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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“You should not need a hard hat to walk around the city of Boca Raton….”
That was the ‘punch’ line in a recent campaign video produced during the March ’17 Boca Raton mayoral race, a video that has now had over 50,000 views on social media and continues to generate interest and discussion throughout all walks of Boca Raton life.
During the campaign, overdevelopment, traffic and congestion were the major themes. Establishment groups’ including media outlets like the Sun Sentinel and Randy Schultz’s CityWatch were clearly ‘in the tank’ to advance the theme that all is well in the city of Boca Raton. One problem….46% of the residents disagreed.
One need only take the time to review the media presentations of the final week leading up to the March 14th election. Schultz did everything in his power to ‘demonize’ me and presented a slanted view of the issues favoring always the status quo and arguing that all is well regardless of the obvious. Fair journalism was and is a far cry from his reports…No need to waste any more time on him….
More important however is the spin put on the issues by the widely distributed Sun-Sentinel, a spin that printed a mere two days before the election, a misleading article on the growth issues facing Boca Raton. The article on March 12th, written by a newly assigned reporter who just recently moved to Florida, states that the development boom is nearing an end. Quoted throughout the article is Councilman Weinroth, the most unabashed pro-development voice on the City Council, stating that the boom is coming to an end as the downtown is near build out of the plan in place for decades now.
Balderdash!!! Yes, the current level of build out for the downtown is nearing its outside limit but what prevents this limit from being extended? With this pro development council, virtually nothing! The one thing that is true in Boca Raton is that the land owner/developer interests rule….they say jump and the City Council says how high….
But I guess that shows my bias….So let’s take a more detailed look at the March 12th article….
First, it talks only about the downtown with no mention of developments throughout the rest of the city. Developments like Midtown, along the Military Trail corridor which proposes to add 2500 new residential units; like University Village off Spanish River Blvd. where the developer/land owner recently received a 60% increase in their requested density before even the first shovel of dirt is moved; like the 5 Planned Mobility Districts (PMDs) in our western communities that also have received major concessions from this City Council with major increases in residential units that will add to the already overcrowded roadways servicing existing western communities.
There is an interesting paragraph in the Sentinel article that reads as follows, “City Officials hope (emphasis added) the new projects will mean less traffic because people will be able to walk a short distance from their downtown homes to shops and restaurants. Also, plans for downtown trolleys and shuttles may reduce the need for vehicles downtown, they said.”
Notice the language…Especially the verbs…’hope’…’will’….’may’… Interesting! Anticipatory but no fact….
Why were these anticipations brought out just in front of an election when there was little, if any, push by our elected officials over the months and/or years preceding this resident movement? ?
Why…Because, as I stated earlier, the media is ‘in the tank’ for the continued status quo…again Why?…Just look at the advertising revenues received from the developer/landowner on a weekly basis touting these development projects in the real estate section…
So to my point….In the editorial interview at the Palm Beach Post, Mayor Haynie and I were asked to articulate our view of what Boca Raton will look like in three years.
Mayor Haynie gave her scripted answer equivalent to a ‘shining light on the hill’; a new walkable city catering to the young and vibrant family wanting to live, work and play in the downtown while the older resident need just ‘grin and bear’ impacts of the unrestricted expansion….Great for the few getting rich on this change, terrible for the many who have no choice, who have no voice. Of course, even the Sen–Sentinel article avoids the issue of ‘work’ as there have been little new employment centers in the downtown of note. In fact, we have actually seen employment exit the downtown to the midtown and northwest area of the city.
As to my response to the Post’s editorial question, I stated that in three years we, the residents, will still ‘need a hard hat’ to walk around…only it will not only be the downtown that is impacted but it will be city wide…
The Sun-Sentinel’s article of March 12th gives a partial overview of the downtown projects recently completed; the projects under construction; and the proposed projects known to be in the pipeline. It does not mention the redevelopment plans for Royal Palm Plaza which when submitted anticipates locating five (5) 160 foot buildings to the city’s already crowded skyline…and what is going on the south side of Palmetto Park Road east of Mizner Blvd., west of N.E. 5th Ave. where there seems to be a consolidation of land parcels for what eventual purpose?…I am only scratching the surface of the redevelopment opportunities that still exist in the downtown…and it is folly to believe in the notion that the current mood on the city council will block the future needs of the developer/land owner to increase density and exceed current limits
So on with my answer to the 3 year vision….
CRANES…PILE DRIVERS; CEMENT TRUCKS and NOISE….not just in the downtown….but also all along the Military Trail and Congress Ave. corridors with some plans already in Development Services Department at City Hall and others lurking to see how much resistance there is from, we, the affected residents….
That is our job…to reign in this City Council’s propensity to grant the developer’s every wish….to take back the City Council with resident friendly voices….
This election cycle has seen the start of that movement.
Council woman-elect Andrea Levine O’Rourke now has the privilege and responsibility to bring the residents’ voice to the table…that is a great thing; a good start….
In just over 350 days, the residents will get another opportunity to elect two more resident friendly voices to the City Council as Weinroth and Rodgers’ seats are up for re-election….
Your vote is your voice; let your voice be heard in March 2018!