Thursday, December 1, 2022

Boca and Delray Respond to Surfside Fallout and de Jesus Joins Menin

Delray Beach is responding differently than Boca Raton to the building collapse in Surfside.

During Tuesday’s meeting, city commissioners agreed that Delray Beach should work with Palm Beach County and the League of Cities to “learn best practices”—in the words of Interim City Manager Jennifer Alvarez—for checking on building safety. Boca Raton wants to craft its own ordinance to require recertification of buildings.

“Everyone,” Alvarez said, “is reevaluating” after what happened on June 24. The county, Alvarez told the commission, has assembled a committee of building officials that will “act very quickly” to offer ideas.

Delray Beach has recent experience, having moved in the last two weeks to demand repairs at the Linton Ridge condo community in the southwest part of the city. The city put the association on notice last February, but repairs still hadn’t been made on the structure that went up in 1984, according to the property appraiser’s website. A magistrate finally ordered the work to start.

Commissioner Shirley Johnson criticized city officials for what she considered a slow response, but Alvarez noted that the city has “no unilateral authority” to enter a building. City Attorney Lynn Gelin said intervention can happen when an owner applies for a permit or the city receives a complaint and can send out code enforcement officers. “We have to be mindful,” Gelin said, “of property rights.”

Alvarez noted that Delray Beach does not have “the same complexities” as other South Florida beachfront cities. Unlike Highland Beach, there are few high-rises. But as a first step the city will send letters to HOAs. Alvarez said she will report back to the commission next month.

By that time, Terrence Moore will have started as Delray Beach’s permanent manager and will inherit the Surfside response and all other issues.

Moore appeared at Tuesday’s meeting to introduce his two sons and tell the commission that he hopes to make an offer on a house in Delray Beach “in the next couple of days.” Comparing himself to a game show host, Moore was engaging and stoked the goodwill that has followed his hiring last month.

Boca introduces building recertification ordinance

Mayor Scott Singer confirmed Wednesday that the Boca Raton City Council will introduce a Surfside-related recertification ordinance at its July 27 meeting. The city won’t wait for the county.

Broward and Miami-Dade counties are the only local governments in Florida that require buildings to apply for safety recertification—every 40 years, in both cases. Singer said Boca Raton’s proposal will be for “shorter than 40” but offered no other details. He also doesn’t know yet any of the conditions — height, age, location—that would subject a structure to the new standard. Employees in the Development Services Department are compiling what Singer called “an inventory” of structures.

Like Singer, Councilman Andy Thomson is a lawyer. One big question for council members will be how far-reaching the ordinance should be. Could the city be so “pro-active”—Singer’s term—that it could declare a building unsafe from the recertification process?

“That would be the ultimate hammer,” Thomson said. “You hope you would never have to do that. You’d feel bad for the people, but look what happened” in Surfside. Thomson agrees that 40 years is too long. An earlier review might have prevented the Surfside tragedy.

Council members likely will discuss the ordinance at the July 26 workshop meeting and introduce it the next night at the regular meeting. Because of the summer schedule, that would mean a month until a public hearing and a vote.

Boca and Delray send first responders

Boca Raton and Delray Beach are each sending three firefighters to the teams going through the rubble that had been the Champlain Towers South condo.

The loan is part of a Federal Emergency Management Agency plan for area agencies to assist after natural disasters. Palm Beach County had to provide 30 firefighters, who are coming from various cities. Boca Raton and Delray Beach will receive full reimbursement from FEMA.

De Jesus joins Menin

Neal de Jesus, who served Delray Beach as fire chief and interim city manager, has a new job in the city as chief operating officer of Menin Development.

According to the company’s website, de Jesus handles daily operations and “management of all properties and current construction projects.” Menin’s president is Jordana Jarjura, who served on the commission when de Jesus worked for the city. De Jesus resigned in 2020 during what news reports said was an investigation into alleged sexual harassment.

Jarjura said the company first used de Jesus as a consultant on Delray Beach Marketplace, which opened in the spring. He became a full-time employee, Jarjura said, in April. Menin’s next big project is The Ray Hotel.

Jarjura said Menin needs to hire more people. “We have so much going on.” She called de Jesus “excellent at logistics and accountability.”

Boca Center snags Narbona

Boca Center has a replacement for Joseph’s Classic Market.

In a news release, owner Barings announced that Narbona, a Uruguay-based chain, will take the 9,000-square foot space that has been vacant since Joseph’s moved to Town Center Mall. The market/restaurant will open early next year in Boca Raton. An outlet opened in Key Biscayne last March and another will come to Coconut Grove in 2022.

The Narbona family runs a winery and food production company in Uruguay. According to Barings, the Boca Center location will offer breakfast, lunch and dinner—including “grab and go” dishes—with many of the ingredients and market items coming from the farm.

All of Boca Center’s retail and office space, which dates back more than three decades, is getting what Barings calls “a refresh.” The company envisions a tenant makeover as well, focusing on food and wine. At the other end of the building from Narbona, Total Wine is expanding to add the space created when the Panera outlet closed.

Weinroth unchallenged

Palm Beach County Commissioner Robert Weinroth continues to have lots of money and no challenger for his 2022 re-election campaign.

Through June 30, Weinroth had raised about $204,000. Nearly $90,000 of that came during the last two months, roughly the same amount in May and June. Most of Weinroth’s donors are people or entities with business before the commission.

Weinroth is the first Democrat to have represented District 4, which includes Boca Raton and Delray Beach, since it was created in 1990. The district leans slightly Republican, and Weinroth got just 54 percent in 2018 against a Republican with little money and less name recognition.

Yet the GOP has not fielded a candidate for 2022, and at this pace Weinroth’s fundraising could discourage any potential challengers. Democrats hold six of the seven commission seats.

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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