Boca Arts Center issues and Delray votes no on Boca Art Museum bid
Three issues remain between Boca Raton and the group that wants to build a performing arts center in Mizner Park.
Boca Raton Arts District Exploratory Corporation (BRADEC) asked the city to lease the property next to the amphitheater. BRADEC would build a complex including the amphitheater, which the group would renovate.
The city wants to ensure that BRADEC will not only be able to build the center but also operate it without soliciting subsidies from the city. Last May, the city council authorized staff to begin negotiations on a lease. Board members will receive an update at Monday’s workshop meeting.
According to the staff note, the city and BRADEC are in agreement on many points. 67% of events at the center would be open to the public. BRADEC is expected to increase 75% of core construction costs – actual construction, as opposed to design – within three years. This amount should be at least $55 million. The city, which now operates the amphitheater, could hold up to 18 events each year. BRADEC is expected to raise at least $6 million in working capital for its operations.
An unresolved issue concerns the BRADEC reserve fund. The city wants the group to fund just 25% of that from unfunded pledges. BRADEC wants to finance 50 percent.
Another issue is insurance. BRADEC wants the city to cover the full replacement cost of the center, which is $30 million. Premiums could reach $150,000 per year. The city wants the cover included as part of its master insurance policy.
Finally, BRADEC wants the lease to run for 94 years. The city prefers a 50-year limit. Staff are seeking “direction” from the Board on these issues.
BRADEC co-founder Andrea Virgin said the two parties had “a good working relationship”. The group would like a resolution in time to have the lease presented to planning and zoning council next month and then to council this summer.
Virgin said BRADEC is moving into an office suite in Mizner Park. Fundraising is going “very well”, but it remains in what BRADEC calls the “quiet phase”. Lease approval is “crucially important”, she said, as it will provide assurance to potential donors and boost fundraising.
Delray rejects Boca Museum’s offer to lead Cornell
In a surprise move, the City of Delray Beach Commission on Tuesday rejected a proposal to give the Boca Raton Art Museum the operation of the Cornell Museum.
Mayor Shelly Petrolia and City Commissioner Juli Casale voted to pay the museum $125,000 through September 30. The deal would have lasted for another year after that. Petrolia and Casale voted to end the lease with Old School Square, which operated the Cornell. Ryan Boylston and Adam Frankel, who opposed the termination of the lease, voted against.
The surprise was that Shirley Johnson joined them. Johnson had joined Petrolia and Casale in voting to end the lease. But she agreed with Boylston that the commission would have rushed the deal with the museum.
No change in term limits for PBC Commissioners
Palm Beach County will not be asking voters to change county commissioner term limits.
Since 2012, the policy has been that commissioners can serve two consecutive four-year terms. The term of service may be longer if, as in the case of Steve Abrams, someone fills a vacancy and serves less than four years. After serving for at least one term, a commissioner may stand again.
The county imposed term limits in response to a lawsuit. Some commissioners wanted to put on the ballot this year a proposal to raise the limits to 12, which is the rule in Broward County. State legislators also have 12-year term limits. The legislature has just limited school board membership to 12 years.
As county mayor Robert Weinroth acknowledged, however, many voters are reacting in a visceral, bipartisan way to any apparent attempt by politicians to help themselves. Individual priorities can take more than eight years to accomplish, and there is no evidence that term limits lead to better governance, but the commission rejected the idea.
PBC to address affordable housing and water
The commissioners may not have wanted to irritate voters because they might ask them to approve two expensive bond issues. The school district will also ask the public to extend a property tax to help fund the operating budget.
A bond program, which could cost up to $200 million, would solve the county’s affordable housing crisis. The other, which could cost $150 million, would provide money to address water quality issues.
Based on discussions at last week’s meeting, the water plan is more detailed at this point. The housing plan seems unclear. As Weinroth acknowledged, however, the Palm Beach County Economic Council has made it clear that housing costs are creating hiring problems for its members.
For now, Weinroth is the outlier. He is not in favor of either proposal, believing that this is not the right time to ask taxpayers for money. But he would be “more inclined” to support the issuance of bonds for affordable housing.
If the committee approves both articles, one would go to the August 23 primary ballot and the other to the November 8 general election ballot. The school tax will go to voters in November.
Weinroth speaks out against new bill
Weinroth, who represents Boca Raton and Delray Beach, also spoke out last week strongly against Senate Bill 620, which the legislature passed in the recent session.
If Gov. DeSantis signs it, companies could sue cities or counties for regulations that owners say have caused at least a 15% drop in revenue. Because the legislation exempts some businesses and allows local governments to exempt other businesses, the Florida League of Cities had shifted its opposition to a neutral stance. Boca Raton and Delray Beach had opposed the original bill.
Weinroth, however, said the bill would make it “financially difficult” to impose regulation regardless of the public interest. He expressed the frustration of many local officials over Tallahassee’s continued attacks on self-rule.
“They think they’re the adults in the room, and we should just be happy for what they’re giving us,” Weinroth said. “It’s the classic slippery slope. [The bill] is too broad and would result in numerous lawsuits.
SB 620 did not go to DeSantis. When he does, he will have 15 days to sign it, veto it, or allow the bill to become law without his signature.
Boca Regional receives $1 million donation
The latest seven-figure donation to Boca Raton Regional Hospital’s Keeping the Promise campaign comes from Marla Schaefer and Steve Weishoff.
According to a press release, the $1 million donation is their second to the campaign, which has raised $225 million of its $250 million goal. Groundbreaking for the campaign’s flagship building, the Gloria Drummond Patient Tower, took place last month.
Schaefer and Weishoff noted the increased demand the COVID-19 pandemic has placed on the hospital. In addition to their record of local philanthropy, Schaefer and Weishoff are major donors to Watauga Medical Center in western North Carolina, where they also have a home.
On Tuesday, I wrote about the $45 million sale of an oceanfront mansion in Highland Beach. I’ve included the seller’s name and the price he paid for the property in 2011.
The closing agent wanted me to note that I did not get this information from her. It comes from public records available on the Real Estate Appraiser’s website.
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