Wildflower petition, iPic issues & the tattoo parlor

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Wildflower petition

No referendum will appear on Boca Raton’s Aug. 30 state primary ballot to kill the idea of a restaurant on the former Wildflower property. For now, that’s the only sure thing about the issue.

Last week, opponents of the plan submitted roughly 2,000 petition signatures to the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Office. Supervisor Susan Bucher told me on Monday that the office should need only “a day or two” to verify whether organizers got the required 1,509 signatures—15 percent of turnout in the last city election—from registered voters within Boca to send the petition to the city council. Many factors will determine when the petition appears before voters as a referendum.

The petition doesn’t mention the Wildflower property, which is on the mainland side of the Intracoastal Waterway directly north of the Palmetto Park Bridge. It just says that city-owned land along the Intracoastal “shall only be used for public recreation, public boating access, public streets, and city stormwater uses only (sic.)” Everyone, however, knows the real intent. Failure to mention the restaurant makes the petition deceptive.

Whatever happens will come too late for a vote in August. The council has only one meeting in June–a week from today. The ordinance would need at least two meetings before going on a ballot. The deadline for the Aug. 30 ballot is June 24, the final day of candidate qualifying. The deadline for the Nov. 8 general election ballot is Aug. 26.

Let’s assume that the petitioners have gathered the requisite signatures. The petition then would go to the city clerk’s office for certification. According to a city spokeswoman, City Manager Leif Ahnell could put discussion of the referendum—which after certification would be treated as an ordinance—on next Tuesday’s agenda. The ordinance could be introduced at the next meeting under the council’s summer schedule, on July 26.

Interestingly, current plans also call for the council at that meeting to hold the final public hearing on the Wildflower plan. Formal review starts Thursday, when the Planning and Zoning Board will consider the five proposals associated with the restaurant: land-use changes, the lease and the site plan.

The board could recommend approval, recommend against approval or recommend approval with proposed changes. At next Tuesday’s meeting, the council will introduce an ordinance covering all those issues, teeing up the subject for July 26.

According to the city spokeswoman, if the petition/ordinance is introduced on July 26, a public hearing could follow at the August 9 meeting. The council could refuse to adopt the ordinance. If the council failed within 60 days to adopt the ordinance without making any changes, however, it would go to the next scheduled election or a special election, which could not take place until January at the earliest.

Among the uncertainties is when that 60-day clock starts. With city clerk certification? With introduction of the ordinance?

“The only thing I can tell you with certainty,” the spokeswoman said, “is that if the petition is certified by supervisor and clerk’s office it will be treated as an ordinance, introduced, then there will be a public hearing. A resolution (an affirmative vote of the council) is then required to put it on the ballot in November or in a special election.”

Contrary to what I have reported, the city attorney’s office has no role in reviewing the petition. The office has not commented on the potential legal ramifications if the city fails to close the deal with Hillstone Restaurant Group and the petition passes or if the city closes the deal and the petition passes. But given the potential loss of revenue and the potential liability, those behind the petition are working more in their narrow interest than in the wider interest of Boca Raton.

Boca AirportAuthority

Boca Raton is now three-for-three in defending ethics complaints regarding the Boca Raton Airport Authority.

In May, the commission found no probable cause to pursue complaints against Deputy City Manager George Brown and City Councilman Robert Weinroth and their appointments to the board last year. According to the Tallahassee attorney representing the city, the commission at its meeting last Friday also found no probable cause in the longest-running complaint, against Jack Fox. The council put him on the board two years ago.

Indeed, the complaint lasted longer than Fox’s time on the board. He did not seek appointment to a new term that would have begun June 1. Brown and Weinroth left the board before their terms expired.

Former council member Anthony Majhess filed the complaint against Fox, alleging that because Fox owned a hangar at the airport his board service represented a conflict of interest. BocaWatch Publisher Al Zucaro filed the complaints against Brown and Weinroth. Mark Herron, who represented Brown, Weinroth and Fox, said Zucaro appeared at Fox’s hearing to represent Majhess.

Boca vs. Park District

The new dustup between Boca Raton and the Greater Boca Raton Beach & Park District concerns Boca’s wish to annex about 700 residents northwest of the city.

In a May 31 letter to Mayor Susan Haynie, district board Chairman Robert Rollins pointed out that the neighborhoods also don’t live within the district’s boundaries. If they are annexed, they could use all city and district facilities while paying only city taxes.

Rollins overstates by calling this tiny subsidy “a grave inequity.” Residents of the district pay roughly $1 per $1,000 of assessed value in property taxes along with the $3.42 per $1,000 in city property taxes. Rollins asks that “appropriate action be taken to include these communities” in the district.

Haynie told me Monday that while she hasn’t spoken with the city attorney’s office, she believes that the district should take the “appropriate action” by changing its boundaries to add Boca’s new residents.

State of the city address

With all that’s going on in Boca Raton, Mayor Haynie should have a wide-ranging State of the City address today before the Boca Raton Federation of Homeowners. Haynie will deliver her remarks at 8:30 a.m. in the Community Center west of City Hall.

Lingering iPic issues

Delray Beach has received the revised parking and management agreement from iPic for the Fourth and Fifth Delray project, but City Attorney Noel Pfeffer said Monday that the revision still fails to address key issues.

One is how long iPic would pledge to keep its corporate headquarters in the project’s office space. The company’s promise to move the headquarters from Boca helped to generate support for the project from city commissioners and residents.

Another issue is how Delray Beach would deal with traffic problems if the project created a chokepoint at the main entrance—on Southeast Fourth Street near Atlantic Avenue—and if cars were dropping off people on Southeast Fifth Avenue.

Finally, Delray Beach gave up an alley, which would become part of the project. The city wanted to ensure return of the alley if the project isn’t built. Pfeffer said that could an issue for the city or the Community Redevelopment Agency, from which iPic is buying the land.

These gaps in the agreement are surprising, because neither issue should come as a surprise. The commission raised them, and commission approval was conditioned on approval of an agreement. With iPic having stated its wish to get permits by the end of the year, one would have thought that the agreement would be straightforward. Right now, it’s anything but that.

And now tattoos

The Delray Beach City Commission may not get the turnout tonight that showed up for the dog beach discussion, but it could be close.

This time, the subject is tattoos—specifically, the application to open Delray Beach’s first tattoo parlor. Tattoo fans came to the April 29 meeting hoping for approval, but the commission deferred it. Much grumbling ensued as the fans departed.

As with sober houses, the question is regulation. The city’s concern seems to be less about one tattoo parlor than about many tattoo parlors. Court rulings, however, have held that tattoo parlors are in the same category as salons that provide “permanent makeup.” Tattoos, a city staff report said, are “protected artistic expression.”

City Attorney Noel Pfeffer, however, told me Monday that even if the commission approves the application from Tradition Tattoo, “It would not set a precedent” for the city. The commission can approve a “zoning in progress” resolution. It would inform others wanting to open a tattoo parlor that they could be subject to regulations.

If the commission approves the resolution, Pfeffer said, Development Services Director Tim Stillings will spend 90 days researching the issue and seeking to offer criteria that Delray Beach could require for tattoo parlors, such as a minimum age.

Similarly, the law treats sober house residents as a protected class, which has thwarted Delray Beach’s attempt to regulate these businesses. We’ll see if the city has more luck on rules for tattoo parlors.

The Trump butler

Don’t plan lunch for Wednesday at City Fish Market unless you have a ticket to hear Donald Trump’s former butler speak to the Gold Coast Tiger Bay Club.

Anthony Senecal made news in the wrong way last month, when Mother Jones magazine revealed the many racist comments—some directed at President Obama and Michelle Obama—Senecal had made on Facebook. The club had invited him before the revelations, but did not rescind the invitation. City Fish Market is on Glades Road just west of the Florida Turnpike.

Last week, the parent company of City Fish Market issued a news release saying that the restaurant would be closed for lunch Wednesday “due to a private event.” Normally, the restaurant remains open when the club hosts speakers. Buckhead Life Restaurant Group noted that the club is “solely responsible for the program content. . .” From here on, the company “will reserve the right to review the club’s choice of speakers prior to contracting with them.”

Translation: The company doesn’t want any association with a racist. If only the Gold Coast Coast Tiger Bay Club felt the same way.

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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.