Councilman Robert Weinroth on Boca’s Nov. referendum

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By: Councilman Robert Weinroth Special to the Boca newspaper
The current debate, within the City of Boca Raton, over the citizens’ initiative to severely restrict how city owned parcels along the Intracoastal Waterway are utilized finds advocates for its passage making the case for what they say it means rather than what it actually says.
Let me be fully transparent – I am against the approval of the City of Boca Raton Question.
The overriding reason for initiative’s appearance on the ballot is to block the city from negotiating a lease with the Hillstone Restaurant Group to place a waterside restaurant on the city owned “Wildflower” site.
I recently read on the Boca Watch website, “Ordinance 5356, which will appear on the November 8 ballot, does not limit the opportunity for multi-use activities on City-owned land adjacent to the Intracoastal Waterway.”
The author of the article, Boca Watch publisher, Alfred Zucaro, goes on to state that, “a number of those individuals that favor a restaurant only, have falsely claimed that the issue of Ordinance 5356 is simply; a park versus a restaurant, “ to which he opines, “Simple, but false.”
So, what is the truth and what is not?
The following is the actual language of the initiative question as it appears at the very end of the November ballot:
“Amendment to City Ordinance to create (new) Code Section 28-1308 public coastal lands requiring that all city-owned land adjacent to the Intracoastal waterway shall only be used for public recreation, public boating access, public streets, and city stormwater uses only.”
This ballot initiative is not offered in a vacuum but rather in response to the course the City to negotiate a lease with Hillstone.
Again, quoting Mr. Zucaro, “Is it a park, or is it a restaurant?  Why not both?  Why not more than both?   . . .  the November 8 ballot [initiative], does not limit the opportunity for multi-use activities on City-owned land adjacent to the Intracoastal Waterway. “
Mr. Zucaro goes on to argue the City Council is empowered to, “interpret what the [new] ordinance means.”  In other words, Mr. Zucaro appears to concede, as written, the initiative is unworkable and, if approved would make Council Member Singer’s recent “visioning” exercise, moot.
Voter approval would block the city from allowing any use not conforming to the question’s unambiguous language. Any interpretation not conforming to the language of this new Code section would result in an inevitable legal challenge.
While the Council is legally empowered to rescind or amend the ordinance, that action would certainly be met with justifiable voter backlash.
The word “only” appears twice in the 41-word proposal and would require, “that all city-owned land adjacent to the Intracoastal Waterway … only be used for public recreation, public boating access, public streets, and city stormwater uses only.”
Mr. Zucaro writes, “Open Your Mind to the Possibilities. A small footprint, culinary experience on a waterfront park setting is achievable, alongside interactive public art, walking paths, and recreation.  It requires vision, imagination, and the will to aspire to something better than a single, full-blown, brick and mortar restaurant.” He closes by stating, “ . . . vote your imagination.”
Sounds seductively reasonable. But, the reality is if the ordinance becomes law any use that does not fit squarely within the language would be prohibited. Only means only. That means you can forget about restrooms since electricity and sewer connections are not included within the four enumerated uses and that gift shop at Gumbo Limbo, it’s on borrowed time!
Finally, the “community-driven conversation,” touted by Mr. Singer, where, “96 participants at 12 tables brainstormed nearly 100 ideas on different activities for these sites, including recreation, entertainment, dining, retail, fitness, and many more possibilities,” was either an exercise in futility or an exercise that demonstrated why the City of Boca Raton Question must be defeated by the voters.