By Steve Plunkett
The developer that set off a firestorm of angry opposition in 2019 with plans for a four-story duplex on the beach is back with a more modest proposal: this time for a three-story, single-family home with 59% less window and door glass facing the ocean.
But when Boca Raton’s Environmental Advisory Board convened a hearing April 28 to consider the revised project, a representative for Azure Development LLC, which owns the undeveloped lot at 2600 N. Ocean Blvd., asked for a postponement.
“At 3:45 on Friday [April 22] we received from the city a staff report that contains more than 100 pages, including reports from experts that have not been used previously. And we did not have an opportunity to meet with our experts to prepare to discuss it,” Robert Sweetapple, the developer’s lawyer, said once the meeting was underway.
The audience of 80 or more citizens who packed the auditorium of the city’s 6500 Municipal Building let out a collective groan. Erica Allen, vice chair of the EAB, felt their pain.
“I would like to deny the postponement. I think it’s difficult for a lot of people to come out, and he’s had this plan for days now,” Allen said.
But board Chairman Rick Newman and member Margaret Horty voted yes, and the hearing was over. Members Lyn Forster and Ben Kolstad were absent.
No date was set for the rescheduled session.
To proceed, the project needs a variance from the City Council to build seaward of the Coastal Construction Control Line. A recommendation from the EAB to approve or deny the variance is the last step before council action.
In their report to the advisory board, city planners raised mostly the same objections they had three years ago.
“Staff … concludes that while the new proposal to build a single-family home rather than the previously proposed duplex is less impactful in regards to the massing of the structure, the criteria for granting a CCCL variance still have not been satisfied by the application,” the report said. It added that the proposal “would have excessive, deleterious environmental impacts, and is not sensitive to its environmental context.”
The city planners were not satisfied with the 59% reduction in glass facing the ocean, which is accompanied by reductions of 82% and 87% on the sides of the home. The concern is that light from the home will discourage sea turtles trying to nest and disorient hatchlings trying to find the ocean.
“The Applicant can derive reasonable use of the Property by proposing a structure with far less mass and glass (particularly on the east facing elevation) that has fewer impacts to nesting sea turtles associated with development lighting and fewer impacts to dune vegetation,” the report said.
City staff also had a number of questions that it said Azure had not answered yet. The information sought includes details on a rooftop terrace and terrace safety barrier, a sidewalk plan, a landscape plan that shows specific plant locations, and structural details for the house.
Besides the terrace, the rooftop will feature a pool and summer kitchen. The house will also have four bedrooms, six and one-half baths and a wine cellar. The garage will hold two vehicles; the driveway can provide parking for three or four more vehicles.
Sweetapple felt cheered when he saw a page in the report labeled “Conditions for Approval” followed by 30 items.
“For the first time, we’ve received some positive indication from the city regarding what could be done to encourage staff to approve the application. We’ve been working since 2016 on this application,” he said.
But Brandon Schaad, the city’s director of development services, quickly turned on his microphone to say that the page’s label was incorrect.
“The words there at the top are in error, and I apologize for that,” Schaad said, repeating that staff’s recommendation was to deny the variance.
Once the application reaches the City Council, Deputy Mayor Andrea O’Rourke and council member Monica Mayotte will have to sit out the discussion and not vote on the variance. After the council denied a variance for the duplex plan in 2019, Azure obtained a court ruling that emails O’Rourke and Mayotte sent residents showed they had a prejudicial bias against the project.