It’s not very often a common sense, win-win opportunity is laid in the laps of elected officials. But what if an opportunity presented itself that would allow preservation of Boca’s beachfront and a provide a way to fund a world-class municipal golf course? Who could oppose such a trade? I suppose there’s people who don’t want City owned golf or those who think that Boca needs another luxury hotel on A1A. Or, maybe it’s bureaucrats jealous of their turf or people with parochial interests. Alas, there’s the politics of officials unwilling to lead for fear of alienating voters or financial supporters. Maybe that’s why this deal is not so simple after all.
Governance by Special Interests?
Politics and egos aside, the Boca Beach and Parks District owns the Ocean Strand property on A1A, having bought it in 1994 for $11.88 million. A large developer has proposed purchasing the land, which is on both sides of A1A just north of Gumbo Limbo, to build a luxury hotel complex. So far, the developer has engendered very little public or political support for their hotel project. Boca’s citizenry are pretty zealous when it comes to saving our beaches. On the golf front, the Beach and Parks District, with City Council support, is committed to building a first-rate golf facility on the closed Ocean Breeze course at Boca Teeca. The new municipal golf course will be called Boca National. The District bought the 200 acres that was Ocean Breeze for $24 million, with the City underwriting bonds for that purpose. But the new course will cost $28 million (without a clubhouse) and it will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to operate. This is money that the Beach and Parks District does not have.
This is not a new idea but still a good one
BocaFirst described the opportunity back in March. The City of Boca Raton should buy the Ocean Strand property from the Beach and Parks District and the District can then put that money toward construction of the Boca National golf course. If additional funds are needed, the City of Boca Raton can use some of the $65 million price it has agreed for the sale of Boca’s old muni course to GL Homes. The Beach and Parks District would then have the funds to build a new public golf facility in Boca with left over for things like Gumbo Limbo repairs. And, the City could ensure that the Ocean Strand property finally became a permanent part of Boca’s unspoiled beachfront.
What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
There is supposed to be a public meeting between Beach and Parks Commissioners and the City Council on May 28th to discuss all this. What could possibly go wrong? Plenty. Rumor has it that the Beach and Parks Commissioners are already worried that they may have overreached with their Boca National plans. The new golf course is being called a “boondoggle” by some. So their feet are decidedly chilly. The City Council and staff are increasingly wary of locking up land ripe for development and being taken to court for it. What would be a fair market price for one government entity to sell Ocean Strand to another? What if the developer offered far more? Plus the Council and the District Commissioners have not always worked in perfect harmony in the past.
Then there are peripheral issues: the golf course design might preclude the extension of Jeffrey Street across the FEC railway tracks—one of the few options remaining to improve east-west traffic flow in Boca. GL Homes has asked for a one-year extension on the closing date for its purchase of the old municipal golf course property—a delay which city staff strongly oppose—and GL is asking the county for all kinds of variances to build a controversial new 400-foot communication tower on the site.
You should make your voice heard.
But at least the May 28th meeting should move the ball forward. The opportunity to craft a creative, win-win solution should not be wasted. We should all be watching.
Good governance begins with citizen involvement. Have your voice heard at City Hall by contacting your City Council/CRA Members at firstname.lastname@example.org
Council Members (left to right): Council Member Yvette Drucker, Deputy Mayor Andrea Levine O’Rourke, Mayor Scott Singer, CRA Chair Monica Mayotte and CRA Vice Chair Andy Thomson