By Rich Pollack
Town commissioners are hoping a few qualified residents can help them determine the look and scope of a long-discussed enhancement to Highland Beach’s walking path, which is more than 3 miles long.
For years, town leaders have talked about enhancing the walking path, which runs along the west side of State Road A1A for the town’s entire length, with a streetscape plan. But no clear idea of what the revisions should look like has ever been determined. Past discussions have ranged from simply resurfacing the path to creating an entire streetscape complete with decorative benches, lamps and welcoming entrances.
Last month, after receiving an update of a proposed 2009 plan for the walkway from the engineering firm of Mathews Consulting, town leaders decided the best way to move forward is to get input from residents.
At their May 2 meeting, commissioners agreed to form an ad-hoc Citizens Streetscape Committee and charge it with bringing back recommendations for a conceptual plan and an idea of the scope of work to be done.
The five-member committee, made up of residents with expertise in the areas of real estate, architecture, construction, finance and law, will also recommend what materials should be used in construction of the path and what landscape features, if any, should be added.
A resolution creating the committee, approved unanimously, spells out 10 tasks for the committee, including devising a uniform theme for streetscape features and recommendations of exterior enhancements of town-owned buildings facing the path.
The committee, which will sunset when its report is completed or no later than the end of the year, will make its recommendation to commissioners, who will bring a proposal to voters as early as March.
Those named to the committee are residents Bruce Giacomo, Michael Kravit, Louis Reidenberg, June Blake and Paul Resnick.
“We have people with amazing skills and qualifications in this town,” said Vice Mayor Bill Weitz, supported creating the committee.
Both Weitz and Mayor Carl Feldman, who will lead the committee, agreed with other commissioners who want to make sure residents have an opportunity for input and will be made aware of the final proposal prior to the referendum.
“The committee will keep the residents and the commission informed,” Feldman said, adding that the committee meetings will be open to the public, with meeting dates and times posted.
Town Manager Valerie Oakes said once commissioners agree on a walkway plan, the town will hold several presentations and create an information campaign to assure residents have a chance to fully understand the proposal.
In their updated report to the commission, engineers from Mathews Consulting provided the town with costs for a variety of options for the walkway project but did not make any specific recommendations.
“The Mathews study provides insights into costs and various approaches to a streetscape plan,” said Public Works Director Ed Soper.
The study looked at the cost of using various materials for the replacement of the walking path, from concrete to asphalt to stamped — or patterned — concrete, decorative aggregate and pavers. It also looked at the costs associated with several landscape features.
Commissioners are hoping the committee can use the study as a guideline as it works toward consensus on how to move forward.
“Obviously, people have different ideas,” Weitz said.