By Tao Woolfe

The Boynton Beach City Commission is considering capping the maximum height allowed for downtown buildings at 85 feet in an effort to make the city more inviting.
The commission has twice publicly discussed the idea, and expressed support for limiting skyscraper development, but has stopped short of codifying height limitations.
Height limits on the two mixed-use zones in the downtown core are 100 and 150 feet.
At their Oct. 18 meeting, city commissioners heard comments from residents that in recent years the city has become taller and denser at an unsustainable pace.
“Twenty years ago I voted for a four-story height limit. Next thing you know, 100- and 150-foot buildings are popping up all over the place,” said longtime city resident Barbara Ready, summing up the prevailing sentiment among the audience. “It’s not the city I want and it’s not who we are.”
Resident Vanessa DelMonte said she had lived in Delray Beach — which strictly limits height and density — before moving to Boynton Beach.
“There’s nothing like having a small city feel,” she said. “We don’t want high buildings. I don’t want us to be Fort Lauderdale.”
The commissioners also heard, however, from two attorneys who warned that taking away developers’ design options could result in very expensive lawsuits.
A height limit “isn’t going to accomplish all the goals of the city,” said Fort Lauderdale attorney Barbara Hall. “If you take entitlements away from a property, the developer can file a claim for millions of dollars.”
Height limitations would “reduce enthusiasm” for building in Boynton Beach, and with such restrictions, “who’s going to invest in the city?” Hall added.
Lowering maximum building height was first proposed by Commissioner Thomas Turkin in May, after he had heard on the campaign trail numerous complaints about overdevelopment.
He is a proponent of a less- intimidating, more pedestrian-friendly downtown with green spaces for people and wildlife.
When his colleagues expressed concern about potential lawsuits during the commission’s October discussion of the matter, Turkin urged them to “do the right thing.”
“We agreed that we would walk away from high density and add more green space,” Turkin said, referring to the May meeting. “I want to see this city thrive and have its own identity.”
But his colleagues urged caution.
“I have concerns about the legal aspects of this,” said Commissioner Aimee Kelley. “We have to be careful how we approach this. … We have to be attractive to everyone.”
Commissioner Woodrow Hay agreed with Kelley.
“I’m all in favor of reducing the height, but we may be moving a little too fast,” Hay said. “I want to look at all this before making a decision that could affect the city for decades.”
Amanda Radigan, the city’s principal planner, suggested the city could thread the legal needle by creating a new zoning code amendment that would exempt any existing, or in-progress, development from the new height restrictions.
“Allow us to address multiple zoning standards for mixed use downtown,” Radigan said. “No one would be affected that has rights now. It would only apply to new development.”
Mayor Ty Penserga culminated the discussion by saying he is in favor of keeping things simple.
The simple choice, he said, would be to allow the city’s planning and legal staff to look into creating a new zoning district and cleaning up the code to accommodate all interests.
The matter is expected to come back to the commission for final discussion — and possibly a vote — in the coming weeks.

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