By Dan Moffett
In a sharply worded letter, an attorney for the Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa has warned South Palm Beach Mayor Bonnie Fischer that the town can expect a lawsuit if it goes forward with plans to install groins on its beach.
West Palm Beach attorney Gregory Coleman said that the resort shares the concerns of Manalapan officials that using groins in the South Palm shoreline stabilization project will disrupt the natural flow of sand and damage beaches to the south.
Coleman, former president of the Palm Beach County Bar Association, told Fischer in the letter sent in late July that the Eau is prepared to go to court to stop the project:
“This letter is to place the town and adjacent property owners on notice that if you proceed with your groyne (sic) implementation strategy, and our property suffers detrimentally as a result of your groynes, then we will proceed against any and all responsible persons, entities or municipalities, to recover monetary damages for our financial loss.”
Manalapan Mayor Keith Waters in recent weeks has suggested his town would take similar legal action, as Palm Beach County and South Palm Beach have begun work on obtaining the permits necessary to get their joint project started by November 2018.
Eleven years in the making, the $5 million plan calls for installing seven concrete groins from the northern South Palm Beach line to Lantana’s municipal beach to slow the erosion that encroaches on the town’s condo buildings.
Waters and Coleman cite the experience of Hillsboro Beach in Broward County as compelling justification to oppose the project. Deerfield Beach installed dozens of groins in the 1960s and Hillsboro, its neighbor to the south, has been losing its beachfront ever since, the critics say. The two municipalities are fighting out their dispute over stolen sand in court, with millions in damages at stake.
Fischer has expressed optimism that South Palm’s project can move forward without legal delays. She says her town’s project bears little resemblance to what Deerfield Beach did.
The mayor said she has talked to County Commissioner Steven Abrams and their hope is that the Eau and Manalapan will drop their opposition if they take a closer look. “If engineers come and have them understand the project, [Abrams] feels it can move forward,” Fischer said.
Bob Vitas, the South Palm town manager, says the fate of the plan is uncertain until opponents are satisfied.
“We don’t know whether they’re going to litigate and literally create a delay in the project,” Vitas said. “Any litigation is going to stop that project cold.”