Boca’s ‘open space’ rules discussed by city council

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Boca Raton’s fear that the city had allowed developments to be built with less open space than city rules call for was also dispelled during a recent Boca meeting.
After studying the topic for several months, the city determined only one of 59 downtown projects deviated from the city’s open space rules.
The open space rule pertains to how much of a building must be left as an area “which is open from the land to the sky predominantly designed for and paved with bricks, pavers or other similar material for pedestrian use, or an area where no structures or buildings other than landscape features, fountains, benches, arcades and objects of art are located.”
The open space debate began when city staff stated they had been relying on a 2003 administrative memo, which possibly allowed developers to build less open space than called for by city rules.
Since that announcement in December, city officials asked staff to get to the bottom of the open space debacle.
“The idea of reviewing open space was very necessary once it came up,” said deputy mayor Mike Mullaugh.
The results found that the Townsend Place condos located at 500 SE Mizner Blvd. is the only development that didn’t follow city rules for open space. The city said its elevated pool deck was counted as open space when it shouldn’t have been.
The city stated that the reason the project isn’t compliant isn’t due to the memo, but due to a change in project plans.
Now, the council, sitting as the CRA, said it wants to see the memo that stirred up all the controversy become law. The council asked staff to come back with an ordinance that would adopt the memo’s definition and calculation for determining a building’s open space requirements.
Taking it a step further, the council said it would like to see open space required at the front of the buildings. They also agreed they would like to see open space become a requirement, not a guideline.
The rule change will go before officials for approval at an upcoming meeting.