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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With an incredible amount of government activity this week, it became tiring to capture it all. In fact, to even watch the CRA and City Council meetings required over 11 hours of time in chambers or on Boca TV.
With that said, presented here are just a few of the items thought to be of significant interest to BocaWatch’s followers.
Boca Raton Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA)-August 21
- Consideration of Approval for the Royal Palm Assisted Living Facility located in the downtown at 375 E. Royal Palm Road. A nine (9) story Assisted Living and Memory Care Facility, the first of its kind in the downtown, providing 203 beds with appropriate medical care for a quickly aging population. The facility will be operated in cooperation with Boca Raton Regional Hospital; will have 24 hour medical personnel on premises; and will meet the numerous conditions of approval put in place by the CRA members. A welcomed addition to Boca Raton’s housing stock, this application from Penn Florida received a unanimous 5 – 0 vote ….
- Consideration of Approval for “Mizner 200”, generally located at 210 – 398 Southeast Mizner Blvd. consisting of a 384 unit residential development the subject of much controversy over the last few months. Last month the CRA members sent the applicant and the opposition back to the drawing boards to bring back to the CRA a reconciliation of their differences. To everyone’s credit this was done and the CRA has now approved with conditions the project to move forward. Another welcomed addition to the downtown, the approval received a 5 – 0 vote to move forward.
Boca Raton City Council Workshop – August 21
- Municipal Golf Course Sale: After a detailed discussion on whether to move forward with the sale, direction was given to City Staff for next steps. Next steps are to include adopting an ordinance to effectuate the sale of the property as soon as possible. That will come forward in September. The three competing groups will submit to the City their final contract with only the price term subject to change. At the insistence of Councilman Rodgers, the item is anticipated to be brought forward for a ‘selection’ vote at the first Council meeting in October. The Councilmembers did discuss the possibility of keeping golf operations going while the winning purchaser proceeds through the County’s approval process. What is clear is that the Council has committed to moving forward with the sale independent of the Ocean Breeze acquisition by the Beach and Park District.
- Government Campus Master Plan Update: Although on the agenda, due to the lengthy discussions at the CRA meeting, the item was pulled and will be rescheduled for presentation at a future meeting.
Boca Raton City Council Meeting – August 22
- Ordinance 5394 – a re-designation of 4.99 acres of land at 8250 N. Congress Ave, within the NW Planned Mobility District from a Manufacturing Industrial (M-3) designation to a Medical Center (MC) designation. This application seeks approval of an adult congregate living facility with 151 beds and a 3320 sq. ft. ‘Urgent Care’ facility. After discussion about the general public’s access to the urgent care facility and its triage capacity along with assurances from its management as to hours of operations and medical professionals on call, the Council approved the application with a 5 – 0 vote. One item of note….
The zoning code currently in place for this area of the city was designed in the 1950s….incredible….the city of Boca Raton must, once and for all, preform a comprehensive re-write of its zoning code for 21st century application. With 10,000 baby boomers retiring daily, Adult Congregate Living facilities are the waive of the future, yet the discussion last night demonstrates that Boca Raton is not prepared to take advantage of the demographic changes of this societal phenomena….
- Ordinance 5397 – Discontinuing the City’s policy of allowing ‘private expressive installations’ in Sanborn Park during the holiday season. By way of background, last year an individual requested a permit to place a ‘satanic pentagram’ in Sanborn Park; a display that many found offensive. The display was vandalized and criticized to the point where the City Council sought guidance from the City Attorney as to how to prohibit this from happening again. That was a mistake. The free expression of ideas is a basic premise guaranteed by our Constitution. Offensive expression is perhaps the price to be paid for freedom of speech and expression; freedom is not free….Moreover, celebrating the Christmas holiday is an established ‘tradition’ that, although under assault, must prevail. This week, dozens of residents came to city hall and argued against any ordinance that would negate the celebratory spirit of expressing a Christmas tradition even if it means having to absorb offensive expression. No one, including the private citizen who placed the ‘satanic’ display, spoke in favor of adopting the proposed limiting ordinance.
Offensive expression is guaranteed by our Constitution. One member of the audience articulated that government needs a ‘compelling’ reason to shut down speech…Boca Raton’s City Attorney’s proposed ordinance did not come close to that standard. Many residents expressed the opinion that government is here to ‘protect and serve’ not to control speech. Led by Councilmembers O’Rourke and Rodgers, the residents’ opinion and sentiment won the day. The ordinance was not even able to get a motion by any member of the Council never mind actually be brought to a vote.
Only one comment remains worth mentioning; to wit: this discussion was an unnecessary exercise. The ordinance should never have been drafted. Judeo/Christian traditions should not have come under attack/scrutiny of government; these traditions are sacrosanct. If you do not like what someone has to say, don’t listen; if you do not like an offensive display, look away. That, after all is a small price to pay for living in a ‘free’ society.
Very comprehensive summary and good insight into the many issues we looked at — Thanks!
Regarding “Ordinance 5397”, there’s definitely room on both sides for this argument, but I don’t/didn’t consider it a violation of free speech if passed. Individuals, groups, etc, would still have been able to use the park, as nearly all public spaces, anytime, to speak, protest, demonstrate, pray, preach, etc. The ordinance was just about restricting private organizations from leaving semi-permanent fixtures in a certain public place (Sanborn Square) during a certain period (Nov-Dec holiday season).
I think the decision came more down to not allowing our community’s traditions of the nativity/menorah to be tossed aside just because one guy [satanist] doesn’t want to see any trace of religion anywhere. The community came out and spoke loud and clear, so we listened. Small nuance, but to me it was about listening to the community and people and not about 1st amendment rights.
Thank you Deputy Mayor. I do take editorial privilege sometimes (really???) but my main message is consistent with yours….The City Council reacted in a resident friendly and responsive manner….That is the main point made throughout my article. The entire article is a KUDO to the Council for being responsive to the resident. Thank you for your leadership in these matters….Al Zucaro
Collaboration, cooperation and compromise. All VERY good points and a great job by all! The City and it’s residents will derive great benefit from these and other projects. The ALF projects provide for continued world class healthcare and living environments. The conditions reflect added fiscal responsibility. With the new condo projects we are effectuating a very nice balance of property types many with less intensity than might have been. Great work.
A week to be proud of our local government, one and all.
Re: Ordinance ‘5397!!! Nothing Really shocks me anymore but when I heard this was even on the agenda for the city it was very disheartening!
I first learned about this ordinance when I went to Mass and the Priest spoke about it! Very Happy for the result! Thank you Al for posting for all to Read!
Dear supporters of BocaBeautiful.org:
There is good news and not-so-good news. After a protracted battle, yesterday the City Council Members sitting as the Community Redevelopment Agency voted 5-0 to approve the mammoth Mizner 200 project. The good news is that the City forced the developer to sit down with concerned residents and neighbors and to modify their project. This may have been forced collaboration, but it was collaborative none the less. An important precedent for future development in Boca. I would like to think that BocaBeautiful’s three-year advocacy campaign played a role in this outcome.
The not-so-good news is that under pressure from the developer, the CRA voted to approve the project without seeing all of the final architectural drawings. Because the architectural drawings were incomplete, the CRA insisted that the developer be bound by the video and other presentations made before them. The developer demanded a vote, and he got it. Because it was unanimous, the CRA Members obviously had confidence in the conditions and changes that were imposed and that the developer is going to build what has been promised. We hope that the confidence of the CRA is not misplaced.
Rest assured that we and Mizner 200’s neighbors will be watching this project closely as it proceeds to the permitting stage. It would be a tragedy of the first magnitude if the final project does not reflect what the CRA thought it was approving yesterday, either through misunderstanding or malfeasance. We have seen that play before.
Here is the letter which BocaBeautiful.org sent to the CRA this morning, after yesterday’s vote:
Dear Chairman Singer and Members of the CRA,
On behalf of BocaBeautiful.org, let me congratulate you on requiring the developer of Mizner 200 to sit down with its neighbors and improve its project. This may have been forced collaboration, but it was collaboration none the less. And I think it is significant that you bent over backwards yesterday to impose conditions on the developer prior to approving the project. The 5-0 vote must mean that you have confidence that the developer will build the building with the improvements he has promised.
It is important that your confidence is not misplaced. It is very important that the developer not be allow to renege on his promises. We at BocaBeautiful.org are only concerned because of the dynamics of yesterday’s meeting. On the one hand, you saw the lawyers and architects for the project working feverishly with the best intentions to find compromise with the neighbors of Mizner 200. On the other, was the representative of the developer, whose anger at the whole process could barely be concealed, who blamed the city and concerned residents for the delays, and who demanded a VOTE. He got his vote. We just hope that ultimately he does not get his way.
We will be watching closely as this project moves forward to the permitting stage. We trust that you will be watching closely too.
But for now, congratulations are in order. You have insisted on and (I hope) won improvements to a project that will have a major impact on Boca’s downtown.
John C. Gore
Councilwoman O’Rourke responds to Boca Beautiful’s posted comment on the approval of Mizner 200 development project:…
The new presentation made to the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) on Monday by Peter Stromberg, architect of Elad’s Mizner 200, is actually being put into the conditions, even the video presentation…everything. The project is 10x’s better than it was. Like it or not, the land owner and developer have the right to build this large project. The guidelines are in the ordinance #4035. I personally did my very best to use my allowed discretion, and this has turned out to be a better project than it could have been. It does contribute to the community in green space, open space, sidewalls, public art, gardens, cross walk, materials and texture. The set back and angle affecting the neighbors was adjusted. And it sent a message that community/neighbor outreach and a real collaboration is necessary for an acceptable project. There is no doubt some Townsend Place residents will not be happy because they now have a building next door where there was open space and sky before. And it is big.
Right before Mizner 200 came forward on Monday, there was a high-end ALF in Downtown on Royal Palm Rd that went through the approval process. It’s a good project. There was one neighbor who spoke out against it, only several days before approval. It ended up being approved with conditions for a CAB revisit along and quite a few other conditions. Then when Mizner 200 came forward, in the end, in my heart of hearts I felt It would have been hypocritical at this point to not approve Mizner 200, as long as it was validated by all parties that every last inch of promise that was made is a recorded permanent condition.
It is important to note that there was no representation of residents from Townsend Place present who voiced their concerns publicly. I for one, am doing my best to work with what we have and be a voice for collaboration and decisions that represent the greater good of all people in our community.
Andrea Levine O’Rourke
Boca Raton City Council Member
Building Our Future Together
Wow. Great results come from negotiation and compromise. I wish this had been happening for the last six or eight years! I hope it becomes the modus operandi for the future!
Ms O’Rourke, you are doing a great job. We are lucky to have you on the city council. You rock “girl” as my grand kids would say. .