Coalition Forms to Oppose "Intense Development" of Briny Breezes
By Patty Pensa
April 27, 2007
BRINY BREEZES, FL - The murmurs of discontent now have an official mouthpiece as the newly formed Florida Coalition for Preservation had its public unveiling Thursday to oppose the planned development of the 43-acre mobile home town Briny Breezes.
Residents of the seaside community agreed in January to sell to a Boca Raton developer for $510 million, a deal that could leave most residents with an average of $1 million. But as the quirky rags-to-riches story faded from the national spotlight, the nitty-gritty details of what might be built sparked heated debate.
Officials and residents from neighboring Ocean Ridge and Gulf Stream are worried about traffic congestion, compromised hurricane evacuation and environmental damage.
"We're not opposed to development," said Tom Evans, coalition chairman and former congressman from Delaware, "but we are passionately opposed to intense development. ... One can only shudder at what a forced evacuation would be like."
The developer, Ocean Land Investments, has offered a schematic of a luxury resort community with 900 condominiums, a 349-room hotel, 300 time-shares and a marina. But those numbers are preliminary, said Logan Pierson, the developer's vice president of acquisitions.
Building heights are projected at 16 to 20 stories, which frightens nearby residents who don't want a towering development in their coastal enclave.
Penny Kosinski, a mother of two young girls, said she moved to Ocean Ridge seven years ago to escape urbanism. Now, it appears to be following her. Kosinski and her husband have discussed moving if Briny Breezes is overbuilt.
"It's just astounding that they would ask for such density and height," said Kosinski, who joined the coalition and attended its news conference at Gulfstream Park. "We're going to do the best we can. In my mind, we can't allow it."
The Briny Breezes Town Council will vote today to send an updated comprehensive plan to the state Department of Community Affairs, which is the first step to making the development possible. After a review, the state agency will send back comments on the development plan. Final approval won't come until August.
Thaddeus Cohen, former department secretary, joined the coalition at its news conference in support of its efforts.
"Yes, we can all be millionaires tomorrow but it's more than that," he said, "It's why we came to Florida in the first place. Or, if we were born here, it's the reasons we stay."
After six weeks of organizing, the coalition established a 12-member board and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars. It has hired a public relations firm and a land-use attorney.
The coalition says it has support from environmentalists, firefighters, teachers and citizens groups. But officials declined to identify supporters because they are not officially members yet.
Evans, who lives in a golf course community nearby, said the coalition would explore its legal options but offered no definite strategy. He urged opponents to get involved, saying, "As a former member of Congress, it makes a difference when you hear from the people."
Officials with the developer, meanwhile, are asking nearby residents and officials to withhold judgment until the comprehensive plan is reviewed. Charles Siemon, a consultant for Ocean Land, said the proposed community would not negatively impact traffic and the environment.
Contacted before the meeting, Max Mayfield, former director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami, cautioned about the strain coastal development can have during an emergency. Mayfield, who lives in Miami-Dade County, said he is not a member of the coalition.
"My concern is if we continue to develop the coastline, we want to make sure we don't overpopulate it -- that we can evacuate people from hurricanes," he said.