By Tao Woolfe

A neighbor of The Pierce has told the city that an approved street closure to accommodate the $73 million downtown development project would cut off easy access to his property.
Attorney Aaron Williams, who represents the owner of property at 209 N. Federal Highway, declined to say last month whether he had filed suit against the city.
Williams did appear before the City Commission on March 9 to say that the closure of a section of Northeast First Avenue would deprive the property owner of the ability to develop his parcel.
11007341488?profile=RESIZE_400xHe said the owner, 209 North Federal Highway LLC, would be prevented from obtaining “the highest and best use for the property economically now and in the future” if the abandonment is allowed.
The owner had hoped to have a 125-room hotel built on the site, Williams said.
Williams’ traffic engineer, Joaquin Vargas, told the City Commission that the street closure would cause serious traffic tie-ups and safety concerns. It would also reduce the five ways to get to 209 N. Federal to three, and only one of those routes would be an easy one for drivers.
City commissioners, wary of lawsuits that shut down developments and result in huge legal expenditures, asked many questions of city Planning Director Amanda Radigan, the developer and the city attorney before voting unanimously to approve closures of the three rights of way.
Radigan said the police, fire, engineering and planning staff had all looked at the impact of closing three rights of way and determined that the impact on traffic would be acceptable.
City Attorney Michael Cirullo said he could not predict the outcome of any litigation against the city, but advised that the commission could continue to support the development of The Pierce. Plans for the complex at 115 N. Federal call for 300 apartments and space for offices, restaurants and retail establishments.
“A taking case is a lawsuit for damages. It would not stop the project per se,” Cirullo said.
Michael Weiner, attorney for Pierce developer Affiliated Development, said the commissioners should trust the opinions of the many city staff members who reviewed the project.
“You have done your due diligence,” Weiner said.
“There’s no substantive competent evidence” that the 225-foot closure of Northeast First Avenue would truly shut off access to the property at 209 N. Federal, Weiner added. “It’s saber rattling and should not dissuade you.”
The commissioners agreed after more than an hour of discussion.
They did reiterate, however, that Affiliated must work with the owner of the adjacent Ace Hardware store to ensure that delivery trucks and emergency vehicles can easily get in and out of her store.
Commissioners Thomas Turkin and Woodrow Hay asked why the complaining Federal Highway neighbor waited so long to express concerns about traffic.
“I will not be bullied or intimidated by lawsuit threats,” Turkin said.
The unanimous vote was the last hurdle Affiliated had to clear with the commission to proceed with the project.
Besides agreeing to the street closures, the commission gave final approval to Affiliated’s requests to rezone the 2.3-acre complex to a new mixed-use downtown core designation; tweak the master and site plans; redesign the parking garage; and abandon the alleyways.
The Pierce will offer 150 units each of workforce and market-rate luxury rental apartments and 17,000 square feet of commercial area.
It will feature public art projects, including murals and a huge, perforated metal corner treatment on the south parking garage emblazoned with nautical images and lettering that says “Welcome to Boynton Beach.”
The garages will offer 450 spaces, 150 of which will be for public parking.

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