This article is part 1 of a deep dive into the Park Square zoning change so residents can be informed and act before it’s too late. Read on.
Smokescreen or Trojan Horse; Call it what you will. The Sun Sentinel and others would have you believe that the application for Park Square in Boca Raton is only about an Assisted Living Facility (ALF) and that Boca is in dire need of one. It’s not and Boca isn’t. Also missing from those publications are these fun facts:
- Boca Raton already approved a 193 unit ALF with Memory Care in East Boca at 375 East Royal Palm Rd that is in progress
- There’s an ALF (The Atrium) in the area proposed for Park Square that’s less than a mile away
- Boca’s ALFs have plenty of capacity
But most importantly, those publications are silent on the zoning change inside the Park Square application and the fact that Park Square CANNOT be built without the change because it’s located in a single family zoned area. If you haven’t read Holli Sutton’s article on the effort by developer Whelchel Partners to build Park Square, it’s enlightening. You should sign her petition to stop it here and support her efforts. Heck, buy a sign and send a message to your neighbors.
And, before the pro-developer NIMBY choir starts its campaign to silence opposition, take a memo that neither the developer or property owners live in a residential zone that would be re-written by the Park Square zoning change.
Lastly, if you wonder what can happen AFTER an ALF developer gets approval, look what happened in Fort Lauderdale.
The problem is the rezoning, not the ALF
Instead of improving the city by building an ALF on nearby property already zoned for ALF usage, the Park Square developer is attempting to convert low cost residential property into high value property and change the zoning so it can have multi-story high density buildings. We’ve seen this movie before:
- Buy property on the cheap
- Let it become blighted
- Cry for rezoning that upgrades usage/property value at the stroke of a pen
Right now, the Park Square ALF cannot go forward because the property chosen is in the Boca Square single family neighborhood and zoned “R-1-D Residential”. To get around that, the Park Square application proposes changing the R-1-D zoning. The developer is not pursing changing the zoning of just one property. That takes 4 votes on the City Council. Rather, they are pursuing a text change to the actual zoning code for all R-1-D residential zones. That takes only 3 votes.
The Park Square Zoning Change
The zoning change is excerpted below but the entire “Site Plan Approval: Park Square – Senior Living Facility Project Narrative” can be downloaded here.
In simple terms, this is what will be added to all R-1-D zones:
- Assisted Living Facility added as an allowed use in R-1-D residential zones
- Restrictions that such an “R-1-D ALF”:
- Has a “Major Collector on two sides”
- The Major Collector feeds into a “Major Arterial”
- The Major Arterial abuts the property or is within 150 feet of one side
- Has increased density to 35 beds per acre
- Has increased allowable height
Increased density and height aside, the diagram below shows what the roadway restriction seems to describe on the left and the actual Park Square plot on the right. Apparently it’s OK to squint and interpret the restrictions to allow the roadways to share a side or a portion of a side. Chaos surely will ensue. SMH.
Boca Neighborhoods being rezoned by the Park Square zoning change
The impact of the Park Square zoning is to all residential zones designated R-1-D. On the left of the map below, all Boca residential zones are shown in light yellow. The ones designated R-1-D are shown on the right in highlighted yellow.
These are the Boca neighborhood names in R-1-D zones according to a local realtor’s neighborhood map.
|Boca Raton Riviera||New Floresta|
|Boca Square||Palm Beach Farms|
|Boca Terrace||Paradise Palms|
|Broken Sound (South)||Royal Oak Hills|
|Camino Gardens||Santa Barbara (East)|
|Chatham Hills||The Preserve|
|Colonade at Glen Oaks||Timber Creek|
|Golden Triangle (W of 5th)||Villa Rica|
|Hidden Valley||Woodfield Country Club|
|Les Jardins||Woodfield Hunt Club|
In a memo to City planners, developer Jay Whelchel told them the only property in Boca affected by the zoning change is the lot at 2 SW 12th Ave and Palmetto Park Road. That may be true but it begs the question “If it’s the only place in Boca, why re-zone all R-1-D residential zones? Why not just change the zoning of the one parcel?”
What’s at risk if the zoning is tweaked for another developer as was done for Tower 155?
Using the 2020 road classifications map from the city, I overlaid all the roadway classifications onto my R-1-D map from above. The only intersection of roads and R-1-D zones I could find that meets the restrictions is in fact Park Square’s Center for Spiritual Living property.
HOWEVER, if you tweak the zoning to “the property abuts a major collector on ONE side” instead of two, then five R-1-D areas meet the criteria. Tweak it again to allow intersections with Minor Arterials/Collectors and ten areas qualify. Tweak it another way and the flood gates open. This is the problem of changing zoning for special interests. It sets a precedent. And as a former Vice Mayor of another Florida beach town once said:
If you think of them as good. developers and speculators are like kids in a candy store, they’ll keep eating until someone tells them to stop. Or at worst, they are pigs at the trough.Former Vice Mayor of Surfside Florida
A combined City Road Classification map and R-1-D Zoning Map is below. Major Arterials are purple. Major Collectors are green. Red and white circles designate areas at risk from the two tweaks I described above. Here’s a list of corresponding neighborhoods at risk from any “Collector on one side” flimflam:
- Boca Square
- New Floresta
- Santa Barbara
- Chatham/Villa Rica
Sign the petition: It’s too late for Boca’s Downtown, but not our neighborhoods
Folks I talk to say “If you want to replace the church, replace it with something that fits the neighborhood, traffic constraints and meets the code.” Apparently, Boca’s City planners agreed (see below). When the developer responded to the City Planning Departments comments on Park Square, they had no response. None. Not “Acknowledged” or “Noted”. The response was no response. BTW, there is access to the property from both the busy SW 12th and quiet residential SW 1st Way. A couple of single family homes would do nicely.
Unlike the downtown with its “concrete blocks on postage stamp lots”, you can stop the potential take-over of Boca’s residential neighborhoods and the mess that the Park Square Zoning Change creates. Now is the time to speak up. Sign the petition here (it’s easy). And, make your voice heard at City Hall by contacting your City Council/CRA Members at email@example.com. Tell them to enforce the City’s zoning and not change it for special interests.