News

TImes Up: Developer Suing City for 137 Million over Boca Midtown Plan

By:Lulu Ramadan - September 21, 2018

 

Developer Crocker Partners gave Boca Raton five months to resolve a development dispute or face a $137 million lawsuit.


The deadline lapsed, and the Boca Raton-based development group is coming after the city.


Crocker Partners, which built the Mizner Park shopping center, will file the $137 million lawsuit in the next month, said Angelo Bianco, Crocker Partners’ managing partner. The development group accuses the city of illegally stalling Midtown Boca Raton, a proposed development district with stores, offices and apartments in central Boca Raton.


Crocker Partners filed notice of litigation in April, giving the city 150 days to respond in writing and potentially avert the lawsuit.


The city responded a day before the deadline with a 10-page letter defending its decisions on Midtown and offering no settlement.


“The city seems to be acting in a very cagey and aggressive manner,” Bianco told The Palm Beach Post. “They squandered an entire 150-day period to negotiate a resolution. It shows how deaf they are to the potential liabilities. They are gambling with the taxpayers’ money, which is just irresponsible.”


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Crocker Partners claims the city violated a Florida law known as the Bert Harris Act, aimed at protecting the rights of private property owners.


Meanwhile, a separate lawsuit by Crocker Partners is making its way through Palm Beach County Circuit Court. The lawsuit asks the court to continue the Midtown Boca Raton proposal without a demand for damages.


Judge Howard Coates delivered a slight setback to the city in late August, denying in part its request to dismiss the lawsuit. Crocker Partners wants to depose some city council members and staff, according to court documents.


Bianco declined to say what Crocker Partners intends to ask city officials, including Mayor Scott Singer and Council members Andrea O’Rourke and Jeremy Rodgers, but that statements they made “need investigation.”


Singer could not immediately be reached for comment.


The now-sour relationship between Boca Raton and Crocker Partners, responsible for some of the city’s most prominent commercial buildings, stems from a small-area study the city imposed on Midtown.


Midtown, brought forward by Crocker and other landowners in the one-square-mile district, requires a large-scale rezoning to allow high-rise apartment buildings.


Within the district are three buildings owned by Crocker Partners: Boca Center, an office-retail complex; The Plaza office building; and the One Town Center office building.


Rather than approve the zoning changes, the city council in April called for a small-area study with public input.


The study created an unjust temporary ban on development in the district, Crocker’s lawsuit says.


The Midtown re-zoning falls in line with the city’s goal to create “planned mobility districts,” areas where homes are built near shops and offices to cut down on traffic.