Economic Development Rises To Top Of Boca’s PrioritiesMay 9th, 2014
Cultivating Boca business is now at the top of the city’s to-do list.
After a three-day marathon of goal-setting meetings that ended Friday, one of the council’s chief priorities is getting the Houston’s Restaurant built on city-owned property at the northwest side of the Palmetto Park Road bridge on the Intracoastal Waterway.
“Now, we just need to do it — make sure it happens,” said Councilwoman Constance Scott.
Right now, the city is awaiting the Hillstone Restaurant Group’s response to the City Council’s request that it come back with a plan with enough parking for a 7,000-square-foot restaurant, according to city codes.
The restaurant group’s preliminary proposal for the lease agreement with the city touched off some concern that the restaurant parking would encroach on the adjacent property, which is the city’s only boat ramp at Silver Palm Park.
There was some discussion during the session the city needs more than one boat ramp. City Manager Leif Ahnell said that other agencies might be drawn into developing new boat ramps in the city.
Palm Beach County and the Florida Inland Navigational District had been willing to front $2.6 million of the cost of dredging Lake Wyman to improve kayak trails and water circulation in 2012. But Boca decided against it after neighbors protested.
“There might be a concept to bring different agencies together,” Ahnell said.
Other development issues that rose to the top included improving the process of proposing new brick-and-mortar projects and developing a special commercial corridor on 20th Street, adjacent to Florida Atlantic University.
For the third year, controlling the cost of public safety pensions also was a concern. But this time, public safety pay and benefits were included. The contracts for Boca Raton police and firefighters expire in September.
“We applaud City Council for dealing with the entirety of the public safety cost issue,” said Judith Kaye Teller, one of two woman who first raised the pension issue, using an e-newsletter that hits 2,500 inboxes every time it goes out.
But John Luca, president of the local firefighters’ union, said he can’t understand why they City Council would put public safety costs at the top of its priority list.
“Property values in the city are increasing, the (stock) market is at record highs, and the pension fund is 75 percent funded,” Luca said. “These are all positive signs. Why would they be looking to reduce benefits at the same time they say they are committed to remaining competitive with world class public services?
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