March 3, 2016, a day that may go down for solidarity in the City of Boca Raton; a day where the city’s administration, the Planning and Zoning Board and the residents may have met at the intersection of ‘COMPROMISE’ and ‘COMPROMISE’…..
With three(3) lawsuits looming (one Federal and two State; with six(6) public meetings on the subject (May 27, 2015, June 8, 2015, Sept 25, 2015, November 5, 2015, January 7, 2016 and March 3, 2106); with countless hours of city staff time; and, with an avalanche of emotion on the part of local residents, finally, a potential compromise may have been uncovered concerning the B-1 Zoning category as it relates to height limitations along the Palmetto Park Roadway east of the Intercoastal and stretching to the ocean.
This stretch of roadway and this zoning designation have been the focus of much public argument over the last year. Arguments centering on height limits; on conditions allowing for additional height; on what constitutes ‘injurious’ for purposes of denying additional height; and other property owner rights and obligations under current city code language.
For a detailed review of this history, interested residents should read the proposed language changes presented and view the impressive presentation by staff planner Ingrid Allen at the March 3rd P&Z meeting. See presentation.
At issue for P&Z consideration was staff’s suggested language changes concerning the B1 zoning designation; language deleting any possibility of additional height in this zoning category and limiting height in a B1 designation to 25 feet without exception.
Also suggested is the elimination of the evidentary standard “injurious”, a standard never reviewed in Boca Raton, with replacement language of “adversely affected”, another ambiguous standard yet to be determined.
On these changes, members of the P&Z board disagreed.
Members Coffin, Cellon, and Gromman argued against adopting staff’s recommendation of height limits, suggesting that this solution was a “….political throw away to placate those who oppose the Chabad…” and designed to have the P&Z Board take the heat for a politically charged decision….View discussion.
Members Rustin and Koen argued in favor of the suggested language change citing that staff seems to have brought forward a solution embraced by the City Council, the elected body where the final decision ultimately rests….
Member Sevell was relatively quiet on the issue but voted against adopting the language and Chairman Fairman was absent.
In the public comment section, resident James Hendrey spoke at length in favor of the ordinance; a resident friendly comment well worth watching…(view here). The interactive dialogue between Mr. Hendrey and the P&Z board members uncovered that some P&Z members regard their role to be that of a protector of the land owner’s property values and as protector of the City’s legal exposure.
Also speaking in public comment were attorney Bob Eisen of Investment Limited and Architect Doug Mummaw. Mr. Eisen stated that there is no intent on the part of Investment Limited to request additional height on properties east of the intercoastal.
Architect Mummaw raised a different matter. He pointed out that the B1 language changes will affect 67 properties citywide; not limited to properties east of the intracoastal. He pointed out that B1 zoning designation also applies to properties along Boca Raton Blvd.; properties that are factually distinct from those east of the intercoastal bridge.
Resident Kevin Meaney also spoke. Kevin was first to suggest that the barrier island B1 designation be carved out and treated differently than other locations in the city (view here); a proposition that seemed to take a life of its own in the P&Z board’s discussions that ensued.
Board members openly discussed what action to take. Ultimately, the board decided to piece meal their recommendation. View discussion.
A motion to accept City Staff’s recommendation as presented failed;
A motion to strike ‘injurious’ language in favor of ‘adversely affected’ language passed.
As a final result, the board will send a recommendation to the City Council rejecting staff’s suggested language and again presenting their previous recommendations of past meetings.
So you ask….Where is the COMPROMISE?
First raised by member Gromann and then generally accepted by the body was a suggestion to have staff draft a separate memo to the City Council where the P&Z board would view favorably the notion that B1 zoned properties east of the intercoastal should be carved out and treated differently than B1 zoned properties in other parts of the city….
Admittedly, this is a small concession but a useful one!
Staff’s capture of this concession will remain of interest to residents. Assuming the end result is that height limitation remains in place on properties east of the intercoastal, a win-win solution may have been reached.
Credit needs to be given to residents James Hendrey and Kevin Meany for their diligence with the process and their well-presented and emotionally articulated arguments on behalf of the residents.
A kudo also needs to go to the P&Z board for allowing an interaction by and with the residents exceeding the usual 5 minutes and where they seemed to encourage this interactive dialogue; a dialogue that resulted in what appears to be a significant opening…..
SHOUT IT FROM THE ROOF TOPS….that after 3 lawsuits; 6 public meetings; and deep divide between the residents and leadership possibility of compromise may now be reachable; a result establishing that with and through open communications,
COMPROMISE is possible….Solutions are attainable!
Language from City regarding building heights:
That would be intracoastal, NOT intercoastal!
Thank you. Correction made. we appreciate your input and readership.
This is good news. Here’s what I would hope – The staff recommendations are accepted by Council and that B1 is treated the same across the whole city. Let’s see what happens……..
During the P & Z meeting of March 3rd, Board member Rick Coffin made a statement that truly states the mind set of our P & Z Board and echoes our City Council. He as much as said – The P&Z Board is obligated to see property owners and, I assume, developers get the best return on their investment even if it means not following city code. There you have it. As laudable as it may seem on the surface, the City makes it their obligation to look out for the eventual profit of land owners over the need to follow code. This truly addresses what we see all over town in buildings that do not follow code.
Just an opinion, but, when people buy land for any purpose they are expected to perform their own “due diligence” to determine if it is a sound investment for them. That obligates the buyer to investigate codes and laws that might limit their use of the land and any potential realization of profit in the future, that makes sense, right? What ever happened to Caveat Emptor? But no. Here in Boca Raton, the Planning and Zoning Board along with the City Council feel it is their obligation to: insure, to promote and to extract the most money “they” envision for that property owner AT THE EXPENSE OF FOLLOWING CODES AND THE LAW.
We have a city government who takes the position: WE WILL BEND LAWFUL CODES AND MAKE THEM CONFORM AND TO A PROJECT. This is all wrong and they should say: A PROJECT MUST FOLLOW THE CODE. This is the heart of 2500 N. Ocean and every other project we see around us. It is the heart of 770 East Palmetto and other code issues where citizens are forced to sue the City to receive the protections afforded them through lawful codes. It is now out on the table, out of the mouth of a developer, a P & Z Board member – I paraphrase: WE ARE IN IT TO SEE PROJECTS MAKE MONEY AND DO NOT FEEL WE NEED TO FOLLOW CODE. Thank you Rick Coffin.
Why have codes, ordinances and laws you refuse to follow? Tower 155? 770? The Hyatt? The Mark? Via Mizner? IT IS NOT THE GOVERNMENTS RESPONSIBILITY TO MAKE SURE EACH CITIZEN MAKES A PROFIT. However, IT IS THE GOVERNMENTS RESPONSIBILITY TO INSURE ALL CITIZENS FOLLOW THE LAW ENACTED FOR AND BY THE CITIZENS AND APPLY THE CODE AND LAWS ON AN EQUAL BASIS.
If you listen to nothing else, please listen to Ms. Allen’s opening remarks as they pertain to the removal of the term ‘Injurious’.
Ingrid states that the term injurious is used over and over again in City Code, especially when requesting a variance, so the Staff could not recommend removing it. Then why change it?
Ms.Allen went on to say that the staff recommends soften the term to ‘adversely affected’. This begs the question, soften it for whom? Is the council now going to remove the term ‘injurious’ from ALL city codes and replace it with a softer more developer friendly term?
At the end of the evening P&Z members voted in favor of B1 property owners keeping the right to ask for a variance to build to 50 feet, and residents lost the right to to claim a project was too ambitious for their neighborhood and would be injurious to the quiet enjoyment of their properties.
However, a promise of a memo requesting the ‘.2 miles of Beach B1’ be treated as a unique district was thrown out to the activists … we all know where memo’s eventually wind up.
And now – back to City Council.
I very much appreciated the comments of Mr. Hendry and Meany which were made in a respectful and concise manner. Communication is very important. Through dialogue come ideas. Likewise I appreciate the comments of Mr. Mummaw and Mr. Eisen who clearly have and want to work with residents and neighbors. Obviously City meetings need to be structured and both the Chair and Vice Chair of P&Z have been very flexible with speaking time. Cooperation, compromise and consensus as a general rule is a good thing. Hopefully we will see more of it in the future.
I appreciate the work being done by Boca Watch et al, I have not read anything about
traffic patterns with the exception of 5th Avenue.
I understand the last traffic study for Palmetto Park Road was taken during the month of September?
Now they will be building on the Tuesday Morning Property (Camino Real), where traffic this year
after 4:00 PM has already been horrendous.