State Criticizes Briny Breezes Project
By Eliot Kleinberg
June 30, 2007
The plan to convert Briny Breezes from mobile homes to a "destination resort" is incompatible with the surrounding region, the state's top planning agency said Friday.
The report by Florida's Department of Community Affairs also criticized the plan as vague and incomplete.
The consultant for the developer insisted he can provide the missing information or show how it doesn't apply to Briny Breezes.
Opponents said the department's comments bolster their position that the plan is bad for the area.
The future of the oceanfront mobile home park has become the line in the sand in the decades-long battle between inevitable development and the desire to hold on to a remnant of the old Florida.
In April, the town's council, the Board of Aldermen, approved a draft of a new comprehensive plan and sent it to the state planning agency.
The panel now will study the agency's comments.
It has scheduled discussions in the next five weeks at three special meetings, plus its regular meeting, and eventually will vote on a final version.
That version then would go back to the agency to see whether it complies with the rules the state applies to developments.
The Community Affairs Department is the latest of a parade of regulatory agencies that raised concerns about the scope of the project. They included Palm Beach County planners, the state's environmental agency, the South Florida Water Management District, and Boynton Beach, which supplies water and sewer service.
And last week, the Treasure Coast Regional Planning council, an advisory group covering four counties, voted to declare the plans "inconsistent" with the region.
"It's now our objection," Charles Gauthier, the department's director of community planning, said from Tallahassee. "It carries that weight as part of the state's objections."
Ocean Land Investments consultant Charles Siemon contended the Treasure Coast council's objection was based primarily on a density formula that concluded developers would build far more units than what Ocean Land plans on the 43-acre tract: 900 condominiums, 300 time shares, and a 300-room hotel.
Ocean Land has said it will build only what government will allow, even if that means scaling back.
"We can't exceed what the concurrency calls for," Siemon said Friday.
But, he said, "the market is going to demand that it (the resort) really be great and attractive. People that have the resources to buy two and three million dollar units - they are discriminating consumers. They are not going to buy a pig in the poke."
Tom Evans, a former Delaware congressman who chairs the Florida Coalition for Preservation, a group formed to oppose the development, said Friday: "Every objective analysis by governmental entities and others has been highly critical of the plan, except those financially linked to the developer. We believe the initial proposal was so grossly out of bounds that even with a vastly reduced proposal, the developer's plan will not resolve the inherent risks to the environment or strains on the local infrastructure."
The agency 's complaint about compatibility with the region is one neighbors have made consistently, some since even the day after residents voted in January to sell to Boca Raton-based Ocean Land for $510 million.
Residents of Ocean Ridge and Gulf Stream and a "pocket" of unincorporated Palm Beach County, both the wealthy and the less affluent, have said the plan will destroy their way of life.
They've written letters, packed meetings, and organized the coalition.
Briny Breezes residents have argued that their mobile home park is one storm from oblivion, the development proposal is responsible and compatible, and wealthy neighbors just want their way.