CRA backs pact to redo Riviera Beach waterfront

RIVIERA BEACH The public's vision of a smaller, less intense waterfront advanced Monday, when the redevelopment board approved a $650,000 contract with the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council.

The unanimous vote sets the stage for Treasure Coast to rewrite the city's comprehensive plan to reflect residents' wishes.

Dubbed the Citizens' Master Plan, it calls for 400 acres along the Intracoastal Waterway to be redeveloped incrementally rather than as one massive project as called for in a prior plan.

Sitting as the community redevelopment agency, the board gave Treasure Coast 18 months to make the necessary legal changes to incorporate the new concept.

According to the contract, Treasure Coast also must amend the city's CRA plan and write new zoning codes.

The vote prompted applause from residents, who have been working since September 2007 to make the redevelopment effort more resident-friendly.

Residents opposed the former plan - which included a hotel, aquarium, marina, condos, shops and restaurants - because they felt it was too developer-driven.

In 2006, the public elected a new majority to the council, a group that agreed with residents' concerns regarding the redevelopment.

On Monday, Councilman Shelby Lowe reminded residents at the CRA meeting of their alliance.

"We were there when the Citizens' Master plan was being birthed," Lowe told the audience.

"I know we've had a checkered past as it relates to the redevelopment. I'm just going to make an appeal for you to trust us."

Michael Busha, Treasure Coast's executive director, said the city council, which also sits as the CRA, must approve the contract.

Treasure Coast will then chart a course to change the various city plans and codes, he said.

Busha gave this example: Under the old plan, Broadway, which runs through the heart of the CRA area, was supposed to be moved a block west, to create a large lagoon to expand the city's marina.

That's no longer a part of the plan.

Timing is also crucial. The CRA just began seeking developers to revamp the city's newly formed marina district.

Developers have until September to submit proposals to lease the marina and redevelop the 10 surrounding acres.

County Commissioner Karen Marcus, who has bird-dogged the process since September, said residents should be proud that their work is finally paying off. Marcus' commission district includes Singer Island, whose residents were vocal critics of the previous plan.

"When the public is involved ... it's a good thing," Marcus said.