Marcus, Riviera clash over growth of
By William Cooper Jr.
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 25, 2006
RIVIERA BEACH — A zoning change that would limit growth on Singer
Island, which is being pushed by County Commissioner Karen Marcus, has
city officials fuming and threatening to sue the county if a compromise
Both the mayor and the council chairwoman charge that Marcus is meddling
in the city's redevelopment plans, where she doesn't belong. But Marcus,
whose district includes Singer Island, counters that island residents
have lost faith in city officials and approached her about the change
because the county has jurisdiction over traffic standards.
The impact of the zoning changes on Singer Island could ripple to the
mainland, where the city is undertaking a $2.4 billion waterfront
City and county officials are poised to battle over whether Riviera
Beach's traffic study on its redevelopment portrays an accurate picture
of the impact future growth will have on Singer Island. A review of the
Kimley-Horn study suggests the city underestimated the number of cars
that would crowd the island's North Ocean Drive, Marcus said.
"We're not trying to be unfair," she said.
City officials contend that while Marcus is trying to control growth,
the change would virtually freeze development on Singer Island. Marcus'
amendment to the county's comprehensive plan, which regulates growth
countywide, would force properties to remain at their current density
even though the zoning allows for more capacity, City Manager Bill
Wilkins also said Riviera Beach would be the only city in the county to
operate under such an amendment. By law, county officials have the
authority to dictate traffic standards in cities.
In a March 7 letter to County Engineer George Webb, Wilkins asked that
the county not proceed with the change until both sides can reach an
agreement. Wilkins warned Webb that Riviera Beach is "prepared to
vigorously defend its position through whatever means are available to
That means going to court, according to Mary McKinney, the city's
community development director. First, however, the matter has to go
before the seven-member county commission in April.
Singer Island resident Robert Nevins said city officials are so
development-driven that they have forgotten the interests of the
residents. Nevins and other residents spoke in favor of the amendment at
the county's Land Use Advisory Board meeting Friday.
"I got up at that meeting and told them unfortunately, the citizens and
the residents need protection from our own government," Nevins said.
Another Singer Island resident, Gordon Rowse, also supports the
amendment. Rowse said he can no longer trust council members.
"They say they are going to protect the culture on Singer Island, and
they aren't doing it," Rowse said. "I'm looking out for my quality of
life, and I'm just watching that erode away like crazy."
Marcus' amendment comes at a time when the city is negotiating to
redevelop the Ocean Mall property across from Singer Island's public
beach. In 2005, Marriott Vacation Club International was chosen for the
project and proposed building two 24-story time-share towers, a retail
center for shops and restaurants and a 250-room hotel.
But city and Singer Island residents balked at the proposal, saying it
failed to provide enough public access to the beach.
The city council, which sits as the Community Redevelopment Agency
board, is awaiting a revised plan from the development team, which now
includes Dan Catalfumo, Boca Raton resident Norton Herrick and Andrew
Brock, who currently holds a 50-year lease on the Ocean Mall.
City officials are uncertain whether the amendment would affect the
Ocean Mall redevelopment.
Meanwhile, Marcus' proposal has brought together Mayor Michael Brown and
Council Chairwoman Liz Wade, who typically are at odds. Brown and Wade
have vowed to fight it because it could thwart redevelopment plans for
"She has continued to involve herself with our redevelopment over the
years," Brown said of Marcus. "This is just a constant battle, and we
have to fight."
Wade is particularly upset because she supported the north county's
efforts to land The Scripps Research Institute by offering 2.4 million
square feet of industrial space in the city. Three weeks ago, when
Marcus attended a special council meeting that included approval of the
industrial space commitment, Wade reminded Marcus not to forget that the
city was cooperating with the county.
"I don't know what she's trying to do," Wade said.
But Marcus denies there was supposed to be some sort of quid pro quo.
She's looking out for the best interest of her constituents.
"We have reached out to the city," Marcus said. "I understand their
redevelopment, but it shouldn't be done on the backs on the residents of