RIVIERA BEACH — The city council voted unanimously to pursue $14
million that's been set aside for the relocation of U.S. 1 and use the
money to resurface and beautify the road instead.
The money was slated as part of the city's $2.4 billion waterfront
Moving U.S. 1 one block west would provide more land to create a new
marina on the Intracoastal Waterway. Councilman Cedrick Thomas
discovered the money when he attended his first Palm Beach County
Metropolitan Planning Organization meeting. Thomas is the city's
representative on the MPO, which consists of elected officials.
"We're not elected to sit back and do nothing," said Thomas, who was
elected in March.
Thomas sent a letter to the MPO last month requesting the $14
million. But to get the money, the council had to endorse Thomas'
request, which it did Wednesday night.
County Commissioner Karen Marcus, who sits on the MPO, attended the
council meeting and suggested that the city pursue the money to make
improvements along U.S. 1.
Marcus also said that asking for the money now wouldn't keep the city
from relocating U.S. 1 at a later time.
"I don't see it as an either-or," said Marcus, who said she alerted
Thomas to the money while he was campaigning for his council seat.
In 2001, the city approved its plan to redevelop 400 acres along the
Intracoastal. As part of that plan was relocating U.S. 1. However, the
city's redevelopment plan has been stalled for the last year because it
lost the use of eminent domain.
Without eminent domain, the city was unable to acquire land on behalf
of its master developer, Viking Inlet Harbor Properties.
Viking had planned to build a hotel, condos, shops and restaurants
and an aquarium along the Intracoastal. The city and Viking are
renegotiating the plan in light of the loss of eminent domain.
Chairman Shelby Lowe supported going after the money. However, Lowe
also wants to make sure the city doesn't jeopardize the opportunity to
use the money as part of its revised redevelopment plan.
"We don't want to eliminate any of our options as it relates to our
plan," Lowe said.
RIVIERA BEACH — Call it the $14 million question.
City Councilman Cedrick Thomas wants to know
whether the $14 million he wants from the Palm Beach County's
Metropolitan Planning Organization is the same $14 million the MPO set
aside for Riviera Beach to relocate U.S. 1.
Randy Whitfield, the MPO's executive director, said
it is. And if Thomas wants the money, the council is going to have to
take formal action in order to use the money for anything other than the
relocation of U.S. 1, Whitfield said.
The money is earmarked for the relocation of a
1.4-mile stretch of U.S. 1 that runs through Riviera Beach. But Thomas
wants the money to resurface the road and plant flowers and trees along
"We've got to have some official direction from the
city," said Whitfield, whose agency is the county's transportation
planning board consisting of elected county and city officials.
Such action might come as early as tonight during
the council's regular meeting. The five-member council is expected to
discuss and possibly vote on Thomas' request.
Whitfield also noted that the money wasn't
allocated for spending in one lump sum. According to the plan, $5
million was slated for use in 2009 to help acquire land for the right of
way, and the remaining $9 million was budgeted for 2011 for resurfacing
the road and other costs, he said.
In 2001, the city approved its $2.4 billion
waterfront redevelopment plan, which called for moving U.S. 1 one block
west. The goal was to create a CityPlace-like environment and a "working
waterfront" on about 400 acres along the Intracoastal Waterway.
Four years later, the city picked Viking Inlet
Harbor Properties as master developer to do the project. Last May, amid
negotiations over private land, state lawmakers struck a serious blow to
the plan by stripping local governments of the right to use eminent
The city's redevelopment plan hinged on the ability
to take private land and give it to Viking for the purposes of
redevelopment. Eminent domain also was slated to be used to take land to
make way for the relocated U.S. 1.
Bob Healey, Viking's chairman, said Tuesday that
the loss of eminent domain has made relocating U.S. 1 less vital to its
redevelopment plan. Viking has been quietly working on a scaled-down
version of its project, which has yet to be made public.
Healey said the city still has the power to use
eminent domain to move U.S. 1. That's legally possible because the city
can justify taking the land for a public purpose such as rerouting a
It's a decision the council must make if it wants
to proceed with redoing U.S. 1.
"As far as moving U.S. 1, we're (Viking) not going
to be involved," Healey said.
Moving U.S. 1 was also critical to other parts of
the city's redevelopment plan. Under Viking's plan, moving the highway
would have allowed it to dig a harbor about the size of four football
fields to create a new marina. That expansion would give Wayne Huizenga
Jr. enough space to build his proposed mega-yacht servicing center near
the new marina.
Thomas and three other candidates, including Mayor
Thomas Masters, were elected in March by voters who opposed using
eminent domain. Shortly after the election, Thomas was tapped to be the
city's representative on the MPO.
When the rookie councilman learned that the $14
million was "sitting there," Thomas wrote a letter to the MPO requesting
the money to "resurface and beautify" U.S. 1, which is also known as
Broadway in Riviera Beach.
"I want our U.S. 1 to look as good as those U.S.
1's that are around us," said Thomas. "I want it to be a place we can be