December 15, 2012 ·
by Douglas Heizer
“Planned Mobility” forBoca Ratonhas been a long time coming. And now that it is here – based on a 4-1 vote of the City Council Tuesday night – we are expecting to see some major growth in the business sector east of I-95 betweenSpanish River BoulevardandGlades Road.
Deputy City Manager George S. Brown explained “Planned Mobility” idea in great length at a three-hour public hearing Tuesday night. He said the ordinance change will create flexibility in what can locate in the nearly 1,000-acre parcel that used to be home to IBM.
Development attorney Charlie Siemon summed up Big Blue’s pullout a few decades ago as “traumatic.” And finally, he said, the city is going to address it.
The Boca Raton Tribune has been endorsing sustainable, well-planned growth in Boca’s Northwest Sector. During the past six weeks, we have been publishing advertisements and advertorials addressing the concept of “One Boca, One Future.”
The people behind this move have put a lot on the table, but it boils down to one thing. If you own property in the Northwest Sector, and you want to develop it under current Boca zoning laws, that’s OK. If you want to do it under “Planned Mobility,” you can do that, too. Whatever suits you.
“Planned Mobility” does allow more flexibility. It opens up the possibilities of building residential units. We agree with the idea that by constructing retail, commercial and industrial firms close to where people live, they can get to and from their jobs by bike or by walking, easing congestion along some of Boca’s major arteries.
It would be wrong not to acknowledge the arguments of those opposed to this plan, chief among them, Councilman Anthony Majhess. He said it is his “opinion” that “Planned Mobility” won’t work. That is his opinion, and he is entitled. During the hearing, he suggested that city staff look at tweaking the law so it can be applied in a more feasibility way at several other “Planned Mobility” sites that have not been addressed. Mr. Majhess feels this won’t happen. We feel it should. We feel every concern should be addressed since this is a new concept for Boca.
We do share one of his concerns. He said he feels the plan has the potential of increasing the current 42,500 households in Boca by 22 to 25 percent. But most of the additional units, he said, will be small, 700-square foot apartments, and feels this plan doesn’t meet the wishes of the general public.
What he could have said is that 700- or 900-square foot, one-bedroom apartments are not “Boca.” The same was said by council members when Jim Batmasian proposed a development of small apartments at the Wildflower site. The council rejected this idea without debate.
Reports are that “Planned Mobility” has been tried in nearbyBoynton Beach, the area known as Renaissance Commons onCongress AvenuebetweenGateway BoulevardandBoynton Beach Boulevard. That area has become a thrivingMeccaof stores, restaurants and residences. We know of that area and we know what it offers. We do know it seems to have attracted more traffic than it has relieved, and is, on occasion, very difficult to drive through.
Boca has build traffic analysis into the “Planned Mobility” ordinance. And ironically, many of those who spoke at the hearing said they are concerned it will create too LITTLE traffic, thus failing to provide the incentives for residents to leave their cars behind and either walk or bike.
We also agree with Mayor Susan Whelchel who points out thatBoca Ratonis not “a little village by the sea, it is a full-fledged city.” We have editorialized about that in the past.
We are also in her corner when she talks about creating jobs to keep Boca’s young people in the city after they complete college.
Councilwoman Constance Scott, chairwoman of the Community Redevelopment Agency which oversees downtown projects, said she feels “very, very strongly that the path to future growth is well planned.”
As a whole, the council has come up with an intriguing idea that is worth the effort. They have toiled hard and we commend everyone who took part in the creation of this plan. We hope to see great changes soon.