President’s Message – Winter 2013/2014
By this time our members are reading my message many of our seasonal residents have returned and our year round residents have made it through another hurricane season unscathed.
SICA is actively involved in several different issues affecting island residents. Some of these issues are continued development at the Ocean Mall, a police substation, more and more sober houses, Riviera Beach CRA activities on the island, and last but not least the severe erosion problem on our beaches. I will address the Ocean Mall and the CRA and other board members and Riviera Beach officials will comment on the remaining topics.
There is a new owner of the leasehold improvements at the Ocean Mall. The purchaser of the mall is from Boca Raton and has many years of experience in developing retail sites. Upon visiting the mall one can see that the old 7-11 has moved to a new location at the north end. Plans call for a two story structure where the old 7-11 was located. Construction is to begin tentatively in February. The new owner indicated he is trying to attract at least one more restaurant operator with an upscale motif. Other retail type businesses are also planned.
The Riviera Beach CRA continues to make its presence visible on the island. Their recent acquisition of Max and Eddy’s restaurant site is the first step in trying to change the appearance of retail sites along Beach Court and Blue Heron Blvd. Tony Brown, Executive Director of the RBCRA has had ongoing discussions with property owners on the island. A parking garage is still in the works behind the Grator Gator. There has been talk of putting a small hotel on top of the garage. Island residents have expressed their concerns about the height of such a structure. They have told Mr. Brown that five stories is the maximum height with which they would feel comfortable.
Special Election – Marina Referendum
On March 11, 2014 the City of Riviera Beach will hold a special election. The only item on the ballot will be a referendum allowing private development to take place at the Riviera Beach Marina. A similar referendum was approved by the citizens in March of 2011 which replaced another referendum approved in November of 2010. The 2010 referendum prohibited any private development at the marina. A legal challenge to the 2011 referendum resulted in a local judge ruling that the 2011 language was not clear as to its intent. Because of the judge’s ruling it was necessary for the city to re- draft the language and place it on the ballot in March of 2014. It is very important that all registered voters turn out and vote to support the new referendum. Without approval the only development that would take place would be the construction of a new Newcomb Hall. This would be a publically owned facility which has traditionally been subsidized by the City of Riviera Beach. The Riviera Beach Marina boat slips would be operated by the city. The marina operations have consistently lost money over the past several years. Why is the fate of the marina important to Singer lsland residents? Private development at the marina increases the tax base. This will have a positive effect on the taxes that island residents pay. Without private development the marina has the potential to be a sinkhole for city residents. The last election held in March of 2013 saw only 600 residents on the island vote out of a potential 3,000 registered to vote. SICA along with the other organizations on the island is determined to not let that happen. If residents don’t like getting in their car and driving to Phil Foster Park to vote, they can secure an absentee ballot and drop it in their mailbox.
Ongoing beach erosion continues to be a vexing problem for residents of Palm Beach County and the entire State of Florida. The north end of Singer Island has been one of the most impacted areas in the state. The solution for beach erosion on Singer Island is complicated by environmental issues such as the large number of turtle nests annually and the hard bottom offshore that helps sustain sea life. Over the past several years island residents have lobbied elected county commissioners to approve permanent structures off the coastline of Singer Island. The county commissioners actually voted 5-2 in approving breakwaters off of the island. The breakwaters also had the support of the Army Corp of Engineers. Final approval had to come from four federal agencies such as the Federal Fish and Wildlife Commission. The four agencies nixed the proposed breakwaters due to environmental concerns.
After Hurricane Sandy dealt a severe blow to Singer Island beaches, condominium owners on the beach felt they could no longer wait for the government to protect their beaches and more importantly their homes. With the threat of evacuation from their homes during Sandy, more condominiums applied for seawall permits. The Florida DEP approved their requests and several seawalls will be under construction by the time you read our newsletter. Once again the Federal Fish and Wildlife Commission threatened some condominium associations with potential criminal charges due to environmental concerns pertaining to sea turtle nesting.
In August of 2012 a new beach coalition was formed due to the efforts of Sonny Nardulli, president of Eastpointe One. Sonny reached out to SICA for help in organizing and maintaining the coalition.
Protect our Beaches Coalition has grown from 1400 members on Singer Island to over 20,000 association members from Jupiter to Boca Raton. Annual membership dues started at $80 per resident per year and since have been reduced to $40 for 2014.
The following are many of the accomplishments the coalition has produced since its inception:
- Gained support of several business and professional organizations including the Realtors Association of Palm Beach County, Palm Beach Economic Council, the Palm Beach Council of Firefighters and Paramedics, and also the Marriot Resort and SPA on Singer Island.
- Expanded the coalition’s board to include community leaders throughout Palm Beach County.
- Met individually with every county commissioner, State officials, and the entire Palm Beach County Congressional delegation.
- We are pushing for changes to the Federal environmental laws, NEPA, to allow for more permitting latitude so that innovative approaches, technological advancements, and alternative erosion control systems can be evaluated and vetted.
- We are advocating for recurring revenue for beach projects at the federal, state and local levels.
The ultimate goal for the coalition as it pertains to Singer Island is the construction of breakwaters off shore. To accomplish this, the coalition must convince the federal government to allow a test pilot project of 3 to 4 breakwaters to determine the impact on turtle nesting. The best and quickest way is to have our local congressional representatives sponsor a bill allowing the pilot project to move forward. Congressman Patrick Murphy has instructed his staff attorney to contact the coalition’s political lobbyist, Tom DeRita, for the proposed language. Tom will be working with Palm Beach County Environmental Engineer, Dan Bates, for help regarding the wording. For more information regarding the coalition visit their website at wwwbeachescoalition.com.