By Sallie James
Malka Cabral begged Boca Raton’s Planning and Zoning Board to reject plans to construct a 50-foot-high parking garage at Boca Raton Regional Hospital.
The proposed garage would overlook her home 100 feet from her property line. Lights and noise from the towering structure would keep her young son up at night and ruin area property values, she said.
“There are other options to … grow this hospital that don’t have to impact our neighborhoods,” said Cabral, who lives in the 700 block of Northwest Seventh Drive just south of the hospital.
But despite concerns from about a dozen residents, Planning and Zoning Board members voted 3-2 at their April 20 meeting to move the project forward. The hospital is at 800 Meadows Road, across from the Tunison Palms neighborhood.
The board specifically voted to recommend the hospital be allowed to build the structure closer to the nearby single-family homes than code allowed, reducing the required setback to the Tunison Palms neighborhood from 250 to 100 feet. The City Council must still review the matter.
Homeowner Andrew McLaughlin said the parking garage would be a huge eyesore and said it would destroy property values.
“We have a great neighborhood,” McLaughlin said. “We’ve got to look at alternatives, keep the dialogue open and see what we can come up with.”
McLaughlin, who lives on the same block as Cabral, said the parking garage would produce screeching tires and noise all night long.
Homeowner Christel Callahan worried about the pollution in addition to the sound, light, safety and security issues involved.
“We can make it greener, but those fumes from the parking garage will come down on us,” Callahan said. “Pollution is a real problem. What about us?”
Residents from the Spanish Oaks Condominium Association presented a petition containing 150 signatures.
Bonnie Miskel, an attorney for the hospital, said city code allows the hospital to build a 150-foot-tall office building or hospital tower in the same place, but the hospital knew the impact would be much worse. It proposed the shorter parking structure instead.
She said the hospital cannot accommodate parking needs during the season and needs the relief of the new garage.
“We have a limited footprint to work with and we are doing the best we can to mitigate the impact,” Miskel said. She said the existing 250-foot setback and the reduced 100-foot setback are more generous than any other commercial/residential pairing in the city.
“The rest of us have to live with 50 [feet],” Miskel said.
Board member Janice Rustin said she understood residents’ concerns but had to balance the potential harm with the hospital’s needs.
Board member Kerry Koen said the hospital needed more parking and had no other options.
“There is only so much land,” Koen said. “They really have tried to buy everything they can over the years. I am going to support it not because I am in love with it, but it’s the only practical answer in context with the fact the hospital stands ready to work with the community as best they can.”