Islanders decry hotel plan

RIVIERA BEACH Singer Island residents sent builder Dan Catalfumo a clear message Friday: No hotel above five stories at the Ocean Mall.

About 200 people packed the Hilton Singer Island Oceanfront Resort to see and hear Catalfumo's latest plans for redeveloping the 35-year-old Ocean Mall. The crowd largely opposed his original plan to build a 28-story condo/hotel along with shops and restaurants on the 11-acre city-owned beachfront property.

"The island is already overpopulated," said Ron Purpura, who has lived on Singer Island since the 1980s. "Take the future hotel site out of the plan."

Attorney Larry Smith, who represents Catalfumo, understood the crowd's frustration. The meeting was held to promote moving forward with building only the shops and restaurants portion of the project, but the plans displayed Friday still showed the hotel, angering residents.

"The beach cannot be bought. The city cannot be bought."

THOMAS MASTERS, Riviera Beach Mayor

"The hotel is a separate approval," said Smith, who agreed to take residents' concerns back to Catalfumo.

Councilwoman Lynne Hubbard complained that the 2 p.m. meeting did not allow for input from residents who work during the day. Smith said the developer would schedule an evening meeting on the mainland.

In December, the city signed a $280 million deal with OMRD, of which Catalfumo is a principal, to redevelop the Ocean Mall. However, residents from the island and the mainland who opposed the project sued the city and won the right to put two charter amendments on the ballot limiting the mall lease to 50 years and buildings on the land to five stories.

Initially, Catalfumo wanted a 99-year lease. He dropped his demand to a 50-year lease as part of the December deal, but last week a proposal for 99 years went to council members.

In March, voters passed the amendments, thwarting Catalfumo's deal.

Since then, the developer has tweaked his plan, while continuing to challenge the legality of the amendments in court.

"The beach cannot be bought. The city cannot be bought," Mayor Thomas Masters said to thunderous applause from the crowd. "I cannot be bought."

A small segment of the crowd urged developers to advance the project. They believe the mall's deteriorating condition makes it an oceanfront eyesore.

"We have the largest slum beach in the state," said Carl Presto, whose real estate business is on Singer Island.