By Rich Pollack
Highland Beach Town Commissioner Carl Feldman wants to make sure a large chunk of county-owned property at the south end of town known as Milani Park doesn’t become Milani parking lot.
Feldman, who is running for mayor in March, has been working with residents of the Boca Highland community — adjacent to the 5.4-acre parcel the county purchased nearly 30 years ago — to come up with a proposal that he thinks would be in the best interest of the town and its residents.
For decades, Palm Beach County has wanted to turn the property, near Spanish River Boulevard and bisected by State Road A1A, into a park.
Last last month, Feldman and Boca Highland residents brought a proposal to the Town Commission that would do just that on the west side of A1A — but not quite the way the county envisioned.
“We’re proposing that the town and Boca Highland landscape and maintain the property as a public park,” Feldman said.
The plan for the passive park, Feldman said, might not include any parking spots and it would also require the county to agree not to develop the parcel on the east side of A1A as a beach park.
During discussions of the issue at the commission meeting last month, Vice Mayor Bill Weitz suggested the town propose the parcel be left as green space rather than calling it a park.
“I’d be cautious about calling it a park,” he said. “If you call it a park, you’ll need to have parking spaces.”
For years Palm Beach County leaders have wanted to transform the parcel, purchased from Cam D. Milani in 1987 for about $4 million, into a beachfront park open to the public. Highland Beach and its residents, however, have resisted that effort.
Following a series of legal battles, the town and the county came to an agreement in 2010 in which the county agreed not to develop the property until 2020 and possibly another 10 years after that.
The agreement requires the county to alert the town in 2019 whether it plans to develop the property as a park or opt to defer development for another five years.
Feldman said one reason he’s bringing the proposal up now is that residents saw as many as 30 cars parked on the west side parcel one night last month and were told by county parks department officials that a nearby community received permission to allow cars to park there.
Last summer, the town and the county worked together to put up “No Trespassing” signs on the property east of A1A, as well as a fence, after reports of trespassers’ building bonfires and drinking on the beach, disturbing turtle nests and painting graffiti on a seawall.
Feldman brought the proposal to the Town Commission to gauge support from both the elected officials and residents.
“The main thing is to beautify the area for the town,” he said.
Commissioners expressed support for the proposal and said they will discuss it further after receiving additional information.