Traffic issue settled

 Posted: 2006 Dec 08 - 01:20
By Sarah Stover
Staff writer

SINGER ISLAND - Palm Beach County Commissioners gave the green light to traffic restrictions on Singer Island at a meeting on Nov. 27.

The Riviera Beach City Council was not pleased with the decision, but the majority of residents on the island were satisfied.

"I applaud the county for understanding the impact that traffic has on the residents of Singer Island," said Singer Island resident Dawn Pardo.

"Because (of) the new development on the island, it's going to take much longer to get on and off the island. But the biggest concern is safety. If the Blue Heron Bridge is compromised, there will be Palm Beach Shores and Riviera Beach residents, several thousand, entering and exiting the island via a two-lane road through North Palm Beach. What happens if there's an emergency? The majority of the County Commissioners have the insight to see potential traffic problems," Ms. Pardo said.

In 2003, county commissioners and city officials agreed to put areas slated for redevelopment, which included parts of the mainland and Singer Island, in a traffic concurrency exception area. The special area meant properties incorporated into it did not have to follow traffic restrictions placed on surrounding areas.

Residents were still concerned about development in areas outside the TCEA, so the commissioners came up with a way to handle that.

Owners of areas outside the TCEA need to take into account the current amount of traffic and the estimated amount of traffic that would occur if redevelopment occurred in areas outside the exception zone.

Residents were concerned that developers were not adhering to this rule and raised the issue of enforcing the traffic restrictions.

City officials asked the county to remove the TCEA. The commissioners discussed the issue at their July 19 meeting. In a 3-2 vote, with Commissioners Mary McCarty and Addie Greene dissenting and Commissioner Burt Aaronson and former commission chairman Tony Masilotti absent, the commission sided with residents.

They were supposed to have a second vote at their Nov. 13 meeting, but it was tabled. But at the Nov. 27 meeting, the restrictions were approved in a 5-2 vote, again with Commissioners Greene and McCarty dissenting. Calls to Commissioner Greene, whose district includes the Riviera Beach mainland, were not returned by press time.

The commissioners modified language to clarify the 2025 build-out 'test' owners are supposed to follow. Any development and its impact on traffic has to meet (the traffic) standards that will take place in the year 2025, said Commissioner Karen Marcus, whose district includes Singer Island.

According to a recent traffic study conducted by the county, the (main) road (on Singer Island) is already at capacity and is projected to be over capacity in the next five to seven years, said Commissioner Marcus.

Mayor Michael Brown believes the commissioners' decision to enforce the traffic restrictions will impede redevelopment. He also believes the move was made purposely.

"I think this is a blatant example of racism. They're basically trying to prevent Riviera Beach from developing our city in a way that (allows) everyone (to achieve) a quality standard of life. It couldn't be more blatant when commissioners overdevelop parts of Palm Beach County for their friends and developers. They have two standards: one for whites and one for blacks," Mayor Brown said.

He believes that Commissioner Marcus stabbed Riviera Beach in the back regarding redevelopment, especially after she needed and got Commissioner Greene's support for the Scripps Research Institute in Palm Beach Gardens and Jupiter. He thinks other public officials are thumbing their noses at the city, too.

Sen. Jeff Atwater, R-North Palm Beach, attended the Nov. 27 meeting to support his constituents. Mayor Brown said he and Sen. Atwater spent a day earlier in the year going around the city and talking about what needed to be done.

"Now he has become forgetful and a political animal," said Mayor Brown. "It's shameful to have public officials who are in office for politics, not to be good public servants," he said.

Redevelopment is not going to be affected, and the decision only had to do with traffic, said Commissioner Marcus.

"It's not going to touch the redevelopment areas. They just want to overdevelop," she said.

In regard to Mayor Brown's racial comment, Commissioner Marcus said, "That's always his stance, and it's ridiculous."

The majority of residents agree the restrictions will not impact redevelopment.

"The traffic restrictions are not going to affect the city's redevelopment. The City Council needs to focus their time and energy on redeveloping the mainland instead of insisting that Singer Island residents are a bunch of complainers who don't want redevelopment," Ms. Pardo said.

Calls to Floyd Johnson, executive director of the City Redevelopment Agency, were not returned by press time.