Tempers flared in Boynton Beach during a meeting about redevelopment in the downtown. After six hours, board members agreed to move forward with plans to allow taller buildings.
Harry Woodworth expected all the action to be outside city hall. He’s the president of the Inlet Communities Association. Members and other groups rallied before Tuesday night's Community Redevelopment Agency board meeting.
They’re opposed to a comprehensive plan which, among many things, allows taller buildings; specifically at the corner of Woolbright Road and Federal Highway. That’s where Isram Realty plans to turn the old Winn-Dixie grocery store into Riverwalk, a 105 foot apartment complex.
“I’ve been to a lot of commission meetings, spirits run high,” Woodworth said.
Then, inside the packed commission chambers, came the unexpected.
“I have never once seen a developer scream and shout ‘liar’ at the mayor. That blew my mind,” Woodworth explained.
The man calling the Boynton Beach mayor a liar was the founder of Isram Realty, Shaul Rikman. When NewsChannel 5 reached him, Rikman wouldn't talk about calling the mayor a liar, but said the vote that happened at the meeting was “a step in the process” of redevelopment.
Board members at the meeting tell NewsChannel 5 Rikman interrupted Mayor Steven Grant while he revealed details of a private conversation the two had. According to other commissioners, Grant told the crowd Rikman told him he would build a drug detox facility at the Winn-Dixie property, if the city denied the request for the 105 foot apartment building.
Mayor Grant didn’t return calls for comment.
Despite the comments, CRA board members decided to move forward with the overall redevelopment plan. It breaks the CRA district into six areas, with specific guidelines for development in each section.
Board members Justin Katz and Joe Casello said development at the Winn-Dixie plaza and other areas, would bring in more revenue to help eliminate blight and build a downtown.
“The bedrock of our community is this sleepy town, and that's being taken away from us due to the need for revenue,” explained Tom McClure, the president of The Boynton Coalition for Responsible Development.
McClure argued revenue generated by developments in the CRA district are required to stay in the CRA district (which generally surrounds Federal Highway). So money made by developments like Riverwalk, won’t produce money to hire more firefighters, police officers, or make other infrastructure improvements in other parts of the city.
Plus, he worries creating that revenue comes at a greater cost: Hurting the quality of life in Boynton Beach.
“It’s a small, sleepy hamlet that is on the Intracoastal,” he said when asked to explain the city’s character.
Tuesday’s decision isn’t the end of the fight. Now, the proposal approved by the CRA goes to the city commission for final approval. But the CRA board members are also city commissioners.