Boca didn’t follow rules in approving Chabad, court says


By: Marisa Gottesman Associate Editor
A lawsuit filed against a synagogue planned for East Boca Raton has merit, according to a judicial panel that ruled the city council didn’t follow the city’s rules when approving the project.
Last year, Chabad of East Boca Raton received city approval to build a $10 million religious center on the corner of East Palmetto Road and Southeast Olive Way.
The plans for the 18,000-square-foot building include a sanctuary and a museum called “My Israel Center.” The Chabad would be the first religious institution on Boca’s beachside.
The museum is the crux of what the judicial panel focused on in its ruling. The city classified the museum as a public place of assembly, which is permitted under the city’s rules. Museums are not permitted in the area the Chabad would be located, according to the judicial panel.
The judges ruled that the city rules separate museums and public assembly places in several places.
Calling “My Israel Center” a museum allowed the Chabad to provide fewer parking spaces than the amount required for a place of public assembly.
The ruling states the city can’t pick and choose which sections of the city’s rules apply to the “My Israel Center.” It can’t be called a museum to receive the amount of parking required for a museum and considered a place of public assembly because that is what is allowed in the district.
The court sent the matter back to the city and repealed the city’s resolution approving the site plan.
It is unclear how the ruling will affect construction plans for the Chabad.
This is the second of three lawsuits challenging the project. In May, a panel of judges rejected the first lawsuit that challenged the city’s decision to give the project additional height than the city allows.
A final lawsuit remains in federal court, which alleges the city violated the First Amendment by providing special treatment to the Chabad of East Boca. Judge Kenneth A. Marra has been assigned to hear the case.