Friday, April 12, 2024

The Boca Raton Looks To Add More Housing

The Boca Raton, which has had a nearly $200 million makeover under new ownership, wants to add more housing.

According to documents filed with the city, the property previously known as the Boca Raton Resort & Club proposes to build 190 units “within” the resort’s convention center. The project would be multi-faceted, including a parking garage, a golf maintenance facility and rerouted roads. A spokesperson from The Boca Raton said today that the number of units now would be “significantly” lower than that, although no number has been determined. The specific location is also “being assessed” but will be on resort property.

BDT & MSD Partners bought and renamed the resort in 2019. Despite upgrades before then, the application reads, the resort had not been “the global player in the luxury hotel market that it once was…” The new owners “are continuing to explore ways to further enhance the property to become a major player in the global luxury hotel market.”

Homes and condos already are on the grounds. The application notes the many updates to The Boca Raton’s master plan and calculates that 190 new residences are possible. The resort will celebrate its centennial in 2026.

The application notes that the project would need text amendments—changes to current development rules for the site. The proposed height, for example, is above the zoning code. A council member must sponsor a text amendment.

In a Dec. 22 memo, the staff points out that the proposed garage and housing are too high. The memo states that the current height rule is “not eligible for modification.”

In addition, city planners say the new condos are proposed for land that is zoned for recreation and open space and thus are “not allowed.” The report goes on to cite traffic issues and to suggest that only 172 new units would be possible.

Boca Raton City Council members have made clear that they want to reduce delays for consideration of development projects, especially major ones. When The Boca Raton project came up at a recent meeting, Mayor Scott Singer referred to giving “concierge service” from the city.

Forbes calculated that MSD Partners paid $875 million for the property. Only Town Center Mall pays more in taxes.

I’ll have more as the application proceeds.

Correction on Boca lawsuits over oceanfront lots

I must issue a pair of corrections and one clarification to my recent item about mostly successful lawsuits against Boca Raton by owners seeking to build on two oceanfront lots— 2500 and 2600 North Ocean Boulevard.

I wrote that two state court rulings determined that Mayor Scott Singer and former council members Monica Mayotte and Andrea O’Rourke should have recused themselves from voting on the application for a duplex on the 2600 lot. In fact, the state court ruling applied only to Mayotte and O’Rourke, not Singer, for making prejudicial statements before the vote.

In addition, I wrote that a federal court judge had found that the city committed a “taking” in denying a variance that would allow a single-family home on the 2600 lot. In fact, Judge Rodney Smith said the city had violated the owner’s due process rights but had not exercised inverse condemnation—taking the land without compensation.

Finally, a statement from the city’s legal department disputed this part of the item: “Both judges, however, found that elected officials, top administrators and members of advisory boards colluded to deny the two projects.”

I should have made clear that this was my interpretation of the two rulings. Both judges faulted not just council members but also administrators for failing to produce public records in the 2600 case and for acting in a way that the owner of the 2500 lot, the judge said, was “never going to get a fair hearing.”

My main point was the rising costs of these cases. The city could wind up paying more than $2 million in legal fees to the property owners. The city has appealed Smith’s ruling.

Delray selects vice mayor and will start holding city meetings later

During its organizational meeting last week, the new Delray Beach City Commission went beyond the agenda.

Commissioner Juli Casale

Commissioners first tended to the ceremonial stuff. They chose Juli Casale to be vice mayor and run meetings if new Mayor Tom Carney is absent. The slate of Carney, Casale and Thomas Markert—calling themselves “Tom, Tom and Juli”—quickly showed the new political alignment by voting down the nomination by Rob Long of Angela Burns to be vice mayor.

Long and Burns won their seats last year, overcoming the opposition of Mayor Shelly Petrolia. This year, the mayor backed Carney, Casale and Markert. Carney also will chair the community redevelopment agency, meaning that he will run the CRA meetings, too. The Boca Raton City Council traditionally has divided those roles.

Talk then turned to whether meetings should begin later than the current 5 p.m. Carney wanted a 6 p.m. start, so that more people could come after work. Casale worried about city staff having to stay late after a full day of work. Carney said the start time is “not their call.”

Long noted that the previous commission had the same discussion a year ago, when meetings began at 4 p.m. Moving the time ahead one hour had been a compromise.

Carney still pushed for 6 p.m. Casale pointed out that, with two regular meetings and one workshop meeting, staff could be at City Hall late three Tuesdays of every month. Carney said he would run faster meetings and that it was more important to give residents a chance to attend. The new time will start after all meetings with an advertised 5 p.m. start time have been held.

Delray to remove Burgess from DDA board

At Casale’s suggestion, commissioners also set in motion the process to remove Rick Burgess from the board of the Downtown Development Authority.

An investigation by the Palm Beach County Commission on Ethics found that Burgess lied last year on his application for the DDA board. He had to be “tax-qualified,” meaning that he paid taxes to the agency. He claimed on the application that he was. The investigation found that Burgess lied about the address of his business.

On March 7, the commission issued Burgess a letter of reprimand. According to the commission file, Burgess “stipulated” to the facts of the investigation and accepted the letter to “avoid the expense and time of litigation.”

The complaint was filed by Mavis Benson, the DDA’s former chair. Burgess’ and other appointments last June replaced four of the seven board members. It came as the previous commission was pushing the DDA to work with Old School Square Center for the Arts on managing the complex.

Despite the ethics commission finding, only the city commission can remove a board member. Though Burns spoke of “due process,” Burgess’ removal seems likely. Markert said he would not support anyone who lied.

FAU taps John Jakus as new basketball coach

Florida Atlantic University found its new basketball coach the way FAU found its last one.

Like Dusty May, who left for Michigan one year after the Owls reached the Final Four, John Jakus was a highly regarded assistant. May had been at the University of Florida, Jakus had been at Baylor, which won the national championship in 2021.

Jakus’ immediate priority will be to retain the team’s top three players, who could stay for another year. The transfer portal opened on March 18. Players seeking to switch schools can enter the portal until May 1. Jakus now must sell himself to May’s recruits.

Drucker selected as vice mayor, Nachlas to chair CRA in Boca

Commissioner Yvette Drucker
fran nachlas
Commissioner Fran Nachlas

At its organizational session on Monday, the new Boca Raton City Council chose Yvette Drucker as vice mayor and Fran Nachlas as chair of the community redevelopment agency. Drucker, who with three years is the longest-serving continuous member after Singer, will run regular meetings if Singer is absent. Nachlas will run the CRA meetings.

Missed the last City Watch?

Visit our City Watch page and also sign up for our City Watch e-newsletter, where you’ll get the latest column delivered directly to your inbox.


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.

Related Articles

Latest Articles