call at two clubs from 5 a.m. to 2 a.m.

Those would be Blue Martini on the south side of Town Center Mall and Nippers just to the east on Military Trail. They are in the area that the city annexed in 2003. Palm Beach County allowed 5 a.m. closing times, and the council allowed that to continue, even though the city’s code prohibits alcohol sales after 2 a.m.

At tonight’s meeting, however, Mayor Susan Haynie will introduce an ordinance that would standardize the 2 a.m. closing time throughout Boca Raton and apply it to any areas the city might annex. Blue Martini and Nippers would have 120 days to comply. There will be no discussion or public comment until the proposal comes up for second reading, likely at the April 25 meeting.

Haynie told me that she has discussed the noise problem with Blue Martini’s neighbors for about two years. When temperatures drop, Haynie said, the club opens its doors. Between nearby residences to the south and Blue Martini are just a parking lot and a pond. “The booming bass” from the club, Haynie said, has caused residents to go outside with noise monitors at 3 a.m., among other things.

Stricter code enforcement, Haynie said, hasn’t worked. According to the police department, there have been 10 calls this year to Blue Martini after 2 a.m. Two of the calls have been for battery on a police officer.

That earlier attempt to extend closing hours involved Jazziz, the club/restaurant that used to be at the south end of Mizner Park. The club owner thought the added time would boost business. Former Councilwoman Constance Scott introduced the ordinance, but it ran into legal issues. It would have been hard to confine the change just to Jazziz, and the noise issue also arose. Since the later hours couldn’t work downtown, Haynie said, they can’t work in a suburban area.

Though two clubs are involved this time, Blue Martini is the focus. Nippers is in the Midtown neighborhood that could see significant change if the city allows residential development. Haynie also said Simon Property Group, which owns the mall, has had issues with Blue Martini.

Councilman Jeremy Rodgers said he supports the concept but wants to hear from the city’s legal department if Haynie’s ordinance “is the best way.” Councilman Robert Weinroth “agrees that we need to address it, but I expect legal pushback from Blue Martini.” Haynie said, “They’ll probably sue us.” The prospect didn’t seem to bother her.

Ocean Palm prospects

It’s looking good for the proposed Ocean Palm condo project near the beach in Boca Raton.

Last week, the city’s planning and zoning board recommended approval of a land-use change, a rezoning and the site plan for Ocean Palm. The 70-unit condo would replace a 20-unit condo and a commercial building on the southwest corner of Palmetto Park Road and A1A. All three votes were unanimous. The project could go to the city council for approval next month.

Some speakers who live in condos worried about traffic, even though projections show that Ocean Palm would mean less traffic than the site currently generates and much less than the maximum use of the site. Residents of the Riviera neighborhood to the west, however, praised the developer for meeting with residents and praised the city for encouraging those meetings.

The main entrance would be on A1A. The board added conditions under which the developer would post signs alerting condo owners about the many cyclists and pedestrians who would pass Ocean Palm on A1A.

Mizner Park’s offerings could soon include a spa

Apparently, the day spa market in Boca Raton is not saturated.

On Monday, the city council–acting as the community redevelopment agency–approved the use of about 8,000 square feet in Mizner Park for a Woodhouse Day Spa. Though the Mizner Park Cultural Arts Center leases that south-end space from the city, Downtown Director Ruby Childers told council members that the plan always has included retail. Scott Singer pressed for confirmation that there will be no net loss of cultural space.

Woodhouse is a national chain that operates spas in Palm Beach Gardens, Naples and Orlando. Six years ago, the plan had been to attract a bookstore to this first-floor location. To some in Boca Raton, however, the day spa culture can be just as satisfying as a day at the museum.

BRPD up for reaccreditation

The Boca Raton Police Department has been nationally accredited since 1989 and state accredited since 1997. Staffers from the national group–the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies–are here this week as the department seeks reaccreditation, as it must do every three years.

Residents who want to provide comment can do so at 5:30 tonight during a hearing at the city complex at 6500 Congress Avenue. According to a spokesman, the police department must meet nearly 500 standards to retain its accreditation and then must submit annual reports verifying the department’s compliance.

Delray’s jaywalking crackdown

When I read that Delray Beach intended to crack down on jaywalking, I thought of Rudy Giuliani.

During his second term as mayor of New York, Giuliani started something of a crusade against jaywalking. He raised the fine from $2 to $50. An aide to the mayor told The New York Times, ”Jaywalking is unsafe, not only for those who do it, but also for others. It’s not just a matter of common courtesy.” New Yorkers, however, consider jaywalking to be their right. More important, New York cops refused to issue the citations.

But Delray Beach officials long have tried to make the city safer for those on foot or on bicycles. A police department spokeswoman said the current program began with an educational phase–“gentle reminders about traffic safety”–and has moved to the “enforcement phase, which will include citations.” It will continue through May 31.

When I asked about the emphasis on jaywalking, the spokeswoman said, “There are always a few people who think it’s a waste of time, but usually they are complaining to the same officers who have to investigate the pedestrian fatalities. So to say the complaints fall on deaf ears is an understatement.”

Honoring Leon Charney, billionaire and peacemaker

In a news release Monday, Florida Atlantic University announced a $1 million donation from the family of Leon Charney. The ceremony will take place today at 2:45 p.m. in FAU’s Theatre Lab.

Charney, who died a year ago, had a fascinating, successful life. Born in Bayonne, N.J., his father sold sewing supplies. According to his Bloomberg News obituary, Charney helped to put himself through college and law school by singing in synagogues.

By 2008, having amassed a portfolio of New York real estate, Charney made the Forbes list of the country’s richest people. His net worth was estimated at $1.5 billion. One of his acquisitions was One Times Square, where the ball drops on New Year’s Eve.

Outside of business, Charney’s biography is also impressive. He was an unofficial advisor to President Jimmy Carter during the 1978 negotiations with Egypt and Israel that led to the Camp David Agreement. In 2014, Charney won a New York Emmy for a documentary about the negotiations. Starting in 1988, he hosted an interview show on New York City’s public television station that often focused on the Middle East.

When Charney got married in Israel, his witnesses included former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and former Defense Minister Ezar Weizman. FAU awarded Charney an honorary degree in 2015 for “his lifelong commitment to peace through diplomacy.”

Mullaugh’s last hurrah

Tonight will be the last meeting for Boca Raton City Councilman Mike Mullaugh. As I wrote recently, Mullaugh invariably says the most while talking the least. Andrea O’Rourke, who will succeed him, told me that Mullaugh set a standard for how a council member should serve.

Mullaugh was appointed in late 2008 to fill the vacancy created by Peter Baronoff’s resignation. He ran unopposed for a full term in 2011 and won a majority three years ago in a four-way race. He never sought higher office. His last accomplishment was the ordinance that led to voter approval of higher council salaries. Boca Raton residents got their money’s worth from Mike Mullaugh.

Missed the last City Watch? Visit our Community/ City Watch page for recent posts, and subscribe to the magazine for the best coverage of Boca and beyond.