Home Content CategoryThe Watchdog Zoning Change Alert: Council Looks at Adding Hi-Rises to Neighborhoods.
Proposed ALF driving zoning change to all Boca R1D Residential areas

Zoning Change Alert: Council Looks at Adding Hi-Rises to Neighborhoods.

by Holli Sutton

Boca Raton’s single-family neighborhoods are under attack. A developer’s proposal seeks a zoning change that increased density, height and uses (basically multi-family buildings) in Boca’s single-family residential districts.

The developer requested a zoning change to allow assisted living facilities (ALF) in Boca’s low-density R-1-D designated neighborhoods. The request has a sponsor and is bypassing the normal process for a zoning change. This article provides the details, the impacts and the actions that residents must take before it’s too late. If nothing else, you can sign the petition here.

… a proposed zoning change to allow developing a particular parcel should not have a negative impact on other areas of the city but this one will affect all R-1-D residential areas in Boca. It should be rejected.


On August 10, 2021, Religious Science Unlimited and its agent Jay Whelchel of Whelchel Partners made a request to amend the City Code of Ordinances. That request is to allow for ALF as a “conditional use” in Boca residential districts.

Included with the request was a proposal to develop a three story 135,238 square foot ALF in the Boca Square neighborhood. The building has a mean height of 35 feet with three Cupola towers reaching 46 feet. And, as a multi-family building, has 120 apartments with kitchens, 61 parking spaces, and a linear art park.

The location for the proposed development is at the intersection of Palmetto Park Road and 12th Avenue. The proposed development replaces an 8,460 square foot 1-story church building.

Request for zoning change. Excerpt from "Projects in Review"  page 14
Excerpt fromBoca City Clerk’s “Projects in Review – July 2021” page 14

Local Impacts of Zoning Change

The zoning change as written by Whelchel Partners, impacts not only the surrounding neighborhoods but, as written, affects other Boca R-1-D zoned neighborhoods with major roads nearby. The zoning change also increases the allowable density of beds per acre.

The first target for this change is the existing church property at 2 Southwest 12th Avenue. As shown below, it is surrounded by single family homes that are typical of residentially zoned neighborhoods in Boca. Note the church building is low profile with plenty of open space between the church building and surrounding residences.

Overhead view of 2 SW 12th Ave in Boca Raton proposed for city wide zoning change
Existing property at 2 Southwest 12th Avenue adjacent to Palmetto Park road.

The proposed development demolishes the low profile 8,460 square foot church building and replaces it with a 135,238 square foot, three story building as shown below. It’s bigger, taller and has less open space. 

Religious Science Unlimited Rendering of proposed Hi-Rise Assisted Living Facility requiring rezoning of R-1-D designated zones in Boca Raton. The developer has requested a city wide zoning change.
Proposed development project in Boca Square – Graphic from Whelchel Partners

Concerns of the neighbors relate to it being out of character for the area. In particular, the concerns are its impact to privacy, traffic and environment. These were communicated to the city and Whelchel Partners but the proposal is proceeding. The project sponsor is Council Member Mayotte.

Boca residents need to sign the petition.

City-wide Zoning Change Impacts

This is not a zoning change for just this one Assisted Living Facility. Nor is it just an issue just for the Boca Square neighborhood. Zoning laws protect the city from ad-hoc development and they define and defend its character. A “super-majority” of the City Council is required to change the zoning for the church to be replaced by an ALF. But, this requirement has been knocked down to a simple majority.

A zoning change to allow development of a particular parcel should not have a negative impact on other areas of the city. But this one does. It will affect all R-1-D residential areas in Boca. The City Council should be reject it.

You can find out if your neighborhood’s zoning designation is “R1D” in the Boca City zoning map at myboca.us. To do this, go to the map and zoom into your neighborhood. The zoning designation is in bold caps as in the example below.

Excerpt from Zoning Map. The R1D areas will be permitted to have hi-rises if council approves the developer's zoning change.
Examples of R1D zones in City of Boca Raton’s Zoning Map

Call to Action

It’s early in the life of this proposal but shortcuts have already been approved to make it go fast. Now is the time residents must to act. Whether you are in an R-1-D neighborhood or not, allowing this zoning change sets a precedent, Boca residents need to sign the attached petition. You can download a copy of the petition, FAQs and instructions here.

Please forward it to your Boca Raton family and friends and ask them to complete this petition to help save our Boca Raton neighborhoods. And, as always, write the Mayor and Council Members.

Good governance begins with citizen involvement. Have your voice heard at City Hall by contacting your City Council/CRA Members at mcc@myboca.us

Council Members (left to right): Council Member Marc Widger, Yvette Drucker, Mayor Scott Singer, Council Member Fran Nachlas and Andy Thomson

Boca Raton Mayor and City Council

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