Zucaro Swings at Haynie and Misses

Zucaro
Al Zucaro

The latest Zucaro vs. Haynie allegation

This week, Al Zucaro tried to change the story in the Boca Raton mayoral race.

Zucaro, who is challenging incumbent Susan Haynie, has a record of financial problems. He has not repaid any of a $406,000 judgment against him in 2009 from a lawsuit related to a business loan. The judge said Zucaro used the money for personal expenses.

In addition, a judge in New York state concluded that Zucaro acted “fraudulently” when he moved $137,500 from his uncle’s trust account to a personal account. Zucaro has appealed that ruling. Zucaro’s former in-laws also sued him for repayment of loans to buy property in Georgia. Zucaro settled the lawsuits.

So on Wednesday Boca Raton voters found in their mailboxes a letter signed by Anthony Majhess, the former city council member who lost to Haynie in 2014. The letter, which the Zucaro campaign paid for, strongly implies that Haynie is corrupt.

Zucaro had the issue with me. He got his information from Frank Chapman, who has run twice unsuccessfully for the council and has donated $1,000 to Zucaro. I know the information came from Chapman because Chapman also sent it to me.

Haynie and her husband, Neil, own a property management company called Community Reliance. The company has a $12,000 annual contract with the master condo association for Tivoli, a large residential complex in Deerfield Beach. Investments Limited, the largest owner of downtown Boca Raton property, owns many of the condos in Tivoli.

Susan Haynie sought a ruling from the Palm Beach County Commission on Ethics as to whether she could vote if any issues related to Investments Limited came before the council. While awaiting the ruling, she recused herself from a 2011 vote on a matter related to an Investments Limited property. Investments Limited has no projects currently under city review.

In August 2013, the commission found that Haynie could vote because the contract is with the association, and therefore there is no misuse of office. Had the ruling gone otherwise, Haynie said, she would have asked her husband to cancel the contract.

End of story? No. Chapman seized on a chart showing roughly $1.4 million in payments between 2007 and 2012 from Tivoli individual condo associations to the master association “c/o Community Reliance.” Chapman claims that the money went to Haynie’s company. Zucaro’s BocaWatch website posted a similar claim.

As Susan Haynie explained Thursday, however, the money is monthly assessments from those individual associations that Community Reliance receives and deposits in its role for the master association. The money goes to the association to pay bills incurred by subcontractors; it has nothing to do with Community Reliance. The company is a pass-through for the money. Its only revenue is that $12,000-a-year contract with Tivoli. Community Reliance can’t withdraw any of the assessment money. The president of the master association signs the monthly $1,000 check to Community Reliance.

Whoever wrote the letter with Majhess’ signature tried to word it carefully, saying that the $1.4 million “flowed through” Community Reliance. But the letter then references “Corruption County” and argues that the issue disqualifies Haynie from serving as mayor. Haynie calls it a “political stunt” and plans a campaign email response.

This is not the first time Zucaro has reached a nefarious conclusion without having the facts. In late 2015, when the city investigated whether the downtown open space rules had been applied properly, Zucaro speculated at a council meeting that the “paper shredders” were going all out in the city manager’s office to cover up collusion between the city and developers.

Actually, the city’s review found one violation over three decades. When the council discussed the findings, Zucaro wasn’t at the meeting.

The letter from Majhess calls Susan Haynie “shameless.” Based on the Majhess letter, that characterization better suits the Zucaro campaign.

Haynie’s track record on development

mayor_susan_haynie__chamber_headshot.jpgBecause Mayor Haynie is the only incumbent running in Boca Raton’s election, she is taking all the criticism for the city council supposedly allowing too much development in the last three years. So let’s look at Haynie’s votes on major development projects.

Since becoming mayor in March 2014, Haynie has voted to approve the Hyatt Place Hotel, which is part of the Mark at Cityscape. Haynie also voted in favor of Via Mizner Phases 2 and 3. They will include a Mandarin Oriental Hotel and 104 condos that will come with privileges at the Mandarin. And Haynie voted for University Village, the planned-mobility project that would go on Spanish River Boulevard just east of the new Interstate 95 interchange. That 80-acre site is the largest piece of undeveloped property in Boca Raton.

During the three years before becoming mayor, Haynie supported other downtown projects. In December 2011, she voted for Camden, the 261-unit rental building south of Palmetto Park Road on Federal Highway. In January 2012, she voted for Via Mizner Phase 1, the 366-unit rental project at Camino Real and Federal Highway. In May 2012, she voted for the non-hotel portion of the Mark, which has 208 rental units. In 2013, Haynie voted for Tower 155—170 condos—and Boca Lofts, now Boca City Walk—229 apartments.

According to the narrative from Al Zucaro, Haynie’s opponent, the council has ignored residents in approving these projects. We’ll get to the controversial one in a moment, but consider that these projects will have added nearly 1,500 units to downtown Boca Raton. If the fear of overdevelopment is that high, one assumes that many residents would have spoken in opposition.

Actually, almost no one did. According to minutes of the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) meetings, two or three speakers at most criticized an individual project. Almost all the council votes were unanimous. Even Anthony Majhess, who ran as the anti-development candidate against Haynie in 2014, voted with Haynie on all of those projects except the Mark.

The great exception, of course, was Archstone, now called Palmetto Promenade. Haynie voted with the majority to approve Archstone. Majhess, whose Golden Triangle neighborhood is across Royal Palm Road from the project, was the only dissenting vote. Golden Triangle residents tried to force a referendum on Archstone, winning at trial but losing on appeal.

So that wider look at Haynie’s record suggests that opposition centers more on one project, not several. All the projects Haynie voted for, including Archstone, complied with Ordinance 4035, the document that governs downtown development. Ironically, the just-completed Palmetto Promenade—the original name before Archstone—may be more compatible than an earlier version Golden Triangle residents agreed to in a lawsuit settlement.

Though it will have many more residential units, this project will have much less retail. Residential development generates less traffic than retail. Also, the Archstone developers could have asked for another 40 feet of height because they agreed to follow the city’s Interim Design Guidelines for downtown architecture. The developers chose to stick with the 100-foot limit.

Haynie critics have a stronger argument on University Village. The council allowed a 60 percent increase in the floor-to-area ratio for the project, though the staff recommended approval and the council extracted several changes during debate. But the city, not the developer, created the planned-mobility zoning for the property.

Like her colleagues, Haynie refused even to consider the New Mizner on the Green downtown condo complex that would have featured four towers averaging 300 feet in height where the limit is 100 feet. The owner’s replacement project, Mizner 200, still has not gone before the community appearance and planning and zoning boards.

Those who criticize votes for downtown projects really are criticizing Ordinance 4035. We’ve heard anger from those critics during the campaign but no ideas. Should the city change the ordinance? Should the city abolish Ordinance 5052, under which developers can get that extra 40 feet of height by following design guidelines? Should the city elect council members from districts? Four of the five live west of I-95. Haynie is the exception.

Ordinance 4035 codifies the rights of downtown property owners. The council can’t reject a project that meets the ordinance’s guidelines. The issue with Mizner 200 has been the design, not the 384 units. Rejecting a project without cause would mean a lawsuit.

This review of Haynie’s record surely won’t mollify those who believe that Boca Raton is growing too fast or believe that development is the main cause of downtown traffic. The city’s consultant said commuters and those driving through the city to avoid Interstate 95 are more to blame. But this review may give some perspective to development votes by Haynie and her colleagues—even those whom have campaigned against overdevelopment.

TV ad spending

Five of the seven Boca Raton candidates will have TV ads running over the weekend.

Haynie has been on TV since February 20, with a roughly $23,000 buy through March 2. She will spend about the same amount through Election Day on Tuesday, with about 40 percent on cable and 60 percent on broadcast networks. Zucaro’s TV ads began running today and will continue through Monday. Zucaro’s buy is $19,000.

Among the Seat B candidates, Andy Thomson has been on TV since last Saturday and will spend about $22,000. Thomson and Haynie use the same consultant. Thomson is on broadcast and cable. Andrea O’Rourke will have spent about $6,000 on cable TV by Monday. Emily Gentile made a $3,000 buy for time on broadcast TV.

Campaign leftover funds

As I reported Tuesday, Boca Raton City Council Seat A incumbent Scott Singer had raised about $96,000 through Feb. 24 and spent just $33,000. He faces an unqualified opponent who has raised almost no money.

So Singer might have lots of money left over. Other candidates might, too, but Singer would have the most.

What can Boca candidates do with their leftovers? Under state law, they have four options: Return it to the donors on a pro rata basis, donate it to charitable organizations, donate it to their party—the limit is $25,000—or give it to the city’s general fund.

Campaign finance update

In my Tuesday post, I reported on the latest campaign finance records from the Boca Raton candidates. The missing report had been Seat B candidate Emily Gentile’s donations between Feb. 11 and Feb. 24.

Gentile raised just $5 for that period. Her opponents, Andrea O’Rourke and Andy Thomson, raised roughly $7,500 and $3,500, respectively.

And the Delray Beach race

Meanwhile in Delray Beach, City Commission Seat 2 candidate Jim Chard continues to lead his main opponent, Kelly Barrette, in fundraising.

Chard raised $9,000 between Feb. 1 and Feb. 24, bringing his total to $45,000. Chard has spent $29,000. Barrette raised about $4,000 during the same period, giving her $18,000. Barrette has spent $12,000. The third candidate, Anneze Barthelemy, had raised $2,800.

In the Seat 4 race, Shirley Johnson and Josh Smith are about even. Smith had raised about $10,000 and spent roughly $5,000. Johnson had raised nearly $9,000, but she had spent just $2,000. The election is March 14.

iPic goes before CRA

A proposed agreement for the iPic project is before the Delray Beach Community Redevelopment Agency at tonight’s meeting, and CRA Director Jeff Costello recommends approval.

Under the agreement, the CRA would pay $75,000 each year toward maintenance and operation of the 90 public spaces in the IPic parking garage. IPic wants the public share to be closer to $115,000 a year. Costello calls the payment an “outstanding issue,” presumably meaning that iPic might not accept the lower figure.

In addition, the CRA would pay iPic $40,000 a year for 10 years. The money would be an incentive, and it could become controversial if the CRA board goes along. Critics could say that IPic already is getting a good price for the land between Southeast Fourth and Fifth avenues.

CRA board member Paul Zacks, however, notes that iPic would have been eligible for incentive money from CRA development grants when the agency chose the company for the site in 2013. Zacks adds that iPic is building 40 extra public spaces at the city’s request, with the revenue going to the city. Zacks also notes, correctly, that the iPic project is projected to generate about $400,000 in new property tax revenue each year. “The $400,000 incentive spread over 10 years,” he said in an email, “should be viewed accordingly.”

Finally, the agreement lists “good faith” efforts iPic would make to hire 20 percent of the first theater employees from within the city. Those efforts would include notifying the CRA of employment openings and holding at least two job fairs. Supporters touted the project as a local employment source, but the agreement notes that the program would be “voluntary.”

CRA steps in in wake of Uptown Atlantic deal

The Delray Beach CRA hoped that the Uptown Atlantic would bloom on three blocks of CRA-owned land east of the Fairfield Inn on West Atlantic Avenue. With Uptown Atlantic dead, the CRA may try first for success on a portion of the site.

Also on tonight’s CRA agenda is a proposal from a group called Pasadena Capital to buy 1.75 acres of the roughly 6-acre site. According to the backup material, Publix is interested in putting a store on the 600 block of West Atlantic, at the eastern end of the site. One of the main attractions about Uptown Atlantic was its promise to include a full-service grocery store.

The request for proposal would cover nearly 3 acres, to give the project more flexibility. The fate of the property is tied closely to the rebranding of the area as “The Set.”