Riviera rejects mall plan petitions

RIVIERA BEACH The city council Wednesday night rejected a move by residents to place three petitions on the ballot that stood to undo its deal with builder Dan Catalfumo to revamp the Ocean Mall on Singer Island for $280 million.

The 4-1 vote sets up a legal battle between the city and the Public Beach Coalition.

The coalition organized in October after the council amended the city charter to increase the beach lease from 50 to 99 years for Catalfumo to build a 28-story Marriott hotel/condo and 60,000 square feet of shops and restaurants.

Councilman Jim Jackson was the lone dissenter in Wednesday night's vote.

City Clerk Carrie Ward ruled last week that the three petitions were invalid because the coalition failed to gather enough signatures of registered voters. The clerk contended that some of the signatures were thrown out because they weren't from Riviera Beach residents and the proper people from the coalition didn't sign the petitions.

But the coalition said Florida law supports the manner in which the signatures were collected, as well as the required number of signatures.

"You are going against the wishes of the people," Singer Island resident Bill Contole told the council before Wednesday night's vote.

A 1988 ruling from then-attorney general Bob Butterworth involving the city of Tamarac also concluded that state statutes supersede municipal law when it comes to amending the charter. In Riviera Beach's case, Ward contends the coalition needs signatures from 15 percent of the registered voters on all three petitions.

The coalition, meanwhile, argues that it needs 15 percent only on one petition question.

The two sides differ on the percentage of signatures needed on the other two questions.

Florida law requires more signatures to repeal an ordinance than putting a charter amendment on the ballot.

State law says only 10 percent of the registered voters need to sign the petitions to get an amendment on the ballot to change the charter limiting building height on the public beach to five stories. That percentage is also applicable for the petition question for limiting the beach lease to 50 years and using the land only for tourism and recreation.