By Margie Plunkett
The Boca Raton City Council approved a measure to create a planned mobility district in the vicinity including the former IBM campus, but not before hearing from residents and developers who packed the chambers in a meeting that stretched well into the evening.
The northwest area, as it is known, was one of five areas in the city under consideration for planned mobility development, which brings work-force residences within range of offices and retail services to cut down the number of auto trips for job commutes and other daily excursions.
Planned mobility is hoped to help revive an area that bustled before IBM moved its operation and employees to North Carolina and Texas.
“It will create a better business climate for business owners” and allow workers to “work and thrive in the city in which they earn their income,” said resident Frank Feiler, who spoke at the public hearing on behalf of himself, not the Boca Raton Airport Authority, where he is chairman. “It’ll make our city a better place.”
The second public hearing on the northwest plan, conducted Dec. 11, saw the council chambers filled with representatives of developers, businesses and homeowners associations as well as residents.
While there was considerable support for the plans, residents also voiced concerns that the density of projects would create traffic that would clog roadways and more students in the schools.
Planned mobility would allow up to 2,500 multifamily residential units to be added in the northwest over the next 10 years, with a density of 20 dwelling units per acre — which Deputy City Manager George Brown pointed out is the same as under current regulations. The height restriction would be at 85 feet.
Resident Gail Dinnerstein asked at the hearing, “Why such high density in one area — and what’s that going to do to the entire area? We have one Publix and two gas stations. What happens when they’re going to take their children to school? You’re talking 6,000 to 10,000 people in one area. It should be spread out.”
Council members as well as Brown noted that much misinformation about the plan was in circulation, and took time to reiterate details. For one, Brown said, the council’s approval of planned mobility for the area was only a “legislative framework” for such projects. Each project that is proposed still must be heard and approved by the city, he said.
In addition, the housing that planned mobility encourages is not low-income, Brown explained. The housing, which can include rental or for-purchase units as small as 625 square feet (but which average 700 square feet), is planned to be priced so that it is attainable by area workers, he said.
In response to resident concerns that adding the housing would cause congestion on local roadways and fill classrooms with children of the residents, Brown said that all 2,500 units were not expected to be built on one corner. The projects also are subject to the county and other impact fees and regulations that provide for infrastructure.