Group: Riviera should pay bill

RIVIERA BEACH The group that put two charter amendments on the March ballot and thwarted the $280'million Ocean Mall makeover wants the city to pay its $43,000 legal bill.

The payment would be part of a settlement stemming from a legal battle where the Public Beach Coalition beat the city in court. In February, Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley sided with the coalition and ordered the city to put the amendments on the March 13 ballot.

Voters overwhelmingly passed the amendments, which limit buildings on the public beach to five stories and keeps leases on that land to 50 years. The election also yielded a newly formed alliance between Singer Island and mainland voters that ousted the four incumbents.

Attorney John Jorgensen, who represents the coalition, said there have been no formal talks with the city regarding payment of the legal fees. But the payment would go toward resolving any pending legal issues in the case.

"I'm not sure exactly how it's going to happen," Jorgensen said. "There's been some discussions about mediation."

Councilwoman Lynne Hubbard said she wants the city to look into paying the group's legal fees. Hubbard, along with Councilmen Cedrick Thomas and Shelby Lowe, were elected to the council in March and supported the coalition's push to get the amendments on the ballot.

"It seems like the most economic road to take," said Hubbard, who plans to raise the issue at tonight's council meeting.

Dawn Pardo, who lives on Singer Island, launched the coalition after the council upped its beach lease from 50 to 99 years. Pardo, with support from the island and the mainland, scoured the city and collected enough signatures of registered voters to put the amendments on the ballot.

But the city balked and challenged the validity of the signatures. Both sides sued in civil court.

Meanwhile, builder Dan Catalfumo joined the city's side in the court case because the amendments affected his plan to redo the Ocean Mall.

Since the March election, the new council has been working to undo things that the prior council did to support Catalfumo. The council will vote tonight on whether to repeal the 99-year lease the former council approved.

Last week, the city withdrew its case against the coalition at the 4th District Court of Appeal that could have disallowed the two amendments. The former council appealed Kelley's ruling.

The remaining legal matter before Kelley is Catalfumo's claim that the amendments should not have been placed on the ballot. Catalfumo joined the case as an interested party. A hearing is set for June 29.