Thursday, October 28, 2021

What Boca Country Club Residents Are Worried About & Delray Looks at Seawalls

A week from Friday, the formerly private Boca Country Club becomes the public Boca Raton Golf and Racquet Club. Traffic remains the main issue between the city and residents of the nearly 1,000 homes that border the golf course, and there remains no resolution that pleases the residents.

At least for now.

The flashpoint is the main entrance at Congress Avenue and Boca Club Drive, with Costco on the east side. The city is closing on its sale of the Boca Municipal course on Oct. 17 and hopes to start play at the new course by Nov. 1.

When that happens, more people will be using that entrance. Residents fear a bottleneck. Their solution is to prohibit U-turns north of the intersection, to keep cars from backing up. City officials, including the municipal services director and chief traffic engineer, believe that banning U-turns would create more problems.

Former Congressman Ron Klein represents Boca Country Club’s master homeowner association. He has been speaking with city officials for nearly a year, since the announcement that the Boca Raton Resort & Club—now The Boca Raton—would donate the course, clubhouse and other recreational facilities to the city.

On Sept. 10, Klein sent a letter to Mayor Scott Singer and the city council. He wanted to express “the community’s serious level of frustration about efforts over the last 11 months to find accommodation and resolution to issues.” Klein added, “The community has been told, be patient, these things take time. Eleven months after the city accepted this donation and three weeks before it will formally take over, that answer is unappreciated and unacceptable.”

I spoke with Klein last Friday. “The city,” he said, “has been slow to solve problems, except for the golf course.” Of the city’s opposition to banning U-turns, “We don’t buy that,” Klein said. “I don’t know if all this will be worked out.”

Though Klein says “all this,” my sense is that only traffic is an issue with most homeowners. Only about 10 percent of the residents, Klein said, had memberships through the resort that allowed them to use the facilities. A few members have complained about the city’s decision not to keep a pool at the new club, but the city has no contractual obligations to those residents. Their deal was with the resort.

So we’re back to traffic. The city seems to have proposed the best solution: a new entrance to the club south of the Costco intersection. Since most golfers likely will be coming north on Congress Avenue, the new entrance would relieve most of that anticipated congestion.

Construction, however, could take between 12 and 14 months, by Gibson’s estimate. “It could take as long as two years,” Klein said.

There’s a stopgap idea. The club could open its second entrance, which is farther north on Congress Avenue, for residents only. But in Klein’s letter, he included cost estimates for installing and maintaining resident-only gates and said that the city should pay.

“But for the city creating this traffic issue,” Klein wrote, the residents “would not have reason or justification for opening and operating this gate.” I have heard no support from the city for Boca Raton paying that cost, especially since the city will allow all homeowners to use the club at city-resident rates even though they aren’t city residents.

Regarding the U-turn issue, there is a possible end run. Though the city operates the light at the intersection, Congress Avenue is a county road. In theory, the county could prohibit those U-turns over the city’s objection.

But that won’t happen. County Commissioner Robert Weinroth, who represents the area, said he won’t try to intervene. The former Boca Raton councilman had “a long talk” with City Manager Leif Ahnell and came away persuaded that the city’s position is correct.

Weinroth also believes, as city officials do, that things will look much different fairly soon. By the end of 2022 or early 2023, the homeowners could have full access to a renovated golf course, clubhouse and tennis and pickleball courts, with Boca Raton residents subsidizing their fees. The new entrance will have solved the traffic issue with the new club, leaving homeowners to complain about the Costco gas station.

One unspoken issue may be the attitude among some homeowners that the public is about to invade their private community. But Klein acknowledged that Boca Country Club “never has been private in that sense.” Residents did not have equity memberships in the club. The property is unique.

Klein said he “looks forward to a prompt and positive resolution that can be reported back to its residents as soon as possible.” Talks will continue.

Building safety standards

It’s been one month since Boca Raton approved safety standards for older buildings. The city acted after the June 24 collapse of the Champlain Towers South condo in Surfside.

Buildings that are taller than four stories or hold more than 500 people— homes and duplexes exempted—must have electrical and structural inspections after 30 years and then every 10 years after that. Boca Raton is the only city to have passed its own standards, which are the toughest in Florida.

The county has moved more slowly, working with the League of Cities to develop an ordinance that cities could adopt if they chose to do so. Delray Beach has waited to see what the collaboration produces.

“We’re very close,” Weinroth said. He believes that a proposal could go before the commission by the end of the year if not earlier.

Weinroth is comfortable with the county’s slower pace. Champlain Towers, he said, “never should have been approved.” Weinroth worries about overreach. Costs associated with such an ordinance—even if a building is safe to live in—could result in “special assessments that some residents can’t pay, so they have to move.”

Once the commission approves a model ordinance, Weinroth said, Boca Raton can “take a look and decide if they want to make adjustments.”

Delray considers seawall standards

delray

Timed with the season’s first King tides, the Delray Beach City Commission today will consider an ordinance that would require tougher seawall standards to protect the city against rising seas, of which increased tidal flooding is one result.

The ordinance arises out of the city’s vulnerability study. It went to the commission in April 2019, followed by community meetings. Delray Beach now is where a lot of South Florida cities will be soon.

The ordinance would require new seawalls to be five feet high. The same standard would apply to repairs of existing seawalls. With that standard, Delray Beach hopes to protect flood-prone areas until 2050.

One interesting aspect is that the ordinance would require sellers of homes in low-lying areas to inform potential buyers that they are looking at properties in “Tidal Flood Barriers.” That disclosure would have to be in very large type, so the potential buyers didn’t miss it.

Welcome to the new South Florida.

Delray axed about new venue 

If you’ve ever longed to channel your inner lumberjack, Delray Beach soon may have the answer.

At today’s meeting, the city commission will consider an application from Throw Social to create a downtown axe-throwing venue. I quote from the staff memo:

“The applicant has indicated that axe-throwing is a sport of growing popularity that emerged 13 years ago in Canada; the World of Axe Throwing Championships is now televised on ESPN, which has both contributed to its increase in popularity and signaled its rise.”

Worried about safety? Don’t be. “The facility will have an axe professional that oversees every participant. The sport has gained regional popularity with many venues located throughout South Florida, and in adjacent municipalities such as Boynton Beach and Boca Raton.”

And there’s this from the staff: “Although there are many safety precautions and rules and regulations governed by the World Axe Throwing League, there are concerns regarding the minimum age of eight years old allowed to participate in the axe-throwing area. While not directly related to the criteria regarding the ‘imposition of conditions,’ it is suggested that the business should require that anyone under the age of 18 is accompanied by a parent or guardian.”

Good to know.

Delray budget approval

In more mundane matters on today’s agenda, the commission will give final approval to Delray Beach’s budget and tax rate for next year.

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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