By Steve Plunkett

Boca Raton plans to create a special assessment district on the barrier island to guarantee it has money for future beach renourishment.
Municipal Services Director Bob DiChristopher gave preliminary figures at the City Council’s goal-setting sessions May 2, 3 and 15, noting that beach properties are valued at $2.2 billion so a special assessment of $1 per $1,000 would raise $2.2 million a year.
 “We’re trying to amortize it over a 10-year period, you know, trying to smooth out the cost,” DiChristopher said. “So it would be around 1 mill if it’s an annual charge or if it’s based on front foot ownership then it’s $150 a front foot.”
The city and the Greater Boca Raton Beach and Park District, which both own parks on the island, would pay an equivalent share, he said. “So all the residents are participating,” he said.
The first step will be hiring a consultant to determine an assessment methodology, or who gets how much of a special benefit from the beach, DiChristopher said.  “You can probably show a benefit to everybody east of the Intracoastal,” he said. “So everybody on the barrier island, you could prorate them differently, like 0.75 mills if you own beachfront, 0.25 if you don’t.”
“The beach is used by anyone who wants to use it,” said Jerry Silver, president of the condo association Ocean Reef Towers on A1A.
Owners of his building’s 54 units already pay to keep the beach clean, and many of the older residents forsake the surf in favor of the condo pool, Silver said.
“It would be unfair just because we live adjacent to the beach to pay an assessment,” he said.
Council members also told staff to consider concessions such as umbrella and chair rentals at the beach, as well as installing parking meters to raise revenues.
The city is still smarting over an Army Corps of Engineers refusal to pay $4.5 million it promised for the 2010 north beach renourishment.
The Beach and Park District gave $2 million last year to help cover the shortfall; the city is asking the district to provide another $2 million as part of negotiations for a new athletic complex on Spanish River Boulevard. Boca Raton also wants the district to earmark $2 million each year for beach renourishment.
The special assessment plan was one of eight “high” priorities the council established during its goal-setting for the coming year. Six items were ranked “top” priorities and will be tackled first: what to do with the Wildflower and Spanish River Boulevard properties, annexing neighborhoods just north and west of the city, changing land-use rules at the Arvida Park of Commerce, land development regulations for the comprehensive plan, creating an overlay district on 20th Street, and resurrecting the Sister Cities program.
Studying the city’s pension plans again did not make the list of important goals, prompting residents Betty Grinnan and Judith Teller Kaye to form Boca Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility. The group’s e-mail campaign urges the City Council “to address the ever-increasing growth of firefighter compensation and pension costs NOW.”                            

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