A rendering for the proposed 7-Eleven shows 8-foot-wide
sidewalks and enlarged window panels.
Rendering provided by Mummaw & Associates
By Margie Plunkett
The highly contested redevelopment of a property at 800-899 E. Palmetto Park Road —including an addition for a 7-Eleven convenience store — will allow area revitalization on the developer’s dime rather than the taxpayers’. So say City Council members who voted in November to allow the project to move forward.
“Our job is based on the law and on what is best for the entire community,” said Mayor Susan Whelchel before the vote that upheld a Planning and Zoning Board approval of the site plan for the property owned by James Batmasian.
The council vote followed the hearing of an appeal of the site plan by some neighbors of the property, who voiced numerous concerns including that a convenience store was incompatible with the neighborhood and would cause a variety of disruptions.
By the time the Nov. 22 meeting was over, two of three named appellants had dropped out (Peter Baronoff and Don Nadick) after conditions were proposed to address their concerns; two council members had recused themselves (Constance Scott and Susan Haynie) for possible conflicts of interest; numerous residents came before council both applauding and opposing the plan; and three members of the Batmasian family defended the proposal.
The proposal adds 777 square feet for a possible convenience store at 831 E. Palmetto Park Road to an existing mix of restaurants plus five units that house residents.
The developer is in talks with Southland Corp. about putting in a 7-Eleven, said architect Douglas A. Mummaw, who showed slides of the upscale prototype 7-Eleven store that he likened to a Fresh Market or Starbucks.
Mummaw told the crowd that the buildings in the commercial center were developed in the late 1960s and have been worn by time to the “current blighted condition.”
“They have to be revitalized to survive,” he said.
The proposal is a “significant upgrade to the street frontage,” with enlarged window panels that are “indicative of a modern retail center that will attract national and quality business,” Mummaw said, adding the site has been able to secure Subway as a tenant.
The plan creates a bus transit area and easements that allow for sidewalks to be widened to 8 feet, he said. As an offer of settlement to the neighbors appealing the site plan approval, the developer would complete a 6-foot masonry wall, with flowering trees with canopies that will touch and grow into a “garden towering over the wall,” the architect said. The development would also include security cameras and added lighting aimed away from the neighbors’ homes.
While the site plan asks for more space, it didn’t ask for a convenience store — nor would it have to, Mummaw said. “A convenience store can go anywhere in the zone. It doesn’t require a public hearing.”
The opponents of the redevelopment disputed a parking study that was presented earlier by staff, claiming that proposed parking was not adequate. They said there wasn’t enough of a buffer between residents’ homes and the loading zone. And they claimed inadequate notice was given of the Planning and Zoning meeting where the site plan was first presented.
The appellants pointed out the property was nonconforming, because students and others lived in the residential units rather than the required owner-operators of the businesses in the development. A plastic fence separated the businesses from the neighboring homes instead of a required wall.
“The site plan is ill-conceived, ill-advised, poorly planned and violates current city code,” said Robert Ocksman, the remaining named appellant of the three who initially brought the challenge.
“We, as do all Boca Raton residents, have a right to a quiet and restful night’s sleep,” Ocksman said. Neighbors of the development will be deprived of that by noxious fumes from garbage bins, noise and light shining on their properties, he said.
Neighbors, including Ocksman — some wearing “No 7-11” T-shirts — turned out at an October meeting to protest the possibility of the convenience store. At that meeting, they discussed how the 7-Eleven would cater to people from other areas, and sell alcohol that may be consumed on the beach or where it is not permitted.
“People will come here to our neighborhood to buy beer at 2 a.m. and rolling papers at 4 a.m. at the new 24/7 convenience store,” Ocksman said at the Nov. 22 meeting.
During the public portion of that meeting, Marta Batmasian told the crowd that she has lived two blocks from the site for nearly 30 years and raised her two sons there.
She described her family’s commercial property: “The appearance is horrific; the tenant mix is not the right mix.” She added, “Nobody wants to move in.”
Of the work the city has done on the west side of the bridge, Batmasian said, “You did an unbelievable job,” adding that it’s her property on the east side that embarrasses her. She urged council to allow the project to go forward.
James Batmasian also defended the plan to revitalize his development, as did the Batmasians’ son, Armen.
The latter Batmasian, who said getting a national tenant was critical, noted the developer is renovating the whole street to attract the 7-Eleven, when they could put a Circle K in the same spot if they wanted. Ú