By Steve Plunkett

The Beach & Park District may not have to use eminent domain to seize two controversial properties on the oceanfront.

Arthur Koski, the district’s executive director and legal counsel, has been negotiating a way to take possession of undeveloped 2500 N. Ocean Blvd. and 2600 N. Ocean Blvd. since September.

“The owners of 2500 and 2600 are both willing to sell,” Assistant Director Briann Harms told district commissioners at their Dec. 18 meeting in Koski’s absence.

City officials have given Koski complete records of both sites and all ongoing projects there, Harms said. Both parcels have submitted plans for four-story residences that sparked an outcry from neighbors.

“The fact that those two properties are willing to entertain an offer is good,” Commission Chairman Robert Rollins said, noting that the district has ordered appraisals of the parcels.

“I think there may be some things in process that may make the property more affordable,” Rollins said.

The owners of 2500 N. Ocean have permission from the state but not yet the city to build a four-story residence east of A1A and the Coastal Construction Control Line. A city consultant is preparing a final review of 2600 N. Ocean’s plan for a duplex on the beach.

Koski also will negotiate with the owners of a long-occupied, neighboring duplex at 2330 N. Ocean, seeking to raze the residences and connect 2500 and 2600 to Ocean Strand, 15 acres straddling A1A that the district has been saving for a future park.

Janet Graham, a niece of Al Petruzzelli, who lives in the northern side of the duplex at 2330 N. Ocean, has said her uncle is not interested in selling.

“It’s been in our family for more than 70 years,” said Graham, who lives nearby on Northeast 24th Street.

But Al Petruzzelli’s brother Frank and his living trust sold the duplex’s south unit in 2013 for $900,000. The county property appraiser values that parcel today at $865,743.

2500 N. Ocean sold in 2011 for $950,000 and, because it is vacant, has a value of $140,000, the property appraiser says. 2600 N. Ocean sold in 1994 for $850,000 and, also vacant, is valued at $150,000.

Boca Raton City Manager Leif Ahnell urged the district in August to consider using eminent domain, calling it an option “when there is not a willing realistic seller.”

Koski has said pre-suit requirements include getting an appraisal of each parcel and sending it along with a notice of intent to the owner. Then negotiations take place, with the district filing suit to condemn the property only if a price cannot be agreed on.

The district was given the power of eminent domain when it was created in 1974 but has never used it.

Mayor Susan Haynie asked the district in late 2015 to look into buying undeveloped beachfront parcels a week after she and the rest of the City Council reluctantly granted a zoning variance for 2500 N. Ocean. Angry residents almost immediately organized as Boca Save Our Beaches to fight the proposal.

The state issued 2500 N. Ocean a “notice to proceed” in October 2016, ruling that the project would not “weaken, damage or destroy the integrity of the beach and dune system.” 

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