Sunday, October 2, 2016

Boca Raton Task Force - Needs Kickstarting...

Boca Raton: Task force for East Palmetto doesn’t get off the ground

By Sallie James

    Plans to create a city-sanctioned task force to mold the development of the often-controversial East Palmetto Park Road corridor have been scuttled.
    Boca Raton residents and business owners presented the idea of an official task force to the city during a September workshop meeting, but didn’t get far.
    City Council members said they would only support an unofficial ad hoc committee due to concerns over Sunshine Law requirements and the city’s inability to dedicate staffers’ time for the endeavor.
    The result?
    The “Bridge to Ocean Task Force” was over before it ever got started.
    The Riviera Civic Association — whose membership had strongly supported the plan — decided not to participate if the city were not officially involved.
    “The city suggested that we meet in private and come up with something and come back to them,” said Robert Eisen, land use consultant for Investments Ltd., who presented the idea to the council on Sept. 12. “The Riviera Civic Association … decided they did not want to deal with it privately so the concept is dead.”
    Development along the East Palmetto Park Road corridor has been a hot topic since the Chabad of East Boca, an orthodox synagogue, won approval to build a sprawling 18,000-square-foot worship center and Israel museum at 770 E. Palmetto Park Road, just east of the bridge. The project, which has been mired in litigation since it was approved in 2015, won approval to exceed the area’s permitted 30-foot height limitation by 10 feet, touching off a furor among local home and business owners.
    Eisen presented a resolution to the city outlining the proposed entity’s mission and makeup during the workshop meeting. Council members lauded the resolution’s intention but balked at the specifics.
    “This formalized structure will do more to hamper your ability to move forward than will help it,” Boca Raton Mayor Susan Haynie said at the workshop.
    Council member Robert Weinroth agreed the area is one that deserves attention, but expressed concern over the vehicle. He said it was imperative all stakeholders had the opportunity to participate and said council members should be involved in appointing members to serve. He also cited concerns about Sunshine Law requirements.
    Formalizing the structure of the task force could be self-defeating because of the many requirements that would come into play, Weinroth said. “I think this is really too much of a formalized structure,” he said.
    Council member Jeremy Rodgers said he loved the concept, but voiced concerns about allocating the time of already very busy city staffers.
    “You could carry the ball faster and a littler farther just at a community meeting,” Rodgers said. He suggested the group come back to the city in six months with its ideas.
    Deputy Mayor Mike Mullaugh agreed that an informal community group was a better idea and would free participants of the requirements of the Sunshine Law. Eisen said his intention had been for the task force to adhere to Sunshine Law requirements and be completely transparent for all the stakeholders.
    “I just wanted to have a great commitment from the city and stakeholders involved to get this job done,” Eisen said.