Coalition Forms Against Irresponsible Barrier Island Development
Florida Coalition for Preservation calls for reasonable and responsible development of Briny Breezes
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - April 26, 2007
CONTACT: Ryan Banfill - (850) 222-1996
BRINY BREEZES, FL - A broad array of elected officials, conservation organizations, responsible development experts and civic leaders joined today to announce the foundation of the Florida Coalition for Preservation - an organization committed to protecting storm-prone barrier islands from falling victim to irresponsible development projects.
The newly formed Coalition's first objective is to stop a massive development project proposed at Briny Breezes.
“This Coalition supports reasonable and responsible development that respects the area's character and environment,” former Congressman Tom Evans chairman of the Coalition and author of the Coastal Barrier Resources Act. “The proposed Briny Breezes development doesn't meet the test. We believe that with a little imagination, the community can find the right way to develop this area without destroying it.”
The proposed Briny Breezes development would jam the 43-acre site with multiple high rise buildings up to 20 stories tall, including 900 condominium units, a 349-room luxury hotel, 300 timeshare units, restaurants, shopping and a yacht marina. This project would tower above an area where current oceanfront buildings are limited to homes and multifamily residences no more than five stories tall.
"Palm Beach County's coastal community is a precious jewel for everyone to treasure, and I'm deeply concerned the proposed development at Briny Breezes could forever change this area we love,” said Palm Beach County Commissioner Mary McCarty. "I'm troubled that the plan would put a costly strain on our limited resources and forever alter the special natural character of this barrier island. We should work to find a better way to develop Briny Breezes."
Ocean Ridge Mayor Ken Kaleel agreed that the current plan to develop Briny Breezes must be changed to adequately address community concerns.
“Just because Briny Breezes has voted to privatize its town to developers doesn't mean the people of this area's other municipalities shouldn't have a say in the key decisions that will radically change our community's way of life,” Ken Kaleel. “If we let Briny Breezes and the developers solely set the agenda and make the decisions, it is my fear that, when the community's best interests clash with getting this deal done, profit will come before people.”
The Coalition brought attention to a number of fatal flaws in the proposed development. First, the current plan would create a heavy and costly strain on local infrastructure and new threats to the area's fragile environment.
The negative impact of the eight-year project would almost immediately be felt in the form of increased traffic congestion, as the sudden influx of construction vehicles would cause constant traffic tie-ups along two-lane State Road A1A. Increased car, truck and boat traffic will also conspire to create gridlock along the three aging single-lane drawbridges that provide access to the barrier island, which are raised each half hour.
Furthermore, the Coalition noted that such an increase in population density would dangerously hamper efforts to evacuate the island should a major hurricane or another emergency threaten the area.
"This barrier island is extremely vulnerable to hurricanes. We have to assume it's a matter of when, not if, it will be hit by a storm,” said Max Mayfield, former director of the National Hurricane Center. “For that reason, it's vitally important that local and state officials ensure any development there is appropriate given the likelihood that evacuation will someday be necessary. A high-density, high rise development here makes it harder for all area residents to evacuate safely."
Second, the developers have indicated that the amount of water needed to serve the influx of new residents would increase the island's water usage by millions of gallons a year, putting increased pressure on the region's scarce water resources. Additional sewage discharged by the proposed population increase is yet another concern raised by the Coalition, as experts warn it would degrade coastal reefs.
"The long-suffering coral reefs near Briny Breezes are already choking from exposure to sewage discharge from a treatment plant operating near capacity," said Ed Tichenor of Palm Beach County Reef Rescue. "If developers don't find a better way to treat and dispose of sewage responsibly, the increased discharge could destroy nearby reefs forever."
Moreover, the Coalition is also concerned that the Briny Breezes development proposal doesn't adequately protect wildlife in the area. In contrast to a March 2007 environmental report that “found no state or federal endangered species in town,” documents from the Palm Beach County Department of Resources Management show the area is an active nesting ground for endangered sea turtles, a feeding area for manatees and a habitat for bird and marine life.
Coalition members are concerned that allowing for the overdevelopment of the island, without regard for overall quality of life issues, will adversely affect the entire region.
“Allowing for continued maximum development on the barrier islands raises major policy issues of great concern,” said former Secretary of the Florida Department of Community Affairs Thaddeus Cohen. “Creating a destination resort community of this magnitude at this location adversely affects traffic, police and fire service, as well as hurricane preparedness and response, to name just a few issues. It is clear there needs to be a balance between development interests and preserving the fabric of the community.”
The Coalition aims to persuade local and state decision makers to radically and responsibly alter the proposed development project before it forever mars the face of Palm Beach County's coastal landscape. To learn more about the Florida Coalition for Preservation, please visit www.preservationfla.org or call (561) 274-6491.