Singer Island: How much?

Palm Beach Post Editorial
Friday, July 28, 2006

Some Singer Island residents have enlisted Palm Beach County Commissioner Karen Marcus to invoke county traffic restrictions against any further redevelopment on Riviera Beach's barrier island. That's not the way to resolve their problems with the city.

But to see some of the reasons for the residents' concern, one need only look at the massive condo-hotel going up on the site of the former Canopy Palms Ramada Resort on North Ocean Drive. Consider also the hotel tower, double time-share towers and parking garage that city politicians once approved in concept for the public beach at the island's Ocean Mall. In fact, it's impossible to ignore the new Marina Grande condo towers and boat-storage facility that in perpetuity will be blocking out the sky at the foot of the Blue Heron Bridge.

Some city council members concede that they didn't know that those projects would be so massive. That doesn't eliminate their argument that the county is selectively applying its traffic concurrency exception standards. The 3-2 commission decision requires a state review and a second vote. But the county's action had Mayor Michael Brown misguidedly trying to knee-jerk the city from its commitments to reserve biotech spinoff space for The Scripps Research Institute.

"The county should not be telling Riviera Beach how much development it can do on the island," says County Commissioner Addie Greene. She represents the mainland; Commissioner Marcus represents the island. It is "unethical and unprofessional," Commissioner Greene said. "The county needs to get out of the city's business." Riviera Beach may be correct that for the county to essentially prevent additional development may be illegal.

But this shouldn't have to come down to a legal battle. As city Councilwoman Liz Wade says, "There are those who won't be happy with anything" the city approves on Singer Island. County Commissioner Warren Newell notes that some island residents want no redevelopment, including at the run-down mall, where a classy project would really help the city's revitalization. He added that he voted with the majority only because neither city nor county staff could tell him how many units the island is zoned for or ultimately are to be built.

"They need the ability to build up to a point," he said, "but not have it open-ended." Regardless of whether it's Palm Beach County's business, clarity on how much development Riviera Beach wants on Singer Island is the place to start. The answer would satisfy at least some city residents and might give the county less reason to interfere.