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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Attended by 50 plus people and lasting well over 3 hours, Saturday morning’s ‘Coffee with the Councilman’ proved to be informative, interactive, and, very interesting for the residents in attendance as well as, I am sure, for the newly elected Councilman….
Primarily attended by concerned downtown and seaside residents, the issues discussed were on a wide range of interests. The Councilman is to be commended for his grasp of most items and his poised response with those items requiring further research and understanding before opining….
Although the Councilman came with a list of 7 or 8 topics to cover, the audience dictated the items actually covered. That said, the coffee started by informing the attendees of important upcoming meeting beginning in late April and extending through early June.
Of particular note was a caution by some beach residents that the scheduled May 7th P & Z hearing should be postponed on safety and fairness arguments. Earlier that day the Chabad community will be hosting a large gathering at the downtown amphitheater and have promoted in the literature a mass march on City Hall to demonstrate support for their project. City Administration and police should exercise good judgment and prevent these two events from taking place on the same day….emotions for this issue are just too high and confrontation too possible….As my third grade teacher would say…”A word to the wise is sufficient.”
The Councilman encourages residents to continue to have their voices heard with emails and phone calls to other Council members and with appearances at Council/CRA meeting….This generally met with resistance from the audience with the prevailing sentiment being that elected and appointed officials pay little respect to the resident’s voice and that officials are more accessible to developers, land owners, attorneys, consultants and staff, a reality clearly uncovered in the history of the Archstone project and , more recently, with the Mizner on the Green proposal.
Furthermore, residents brought up documented incidents where testimony from applicants and their representatives given under oath were, at best, misrepresentations, if not, downright lies. This is unacceptable….if an oath is taken and violated than there needs to be some penalty for such behavior. A situation the Councilman promised to take under advisement.
On this general topic, new news was offered….the Councilman indicated that representatives of the ‘Mizner on the Green’ project are back in City Hall with a new proposal that may ask for the IDG’s 140 foot height concessions in an area of the downtown that is limited to 100 feet…..We shall see what we shall see…over the next few months.
Of important note is the upcoming April 30th discussion on downtown design guidelines where the P & Z Board and the Community Appearance Board will hear a presentation from Urban Design Associates, the consultants who in 2007/08 crafted the IDG and who now provides the ‘opinion de jour’ for projects like the Mark, the Hyatt, Via Mizner, and, of late, Tower 155.
The Councilman encouraged residents to take advantage of this informative session. No action will be taken but residents will be able to bring their concerns to the City Council/CRA and to have identified and unresolved matters addressed through public discourse and conversation.
On this topic new news may also have been provided ….Councilman Rodgers voiced some critical comments about the results of the ‘Mark’, the 2008 building experiment. He committed to support a “third party review of the UDA findings.”
This third party review has actually been called for by many residents. There is no doubt the UDA is going to tell us that development to date meets the letter and the spirit of the design guidelines they created….Talk about the fox guarding the chicken coop….what other opinion would we, the residents, expect from this highly paid consultant; to wit: over one million taxpayer dollars to date…..
Another major topic was the upcoming traffic study planned by the administration. To this end, the general mood of the room was that traffic and safety are intimately involved in upcoming debates on the Wildflower property, the Chabad technical deviations and the failing corner of 5th Avenue and Palmetto Park Road.
On this topic, new news may also be seen in the Councilman’s comments that the upcoming traffic studies are not enough. The Councilman conceded that traffic studies done in summer months are not reflective of or informative too the resident’s concerns….That is perfectly logical and his voicing this is truly a breath of fresh air.
Other items touched on included: the ability to hold citizen referendum; site specific and developer specific ordinances; annexation; code enforcement; and appointed officials’ actions and behavior.
On this last point, the audience called for remedial action against the Planning and Zoning Board in general for it conduct at the April 9th meeting and specifically about the behavior of P & Z member, Glenn Gromann. The audience expressed outrage that Gromann is being allowed to remain on this quasi-judicial board while unequivocally supporting development in advance of projects being presented to the P & Z Board and the Council/CRA.
Finally, Councilman Rodgers is but one voice and one vote of five on the City Council. That needs to be remembered. His efforts to open public discussion on behalf of resident concerns are commendable….but we, the residents, need to continue to mount pressure on other elected officials to engage in this type of honest dialogue on many of these topics.
In closing, perhaps Joe Pedalino captured the sentiment best….”so many residents have given up because they feel their voice doesn’t matter”, a sentiment that we must resist. These ‘Coffees with the Councilman’ are a perfect way to give the resident voice again.
NOTE: Councilman Singer will be hosting his second town hall on May 2nd at the Downtown library….we should all plan to attend…..
I would like to see Mayor Haynie, Councilman Weinroth, and Councilman Mullaugh do the same! We see numerous posts and photo ops of Mayor Haynie and Mr. Weinroth at any number of events. I ask, why not take the time to have a dialogue with the citizens you serve? Is it not as important to our City as the functions you attend regularly? These open meetings by the Councilman have been a very positive experience. It has given the residents invested in the future of Boca the opportunity to share their thoughts. It has made them finally, and hopefully feel like part of the process. May I suggest that you take the lead from Mr. Rodgers & Mr. Singer, they are doing the right thing.
Comment received on FaceBook from Councilman Rodgers: _______________________________________________________________
Hi Al, Saw the write up. I think it was pretty accurate and you did a good job separating sentiment in the room and what I committed to do. One thing, I would ask to correct. You stated that I said Mizner on the Green is before the City Hall at 140’…That’s just what I have heard they are looking to come in at. I don’t have any info on if they have actually brought that forward or not to the city and I suspect they haven’t yet.
– Thank you Councilman….Correction duly noted….AZ
Mr. Zucaro, The “mass gathering” of Jews you are referring to at Mizner Park on May 7th has nothing to do with the P & Z meeting later that day. It is a celebration of Lag B’Omer, an ancient Jewish festival. And there is no “mass march on City Hall” planned. This is not Skokie, IL and we are not Nazis. But I am not surprised to see you employing thinly veiled bigotry to mobilize your forces against the building of the Chabad. I’m shocked – SHOCKED! At least, Mr. Zucaro, you are showing your true colors. Thank you for that. And by the way, after the Chabad is built with G-d’s help, I would like you to come to a Sabbath service so you can get a feeling about what we do. You might just have an epiphany.
Great write-up, I am sorry I missed this opportunity to meet with Jeremy. To say that this accessibility and visibility is valuable would be an understatement. It takes courage to stand up as both Jeremy and Scott have done, and the dialogue is way more effective than five minutes of public comment to stone cold silence.
Mr.Birman, You have got to be kidding!….I simply reported the comments that were made to the Councilman at the meeting. If you are so concerned that things are accurately covered, you should take the time to attend these community reach out events and participate. However,I do thank you for reading BocaWatch and for your concern for the important issues facing Boca Raton including but not limited to the 770 East matter.. BocaWatch will continue to provide information as it is presented….AlZucaro
I appreciate that Mr Zucaro was at the meeting and reported on what was said, as we Orthodox Jews would have been unable to attend since it was held on Shabbat. In any case , Mr Zucaro reported that, ” .emotions for this issue are just too high and confrontation too possible….” regarding a celebration of a minor Jewish holiday to be held earlier in the day in Mizner park. I totally believe someone said that. But the question is why would emotions run high about a fairly small building ( especially compared to the 160 foot monsters going up in Boca) located in a business zoned area conveniently located not far from a tattoo parlor and a bikini shop. These emotions are not emanating from any legitimate zoning concerns. I have read predictions on this site of how the presence of Orthodox Jews will adversely affect the beach side community. It is certainly true that we Orthodox Jews conduct our lives differently than non-orthodox Jews and non-Jews. But the beauty of America is that its just as OK for us to live our lives the way we want to and pray where we want to as it is for everyone else. I hope that the zoning board does not change the date of the meeting. I don’t think there is any danger of rioting Jews. I would hope that the non-Jews of Boca can tolerate Jews celebrating a minor festival in Mizner Park during the day and attending the zoning board meeting in the evening. I have not seen anything in the advertising suggesting a “mass march”. I certainly hope that the zoning board and city council filter out this naked hatred of Orthodox Jews and allow the building to proceed based on zoning considerations.