Voters Choose Change During Election


The second time was the charm for two challengers vying for seats on the Greater Boca Raton Beach and Park District.
A run-off race declared a victory for Craig Ehrnst for Seat 1 over incumbent Dennis Frisch and a win for Erin Wright for Seat 3 over incumbent Earl Starkoff.
Both winning candidates ran on platforms that promoted improving the lines of communication between the district and the city of Boca.
The board oversees parks and beaches in the city and just outside of Boca city limits. District commissioners serve four-year terms and earn $80 per meeting attended.
The race for two seats began earlier in the year with six candidates. None of those candidates were able to secure more than half of the votes in August to win a seat, which sent the top two contenders to a November runoff.
This time, Ehnrst won 56 percent of the votes over Frisch’s nearly 44 percent, according to election results posted on the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Election’s website. Wright took nearly 52 percent of the votes with Starkoff winning 48 percent.
Both winners thanked their supporters and say they look forward to serving the district’s residents.
Frisch said he wishes the two newcomers luck and hopes they grow to understand the issues in greater depth.
“They will need a much deeper depth of knowledge to face the challenges of the District,” he said.
Starkoff did not respond to a request for comment.
Voters approve ordinance
Boca voters made it overwhelmingly clear that they want city-owned waterfront property to be reserved for public recreation, public boating access, public streets and city stormwater uses.
That means plans to build a Hillstone eatery on a downtown piece of waterfront land, 551E. Palmetto Park Road, known as the Wildflower, likely won’t happen.
Nearly 67 percent of the votes went toward the ‘yes’ vote on the question.
For years, it has been a top priority of Boca’s leaders to put the former location of the Wildflower nightclub back on the tax rolls. The council was expected to vote on a lease agreement, but it was postponed due to the resident-driven referendum.
The question posed to voters did not specifically mention the plans on the Wildflower site. The chamber heavily campaigned against the question while other organizations like Boca Watch advocated for the referendum to pass.
Boca Watch, backed by publisher Al Zucaro, posted information saying a park and restaurant are both possible, but the language in ordinance clearly states the land may only be used for the stated reasons.
Because the referendum is an ordinance and not a charter change, it could be overturned by a majority of three council members, according to the city attorney’s office.
But to overturn the ordinance would likely result in backlash from voters that supported the ordinance at the polls.
Councilman Robert Weinroth, who was vocal about his opposition to the ordinance, said the voters have spoken and he will do his best to make decisions that support what the voters want.
“We are disappointed with the results,” Glen Viers, vice president of Hillstone Restaurant Group said. “We continue to think that the Wildflower property was an ideal site for our restaurant. We think it’s unfortunate that the people of Boca are not going to be able to enjoy waterfront dining at that location.”
The council will likely have to look at how the new rule affects existing non-public uses, like the gift shop at Gumbo Limbo.
Sales tax OK-ed
Another decision that affects Boca residents is the passing of the penny tax question. Voters supported raising the sales tax by one penny to help fund school renovations, county facility upgrades and city projects.
The tax is expected to raise $2.7 billion. It will sunset in 2026 or when the money is raised, whichever comes first. Schools will get half the money, the county 30 percent and cities the remaining 20 percent.
In Boca, Addison Mizner Elementary is slated to be completely rebuilt.
Boca did send a letter to the county expressing concerns about the tax sending shoppers across county lines and affecting commercial leases. By state law, the city would get $53 million over the next decade. The city doesn’t have a backlog of repair projects, but officials will have to develop a plan for how to spend the money.