For two years after we moved into our office at 5011 N. Ocean Blvd., people would stop in asking where the dry cleaner was. They looked crestfallen when I explained the locations of two businesses across the bridge.
    At least once a week throughout our four-year tenure in the small commercial strip, someone would come in looking for a bicycle repair shop. Once the triathlon shop became online only, we would direct them to Federal Highway in Delray Beach.
    Every day outside our office window we marveled at the mix of vehicles visiting Colby’s Barbershop. Everything from beach cruiser bicycles to tricked-out golf carts to Bentleys and pickup trucks — carrying a cross section of our A1A neighbors, all of them happy not to fight traffic getting across the bridge.
    When Ocean Ridge commissioners decided not to grandfather in the building at 5011, they did so because they lost patience with the property owner. That’s understandable, but also typical.
    I’ve sat through enough meetings where residents are given easements, special code exemptions, and (on occasion) town land because they are “nice people willing to work with the town.”
    I’ve also seen these “nice people” turn around and sell their property at a profit several months or years later.
    Enough. It’s time to think about the future, and the future should include commercial space along our “main street.”
    For those who argue that the 5011 property owners have been costing the town money with a string of lawsuits, I say perhaps it was the shortsightedness of the town to ban all commercial business that resulted in this expense.
    For those who argue that being residential-only will discourage sober house operations in our town, don’t count on it. Until there are federal legislation changes, recovery housing can be located anywhere. That’s the law.
    And, yes, the town of Briny Breezes recently adjusted its comprehensive plan to allow for mixed-use commercial along its A1A corridor, but that was an action of the town. It will take a vote of the corporate shareholders to make that sort of large-scale change a reality, and if you’ve ever sat through a Briny corporate meeting, you know this isn’t going to happen any time soon. Change is slow in Briny Breezes, and the residents seem to like it that way.
    Ocean Ridge should reconsider a request for grandfathering the 5011 building, or better yet, build a commercial district into the next comprehensive plan update. Yes, this will cost the town some money — and code enforcement will need to become a priority — but the future planning will be worth it.
    A successful plan would create a commercial overlay area that would be attractive to developers and small businesses. Keep it human-scaled and easily accessible by foot, bike, golf cart and vehicle, and create a tiny gem of an area that would enhance the allure of our already appealing A1A corridor — regardless of who owns the property today.
— Mary Kate Leming, Editor

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