The Coastal Star

Briny Breezes: Town chooses magistrate process for code disputes

By Dan Moffett

Briny Breezes council members took the advice of new Town Manager Dale Sugerman on Jan. 25 and voted to bring in a special magistrate to resolve disputes with homeowners who refuse to comply with building codes.
The vote was 4-1, with Alderwoman Christina Adams dissenting. Adams favored creating a code enforcement board made up of residents to decide the violation cases.
Sugerman, the first town manager in Briny’s history, argued to the council that, while either a magistrate or citizens board would work, the magistrate was the better choice.
“Both processes would result in nearly identical expense to the town,” Sugerman said.
With the magistrate process, the town would have to pay an hourly rate to a retired judge or specially trained lawyer to hear the cases. With the citizens board, the town would have to pay a lawyer an hourly rate to represent the board members.
Sugerman said the magistrate approach is preferable because of the difficulty in finding residents to fill the board. The volunteers would need to have some experience with codes or building, they would have to be in town year-round to hear cases in the summer, and they would have to be free of conflicts of interest or bias against neighbors who might come before them.
In a close-knit, close-quartered community like Briny, those criteria would be hard to meet.
The special magistrate will be brought in only as needed, and that won’t be often. Council President Sue Thaler said “99 percent of building violations are resolved” quickly with minimal disputes.
Sugerman said he expects magistrates to charge between $175 and $275 an hour and told the council he would have more information for the February meeting.
In other business:
• Many Briny residents have wondered in recent months what duties a part-time town manager would perform. Sugerman, who has worked as a municipal manager for 40 years with recent stops in Delray Beach and Highland Beach, gave the council and residents a rundown of his first month on the job.
During the first three weeks of January, Sugerman said, he reported to Palm Beach County on the town’s plans for using penny sales tax revenues, met with a FEMA representative to seek reimbursements from Hurricane Irma, attended a League of Cities meeting, surveyed residents on code and rules enforcement, screened candidates for the deputy clerk position after Jackie Ermola announced she was resigning Feb. 16, worked on resolving golf cart-crossing issues with the state, researched obtaining drawings of the town’s utility system, scheduled a meeting with the Boynton Beach police chief to discuss safety issues, and provided guidance to the council on hiring a special magistrate.
• Briny plans to mark its 60th anniversary as a community with food, drink and celebration on March 24, general manager Theresa Pussinen says. Corporate officials will release times of events — including a possible golf cart parade — and more details next month.
In 1958, Michigan native Ward Miller sold the land that became Briny to a group of trailer campers, and a community was born. Five years later, Briny was incorporated as a town.

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