Panhandling, Development, and the Aronberg Shuffle

The West Boca Community Council held its regular meeting at the Boca Lago clubhouse on Tuesday evening. A larger than usual crowd of residents heard from county officials.
President Sheri Scarborough, who is also chair of the Palm Beach County Zoning Commission, updated the audience on several changes in the works.
First, construction has started on the Rooms To Go expansion on the north side of Glades Road between 441 and Lyons. We stopped by today to see it for ourselves.

We asked inside and learned that the current 26,000 square foot space will be expanded by another 20,000 square feet. The project should take about a year. It has already been quite a while. We reported on the plans back in 2013.
Also coming is a 43-home development by GL Homes south of Eagles Landing Middle School. You can see the location on the image below (courtesy of the county appraiser’s website). South County Regional Park is on the right, and the property in question is on the lower left.

An old map of the plan, dating back to 2006 or before, is below (full pdf at bottom of this article). It’s called the Collier PUD (Planned Unit Development).

Ms. Scarborough also noted that the lights are close to ready on 441 just south of Glades Road, between Sports Authority and the Westwinds Plaza (Publix and Home Depot).
After the meeting was over we asked her about the proposed 300-townhome development on the northeast corner of Clint Moore and 441. She did not have any particular news about the proposal. The first hurdle that has to be overcome is that the property is in the “agricultural reserve.” Unlike most ag-reserve properties, however, Scarborough noted that it is surrounded by non-agricultural development (The Oaks community, the Stonebridge community, and The Reserve shopping center). There’s a process they have to go through to get reclassified out of the ag-reserve but it seems likely to West Boca News that they’ll eventually get there.
County Commissioner Mary Lou Berger spoke next.

Ms. Berger spoke in depth about the panhandling issue and what the County Commission is doing about it. She was an engaging speaker, answering many questions from the audience.
First, she explained that something is in the works. The County Attorney’s office is drafting an ordinance which is expected to go before the County Commission in April. Once it’s reviewed at that meeting it should go before the Commission again in May and if all goes well it will be approved then.
Ms. Berger was emphatic that the ordinance is not limited to vagrants and panhandlers. It is a general ordinance that will affect anyone who tries to solicit or engage in similar activities in the medians of intersections. This is an important distinction and it’s very good that she is talking about like this. If it’s done the wrong way it will be held unconstitutional.
The audience asked whether it will extend to the corners and sidewalks, but that was not clear. She said the County Attorney is working on that language.
Next up was State Attorney Dave Aronberg, the prosecutor for Palm Beach County.

Mr. Aronberg was the headline speaker in the council’s notice for this event, which said he would speak about panhandling. He did not talk about that much, but focused more generally on what he called “quality of life” crimes. The most common crime that his office deals with is “DUS” or Driving Under Suspension. It’s sometimes called DWLS (Driving While License Suspended) and can refer also to revoked licenses or other license problems.
While Mr. Aronberg was mostly a pleasant speaker, his responses to questions presented a stark contrast with Ms. Berger, who answered questions directly.
Aronberg’s focus on suspended drivers opened the door to questions about a prominent case that happened not long ago on 441 in front of West Boca Medical Center. A driver hit three kids and then left the scene. A few weeks later the alleged driver, Brett Knowles of Boca Isles North, posted a picture on his Facebook page of the Geico gecko bragging about saving money on car insurance by leaving the scene of an accident.

West Boca News followed this case closely. Readers notified us in September that 441 had been closed and we went to the accident scene. speaking with family members of victims, contacting the Sheriff, and also Aronberg’s office. In October we reported that charges had not been filed yet, though we made no reference to the State Attorney in that article.
We researched the driver’s history in our courts and found quite a bit. Relevant to the issue of suspended drivers, Knowles was convicted of DUS (or DWLS) at least three times before this incident. There was a fourth case in Broward but we don’t know the results of that one. Knowles has had dozens of other cases including traffic tickets and drug charges.
In December, after getting a copy of the crash report from the Sheriff, we reported that Aronberg was stalling on the case. We noticed that Knowles had been ticketed again in October of 2014 for driving while suspended – while this investigation was pending – and that Aronberg’s office dropped the charge.
Shortly after that article charges from the incident were finally brought against Knowles.
In November and December we e-mailed inquiries to Aronberg’s office for a statement on the accident case and for the records from the dropped case. His office did not respond to either request. The refusal to provide records on the dropped case is a flagrant violation of the Florida Public Records Law (sometimes called the Sunshine Law).
With that background in mind, this reporter asked Aronberg about how his office handles repeat offenders on the Driving Under Suspension law. In particular the law (Section 322.34) allows repeat offenders to be charged with higher level offenses. A second offense can be charged as a first-degree misdemeanor with up to one year in jail. A third offense can be charged as a felony with up to a 5-year prison sentence.
Mr. Aronberg’s office, along with Broward, has repeatedly let Mr. Knowles off easy on these charges.
After he didn’t answer the question the first time this reporter asked him again about his office policy on whether and when his office charges repeat offenders with the higher level offenses provided by the law. Aronberg claimed that they do but provided no specifics. Our readers may have noticed that we frequently report on the criminal history of those arrested. We never see repeat offenders charged with the higher level offenses. This is not just a Palm Beach problem. Knowles’ fourth case was in Broward and was charged at the lowest level as well.
Rather than address the issue Aronberg then decided to attack this reporter. Along with his political consultant in the back of the room they accused me of being rude to their office and engaging in politics.
As a response to that bogus claim, my e-mails to his office are below:
November 21:

Ms. Cruz and/or Mr./Ms. Harris,
I write to inquire about the State Attorney’s position on the case of Brett Knowles. PBSO advises that the case has been forwarded to the Palm Beach County State Attorney.
Please let us know the status of this case.
Warren Redlich
West Boca News

Reply from Ms. Cruz (same day):

Good afternoon.
This case pertains to an active criminal investigation and is exempt from disclosure pursuant to Florida Statute 119.07(2)(c)1.

My reply (again, same day):

I’m not asking for records. I’m asking if the SA has any statement to make on the case. My question relates both to the pending investigation as well as Mr. Knowles past history.
And by the way I don’t see how there’s an active investigation. PBSO finished their investigation. It’s in the SA’s hands now per PBSO. So who’s investigating?
No need to reply until next week.

There was no reply from Aronberg’s office.
December 3rd:

Ms. Cruz (and Mr. Edmonson?):
I just noticed that Mr. Knowles had a subsequent DWLS case in Palm Beach County: 50-2014-CT-023520-AXXX-SB, citation # A3B50ZE.
Court records show that case was resolved with a nolle prosse.
Please e-mail or fax (518-708-8752) me all records in the SA’s possession regarding this case. Also, please let me know if the SA has any statement it wishes to make regarding the decision to nolle prosse the case.
Regarding my previous inquiries you asserted that there was an active investigation. I don’t think you can make that argument with regard to a case that has been nolle prossed.
Warren Redlich

If the Sheriff’s investigation is accurate, three kids were hit by Mr. Knowles while he was driving on a suspended license. Had prosecutors held Knowles accountable according to the law, the accident wouldn’t have happened. Call me rude all you want. Aronberg’s blasé attitude toward repeat offenders makes us all unsafe. His disregard for the Public Records law is offensive for someone in the position of enforcing the law.

Accident on Lyons at Boca Lago

Fire Rescue reports an accident involving 3 cars at the intersection of Lyons and Boca Lago, which is between Glades Road and Palmetto Park Road.

From what we see on Google Maps traffic, there is a significant impact on southbound traffic on Lyons.
We recommend avoiding that section of Lyons Road for the next hour or so.

Recently Sold Homes in 33433

Homes in the 33433 zip code are located east of Lyons Road and west of Military Trail, south of Glades Road down to the county line. Some neighborhoods in this zip code include: Boca Rio Golf Club, Boca Del Mar, Boca Pointe and Town Place Club Villas. The following homes sold in September and October 2014:
23270costadelsolThis ranch home in the Costa Del Sol subdivision of Boca Pointe Country Club sold for $340,000. Built in 1993, 23270 Costa Del Sol Blvd has 3 bedrooms and 3 full bathrooms. It has 2060 sq. feet of living space and an open floor plan. There is a 2 car garage. This home previously sold for $233,000 in 1999.

21195juegocir21195 Juego Cir# 16 A in the Vistas of Boca Lago sold for $305,000. This one story home has 3 bedrooms and 3 full bathrooms in 2,000 sq. feet. This villa has a completely remodeled kitchen and bathrooms and lush tropical landscaping. This home was purchased in 2012 for $230,000.

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cloistersThis one story home in The Cloisters sold for $440,000. It has 4 bedrooms and 3 full bathrooms. Built in 1985, it has 2860 sq. feet and a large private fenced yards. The kitchen has granite counter tops and new wood cabinets.

7908mandarinThis contemporary home at 7908 Mandarin Dr sold for $670,000. Located in Boca Grove, it was built in 2000 and overlooks the 7th fairway. It has 4 bedrooms and 4.5 bathrooms in 3641 sq. feet of living space. It has high polished porcelain floors throughout, a custom kitchen and a master bedroom with his/her baths. This home was previously purchased in 2013 for $325,000.

7053viamediterraniaThe spacious courtyard home at 7053 Via Mediterrania sold for $765,000. Located in the gated community of Mediterrania, it has 4  bedrooms and 3.5 bathrooms in the main house and a 1 bedroom plus bathroom separate guest house. Built in 1997, the 3 car garage home has lake views. This home was originally purchased for $545,100.

20130watersedgeThis villa at 20130 Waters Edge Dr #702, located in Boca West, sold for $362,500. The villa has 3 bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms in 1979 sq. feet. Built in 1987, it has a screened porch with water and golf views.
Note that Boca West is actually in zip code 33434.

Home Sales in 33428 for June and Early July

Homes in the 33428 zip code are west of Lyons Road, east of Glades Road, south of Glades Road and North of Loxahatchee Road. Neighborhoods in this zip code include Boca Woods Country Club, Mission Bay, Boca Falls, Boca Winds, Loggers’ Run, Avalon, Vineyards, Boca Lago Country Club, and Boca Dunes Golf & Country Club. Students go to Loggers Run Middle School or Eagles Landing Middle School and West Boca Community High School or Olympic Heights Community High.
21867cypresspalmctAt the top of the list is 21867 Cypress Palm Ct, sold for $700,000. This single family home has 5 bedrooms and 4.5 bath. This two story estate on a large cul de sac lot has 4041 sw. feet of living space. The kitchen boasts custom wood cabinetry, granite counter tops and top of the line appliances. It is located in the Avalon subdivision of Parkview Estates, west of Lyons and north of Palmetto Park Road. It was built in 1997 for $394,400 and purchased in 2005 for $825,000.

12468clearfallsdr12468 Clearfalls Drive in Boca Falls sold for $595,000. This 5 bedroom, 5 bath home is situated on a cul-de-sac with lake views. It is 3444 sq. feet and was built in 1997. The home has a heated pool and spa, updated kitchen with stainless steel appliances and marble floors. It was originally purchased for $294,300 and was sold for $515,000 in 2002.

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You could be featured in articles like this.
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9260vistadellagoThis totally remodeled villa located at 9260 Vista Del Lago Del Lago Unit 22B in The Pines of Boca Lago sold for $310,000. The 3 bedroom, 2 bath villa was built in 1980. The home has 1860 sq. feet, a brand new kitchen with an open floor plan and hurricane impact sliders.

11092bocawoodsln11092 Boca Woods Ln in the Boca Woods Country Club sold for $312,500. This remodeled home has 3 bedrooms and 3 full baths in 2365 square feet. The ranch, originally built in 1988, it has an open kitchen with state of the art appliances and a view of the lake and golf course. Club membership is required.

12637littlepalmlnThis 4 bedroom, 3.5 bath at 12637 Little Palm Ln sold for $480,000. Located on a lake in the Boca Winds development, it is 3253 sq. feet and has a covered pool and patio. The home was built in 1988.

11149harbourspringsThis home in the Harbour Springs section of Mission Bay sold for $459,000. 11149 Harbour Springs Circle has 4 bedrooms and 2.5 baths in 3292 sq. feet. There is a private fenced yard with a screened in spa and pool.

21081bellavistacir21081 Bella Vista Circle in the manned-gated Estates at Palma Vista sold for $490,000. This 4 bedroom, 3 bath house is located on a lake and has a heated pool. Built in 2002, it has 2497 sq. feet of living space on a 7841 sq. ft lot. Originally purchased for $418, 489, it was sold for $550,000 in 2004 and $693,000 in 2005.