Published On: Tue, Oct 25th, 2016

Why I’m Voting NO on the City of Boca Raton Question

By: Robert Weinroth

Nikolits-WeinrothDuring 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.

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  1. Socrates says:

    Me. Weinroth. I as a resident of East Boca do NOT want the un-planned rampant over-development you, the mayor and the rest of the City Council have allowed to occur in Boca – and I certainly do NOT want ANY commercial development on the waterfront. People with a sensical approach towards leading a coastal community need to be on our city council. The new buildings the mayor and the city council allowed in make East Boca like downtown Broward.

    • As a resident in Boca for 30 years, I am disappointed with current city leadership.
      I really do not understand why we are STILL waisting city time and money fumbling about this wildflower property years later. Everytime I look in the news and see our city posting articles about what to do/not to do with this property, I am embarrassed and loose a little more faith in current leadership priorities and future goals. I know its considered “city property” but why are we going to even consider allowing another private party to develop on city property, who has no real long-term investment in Boca if not successful? What’s the city going to spend (of our money) if Mr Zs business is not successful, leaving what could possibly be yet another abandoned structure on this property for his “culinary experience”? We may all pay AGAIN to “fix” another mistake considering its “city property”.

      The bottom line is, we were the unknown paradise between Miami and ft laud and due to what appears to be thoughtless (and/or greedy) leadership, I agree with Socrates in that we are becoming just another downtown Broward before all the filth and crime, once private companies fail. We all understand city’s have to grow and develop, but have you looked east down palmetto from Dixie highway? Feels cold, dark and un-welcoming to me, no matter how many of those tiny courtyards these developers install out front, cluttering and claiming sidewalks. Is there such an award as “Over-developed”? Do you care about the +50% of your city population who moved here because of what Boca was only just 5-10 years ago? It seems the answer is NO, given all that seems to be going up are banks and overpriced condo living in cheap towering structures.

      At one time, Boca was more about image rather than money, which is the reason people loved it so much. I sincerely hope our leadership wakes up and starts listening to their city’s population (before we all leave), rather than big-wig developers promising $ and more vertical housing to simply squeeze as much profit out of one property or structure as possible, w/o a care of impact on historical surroundings.

    • Mark says:

      I am so happy that the people not on the water in the city of boca have to PAY taxes to make sure assholes in million dollar homes have another park

  2. Socrates says:

    If you go to a Boca City Council Meeting and watch a local resident try to speak to the council and mayor about their concern with all the tall buildings that have been approved in East Boca, you’ll see a panel of representatives who out of touch with sensible community planning. Boca should back a new Mayor and City Council who have basic community planning skills. Have you seen buildings like “The Mark” near Palmetto and Federal which look completely out of place for Boca Raton and remains mostly empty years after being built? Bottom line is the current City Council and Mayor have not served Boca Raton well. People with a talent for preserving the beauty of a Coastal Community – PLEASE step up.

  3. Sounds your’e on the Hillstone payroll….
    Language or intent?
    I smell a conflict of interest in your opinion…

  4. I wish I lived in a parallel universe!!! It sounds much more appealing than the lifeless concrete mess this City Council has allowed to take shape. It’s clear to many that the City Council members work for the developers. And unless the citizens get behind a candidate that does not, we should expect more of the same. Traffic is a nightmare, and we’re not even close to having these hideous projects completed. I also find it odd that all of a sudden, Mr. Weinroth acts as though an ordinance means anything is etched in stone. I wonder how many ordinance variations have his signature on them? How many times has the City Council passed a variation on an ordinance when it suits them? Does a developer need a height variance so they can put a taller building up? No problem. Need a variance for land use? Parking restrictions? No problem. Unless it’s something the people want. Then we have a problem. Hillstone Restaurant Group is PAYING it’s employees to sit outside the polls and convince people to vote no. Let that sink in. I think the time has come for the citizens of this city to band together and VOTE YES to save a beautiful sliver of land from being covered in concrete.

  5. Voter says:

    A Promotional Award to brand our city and encourage visitors is not an endorsement to convert Public Parks into commercial endeavors. Also the two awards the City received in 2015 do not justify Councilman Weinroth’s no vote either. Those awards were a Capital Projects and Beautification Award for Sanborn Square’s arches and a Cultural Enhancement Award for the Brazilian Beat Event. Point of interest to all voters – BOTH the Democratic Club of Boca Raton and Delray Beach and the Republican GOP endorse a YES vote for the City of Boca Raton’s Question on the last page of the ballot. You have to ask yourself the question: What kind of a sweet heart deal is our city offering the Hillstone Group if they are willing to pay employees to distribute “vote no” literature to early voters and contributed to a paid TV ad encouraging the same? Shame on you Councilman Weinroth!

  6. Did you grow up in boca mr mayor? Did you see this place of beauty get closer to a concrete jungle year after year? Did you watch the place you call home disappear to a parallel universe? Nope but you sure as heck helped all this stuff happen so just for that fact anything you are for i will surely and happily be against. Vote yes on this “question” so boca raton can make a statement to these miney hungry pigs that are put in place to “represent” us. Do your job or the only thing we will be voting no for is you for mayor!

  7. “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.”
    Good! Retail should not be allowed on public lands! Period! That’s what the definition of public means. This reeks of corporate interest. Its not like retail won’t be allowed on waterfront at all, just not on public lands. A reasonable rule that preserves the environment of Boca in my opinion.
    And why does the “NO” vote signs all have trees on them? Strange, given that their position isn’t environmentalist in the slightest

  8. Al says:

    ???? Since when does that language exclude any kind of mixed use? Plenty of parks have small restaurants or mixed recreational activities. The language here is not so specific as to render any other kind of use moot. Gumbo Limbo is an excellent example of that.

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