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Now what? After Boca beach house and Midtown housing refusals

Boca’s major developer and a separate beachfront property owner aren’t taking “no” for an answer.

Boca Center at Military LLC plans to appeal, said Angelo Bianco, of Crocker Partners, part owner of four properties and Boca Center.

Their lawsuit against the city claiming property rights protection was dismissed. Now they’re asking a judge to reconsider.

“We have to wait to file an appeal,” which could take another six months, Bianco said. “It will say the lower court misapplied the case law. Under existing law, the landowners have a reasonable expectation they would be able to put residential units on their properties.”

In the other ask, city council voted no 5-0 to allow a house built in front of a construction line in the sand at 2500 N. Ocean Blvd.

Owner Natural Lands has 30 days to file a legal appeal, their attorney Neil Schiller said.

Council chambers were packed with worried residents when Schiller asked for a Coastal Construction Control Line variance.

City code required the set-aside to build a four-story, 8,666-square-foot, single family home seaward of the CCCL.

This were almost an instant replay of Natural Lands’ turndown earlier for the same request at 2600 N. Ocean Ave.

It took hours to hear out both sides’ legal arguments and experts at the July 23 council meeting. 

Mayor Scott Singer said he had 25 emails asking for a denial. Staff recommended a denial, too.

“In 2015, council approved a variance that met all criteria on this lot,” Schiller argued. “The city found this was a buildable lot.”

The state’s Department of Environmental Protection approved, he added. “You are hereby granted final authorization to proceed.”

Schiller showed a a slide of the sign on the site that allowed an appeal through Oct. 7, 2022. “The city did not file an appeal,” he said. 

The proposed house is cantilevered, so sea turtles can’t crawl underneath. The owner agreed to tint window lighting to prevent turtle disorientation, he argued. “This project has been in the pipeline for four years.”

“We lost a lot of beach last year. So who would want to build in such a vulnerable area? And who would want to live there?” said Helen Kaye, one of the speakers.

“2500 is a critical sea turtle and dune habitat,” said speaker Jessica Gray of Boca Save Our Beaches. “This isn’t about property values or views. It’s a sensitive eco-system.”

In the Midtown case, the city “is not respectful of their landowners. We’ve been helping to develop this city for 35 years,” Bianco said about about the Mizner Park developer. “Time hurts people.”

The developer planned to construct multi-family residential developments at a density of 20 units per acre.

Their Bert J. Harris suit claimed the city “failed and refused to adopt zoning regulations” for residential development.

Not doing so placed “an inordinate burden on the subject properties,” the suit alleged.

Midtown was designed in 2010 as a live, play work area, Bianco said, adding: “I clearly had a reasonable expectation residential would go there. They’re in a position of wanting to do nothing at all. They’re not letting us reinvest in our city to make it better.”

The Crocker Midtown properties involved include Boca Center; The Plaza and One Town Center.

Plans were originally contingent on a second Tri Rail station nearby, but not on the old Kings Deli property. But so far, that fell through.

By Marci Shatzman

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