UPDATE: Sept 24 2019 – This article was updated to reflect the outcome of the resolution opposing the District tax increase.
After more than two years of debate between The Greater Boca Raton Beach and Park District (The District) and the two entities are at least $10M apart in their visions to build a new municipal golf course on the former Ocean Breeze Golf Course. They apparently have agreed to disagree.
The City and District Joint Meeting – Sept 12
At their September 12th joint meeting, the District would not deviate from their original design estimates of $25.5M – $28M. They requested approval of their design from the City Council. That approval is required by the Interlocal Agreement signed last year. The approval must happen before funding can occur. The City Council, armed with recent RFI’s, claimed the price tag was too high and suggested modifications be made to lower the costs. With that, the District decided to go it alone. The two entities agreed that they have different visions of what this course should be. The District wants a destination course and the City a municipal course. District Commissioner Erin Wright stated she would continue to try and work with the City to get financial support.
Sept 16 Meeting of the District
Several days later on Sept 16th, the District had a meeting and proceeded to ‘go it alone’, apparently convinced after the Sept 12th joint meeting that they can’t expect financial help from the City without modification to the proposed design. District Commissioner Craig Ehrnst made a motion to start building the east side which would be the driving range, maintenance facility, and a short course. He also said that with reserves and a tax increase of 15%, they had enough money to start. His plan leaves out club house, tunnel, and restaurant. There was no mention of a hotel that was discussed in prior meetings. In order to start working on the east side of the course it is crucial to have access to the irrigation system located on the west side. Bob Rollins made a motion to seek financing for both west and east sides at around $19M.
There was much discussion from the District’s attorney regarding phrases in the Interlocal Agreement that indicates the City needs to work with the District toward approving the design. The attorney further quoted passages from Florida Statutes regarding Interlocal Agreements and remedies when disagreements occur. If an agreement cannot be reached the statutes require a form of mediation as a next step.
A motion was made and approved for the District Chairperson, Briann Harms, and the District’s attorney to meet with Mayor Singer, City Attorney Frieser, and City Manager Ahnell regarding the impact of not agreeing in “good faith” with the Interlocal Agreement. The agreement states that design approval by the city “shall not be unreasonably withheld.”
Sept 23 Meeting of the City Council
On September 23rd, the City Council met and decided not to meet with the District to discuss the Interlocal agreement. Several Council Members felt that it was an ethics violation by having one voting member of the Council speak on behalf of all five members. A resolution opposing the District’s tax increase, including alternative solutions previously discussed, was proposed at the Sept 24 City Council meeting and approved 5-0.
Points to Ponder
- Thus far the District has done nothing to modify the initial plan design except to do the entire plan as originally designed in phases with no change in projected cost.
- It is possible the Council could take the stance that based on the RFI’s received, the projected costs are ‘unreasonable’ and a basis to not approve the design. However, if the District is successful in finding reasonable financing elsewhere it’s unknown if the City would stand in their way.
- Several of the current city council members made a pledge to “keep golf in Boca” when the existing muni course was being negotiated for sale. After this struggle to find common ground one wonders if they would make that same pledge today.