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Terms for Ocean Mall approved

Posted: 2006 Sep 01 - 01:16
By Sarah Stover  [Click to send E-Mail]
Staff writer

SINGER ISLAND - Despite Wayne Huizenga withdrawing his proposal to bring yacht maker Rybovich to Riviera Beach, redevelopment is moving ahead.

At its Aug. 23 meeting the Riviera Beach City Council and the City Redevelopment Agency board approved terms for renovating the Ocean Mall.

The terms call for Marriott to build 125-room hotel rooms and Palm Beach Gardens-based Catalfumo Construction to build 250 condominium units that would stand 300 feet high on the site.

Council passed the measure 4 to 1 with only Councilman Jim Jackson, who represents Singer Island, dissenting.

"I'm sitting up here today because in my campaign I promised I would keep the beach the way it is. Mr. Catalfumo has a beautiful project, but the only problem is, it does not belong on the Ocean Mall," said Mr. Jackson.

The major issues seemed to be the height of the proposed buildings and beach access.

Out of the 12 residents who spoke during the public comments, only three were for the project. However, some residents who opposed it were not against the plan completely.

"I like the layout. The problem I have with this project is 300 feet," said Fane Lozman, who lives on a houseboat at the Riviera Beach Marina.

Jimmy McAdams, who lives in the Phoenix Towers on Singer Island, said that condominium resales have been sluggish as an argument against the plan.

"The last thing we need on Singer Island is another condo/hotel," he said.

Another resident, George Murphy, complained that the building's height would take his sunshine away.

Tony Gigliotti, chairman of the board of the Singer Island Civic Association agreed.

"Singer Island is not a destination, it's a residential place," he said.

He said he became a member of the organization, which stands for preserving the area's character while enhancing the quality of life for its residents, "to work with Riviera Beach to make redevelopment a reality," he said. The organization tried to get the developers to compromise and tone the proposed tower from 10 or 15 stories to no avail, he said.

Others were worried about the beach.

"I've lived here (for) 25 years and we all want to improve the city, but (the council) is giving away what many cities would love to have: a public beach," said Bill Contol, president of Citizens for Responsible Growth, a nonprofit corporation in Singer Island.

"All of us want shops and wonderful restaurants. None of us want these condos," said Mr. Contol.

Some residents walked out, but several stayed for the next agenda item: whether to renew CRA director Floyd Johnson's contract.

In a 3-2 vote the council agreed to extend Mr. Johnson's contract for one month. Mr. Jackson and Councilwoman Norma Duncombe dissented.

During his two years in Riviera Beach, Mr. Johnson has gained a lot of support. At least 10 residents spoke in favor of renewing his contract.

"I think it would do the city a great disservice to lose him. I also think we should take into account the kind of instability that would occur if we let him go," said Steve White, a resident of Riviera Beach.

Councilwoman Vanessa Lee proposed that the board renew Mr. Johnson's contract for a month, so they can hold a workshop to set goals that the board and Mr. Johnson can agree on. She spoke with Mr. Johnson prior to the meeting and he told her he would agree to the arrangement.

"The idea that we'll have an opportunity to sit down in a workshop setting and discuss goals is fine with me," said Mr. Johnson."I think it will facilitate two things: one, I can set the record straight as to what I have accomplished in the past two years, and two, it will set goals, so everyone will know what is expected. I'm looking forward to it."

A date for the workshop has not been set yet.

At a previous CRA board meeting, discussion about renewing Mr. Johnson's contract was premature because according to his contract, the CRA board needed to evaluate him before making a decision on renewal.

Copies of their evaluations showed that Councilwoman Liz Wade, Mr. Jackson and Chairwoman Ann Iles think Mr. Johnson is doing a good job.