By Steve Plunkett
City officials erred in giving the Chabad of East Boca Raton permission to build a new synagogue and museum on Palmetto Park Road east of the Intracoastal Waterway, a three-judge panel of the county’s Circuit Court ruled.
City Council members should have disallowed the My Israel Center museum outright or followed a city code requirement for 239 parking spaces for the facility, the judges said.
“The City may not pick and choose which sections of the City Code will apply to the ‘My Israel Center,’” their June 6 decision said.
David Roberts, the owner/broker of Royal Palm Properties across the street from the proposed synagogue at 770 E. Palmetto Park Road, asked the court in August to review the City Council’s approval of the site plan, saying its resolution “departed from the essential requirements of the law.”
Rabbi Ruvi New, the Chabad’s spiritual leader, could not be reached for his reaction to the ruling.
Mayor Susan Haynie declined to comment, saying she and the rest of the council will meet June 13 in executive session with the city attorney to decide the next step.
The council approved the Chabad’s plans in May 2015, despite the fact that zoning in the area does not permit a museum, Circuit Judges Meanu Sasser and Lisa Small and County Judge Ted Booras wrote in their opinion. Even granting the property owner’s contention that a museum in this case is a “place of public assembly,” they said, officials should have insisted that the 0.84-acre site have 239 parking spaces, not the 81 approved.
New earlier had told neighbors that a Chabad providing 81 parking spaces would be “unprecedented” in coastal Florida. The downtown space his congregation leases at 120 NE First Ave. has just five parking spaces, he said. An 11,000-square-foot synagogue in Palm Beach has four and a 35,000-square-foot Chabad in Sunny Isles has 22.
The Chabad has been trying to find a larger place to meet for years. This is the second time parking has tripped up its plans. In 2008 the congregation wanted to move into a 23,000-square-foot building near Mizner Park but was not able to meet parking requirements there.