The Coastal Star

Letter to the Editor: It’s crucial that Highland Beach voters approve money for A1A upgrades

On Dec. 5 Highland Beach Library hosted 80-plus residents for the first public workshop for the Ocean Walk project. Eight teams offered approaches to address long-standing infrastructure problems, including stormwater management, improvements for the walkway, landscaping, lighting, new crosswalks, underground utilities and safer bicycle lanes along A1A.

The consensus elements that came out of the workshop underwent additional refinements and preparation of a “not to exceed” cost estimate of $45 million by the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council. 

The town financial department, in conjunction with its bond counsel, crafted a 30-year payment scenario based on the projected “not to exceed” costs.

If all funds are expended, and that is unlikely, the improvements will cost each household with property valued at $500,000 approximately $48 a month to achieve the engineered solutions. This is an affordable cost for a town that had an estimated mean income in 2016 of $104,232 and per capita income of $98,261 (source: citydata.com).

At a Dec. 18 special meeting, the Town Commission, with forethought for the future of our small barrier island town, approved referendum language for a linked Ocean Walk and stormwater management project and a separate referendum to bury our overhead utility lines. 

Both should be supported by voters. This is a rare opportunity for the town to coordinate its desired improvements with the planned improvements to A1A by the Florida Department of Transportation.

If the referendums are not approved, the road improvements will proceed while any future consideration for town improvement would be deferred for the next 20-year cycle of maintenance for A1A.

For this reason, it is imperative that Highland Beach voters approve the referendums to permit planning to proceed in an orderly manner.

   We are experiencing historic stormwater flooding due to development relying on swales that can no longer contain stormwater at an acceptable rate. Our roadway bike lanes are overgrown with vegetation creep, our pedestrian pathways are not wide enough for safe, shared use with cyclists, lighting is poor and the crosswalks are dangerous for our older population.

In addition, our town lacks the aesthetic vision of embedded art, quality public pocket parks, signage and similar features of a town that claims to have a vision of quality. Add to this the gargantuan power poles with overhead lines over A1A, while the future points to state-of-the-art buried cables, and you have a scenario for lower property values and deteriorating quality of life.

Voters in March will have a once-in-20-years opportunity to create a new vision for our town. Let’s get this done.

Barry Donaldson

Highland Beach

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Perhaps someone can explain to me the need for these pocket parks - seems to me that this idea will be opening up our town to more traffic, more on-street parking, and what for????  Why is there a need for these additional parks?  Highland Beach communities offer quality and beautiful space and facilties for outdoor enjoyment to their individual residents.  Why is this a necessity to the plan that taxpayers will have to underwrite?   It's one thing if our communities themselves didn't provide, but they most definitely do - it seems these pocket parks are more for non-residents who will be taking advantage of the serenity of our small town, while we pay!!!  A beautification is one thing; a drainage project is another; but altering the quality of life and ambiance of the Highland Beach we chose is another!!!

Voters - keep this is mind!!!!

I am against the project.  Widening bike lanes & building parks to the tune of 45 million dollars we don't have is a waste of money with most of the benefit to non Highland Beach residents.  It's fiscally irresponsible.  We are across from a proposed pocket park, can you imagine 7 parks up A1A with people trying to parallel park?  Are there meters, 1 hour parking signs?  Let's not turn this into Delray Beach please.  Between this, Wright by the Sea, and the DOT project there will be massive construction on A1A the next 4 years.  The traffic will be insane.  Crime rate is a concern as is trash and loitering on adjacent private property.  If we need a tax assessment for improvements, how about giving the police a raise or funding our fire dept. (which we currently outsource).  If the town owns 50 feet of property either side of yellow line, why for years have they been telling our association to 'fix the drainage issue or you will be fined'?  Drainage is only an issue on very few parts of A1A.  This project has had massive scope creep over the past year.  

Vote NO!

Introducing pocket parks in Highland Beach will negatively impact our quality life.  It's a terrible vision for this small community. The traffic on A1A is already burdensome and it will only increase with this proposal. With or without more visitors, parking and safety become an even greater concern. Let's put our tax dollars toward solving issues and not creating new ones! 

How many years ago was it that Joni Mitchell wrote these words:

"They paved paradise to put up a parking lot"

And we are still ignoring her plea to protect beauty????? to protect our resources????

Well, my response is NO WAY, NOT HERE!!!

Wider roads with more impervious highway can't result in less drainage issues!  Wider Turning lanes, 7 Public Parking spots on the north side of Highland Beach - WHAT for?!?!?!  Plural Pocket Parks - WHO For?!?!  At the cost of roughly $600 per year, we the taxpayers are being asked to pay for increased volume on our roads, walkways, private areas????  

Don't be fooled - this is not a beneficial initiative the way it is being proposed and planned.  VOTE NO!!!!

May I ask, is this Mr. Donaldson's opinion? Is he a Highland Beach resident????  He speaks last month of this initiative being "imperative."  I wonder if he currently is of the same opinion.  If so, I would like to hear his response to the writings of those who oppose.

Come to the Commission meeting on February 5 at 130PM. News regarding the Referendums and project will be discussed. Make your voices heard so we can defeat this project

See this story:

https://thecoastalstar.com/profiles/blogs/highland-beach-commission...

Deborah Shulman Brecher said:

May I ask, is this Mr. Donaldson's opinion? Is he a Highland Beach resident????  He speaks last month of this initiative being "imperative."  I wonder if he currently is of the same opinion.  If so, I would like to hear his response to the writings of those who oppose.

Donaldson is a resident of Toscana North. He was recently appointed as a commissioner after the death of Carl Feldman the mayor. He and Alysen Africano -Nila the vice mayor have made this their pet project and rushed it through. They don't care what happens to the town or residents!

Thanks Jane Perlow for this update.  As a resident of Highland Beach I do NOT support this "pet project."  I suggest all readers review the responses that appear online at the Coastal Star on this Highland Beach A1A issue as there is important information out there.  And join the committee that has formed against this much embellished project.  The state will do what is needed on our roadway and tax dollars will not be hiked for unnecessary enhancements such as decorative walkways, pocket parks, etc. that would come at a huge cost to us.

I am a former Planning Committee member in a suburb of PA and I would be in favor of any necessary overhaul or initiative that promised a positive change to our environment and lifestyle.  THIS IS NOT THAT INITIATIVE.  VOTE NO!

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