Wildflower property decision to come during election


By: Marisa Gottesman Associate Editor
Boca Raton officials have made it clear that they want to put the former location of downtown nightclub Wildflower back on the tax rolls.
But the future of the space could ultimately be determined by Boca voters during the Nov. 8 election.
At a recent meeting, the council voted 4-1 to rezone the property at 551 E. Palmetto Park Road for commercial use. At a subsequent meeting, council members decided to let the voters decide on a citizen-driven referendum that would limit city-owned waterfront space to “public use.”
The proposed law states that Intracoastal Waterway only be used for public recreation, public boating access, public streets and city stormwater uses. The rule doesn’t name the Wildflower property specifically, but if approved its possible a restaurant wouldn’t be permitted on the site.
“We have shown specific intention to move forward with this plan,” Councilman Jermey Rodgers said of the council’s approved goals on the Wildflower site at the rezoning meeting.
The rezoning is necessary if the city moves forward with a proposal from Hillstone Restaurant Group to build a waterfront restaurant on the site.
Boca has limited, public waterfront dining and officials have focused on developing the property as a top priority for the past seven years.
Several residents told council members that they have to go to Deerfield or Delray for waterfront dining and they would like to enjoy a meal on Boca’s waterfront. They say it is embarrassing the city doesn’t have that amenity for residents and tourists.
The city purchased the empty lot for $7.5 million in 2009 and the topic has been contentious since with some residents supporting the restaurant and others advocating for a public park.
The debate continued at a recent city meeting before council members voted in favor of the rezoning, which is needed for the restaurant.
Councilman Scott Singer cast the sole dissenting vote stating the city has plenty of restaurants but not enough green space. He wants to see the city look into ways to have an active waterfront. He also voted against sending the referendum to the voters on Nov 8.
Councilman Robert Weinroth stated Ocean Strand is a better place for public recreation use because it is bigger and there are no development plans for the 15 acres on the waterfront.
“We are looking for a quality venue,” Weinroth said of Hillstone restaurants. “We will be so well served by having that venue. It will be so wonderful for our city. I can’t see a reason to say no to it.”
Ultimately, voters will have the final say when they hit the polls.
“I want to hear from the people on this,” Mayor Susan Haynie said.