By Steve Plunkett
    
    The meeting pitted City Council member Robert Weinroth against a roomful of unhappy Boca Raton residents mostly from the barrier island and downtown.
7960652474?profile=original    The adversarial nature was apparent from the start, when Weinroth noted he brought Mayor Susan Haynie and a deputy city clerk with him and had issued a public notice of the meeting so he and Haynie would not stumble over the Sunshine Laws.
    “This is our meeting, and I appreciate your thoughts, and it’s nice the mayor’s here, but this meeting is for your opportunity to speak with the residents, so we’ll just keep it with you,” said James Hendrey, a member of the board of the Riviera Homeowners Association who organized the April 18 get-together and acted as emcee.
     First question: Would Weinroth be in favor of putting a question on the ballot as to whether voters want a restaurant on the Wildflower property or open green space?
     Before he could answer, Hendrey asked how many in the room preferred a restaurant. Five or six hands went up in the crowd of perhaps 80.
     “There has been a lot of conversation before and during the process getting us to where we are today,” Weinroth began, noting he was not on the council when the city acquired the $7.5 million property.
     Weinroth said video from the Oct. 18, 2011, workshop is still available on the city’s website.
     “The decision was made at that time to go forward with something like what has now been proposed, which would be a restaurant with space so that people could enjoy the waterfront, that they would have free access to the waterfront,” he said.
     “If I could interrupt you for a second,” Hendrey said, “the question is, sir, would you honor and allow the residents of this city to vote their heart on the March election if they wanted a park or if they wanted a restaurant? It’s a real simple question. Please answer.”
     “Well, the answer to that is no, I don’t think so,” Weinroth replied.
     “You would prefer that the citizens don’t vote for what they want?” Hendrey continued.
     “No, what I’m saying is, it’s my feeling that we’ve gone much further down the road on this timeline, and I think that that decision was made many years ago,” Weinroth said.
     “I disagree, because I think most of us have watched that video, sir, and we can tell you that in the video we were promised a park,” Hendrey said.
     And so the evening went. Next question: Do you think that traffic is a growing problem in Boca Raton and in downtown? And if you think it’s a growing problem, what are you going to do about it?
     “Yes, there’s traffic,” Weinroth said. “And yes, every one of us who gets on the road every day probably curses, especially if we get there at 5 o’clock or rush hour and there’s a lot of traffic.”
     But Weinroth blamed the congested roads on “background traffic,” not a lack of planning.
    “We have a lot of traffic coming from outside the city passing through the city,” he said. “It’s like water – if you leave something open the water’s going to find a way in.”
     Next question: Can you name certain projects that you voted for that benefited the public versus the developers in the community?
     Weinroth said he did not keep track of his votes that way and that “we have to accept the fact that developers are not nasty people.” Anyone who wants to see his votes can go to the city’s website, he said, adding that he looks at each decision case by case.
     “The five of us [on the City Council] really are in place not to plan the future but to respond to the things that are brought before us and be able to deal with them logically and legally,” Weinroth said.
     In all, Weinroth fielded questions at the Boca Raton Community Center for almost two hours, including why he grants variances and whether the council would “show some backbone” and “stick with the city codes” the next time a developer threatens a lawsuit.
     Hendrey said council members Scott Singer and Jeremy Rodgers have appeared before the group, which also draws residents from Golden Triangle and Golden Harbour.

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