As the proposal for a restaurant on the Wildflower property submitted by the Hillstone Restaurant Group is quickly approaching approval by City Council we are revisiting a story published in April, 2015. Note: Introduction of the restaurant proposal on the Wildflower is scheduled for City Council Meeting sometime in October. BocaWatch will keep you informed.
Although the Boca Raton citizen sentiment overwhelmingly favors a public park at the Wildflower site, the City is planning a long term lease agreement with the Hillstone Group to build and operate a Houston’s type restaurant on the site. It isn’t clear how the City’s vision changed from a public park on the site to a Houston’s restaurant given the public preference; however, this article examines some of the key points in the matter.
On December 8, 2009 the City Council authorized the purchase of the Wildflower property and the agreement was completed on December 20, 2009. At the December 8th meeting then Mayor Susan Whelchel indicated that the property is being bought for the enjoyment of the people who can’t afford a house on the intracoastal and can’t afford a boat and the “thousands and thousands of people in this community who have no access whatsoever to the waterway.” She also goes on to state that this will be “done in the best of good taste as all of our parks in our City”. Here is a link to a two-minute segment of her discussion on the topic. Mayor Whelchel comment’s on Wildflower site
The Mayor’s vision was consistent with citizens’ preferences as expressed in their feedback to the City in 2011. From June to October of 2011 the City requested input from citizens regarding their preferred use of the Wildflower site. Comments were also received on the subject during a workshop held by the City on October 18, 2011. BocaWatch.org also conducted a social media survey in late February, 2015 and the results overwhelmingly favored a public park over a Houston’s restaurant.
In the City Electronic Survey, 151 responses were evaluated and 73 were not counted because of duplicates and responses that were off the topic. In all three surveys, we could not score the responses in the “Other” column as being for a Park or a Restaurant. For example, in the Social Media Survey results there were several “No Houston’s” responses and we couldn’t determine if this meant that the respondent preferred a restaurant, just not a Houston’s restaurant, or if the respondent preferred a park. The totals overwhelmingly favor a park over a Houston’s restaurant 75% to 10% and even if all of the “Other” responses were added to the restaurant totals the score would be 75% to 25%.
The citizens’ sentiment favors a public park for a number of reasons and is well articulated in the five minute video in the following link. Citizen’s comment on Wildflower site It should be noted that the speaker has also recently conducted an informal poll of a large number of citizens to reach his conclusions.
It is clear that Mayor Whelchel expressed an intention and the majority of citizens of Boca Raton shared that vision of a public space for the Wildflower site. It’s not clear how or why the City is now favoring leasing the site for a Houston’s restaurant, but unless evidence can be produced showing a shift in citizen sentiment toward a Houston’s restaurant it is important that the City take quick action and change plans for the Wildflower site.
Attached is a link to the original City Council Meeting when the final decision to purchase the property was made. Scroll down all the way to bottom where is says City Council Regular Meeting,12/08/09 – select video, fast forward to 31 minutes. See for your self. Link to site with meeting.
Two years later in 2011 a Public Workshop was held expressly in the include citizens and get input in deciding the future of the property. Link to site with workshop
If you are concerned, now is the time to contact your City Council. Contact Info