By Jane Smith

    The Boynton Beach Community Redevelopment Agency board recently sweetened the deals for two entities to buy its historic homes and turn them into restaurants.
    For the Little House, at 480 E. Ocean Ave., the CRA board agreed to buyer Richard Lucibella’s request to limit the reverter clause from 10 years to just a few months until the tapas restaurant gets city approval to open, said Lucibella, an Ocean Ridge town commissioner.
    He formed Ocean Avenue Pride with partner Barbara Ceuleers to pay $335,000 in cash for the historic home and then rent it to Lisa Mercado, who will use her Living Room restaurant on Congress Avenue to prep most of the finger food offered at the Little House.
    There was some confusion about the reverter clause, Lucibella said. It was not in the contract he received from the broker but in the one his attorney received. He referred detailed questions to his attorney, Ken Kaleel, former mayor of Ocean Ridge.
    The restaurant sits in a historic home, creating concern among some residents about what would happen if the eatery was no longer viable there.
    “Boynton has a process. You just can’t do what you want there without going through the process,” Kaleel said.
    The shortened reverter clause was the buyer’s request, and the CRA staff supported it, said Vivian Brooks, CRA executive director.
    “The public benefits by increased activity along Ocean Avenue,” she said. “If they get the C.O. (certificate of occupancy), then why would we want to buy back the property?”
    For the Oscar Magnuson house at 211 E. Ocean Ave., the Philadelphia purchaser also received a reduced reverter clause but only to three years.
    “The reverter clause protects us in case the place goes fallow so that we don’t have an important property vacant on the street,” CRA board member James “Buck” Buchanan said at the Sept. 8 board meeting. “If it’s a fair market value purchase, I don’t see a problem with having it in there ad infinitum.”
    Brooks countered that she’d like “to come up with a number that is more fair to the purchaser.”
    The purchaser’s attorney offered three years after the C.O. is approved.
    Both homes also have a three-year right of first refusal, meaning that if the owners want to sell the restaurants within three years, they would first offer it to the CRA for purchase.
    The two houses carry local historic designations, meaning the city’s Historic Resources Preservation Board must approve any renovations.
    “Once someone asks to have the designation removed, assuming no hurricanes or that the buildings burned down, we won’t be able to grant it,” said Barbara Ready, board chairwoman.
    In other action at the Sept. 8 meeting, the CRA board approved next year’s budget, which contains $200,000 for the Town Square project. Mayor Jerry Taylor had asked for the increase in August when the historic high school was on the city’s demolition list. Since then, the city gave West Palm Beach architect Rick Gonzalez until January to determine whether the building can be saved.
    Board member and City Commissioner Mack McCray asked, “Can we remove the word ‘demolition’ and just say old high school through Town Square? I would feel more comfortable.”

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