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Park district backs off hike but golf course fate still unsettled

There’s good and bad news for 100,000 taxpayers in the beach and park district. No new taxes, but the public golf course fate is still up in the air.

After hearing out anxious residents on both sides of both issues, the Greater Boca Raton Beach & Park District stayed the course. That means their millage rate remains at 0.9147. A 15% hike to raise money for the course and other projects was voted down.

The district’s final budget and millage hearing resumed Tuesday after a recess. It was moved to the Willow Theater to hold more people than their board room.

Deputy Mayor Jeremy Rodgers initiated a resolution against the tax hike. So both venues were packed after council sent out email and robo call alerts.

Tuesday night’s meeting was strictly a legally required budget hearing. So, whether the city, the district or both will build the new public golf course was raised by nearly every speaker. But it couldn’t be addressed.

“Each body will have to decide what they want and then meet together,” district chairwoman Susan Vogelgesang said after the tax vote at 8:39 p.m.

Their next joint meeting with city council is Nov. 12. So, it’s unlikely anything will happen until then, further delaying construction bids for Boca National Golf Club.

Plans to revitalize the city’s north end by rebuilding the former Ocean Breeze course brought out concerned Boca Teeca residents.

But longtime supporters like Harold Chaffe didn’t seem to mind the wait. “I think they have to go back to the drawing board,” Chaffe, Keep Golf in Boca president, said after the vote. “I want to see them work it out.”

City council offered to build at least the west side of the divided course, leaving the east side to the district. The city said it would finance the build and take over other district projects.

Council also hasn’t approved the district’s Price Fazio team design, leading to a long standoff. In fact, council reached out to 16 other designers who said they could do it cheaper.

The district has more than two years into the planning. But, if the city takes over, it could start from scratch.

“I think it’s the right outcome for our residents,” city councilman Andy Thomson said after the no tax hike vote. Thomson has led cost objections.

“This allows the district to work with the city,” he added.

But the tax outcome won’t last, district commissioner Steve Engel warned the audience. “We’ll keep the millage rate where it is. But if we don’t do it now, we will have to do it later,” he said. “There’s no such thing as something for nothing.”

By Marci Shatzman


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