Why I’m Voting NO on the City of Boca Raton Question
By: Robert Weinroth
During our most recent meeting of the City’s Community Redevelopment Agency (on which the Mayor and Council Members serve as Commissioners) Downtown Manager, Ruby Childers, announced we had been awarded one of the 2016 Florida Redevelopment Awards for the promotional campaign that has helped to brand our downtown, driving visitation and in turn, spurring economic vitality in our city.
It is against this backdrop of a continuing line of awards and recognitions for our community that I often wonder if critics of the direction our city is heading live in a parallel universe.
The current debate over the citizen’s initiative to approve the City of Boca Raton question (appearing at the end of a four-page ballot), reinforces the disconnect between fact and fiction.
Advocates for the approval of the question, (recognizing the language drafted by their land use attorney overreaches severely restricts the use of any city-owned land on the Intracoastal Waterway), continue to press for a YES vote by making the case for what they say the language means rather than its plain meaning.
Notwithstanding the representations made to obtain the necessary resident signatures on their petition to place the question on the ballot, the overriding reason for the initiative is to block the city from negotiating a lease with the Hillstone Restaurant Group (or any other purveyor of food) to create a waterside venue on the city-owned “Wildflower” site.
Boca Watch publisher, Al Zucaro, has opines, the question, “does not limit the opportunity for multi-use activities on City-owned land adjacent to the Intracoastal Waterway.”
He goes on to state, “a number of those individuals that favor a restaurant only, have falsely claimed that the issue of Ordinance 5356 is simply; a park versus a restaurant, “ to which he opines, “Simple, but false.”
So, what is the truth and what is not?
The following is the actual language of the initiative question as it appears on the ballot:
“Amendment to City Ordinance . . . requiring that all city-owned land adjacent to the Intracoastal Waterway shall only be used for public recreation, public boating access, public streets, and city storm water uses only.”
Mr. Zucaro, states the clear language of the question, “does not limit the opportunity for multi-use activities on City-owned land adjacent to the Intracoastal Waterway.”
I beg to differ with Mr. Zucaro’s legal opinion.
An affirmative vote will not only preclude the city from leasing the property to Hillstone but will also block any other use that does not conform to the four listed permitted uses (1) public recreation, (2) public boating access, (3) public streets, and (4) city storm water uses and that goes for all city-owned parcels on the waterway (e.g. Gumbo Limbo Nature Center).
With this crystal-clear language, any attempt by the City Council to interpret the words as allowing additional uses (e.g. retail, canoe rentals, a “small footprint culinary experience,” installation of a restroom, etc) would never pass muster when, inevitably, reviewed by a judge or jury.
So when Mr. Zucaro writes, “Open Your Mind to the Possibilities. A small footprint, culinary experience on a waterfront park setting is achievable, alongside interactive public art, walking paths, and recreation. It requires vision, imagination, and the will to aspire to something better,” I am left wondering if, as a member in good standing of The Florida Bar, he truly believes what he has penned.
While his legal opinion sounds seductively reasonable, the reality is if the ordinance becomes law it will be the foundation of its proponents’ legal challenge to any use not fitting squarely within the uses enumerated between the words only.
Only means only.
In the final analysis, a “community-driven conversation,” recently hosted by Council Member Singer, where, he reported, “96 participants at 12 tables brainstormed nearly 100 ideas on different activities for these sites [the “Wildflower” parcel and Silver Palm Park], including recreation, entertainment, dining, retail, fitness, and many more possibilities,” was either an exercise in futility or the best case for demonstrating why the Boca Raton question must not be approved by the voters.
Vote NO on the City of Boca Raton question, appearing as the last item on the ballot.