Briny Breezes - History

State Voices Concerns Over Development of Briny Breezes
State outlines concerns over development

By Patty Pensa
June 30, 2007

Opponents of plans to transform Briny Breezes into a luxury resort got a boost Friday when the state outlined a series of concerns about affordable housing, the environment, roads and hurricane evacuation.

For months, residents who live near the seaside mobile home community have been battling with Ocean Land Investments over the future of the 43-acre slice of land along State Road A1A. They hailed comments from the state Department of Community Affairs as a blow to the developer's plans.

"I think it validates what our concerns have been all along," said Ocean Ridge Mayor Ken Kaleel. "Hopefully, they'll take heed to the comments and minimize the size and scope of the project."

Ocean Land wants to build 900 condominiums, 300 time shares and 350 hotel rooms in Briny. Earlier this year, the developer agreed to buy the town for $510 million when three-fourths of residents voted for the sale. The deal could make some residents millionaires.

Comments from the state will not change the project, said Logan Pierson, a vice president at Ocean Land. Still, the developer announced Friday that the resort would be "green," built to be environmentally friendly.

Pierson said the developer and town would address all of the state's concerns by its July 25 deadline. It plans to revise the town's comprehensive plan, which would pave the way for development. The state must approve changing the land use to allow the development.

The state cited the town's failure to include population projections, making it impossible to determine the impact on public facilities. It said the town failed to include the necessary plan to assess future water needs. It criticized the town for failing to include procedures to add public comment and encourage it.

The town didn't discuss affordable housing and group homes or foster-care facilities, the state said. It failed to address the impact on a threatened type of sea grass, and it did not offer enough data on manatees.

"Some of that would have been expected because the comp plan was really the first draft," Pierson said.

The developer released a study earlier this week saying Palm Beach County would collect about $37 million at the community's build-out in 2020. The school district would take in about $25 million a year.

About 2,300 residents are expected to live there.

But neighbors, the county, planning groups and now the state all appear against the developer. The root of their discontent is a potentially overcrowded development that sticks out among the high-end homes and mansions in nearby Gulf Stream and Ocean Ridge. They also express concerns about traffic, the environment and water supply.

Overall, the state declared the town's comprehensive plan inconsistent with state laws about housing, public safety, water resources, transportation and land use.

"It's certainly incompatible with the surrounding area, that's for darn sure, in scale and character," said Tom Evans, chairman of the Florida Coalition for Preservation. "Any way you want to look at it, it's incompatible."

Evans said he's happy to see a "green" development but questioned whether it's possible considering what's planned.

"I'd love to see an environmentally friendly development," he said, "but when you jam a bunch of high-rises there and you destroy the surrounding community, that's not environmentally friendly by any stretch of the imagination."

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