Commission traffic ruling irks Riviera city council

WEST PALM BEACH Dozens of Singer Island residents cheered Monday after county commissioners approved strengthening traffic restrictions on most of the island.

But Riviera Beach officials vow to fight the county commission's decision, which they say will hamper their redevelopment efforts.

The monthslong dispute that pits many island residents against their own city council could end in a state administrative hearing, a court-like proceeding held when county comprehensive plan changes are challenged.

The city and county in 2003 approved allowing exemptions for traffic standards for Riviera Beach's redevelopment plans, which cover much of the city's mainland and a sliver of Singer Island.

A traffic study at the time underestimated the true traffic impact new development would create on Singer Island, according to the county, and many island residents say the roads are clogged as it is.

A group of residents asked County Commissioner Karen Marcus, whose district includes Singer Island, to lobby for their concerns.

Carole Donohoo, president of the Singer Island Civic Association, said the city council is concerned only with development and the fact the county is trying to impose traffic restrictions on the city.

"It clearly shows that their priorities do not match the desires of the residents," she said.

A handful of residents, along with Riviera Beach city officials, said the stronger traffic standards will limit the city's redevelopment efforts on the island, as well as the rebuilding of older and hurricane-damaged condos.

"This is purely a political issue," City Councilwoman Liz Wade said. The stronger traffic measures do "not help Riviera Beach."

County commissioners gave initial approval to the traffic standards in July, which resulted in Riviera Beach Mayor Michael Brown threatening to have the city pull its commitment to set aside industrial-zoned land for biotech businesses that want to locate near The Scripps Research Institute.

Commissioners approved the restrictions Monday with a 5-2 vote, with Mary McCarty and Chairwoman Addie Greene - whose district includes the Riviera Beach mainland - dissenting. Planners with the state's Department of Community Affairs will review the proposed the changes to the comprehensive plan.