By Steve Plunkett
A Boynton Beach city commissioner’s saber-rattling over the March annexation caught town officials by surprise and caused weeks of uneasiness in Town Hall and the former county pocket.
Boynton Beach Commis-sioner Steve Holzman started the dust-up June 7, saying a 2004 interlocal agreement between the municipalities should have blocked the annexation. Further, he said, if Boynton Beach had annexed the property instead of Gulf Stream, it would have taken in $14 million in property taxes over the life of the agreement.
“We should be compensated for that money. This is not moot. … It’s a simple violation of the agreement,’’ said Holzman, whose district includes the St. Andrews Club just north of town.
His comments jolted Gulf Stream.
“Is there any possibility that it could be nullified?’’ Thomas Hill, manager of the annexed Ballantrae condominiums, asked town commissioners at their meeting later that week.
Mayor William Koch Jr. didn’t mince words June 21 when Boynton Beach took up the issue of whether to rescind the interlocal agreement, renegotiate it or sue the town.
“We’ve always worked together,” he said. “It’s just beyond my past dealings to hear such a thing.’’
Koch and his wife led a Gulf Stream entourage that included Town Attorney John Randolph, Town Manager William Thrasher, Civic Association President Bob Ganger, Ballantrae attorney Ken Spillias and a handful of concerned residents to the Boynton Beach meeting.
“I think this issue is pretty clear,’’ Holzman said. “Simple enough, we’ve upheld our part of the bargain and unfortunately the other side of the agreement has not.’’
But Randolph said Gulf Stream had worked hand in hand with Boynton Beach officials for more than a year, when then-City Manager Kurt Bressner told city commissioners the town wanted them to rescind the agreement so it could annex the 16.6 acres.
“When this came to you back in May 18, 2010, all cards were on the table. Now I’m surprised that anyone here is surprised by any of this,’’ Randolph said. “You saw our report. You saw our advertisement for annexation. There was nothing hidden.”
Thrasher said Gulf Stream anticipated tax revenues of $200,000 a year from the annexed pocket.
Koch said fears of a too-large beachfront development prompted the annexation.
“We wanted to have an interlocal agreement that either we would annex it or you would annex it, but it would be low-density, six units per acre. It’s in that agreement. That was our goal — to preserve the barrier island,” Koch said.
Spillias said pocket residents had sought out Gulf Stream over Boynton Beach.
“They certainly could have come to Boynton Beach — this is no disrespect to Boynton Beach — but they are surrounded by Gulf Stream and that is the town they feel a part of, and they asked to become a part of, and their vote was 100 percent to become a part of,” Spillias said.
Boynton Beach Mayor Jose Rodriguez told his colleagues he and Bressner had met several times with Gulf Stream officials.
“They did bring this to light that they were going to take this action. We certainly said that we had no objections at the time,” he said. “In hindsight it probably should have been brought to the commission earlier than it was, for approval before the annexation vote actually took place.”
Nevertheless, Rodriguez said Boynton Beach should be a good neighbor, a sentiment shared by Vice Mayor Bill Orlove and Commissioner Woodrow Hay. The vote to rescind was 3-2, with Holzman and Marlene Ross against.
Boynton Beach continues to provide water and sewer service to the pocket with a 25 percent surcharge. Ú