CHECKS AND BALANCES
VOL. 12 NO. 1
Looking north from the Ocean Mall,
Phoenix Towers and Tiara show between
the 'unobtrusive' Catalfumo 2700 project.
On 27 November 2006, after two postponements, the County Commission by a 5 to 2 vote passed Amendment 06-2 to Riviera Beach's TCEA on Singer Island. This amendment is historic as it places limits on developments that have a substantial impact on the traffic that occurs on N. Ocean Boulevard, the only access route on/off this barrier island.
Over three years ago, Riviera Beach asked
Palm Beach County, who has jurisdiction over traffic, to set up a TCEA
(Transportation Concurrency Exception Area) for the area
falling within the City's CRA (Community Redevelopment Area). The TCEA would give the City the ability to count development impacts on traffic differently in order to facilitate redevelopment.
Within a TCEA, the municipality can "manage" traffic growth as long as it does not exceed the county standards on roads feeding into or going out of the TCEA. This gives the municipality the flexibility to plan and develop the total area instead of seeking approval on a project-by-project basis inside the CRA boundaries.
Outside of a TCEA, each development project has a certain number of car trips assigned. Those trips are not counted until the project on that parcel is complete and considered 'built out'. The problem with this is that projects are approved on their individual merits with their counts not being added into the traffic load until build out. This means that many more projects can be approved than what the roads can handle. When the maximum traffic numbers for a road are met, the approved projects can still proceed, resulting in an overcapacity on the roadway. The result of this methodology can be seen/experienced in roads all over the county.
|Traffic yet to come, The Resort. December 2006 opening postponed to March 2007.|
Island residents were originally opposed to the TCEA, so the County partnered with the City to hold meetings to explain the benefits of a TCEA in an effort to get the residents' approval. This partnering was successful and the TCEA was put in place. The City promised that traffic standards on North Ocean Boulevard outside of the TCEA would not be exceeded up through the year 2025. At this initial meeting with the public, Gordon Rowse, a Singer Island resident, questioned whether, or not, the traffic numbers and projected growth being used by the county were correct. He was then joined by two other residents, Bob Nevins and Bill Contole, in a multi-year effort to obtain correct traffic counts and development projections.
As the City then began to approve very large projects outside of the TCEA, it became obvious to these three Singer Island residents that the capacity of North Ocean Boulevard was soon to be exceeded, far in advance of 2025. During subsequent traffic counts, it became apparent that the original traffic data used by Riviera Beach was flawed and should not be used.
Working with Karen Marcus and the county traffic engineers, a new traffic study was put in place and it showed that the City had already essentially used up the capacity for traffic on N. Ocean Boulevard by approving multiple large projects outside of the CRA district. Including the added input of the TCEA in the calculations, the traffic impact clearly exceeded the County's LOS-D standards for 2025. The amendment to the TCEA was prepared to take into account the total of: existing traffic, the impact of traffic for approved developments outside the TCEA area, and the impact on traffic of developments inside of the TCEA. The City, of course objected and wanted traffic impact calculations to be counted only at build out.
After many months of administrative reviews by the Land Use Advisory Board (LUAB) and the State's Department of Community Affairs (DCA), the TCEA Amendment passed on 27 November allowing traffic standards to be met by counting the current traffic as well as the traffic that each project will bring with it. A development project's projected traffic count will be recorded when the project is approved, rather than waiting until it is completed.
The City has taken the position that it
is being singled out as this is a first in Palm Beach County. However, this
Amendment to the TCEA gives the county the tools to manage traffic, instead of
reacting to traffic over capacity. This could/should be the blueprint for
traffic management countywide -- the first of an action, not just a singling out
action. Applying this procedure to count traffic across the entire county in
the same manner as it is done within a TCEA would work toward making our roads
less crowded. The Riviera Beach's TCEA traffic standards could be the beginning
of a change that would benefit the entire county.
Catalfumo's 2700 N. Ocean building
from Blue Heron Blvd... and more traffic.
The City also argues that the County is interfering in Home Rule, but when the city passes ordinances that allow overcapacity on the county's roads, and then approves projects that result in overcapacity, the county then should be able to step in and say "that is enough", and it did.
Senator Jeff Atwater appeared at the 27 November County meeting to speak in favor of the amendment.
Senator Atwater stressed the character of
the island was changing too dramatically resulting in overcrowding the
road as well as negative effects on the fragile environment of Singer Island. Many residents and community leaders
spoke in favor as well.
This 'yes' vote was the culmination of many years of work on the part of three residents of Singer Island, Karen Marcus and the county traffic engineers. Over the course of reviewing this TCEA Amendment, the LUAB (Land Use Advisory Board) had twice recommended approval. In addition, the Community Officers' Association of Singer Island, the Yacht Harbor Manor Homeowners' Association, the Palm Beach Isles Homeowners' Association, the Yacht Harbor Estates Homeowners' Association, and the Singer Island Civic Association voiced their support of limiting the traffic to LOS D Standards on N. Ocean Boulevard. Palm Beach Shores also supported the Amendment as Riviera Beach has consistently ignored this community's rights for traffic considerations on/off and through the Island. Thank you to all who had a hand in the passage of this very important TCEA Amendment!
Epilogue: Although the Amendment has been passed, the City of Riviera Beach does have the option of appealing the County's decision to the State Department of Community Affairs. The story continues and public support is needed to reach the final conclusion.
Regular updates on issues affecting Singer Island/Riviera Beach can be found on the website: rg4rb.org. Now, more than ever, it is extremely important for all of us to keep up to date on what is happening that affects Singer Island as well as all of Riviera Beach.
Please lend your support to the Public Beach Coalition. This group of unpaid volunteers is working to support both the TCEA Amendment and the effort to have the Municipal Beach Property (known as the Ocean Mall) developed in a manner that keeps it as a public space for all to enjoy. Contributions can be sent to: Public Beach Coalition, 1281 N. Ocean Blvd., PMB 119, Riviera Beach, Fl 33404
Please note: The expressed opinions may or may not be the same as those shared by Seabreeze Publications Inc