Riviera's frustration grows over piece of biotech pie

RIVIERA BEACH Little of the anger and tension the city directed at Palm Beach County spilled into a bioscience advisory board meeting Thursday, though the city council's representative on the board spoke of Riviera Beach being "concerned" about its relationship with the county.

As for Mayor Michael Brown's proposal Wednesday to break the city's agreement with the county and other north county cities to lure biotech businesses, Councilwoman Liz Wade took a more conciliatory stance.

"We know what we signed and we are committed," Wade said. "Hopefully time will help ease some of the pain."

After the meeting, Brown issued a statement that continued to levy criticism at elected officials outside of Riviera Beach for interfering with the city's efforts to eliminate crime and poverty. Brown thinks the city can do so by increasing its tax-base through its $2.4 billion redevelopment plan.

"It is about these same elected officials who criticize the city because we have not eliminated illegal drug sales, shootings, other violent crimes, and poverty," according to Brown's statement. "Now, they interfere with the actions of Riviera Beach officials as we try to find and implement solutions to these problems."

Representatives from the five north county cities and county met to discuss attracting biotech businesses now that The Scripps Research Institute has a permanent Jupiter home, with talks centered on offering financial and regulatory incentives, such as expedited permits and traffic waivers.

Yet Riviera Beach feels it continues to get short shrift from the county, and that burst into clear view Wednesday when county commissioners gave initial approval to traffic restrictions on Singer Island that the city says would inhibit its redevelopment plans there.

Wade wondered whether Riviera Beach will be at the bottom of the list in luring biotech companies.

"Are we going to be last on the totem pole, too?" she said.

County commissioners on Wednesday cast their first vote to change the comprehensive plan and preserve land zoned for light-industrial use, which consists of 215 acres north and south of Blue Heron Boulevard east of Interstate 95 and 400 acres at the Florida Research Park.

The five other partner cities Jupiter, Palm Beach Gardens, Mangonia Park, Lake Park and Riviera Beach are working on similar changes to their comprehensive plans.