Mall limits pass, council incumbents ousted

By Sarah Stover
Staff writer
Posted: 2007 Mar 23 - 01:16

SINGER ISLAND - With two ballot questions regarding the Ocean Mall project passing and six new candidates slated for a runoff election, it appears that Singer Island residents voted for change on March 13.

"The voters sent a clear message: 'Look out for our interests before (those of) the developers.' The message to Catalfumo was, 'Go bully your way into someone else's sandbox. The residents of Riviera Beach don't want to play your game,'" said Singer Island resident Dawn Pardo, who is also president of the Public Beach Coalition, a mix of organizations opposed to development on the beach property.

Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley ruled that two items regarding the Ocean Mall redevelopment project - limits on its lease length and height restrictions - would go on the ballot after a lawsuit between city officials and Ms. Pardo ensued over whether petitions for the items were collected correctly.

City officials agreed to a 50-year lease with an automatic renewal of 49 years with the lead developer on the project, Catalfumo Construction and Development of Palm Beach Gardens.

One amendment calls for the city to restrict the property lease for a maximum of 50 years.

The plan between Catalfumo and Marriott, that collectively forms the Ocean Mall Redevelopment Company, was to make a 28-story mixed-use building on the 11 acres of property.

The second amendment sets a limit of five-stories for any building constructed on the mall property.

The first amendment passed with 62 percent of the vote, and the second passed with 61 percent.

"The voters overwhelmingly voted to decrease lease terms and height limitations. Catalfumo needs to respect the citizens of Riviera Beach and either sell back the lease to the city or build retail and restaurants at the mall and a beautiful beach park for all the residents and visitors to enjoy," said Ms. Pardo.

Dan Catalfumo still plans to develop the property, but has to make some changes.

"What we had in mind was going to bring $100 million (or so) as it was, but we can't do that at this point. We have to take a step back and see about alternatives," said Josie Hernandez, director of marketing and communication for Catalfumo.

The developer argued he needed a 99-year lease to get financing for a project this size, since more banks and lenders recently use that as the length of time needed to see a return.

Since the lease is now for 50 years, Mr. Catalfumo and his team need to look over financial options. However, the developers do not know what they will do in regard to the height requirement amendment.

"A five-story building is not economically feasible for us. It has never been a back-up plan or anything," said Ms. Hernandez.

Meanwhile, residents also plan to continue their support for three candidates in the March 27 run-off election who defeated the incumbents.

Shelby Lowe is vying for the Group 5 seat, while in District 3, Cedrick Thomas is running and Lynne Hubbard is vying for District 1seat.

The three incumbent Councilwomen, Ann Iles, Elizabeth Wade and Vanessa Lee, each placed third in their respective races. candidates.

"Our next step is to elect Mr. Lowe, Ms. Hubbard and Mr. Thomas. They are fed up with the crime rate, the lack of development on the west side and they are extremely sympathetic to the needs of Singer Island. Each of these candidates participated in the Ocean Mall petition process and encouraged all residents to get involved," said Ms. Pardo.

"(If they win the election) we believe they will support the vote of the people and will request that they codify this support," said Anthony Gigliotti, chairman of the board of the Singer Island Civic Association.

The incumbent mayor, Michael Brown, was also ousted. Bishop Thomas Masters will take over as Riviera Beach mayor.

Calls to the Riviera Beach attorney's office to see if city officials plan to withdraw their appeal of Judge Kelley's ruling were not returned by press time. Calls to Councilman Jim Jackson, who represents Singer Island and has opposed the Ocean Mall project for comment, were also not returned by press time.