City commissioners this week approved another step in the ambitious $4.5-million plan to convert the 1927 high school building to an events and destination center.
On Tuesday, the commission voted to allow a “no build” easement between the property and the adjacent Schoolhouse Children’s Museum and Learning Center.
It then approved, on first reading, reclassifying and rezoning the property to allow architect Juan Contin’s proposed site plan.
A final vote on the those two changes, and the overall site plan, would take place at the June 18 commission meeting.
That sets up a scheduled closing July 10 in which Contin’s group would take possession of the building — across from city hall and vacant for decades — and its nearly 2-acre footprint.
That transfer is conditional on Contin having all his financing in place.
Staff said construction would start in October and finish in the spring of 2015.
The easement would bar any construction in the 20-foot gap between the schoolhouse museum and the high school project and would let Contin erect a glass wall along his property line.
A staff memo said the museum has no plans to expand to the west so there’s no immediate indication of a conflict.
The vote was 3 to 2.
“Esthetically it’s going to look lousy,” commissioner Joe Casello said Tuesday. “It takes away from the schoolhouse. It really does.”
But he voted yes.
“I do this not from my heart, but from a financial point. I’d like to see this succeed,” he said. “I think this gentleman (Contin) has enough roadblocks to get to the finish line without us throwing another one at him.”
Opposing were Mayor Jerry Taylor and Commissioner David Merker.
Taylor agreed with Casello on aesthetics and has opposed any renovation for years, long before he returned to the mayor’s seat in March.
Merker, along with the rest of the commission, was incredulous at the May 21 meeting when Contin said he believed he was getting the property for a 99-year lease, when commissioners had voted in February.
He said Tuesday he’d like to see the project scrapped and the area instead used for a new government center.
“I don’t see this project for the betterment of the city of Boynton Beach,” Merker said.
The two “first reading” votes passed 4-1, with Merker voting no on each. Final votes would take place at the June 18 meeting.
After several plans came and went, Contin’s project is believed to be the first serious one that would be financed privately. But there have been costs for the city, too: It’s ceding a large piece of land and has agreed to pay $60,000 in permit fees. And staff has spent hours on the project.