This article, originally published by Al Zucaro on BocaWatch.org, is preserved for historical purposes by Massive Impressions Online Marketing in Boca Raton.
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In December, 2009 Boca Raton’s City Council decided to buy the Wildflower property for $7,500,000, but in December, 2015 decided not to spend $313,000 to open it up and make it available for citizen use. In an additional slap in citizens’ faces, the City Council at the same meeting in December, 2015 decided to move forward with the permitting process for a floating dock at the Wildflower site at an estimated cost of up to $370,000. These decisions are contrary to citizen demand and prudent management practices.
The City’s economic situation in December, 2009 was being impacted by the Great Recession. In fact, the City’s FY2009-2010 budget states that the City is reducing operating expenses in many areas to address a slowing economy. The City Council, however, had no problem finding $7,500,000 to buy the Wildflower property. The Mayor’s stated goal for the purchase was to provide waterfront access in the downtown to the thousands and thousands of citizens who cannot afford a boat and have no other access to the waterfront.
For over six years the Wildflower site has remained closed to citizen access and is an eyesore to the numerous citizens and visitors who pass it daily.
The City seems to be stalled regarding opening the Wildflower site to citizens as it negotiates a long term lease of the property to The Hillstone Group. This organization owns the Houston’s restaurant chain as well as a few other brands in the same category. When Hillstone recently informed the City that it was no longer interested developing the property, citizen demand for a park on the site caused the City Council to evaluate developing a park on the site.
In December, 2015 the City Council reviewed a staff estimate of $313,000 to perform the necessary work to open the site as a park. Put in context, this is about 4% of the purchase price to make the site useful as a public park and fix a very visible six-year problem in the downtown. Unlike when the property was purchased in 2009, the 2015 macro-economic environment and the City’s financial outlook are in much better shape. The City’s FY2015-2016 budget includes a statement that the City has emerged from the economic challenges in a strong position. The reason for not opening the Wildflower site as a public park cannot be economic. Perhaps it is political. A recent BocaWatch article suggests that this is the case. /what-makes-a-great-city/#comments.
Since Councilman Jeremy Rodgers took the lead in evaluating opening the Wildflower site as a park, an email requesting evaluation results was sent to him on December 28, 2015. So far no reply has been received.
Numerous surveys conducted by the City, social media and the Boca Raton Tribune all confirm high citizen demand for a park on the Wildflower site. The following table shows details of the huge citizen demand for a park at the Wildflower site. Note that the scoring of the City’s Electronic Survey was shown to be a misrepresentation of actual citizen intent. The details are included in an earlier BocaWatch article. https://bocawatch.org/lies-damned-lies-and-statistics/
So the City Council seems to be on track for another showdown with the citizens it represents. For six years that the City’s citizens have owned the Wildflower site the citizens have requested that the City Council develop a public park on the property. For six years the City Council has ignored the citizen requests and is heading in a direction that will install boat docks at Hillstone’s request and with citizens’ money. The citizens have responded to surveys, sent emails to City Council members and voiced support for a public park at board and City Council meetings but nothing changes. Well, 2016 is going to be different.
AS FAR BACK AS THE 1980’S, THE WILDFLOWER APPROACHED THE CITY ABOUT A DOCKING A FACILITY AT THE WILDFLOWER LOCATION. THEY WERE TOLD THAT THE PROPERTY WAS TO CLOSE TO THE PALMETTO PARK BRIDGE, AND COULD NOT OBTAIN A DOCK PERMIT OF ANY TYPE.
IF YOU HAVE EVER BEEN ON A SAILBOAT, ON AN OUTGOING TIDE, ON THE NORTH SIDE OF PALMETTO PARK BRIDGE,, WAITING FOR THE BRIDGE TO OPEN YOU WOULD KNOW THAT THIS IS A WISE DECISION.
THIS SITUATION IS NOT LIKE THAT OF BOYNTON BEACH AND THE BANANA BOAT/TWO GEORGE’S FACILITIES. THERE, THEY HAVE THE WIDTH OF THE INTERCOSTAL WATERWAY, AND PROPER DISTANCE FROM THE BRIDGE.
PUTTING A DOCKING FACILITY AT THE WILDFLOWER WOULD BE LIKE PUTTING ON AT ‘THE BRIDGE RESTRAUNT’ ON THE NORTH SIDE OF THE INLET BRIDGE. TO CLOSE AND TO DANGEROUS.
PUT IN A CITY PARK. OUR MOTTO IS ” A CITY WITHIN A PARK”. LETS FOLLOW UP ON THAT THEME AND LET THE PUBLIC ENJOY THE BENIFITS. WHERE ELSE ARE ALL THE PEOPLE FROM THE APPARTMENTS AND NEW TEMPLE GOING TO BE ABLE TO ENJOY ” THE BOCA LIFE” ON THE WATER?
RHMYERLY, I saw a sailboat hit the Palmetto Park bridge. The tide was outgoing and the sailboat (looked brand new about 35′) was circling on the North side of the bridge waiting for the opening. Suddenly the sailboat was swept under the bridge sideways. The mast hit the top bridge structure and the mast was bent over about five feet from the top. The lines were also messed-up. It was horrible to watch, but could have been lot worse if the lines got caught on the bridge. I’ve heard of that happening.
Yes, the Wildflower site needs to be a public park!
I have never understood the argument that the Wildflower property is too close to the bridge for boat dockage…The City’s only boat ramp has sat just south of the bridge, for years and years and years…Tides come and go. What is the difference? Am I missing something here??
Kyle, the City Staff made a presentation on this issue at the December 7, 2015 City Council Workshop meeting. It’s on video, check it out. They explained the issue as one of Army Corps of Engineers regulations pertaining to dock distance from the West side of the navigation channel rather than a bridge impact. There are also issues of sea grass and water depth. Back to your question, I don’t know. If you look at an overhead pic of both locations, the dock at SPP seems to be closer to the channel than a dock would be at Wildflower Park. Perhaps the SPP dock was permitted before these regulations were put in place.
We should not have purchased the property in the first place. Does it really make sense to risk another $313K on a temporary park? $313k is a year’s worth of road resurfacing or 2 new trash trucks. Better yet, those funds can be used to fund the City’s portion of the Lake Wyman waterfront park project. How would it look to the tax payers if the City successfully re-negotiated the terms of the agreement with Hillstone just as the construction of the temporary park were being completed?
Tony, the financial viewpoint should be that the $313K is for a permanent park and any future changes should be evaluated on their own merits. It looks to the taxpayers like the City is negotiating an unconditional surrender to Hillstone.
Just wanted to make certain that the readers of your article understood the context for which the decision by City Council was for a temporary park and that the City and Hillston are back in negotiations. Not sure why the article left out this important factors.