RIVIERA BEACH — By a unanimous vote, the city council repealed an ordinance Wednesday that upped the lease on the municipal beach from 50 to 99 years, striking another blow to builder Dan Catalfumo's $280 million deal to redevelop the Ocean Mall.
In overturning the ordinance, the council enforced a mandate by voters who in March passed two charter amendments that limit growth on the city's 11-acre beach. Voters overwhelming passed the amendments that will keep buildings on the city's beach to five stories and limit leases to 50 years.
The amendments came out of residents' anger at the previous council, which forged ahead with a deal with Catalfumo to build a 28-story condo/hotel and shops and restaurants at the Ocean Mall. Residents said the building was too tall and questioned whether the council had the authority to change the city charter to increase beach leases to 99 years.
After the council and Catalfumo reached a deal in December, the newly formed Public Beach Coalition sued the city in an effort to undo the plan. The coalition, which consisted of residents of both Singer Island and the mainland, beat the city in court and was able to get the two amendments on the March 13 ballot.
The five-member council repealed the ordinance with no discussion. Three residents spoke in favor of striking down the ordinance and reminded the three new council members - Chairman Shelby Lowe, Cedrick Thomas and Lynne Hubbard - that they were elected to carry out the will of the people.
"This ordinance was opposed by the people," said Bill Contole, a Singer Island resident and president of the Citizens for Responsible Growth for Riviera Beach. "The citizens wish to move forward on this issue."
In the March election, voters ousted the four incumbents who supported the Catalfumo deal. Since then, the council has been pursuing the coalition's agenda to close any legal loopholes that Catalfumo might use to circumvent the will of the voters.
Last week, the city withdrew its case in the 4th District Court of Appeal, where it had challenged Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley's ruling that allowed the amendments on the ballot.
The city is also no longer pursuing a civil case against the coalition, which challenged issues involving the lease and amendments.
In addition, the coalition wants the city to pay its $43,000 legal bill as result of having to fight Riviera Beach officials in court.