The eventual redevelopment of Briny Breezes is inevitable: The land is too valuable, the trailers are unsafe in a storm, and the shareholders have been offered a fortune. But Briny’s recent flirtation with Ocean Land Investments painfully divided the close-knit Brinyites and the opposition from the neighboring residents has left the barrier island communities mistrustful of each other and wary about the future. Worse, Briny’s dismay at the organized effort to compel it to pursue redevelopment in a manner consistent with Florida land-development law has resulted in Briny’s contracting off-island for its police force, giving Boynton Beach a further toehold on the beach. Boynton is becoming the dog that gets fed at the table. And make no mistake about it: Boynton wants to annex Briny and the county pocket; Boynton needs the money and will stop at nothing to grab island land and redevelop it into a Singer Island for South Palm Beach County, where high-value high-rises will fund municipal projects citywide.
These economic and social pressures will drive redevelopment unless all of the residents of the barrier island find a meaningful way to participate in the planning process before it's too late.
Instead of more of the same — three municipalities and the county pocket squabbling among themselves, conducting redundant bureaucratic functions, and letting Boynton Beach push them around — maybe it’s time to consider a completely different future. Maybe it’s time to consider doing the work necessary to create one barrier island community: a single municipality that would stretch from Delray Beach to the Boynton Inlet. In this municipality, there would be room for diverse single- and multi-family zoned areas, just as currently exist. In this municipality, there could be a commercial core, similar to what is here presently but perhaps better planned along the lines of a New England village square with a handful shops that would serve the local populace. In this municipality, growth and re-development could be controlled by the residents. In this municipality, there could be town-sponsored amenities like tennis courts, a town green, bike paths, golf cart paths, walkways over the dunes, a beach for local dogs, lifeguards … the possibilities are endless and subject only to the limits of local imagination.
It will not be simple to do this, but it is possible. The road map would look something like this: First, Briny Breezes should annex the pocket and the commercial enclaves on A1A. This would create 60 or so landowners in Briny, rather than just one, which is the present situation and which resulted in last summer’s usurpation of municipal function by a developer’s staff. Having more property owners in Briny-the-municipality — in fact having just one more property owner in Briny — would likely prevent a repeat usurpation. Pocket residents and Briny shareholders who opposed Ocean Land’s plan would be able to prevent a similarly drastic scheme from being approved by the Briny Planning and Zoning Board.
The second step would be the merger of Ocean Ridge and Briny Breezes/pocket to create a new municipality. This new municipality could then work with Gulf Stream and the residents of the St. Andrews Club and, using the legislative process, persuade Boynton to relinquish its residential holdings on the barrier island. Finally, Gulf Stream and Ocean Ridge/Briny Breezes/pocket would merge and the barrier island residents could get on with the business of planning and protecting their community.
Those many Brinyites who prefer, with their neighbors to the north and south, to see a plan for responsible, environmentally sound, and cooperative redevelopment of the middle of the barrier island would have a voice. They would perhaps find a way to become landowners rather than shareholders. Pocket residents could look forward to local rule and, with it, the ability to participate in the regulation of their most valuable asset: their homes. Municipal residents could happily do without three of everything: three town halls to staff and run, three zoning boards, three police forces, three sets of politicians, three or four contracts with Boynton for water. In any case, all barrier island residents should join together to protect themselves from the City of Boynton Beach.
Cindy Bortman Boggess is an attorney. She and her husband, Boyd, are former county pocket residents who have moved off the beach, but still maintain close friendships with residents in all four communities. Cindy's e-mail address is email@example.com.