The next time you are stuck in traffic, aghast at what has happened to the village formerly known as Boca Raton, think of this: if you are unlucky enough to be living in the “downtown” construction zone, it is time for you to pay your annual “beautification” assessment.
These ad valorem taxes, which can run to thousands of dollars if you live in an expensive condo, stem from decisions made by your City Council back in the nineties that the downtown area was in desperate need of infrastructure improvements. Miraculously, this same area morphed into the district covered by the Interim Design Guidelines zoning changes in 2008. So who really benefits from all that “beautification” spending? You guessed it: the developers who are erecting those concrete monuments to bad taste almost everywhere you look.
All of this was supposed to have a happy ending. According to an independent evaluation funded by the City (entitled “Benefits Evaluation of the Boca Raton Visions 90 Special Assessment Program”) the economic benefits of the tax are as follows: increased land values, premium rents, increased retail sales, and reduced development costs. Of the four, only increased land values flow directly to downtown residents. The rest favor developers.
So this holiday season as you sit in traffic on one of downtown Boca’s five major arteries– there are only five, and they are not getting any wider– ask yourself if your taxes are actually paying for the beautification of Boca Raton. Or are we just paying ever-higher debt service which primarily serves the interests of developers.
It is the supreme irony that residents east of the Intracoastal are now demanding that all that “beautification” on Palmetto– the brick median, royal palms and all– be replaced by an additional lane for traffic. We are seeing the future and we are paying for it.
John C. Gore, President-BocaBeautiful.org