By Mary Hladky
The Greater Boca Raton Beach and Park District is soliciting ideas for what to do with the former Ocean Breeze golf course property.
The 212-acre site was slated to become the Boca National golf course. But that plan was scuttled when the Boca Raton Resort & Club donated the Boca Golf and Tennis County Club to the city, eliminating the need for another golf course.
District commissioners unanimously voted Feb. 1 to issue a request for information intended to garner ideas on the best uses for Ocean Breeze. Responses are due by April 9.
Commissioners want Ocean Breeze to be a recreational facility. The only commercial development that would be allowed would be ancillary to recreation, such as a snack bar.
But the RFI wording does not rule out some type of golf activity, although much more limited in scope than the Boca National grand plans.
Proposals would serve as a starting point for discussions between the district and the City Council on how to best make use of the land. The results of a needs assessment survey also would be considered.
“The concept is to gather ideas,” Commissioner Craig Ehrnst said.
Even before the vote, residents were weighing in at district meetings. Ideas included a 9-hole executive golf course, croquet courts, and, of course, pickleball courts.
“We are getting a lot of response,” Executive Director Briann Harms said at the Feb. 16 district meeting.
In a related matter, commissioners voted unanimously March 1 to contract with CSR Athletic Construction to clean up the Ocean Breeze property. CSR’s bid of $520,000 was the lowest of four submitted.
The company will demolish buildings and parking lots and plant sod on cleared land. Trees will be trimmed or removed if they are unhealthy, and underbrush, vines and invasive plants removed.
While the district is moving forward on Ocean Breeze planning, what appeared to be shaping up as a major battle between the city and the district has been averted. They have reached an accord on amending an interlocal agreement on how the two bodies will work together on Ocean Breeze.
The agreement initially was written when the city and district intended to build Boca National. The aim, district officials said, was to eliminate wording that Ocean Breeze would be transformed into a major golf course.
City staff took exception to some of the district’s proposed wording, and amended the district’s revisions. Staffers said they could not accept certain changes that disadvantaged the city. That angered district commissioners, who said the city changes prevented them from making plans for Ocean Breeze and hiring a consultant to create a master plan.
“The agreement we got back was even more encumbering than before,” Ehrnst said at the Feb. 1 meeting.
“I am so disheartened by this whole thing,” said Commissioner Erin Wright.
The commission unanimously passed a motion rejecting the city’s changes.
Harms attended the council’s Feb. 8 workshop to tell members about the RFI and to request a joint meeting of the two bodies.
All five council members supported a joint meeting, which has not been held in the past year because of the pandemic. It will be in April.
“I think it is imperative” to have one, said council member Monica Mayotte. She wanted the dispute over the interlocal agreement “ironed out.”
Deputy City Manager Mike Woika said he would meet with Harms that week to clarify the issues, and later said he thought an agreement could be worked out in a matter of weeks.
Two weeks later, a deal had been reached. Harms will bring it to commissioners on March 15 for their approval.
“It is certainly a step in the right direction for the relationship between our two bodies,” Commissioner Robert Rollins said at the March 1 meeting.
The revision is “a far cry from earlier drafts that were less honorable,” said Sam Goren, the district’s attorney. Ú