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Resident Responsible, not Resident Irresponsible….
Every member of this current City Council over the last two election cycles committed to a ‘Resident Friendly’ platform. Yet, this Council, over the last few months, has been anything but ‘Resident Friendly.’
This Council has exposed Boca Raton residents to serious legal jeopardy for high dollar judgments; damage to the city’s reputation; and years of continued morass in moving in the direction that would resolve conflict.
Lawsuits abound….with millions of dollars at risk and hundreds of thousands of dollars already spent to defend. BocaWatch has made a public records request to identify the amount of taxpayer dollars involved; to determine where and to whom these monies have been paid; and whose ‘cap’ is being feathered by these excessive legal expenditures.
A review of some legal pleadings demonstrates a consistent strategy; a highly aggressive strategy designed to thwart negotiated settlements; a strategy requiring numerous motions to compel; and a strategy resulting in excessive fees to outside counsel, often involving the same outside counsel; a law firm with ties to the City Attorney; a City Attorney ‘retiring’ in the near future with a need to uncover her next position.
One last comment…Two members of this City Council are practicing attorneys and should be significantly concerned for the resident taxpayer! Perhaps this may be too much to ask of them? Resident Irresponsible!!!
BocaWatch will be reviewing these legal cases. Each case will be analyzed over time separately…
This week, Midtown is brought into the spotlight. Let’s look at some items that are arguably ‘Resident Irresponsible.”
- The City adopted an amendment of its Comprehensive Plan in 2010 designating five areas of the City as Planned Mobility Districts (PMDs). PMDs are areas comprising of office commercial; neighborhood retail; and residential. Areas theoretically designed to foster taking car trips off the roadways by having residents live where they work and play.
- Midtown, one of these PMD areas, has been singled out and not allowed any residential units. Clearly unfair and arguably in violation of the City’s Comprehensive plan and State law. Resident Irresponsible!!!
- Over the years leading up to mid-2017, the landowners and city officials negotiated the residential element. Staff, with the landowners, all but agreed upon the terms. City Council actually instructed staff to work with the landowners and finalize the land development regulations. (LDRs)
- For the remainder of 2017 and into 2018, no progress was made to finalize the LDRs resulting with the landowners being faced with changing politics. The anticipated positive Council vote deteriorated into political posturing by some members of the Council; i.e. Haynie being removed from office; Weinroth running for County Commission; Singer running for Mayor. Council members where heard first hand to state politically that they would not support any residential in the Midtown area. Resident Irresponsible!!!
- Concurrently, Councilmember O’Rourke proposed to delay considerations of the LDRs until Midtown landowners put forward a plan as to what would be developed there. Landowners could not comply with this demand. Without the LDRs, the landowner could not determine the massing and density questions. The City actually retained the services of a professional to address residential development and transportation especially the Tri Rail station. One must wonder what if any findings from this professional have been made public but that is another story for another day. Resident Irresponsible!
- To provide legal cover for Councilmember O’Rourke’s demand that the landowners provide development plans, the City Attorney came up with the, until then, unknown phrase of ‘small area plan’. There is no definition of ‘small area plan’ in the city’s comprehensive plan. Even the planning director asked for a definition of this term and was provided with none. Resident Irresponsible!!!
- The landowners filed a law suit to move this forward under a ‘Bert Harris’ claim. The ‘Bert Harris’ legislation allows for a 150 day period for opposing sides to meet and iron out their differences. No meetings were scheduled and none took place in that window of opportunity. No Councilmember was reported to have attempted discussions with the landowners. Clearly a ‘Resident Irresponsible’ posture.
- In actual fact, I was told first hand by a member of the City Council that there should be no discussions with the landowners or their representatives. There is that aggressive posture of the City Attorney raising its ugly head. None of the City Council intervened…. seriously ‘Resident Irresponsible’!!!
- To date, there have been at least two attorney-client sessions with the Councilmembers and the city’s outside lawyers. Sources tell me that members of the City Council requested the landowner respond to questions. Answers were provided in writing but were not timely provided to the Council members. Another example of the City Attorney unnecessarily extending the litigation and another example of Resident Irresponsibility by Councilmembers for not attempting to bring this lawsuit to a negotiated settlement.
BocaWatch has been told that the landowners have come to the table with serious concessions in their attempt to resolve the differences…It is about time that City Councilmembers demand this lawsuit be negotiated to a close; the Resident Responsible position. Those Council members that are lawyers should know this.
But….politics are again raising its head….March, 2020 will have three of the sitting City Councilmembers up for re-election; Singer for Mayor; O’Rourke and Thomson for their Council seats.
Rumors suggest that O’Rourke has told people she intends to run against Singer for Mayor. Others have suggested that she may not run at all….
Thomson is in the most enviable position. If O’Rourke takes on Singer, than the next Mayor of Boca Raton may be Andy Thomson….
O’Rourke and Singer would cannibalize their respective bases. Thomson could move right up the middle with his base, a base different from the others….
In that voting pattern, two City Council seats would be filled with new members…perhaps they would be more ‘Resident Responsible’ than this current crop….
‘Resident Friendly’ must evolve to ‘Resident Responsible. This City Council is missing the mark!
Right now, Boca Raton residents are losing at finding a better resolution; the landowner/residents are losing their window of opportunity; and the City is losing its reputation as a premier location for business and investment.
Alfred Zucaro, Publisher