- Alexandra Seltzer Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
City-owned land on High Ridge Road will be the site of a new Boynton Beach police station , but a former commissioner is lobbying the officials to sell a portion of the site to a private company for development of a commercial property, possibly a Wawa gas station.
If the site off Gateway Boulevard will be used for both a police station and commercial property, the police building would likely be more than one story and a parking garage would be needed. Adjusting the site plan could increase the station’s price tag from $20 million to about $40 million, Commissioner Joe Casello said.
The push comes from lobbyist David Katz, a former city commissioner and current development board chair who ran Commissioner Mack McCray’s reelection campaign in March. On Oct. 30 Katz registered as a lobbyist for Washington Real Estate Partners, a company founded by Davis Camalier, who is also building the Ocean One retail and residential project on Federal Highway.
Katz did not return a request for comment Monday.
Casello, however, wants the city to sell the entire site, valued at about $2.4 million according to the property appraiser.
He proposes to put the police station farther east near the $250 million, 16.5-acre Town Square redevelopment project off Boynton Beach Boulevard. He said the land is too valuable and a police station on the east side could decrease crime. However that theory has been questioned because Police Chief Jeffrey Katz said his officers don’t work out of the office; they are on patrol in the neighborhoods.
Casello said he’s also received interest in the property from a hotel and a farm-to-table restaurant, but said the $40 million to split the property isn’t worth it.
“That would be a burden on the taxpayer,” he said.
Mayor Steven Grant, who said he spoke with David Katz last week, plans to discuss the topic at a meeting. The commission is scheduled for a 4 p.m. special meeting Tuesday to discuss the Town Square project before the 6:30 p.m. regular City Commission meeting.
“The big caveat is the cost to make the police station more dense and increase the height,” Grant said.
As part of the Town Square project, construction on the new police building runs from March to May 2019. Off Boynton Beach Boulevard, the project, to be paid for with a combination of private and public money also includes a new City Hall and library in one building, the historic high school to be used as a civic and cultural arts center, and for apartments and two parking garages.
Commissioner Christina Romelus said she is willing to discuss the issue.
“The High Ridge site is an ideal location strategically for the police station and if there is a win-win possibility, I am open to that,” she said.
It is unclear where Vice Mayor Justin Katz and Commissioner McCray stand. Justin Katz said he has not had time to evaluate it while McCray has said he likes the idea of the police station at High Ridge. McCray didn’t return a request for comment Monday.
While Grant is willing to discuss David Katz’s plan, he said he is worried about the lobbyist’s position as the city’s chair of the development board.
“I do not think a lobbyist should be on the advisory board. However, nobody else on the commission agrees with me so we’re moving forward,” Grant said. “No one else on the commission wanted to have a discussion about this.”