Riviera CRA flips revamp to bit-by-bit

RIVIERA BEACH Abandoning a vision eight years in the making, the redevelopment board approved redoing the city's waterfront incrementally rather than in a single, massive plan.

The community redevelopment agency commission voted 4-1 Wednesday for a new redevelopment plan crafted by the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council.

THE NEXT STEPS

With the approval of the Citizens' Master Plan, city officials must take some critical steps to move the new plan forward. They include:

Reopen negotiations with Viking Inlet Harbor Properties over leasing the city's marina.

Inform the Florida Department of Transportation that the plan no longer calls for moving Broadway a block west. The city should pursue resurfacing and landscaping the downtown thoroughfare.

Adopt a 'Zoning in Progress' ordinance that would limit redevelopment in the CRA to projects consistent with the new plan.

Amend the city's Comprehensive Plan and CRA plan to incorporate changes recommended by the new plan.

Finalize the redesign of Avenue E, transforming the street into a mixed-use business and residential zoning.

 

Commissioner Lynne Hubbard dissented after the board initially refused to continue to contract with Treasure Coast to do follow-up work.

CRA Chairman Shelby Lowe said he was encouraged with the new direction.

"We've breathed new life into this plan," he said.

The CRA hired Treasure Coast in September to reevaluate the old plan, championed by former Mayor Michael Brown, which relied on a master developer to reconstruct 400 acres along the Intracoastal Waterway. That idea stalled because of changes in Florida's eminent domain law, Brown's ouster and a poor economy.

Treasure Coast's proposal allows for developing smaller parcels, with several developers. It will take about 18 months for the legal changes to be made to make the plan viable.

The Singer Island Civic Association, while commending the plan, questioned its cost. Former City Councilman David Schnyer, a civic association board member, read a statement from the organization.

"It was stated that this plan can be developed incrementally," Schnyer read. "This approach has been tried repeatedly and has proven unsuccessful. We believe that a more comprehensive and global approach is necessary."

After approving Treasure Coast's plan, the commission struggled with the agency's future role. There was some concern whether the regional planning council consultant should cover the next steps of making changes to the comprehensive plan and CRA plan.

The CRA plan is limited to projects in the redevelopment area, and the comprehensive plans covers development in the entire city.

Floyd Johnson, CRA executive director, recommended that Treasure Coast make changes only to land development regulations. The comprehensive plan and the CRA plan should go out for bid, he told the commission.

However, County Commissioner Karen Marcus, whose district includes Singer Island, urged the CRA board to postpone a vote asking for bids. Marcus suggested that the commission pursue contracting with Treasure Coast to handle the remainder of the work.

"It's all one document," Marcus said. "They know how to make this work."

Johnson reminded the board that a past state audit criticized the CRA and its use of consultants. He also said that using Treasure Coast for the rest of the work went against the board's goals of spreading the agency's work around.

"I do believe we're putting too many eggs in one basket," Johnson said.

The board sided with Marcus, voting to negotiate a contract with Treasure Coast to continue to work on implementing the new redevelopment plan.

Treasure Coast created the proposal, dubbed the Citizens' Master Plan, based on a series of meetings where the public gave input. The commission also created a steering committee to work with Treasure Coast to get residents involved.

"I think we're in a good place now," said Steve White, a resident and a steering committee member.

"We just got to make sure that everybody's voices are heard and make sure this plan serves the citizens of Riviera Beach," he said.