The developer of 343 E. Royal Palm Road is seeking to push forward its plan to build a high-rise tower. (70’ high) on a tiny lot (50’ wide) sandwiched between two other high rises. This Open Letter to Boca Raton’s CRA provides background on the situation and recommendations.
We urge the CRA to protect the community. Reject the too-big building the developer is trying to squeeze onto its micro lot.
The developer is proposing to use a loophole created by Ordinance 5607 (Automated Parking). This will enable the developer to build more units than would otherwise fit on the small, narrow property. See Keep the Bronx out of Boca – BocaFirst for some history.
E. Royal Palm Road is a two-lane street with essentially no on-street parking. There is also no public or commercial parking lots or garages nearby.
The developer is proposing to provide only one, hard-to-access, guest parking space for four families to share. That is, on its face, not sufficient for casual get-togethers, dinner parties, holidays or even for the kids to come home from college.
Perhaps even more problematic, the developer is proposing NO onsite space to accommodate the myriad of repair, maintenance, cleaning and delivery vehicles necessary to service the proposed high-rise tower. If the 343 project is approved as proposed, it will inevitably cause major street blockages (affecting both vehicles and pedestrians). And will force vehicles to circle the block, looking for (almost non-existent) available street parking.
After the developer’s original submission to the CRA, the developer, at the CRA’s strong urging, met with members of the community. The developer presented the residents with “take it or leave it” changes to the building.
The changes the developer has incorporated into its revised submission are indeed improvements. But the developer was flatly unwilling to consider further modifications to make the building compatible with the existing streetscape. (During the February 27th meeting, the CRA itself hinted at one such change: stepping the building back at higher floors.)
The majority of the changes proposed for the building design would primarily benefit the purchasers of units in 343. This supports the multi-million dollar sales price the developer would pocket and not the community. We would have to live with the building in perpetuity.
The 343 building is too big for the tiny lot. See pic below.
This is not in keeping with the character of the Downtown or of Boca in general. It creates a dangerous precedent, as there are 11 lots of the same size and zoning within a block of the proposed building (with five in a row further down E. Royal Palm Rd.).
The proposed side setbacks—4’7” from the existing 100’ tall condo to the west and 2’2” to the proposed high rise building on the east—are inadequate. We are not in the Bronx. As citizens of Boca, we expect residential buildings to be set apart from one another—and that residents of lower floors will have access to light and air. Above the garage level, we propose to the CRA that the side setbacks should, at a minimum, be at least 10’ to the property line.
In fact-checking This Open Letter to Boca Raton’s CRA , I watched the CRA meeting during which the CRA ultimately approved the Alina project on E. Mizner Boulevard. The Townsend Place neighbors objected to how close the Alina was proposing to put its building to the Townsend Place property. The CRA brokered a deal between Townsend Place and the Alina, resulting in a large, landscaped buffer between the two properties.
The City’s planner, at the July 24, 2017 CRA meeting, provided a summary of the changes which the Alina was prepared to make to win acceptance from its Townsend Place neighbors. Namely, the Alina agreed to reduce its overall scale and mass; it agreed to enhance building separation; increase and improve the landscape barrier between the two properties; improve view corridors by changing the design of its building and to collaborate with its adjacent neighbors.
Likewise, the Brightline Station was approved by the City in December, 2019 only after Brightline agreed to move its garage from its initially proposed 25’ from Library Commons to 45’.
To put that number in perspective: Library Commons asked for and got a setback which is almost as wide as the entire width of the 343 lot.
For both the Alina development and the Brightline, the City worked hard to protect the interests of its citizens over the interests of the developers. We call on the CRA to offer the same kind of consideration to the residents of E. Royal Palm Road.
If I were on the CRA, I would be asking how such an incompatible building could be proposed under Boca’s land use ordinance. How was the developer able to propose a 70’ tower on a 50’ wide lot, with setbacks of under 5’ on one side and 2’2” on the other?
The answer lies in the unanticipated consequences of Ordinance 5607, Boca’s automated parking ordinance. A 50’ wide lot without mechanical parking can only provide sufficient parking spaces to support two units. The reason? A 50’ wide lot does not have the turning radius to support two floors of parking.
But by taking advantage of automated parking, the developer is trying to double the density of what otherwise would have been allowed under Boca’s land use ordinance (4035) to four units. And with the increase in density, the developer is adding approximately 30’ to 40’ to the height of his proposed building. The height comes from the developer’s proposal to add two additional units over that which would otherwise be supported under 4035 combined with the extra height in the garage necessary to support the mechanical parking apparatus.
When City Council passed Ordinance 5607 last year, it did not intend for automated parking to be used to increase the height and density of buildings in the Downtown. Fortunately, the use of automated parking is not a guaranteed right under Ordinance 5607—just a possibility. We call on the CRA to reject its use when, as in this case, it makes a mockery of Ordinance 4035, Boca’s land use requirements.
Call to Action
We call on the Community Redevelopment Authority (CRA) to protect the community’s interests by rejecting this development. It is not compatible with its neighbors. It is not compatible with the street. And it is not compatible with the “Beautiful Boca” that we as citizens have every right to expect to continue.
- Mechanical Parking is not “as of right.” Ordinance 5607 specifically states that the CRA “may” approved automated parking. Which means that they have the discretion to either approve or deny it. We call on the CRA to deny the use of automated parking for the proposed 343 development.
- Boca’s design guidelines require new buildings to be “compatible” with the as-built environment. We call on the CRA to require side setbacks of at least 10’ on both sides of the building.
- The developer proffered, it in February 27th submission, to underground its utilities. The developer, in its latest submission, is apparently trying to renege. We call on the CRA to require the developer to underground its utilities, as it promised.
This Open Letter to Boca Raton’s CRA describes a problem in boca Raton’s downtown. The CRA’s job is not to protect the developer’s interests. Allowing the developer to construct a building on a lot which is too small for the intended use violates this. Instead the CRA’s job is to ensure that buildings proposed for the Downtown are compatible with the “Beautiful Boca” vision. Boca is not the Bronx—and the CRA should maintain development standards that make our city special.