By Dan Moffett

    Briny Breezes soon will correct a decades-old oversight when the town formally assumes ownership of Old Ocean Boulevard.
Town Attorney John Skrandel says the Florida Department of Transportation has agreed to sign the road over to Briny Breezes with a quit claim deed, ending more than a half-century of legal ambiguity.
    Skrandel told the Town Council on Jan. 28 that state officials intended to turn Old Ocean over to Briny Breezes in the late 1940s, when it decided to move State Road A1A westward to its current location to protect it from storm surge. It was a simple land swap — Briny was to get the oceanfront road and the state would take the western strip through the town — but the state DOT never got around to recording the deed.
    Skrandel uncovered the oversight last year while doing research to write new golf cart regulations. State officials have told him they want no part of owning the old road and are prepared to sign it over to the town at no charge, through the quit claim deed.
    “It’s their way of saying this should have been done a long time ago, but it wasn’t, so we’re going to do it now,” Skrandel said.
    The only stipulation for the transfer is that the road continues to fulfill a public purpose, meaning it must remain an open thoroughfare that provides access to the north and south. Council members voted unanimously to accept the state’s offer and take control of Old Ocean.
    The advantage of clear ownership is that it gives the town the authority to regulate traffic on the road — and that appears increasingly important as Ocean Ridge contemplates changes to its end of Old Ocean that could send more vehicles south. With the transfer, Briny can write its own road rules, enforce them and also claim a valuable piece of oceanfront real estate.
    The disadvantage of ownership is that the town becomes responsible for maintaining the road and repairing damage inflicted by traffic or storms.
    And there also is a complication. Old Ocean will become the only piece of land in Briny Breezes completely owned by the town, not the corporation. Transferring the road from the town to the corporation could require asking the state Legislature to tweak its land laws to deal with Briny’s unusual corporate-municipal co-op.
    “That can wait,” said Alderman Bobby Jurovaty. “For right now, we just need to move forward.”
    Skrandel said owning Old Ocean is the right move for the town and its residents: “It helps them in their long-term goal to make the road more a part of Briny than it’s ever been.”
In other business:
    • The council unanimously approved hiring Barbara Johnston, who owns Total Bookkeeping Plus of Lake Worth, to take over the town’s billing and accounting. Council President Sue Thaler had been handling the bookkeeping but decided to give it up.
    Thaler and Jurovaty interviewed two other candidates for the job besides Johnston.  “I think Barbara is the right personality fit for us,” Thaler said.
    • The council unanimously approved Kris Kissel-Weir as the District 4 representative to the Planning and Zoning Board.

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