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Boca district awaits city support of plan to buy beachfront land

A plan to explore acquiring more of Boca Raton's beachfront land for preservation and public use is on hold as the Greater Boca Raton Beach & Park District awaits indication from the city on whether its elected officials are in favor of such a move.

District executive director Arthur Koski said Monday that the district will look into buying up all the privately owned vacant beachfront property in Boca to preserve it from development only if there's a consensus from Boca's City Council expressing its support.

"Our ability to purchase property is subject to concurrence of City Council," Koski said, citing the district's enabling legislation.

District staff had planned to present a report at a district meeting Monday that would identify which parcels are available for purchase, evaluate the costs, assess the liabilities of opening the land to the public and determine how such purchases would affect the district's ability to receive federal funds for beach renourishment.

But because staff has not received the go-ahead from the city, the district has not moved forward with its investigation, Koski said.

Last month, Boca Mayor Susan Haynie sent a letter to Susan Vogelgesang, chairwoman of the district's board of commissioners, asking that the district "identify all privately owned vacant buildable oceanfront properties in the city and evaluate the possible acquisition of these properties by the district for preservation and public use."

Greater Boca district to explore acquiring more beachfront land

The push came about a week after the City Council reluctantly agreed that a property owner can build a 10,000-square-foot, four-story house on the beach at 2500 N. Ocean Blvd. In Boca, a lot must stretch at least 100 feet to be developed; the lot is 88.5 feet. But the council, in a 4-1 vote, determined the owner had met the necessary criteria for an exception.

District commissioners reviewed the letter at a Dec. 21 meeting and directed staff to first get an understanding from the City Council on its interest in such an endeavor and what the city's involvement would be.

In a Dec. 30 email to Koski, Assistant City Manager Mike Woika said the council had not been available to provide input. City spokeswoman Chrissy Biagiotti said Monday a meeting date to discuss the matter has not yet been set.

There are about five miles of beachfront property in the city, three miles of which are public, Koski said. Of the remaining two miles, some smaller pieces to the north of Red Reef Park may be able to be bought, he said. Once Koski pinpoints which properties are of interest to the city, he then will be able to determine the cost of buying them.

The district was created in 1974 in part to enable the city to acquire what is now known as Red Reef Park. The city borrowed money from the bank to pay for the property, and the district over time reimbursed the city for the cost plus interest. Similar joint agreements were made to pay for land for Patch Reef Park, Sugar Sand Park and Ocean Strand., 561-243-6531 or Twitter @EmilyBethMiller


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