Briny Breezes - History

County Report Lists Potential Perils in Briny Plan
By Eliot Kleinberg
May 31, 2007

Palm Beach County has slammed the proposed "destination resort" that would replace the Briny Breezes mobile home park.

"The scale, character and magnitude of the proposed project is out of character with the area and detrimental to the quality of life for the surrounding communities," Planning Director Lorenzo Aghemo wrote the Florida Department of Community Affairs on Wednesday.

And, he said, "there are no specific details provided regarding the scale, intensity and design of the project."

In January, in a vote equal to more than 80 percent of shares in the resident-owned corporation that operates the park, Briny Breezes agreed to sell to Ocean Land Investments for $510 million. Ocean Land proposes up to 10 12- to 20-story towers, with 900 condominiums, 300 time shares and 350 hotel rooms.

Neighboring towns have launched an intense campaign to fight the scope of the development, which they say will destroy their lifestyle.

Ocean Ridge Mayor Ken Kaleel, one of the leading opponents, said of the county's report, "It certainly adds credence to what we have said all along."

State and local agencies have until Friday to submit comments to the DCA. By the end of June, the agency will return the plan, with its own comments, to Briny for final approval. Construction still would have to go through the many rules the DCA places on developments.

Highlights of the county report to the state:

- Going from 12 residential units per acre to 40 to 60 "is tremendous" and out of character with neighboring Ocean Ridge and Gulf Stream.

- Briny Breezes contracts with surrounding municipalities for drinking water, sewer, police and fire, and it hasn't shown how those entities will be able to handle the added demand.

For example, Boynton Beach, which contracts fire services, could need special ladders for high rises. And the town's draw on Boynton Beach's water and sewer is expected to quadruple.

- "Much, much larger" boat slips would be needed for the large boats the community's "wealthy clientele" would dock, and that could cause environmental impacts that the town hasn't yet addressed.

The county's traffic division again challenged the developer's conclusion that rush-hour traffic will be within State Road A1A's capacity. Its Environmental Resources Management Department called on developers to offer public access to the beach.

And the county also criticizes Ocean Land and Briny Breezes for ignoring a call from opponents and County Commissioner Mary McCarty for professional workshops to, Aghemo wrote, "develop a plan that is harmonious with the area."

McCarty has offered $10,000 in county money for such sessions.

Ocean Land consultant Charles Siemon challenged the county's findings.

"I appreciate how smart all these people are," Siemon said. He called Aghemo's conclusion "just a sound bite. It's not a substantive comment."

Siemon again stressed the plan is just a policy outline. He has said he has no choice but to meet local and state standards, even if it means scaling back the plan.

"It's going to be more intense. Nobody denies that. I don't deny that. But that doesn't mean it's going to be incompatible," Siemon said. "Wait and see what it really looks like and look how it's going to be designed and how it's going to fit in."

Also, the county's letter called hurricane evacuation problems "of tremendous concern." The Briny Breezes plan didn't take into account the region's evacuation crush, it said.

Siemon said Briny Breezes accounts for a tenth of a percent of the county's area.

"When you start talking about hurricane evacuation, it's a microdot," he said.

Opponents have stressed that barrier islands are the highest-risk part of the county.

Staff writer Hector Florin contributed to this story.

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