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Dozens of Highland Beach residents boarded buses Tuesday and headed to the Palm Beach County Commission meeting where they unsuccessfully opposed the county's plans for the future Milani Park. Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star

By Rich Pollack

Palm Beach County commissioners slammed the door on efforts by Highland Beach residents to stop the building of the controversial Milani Park, saying on Tuesday, May 7, they will stick to development plans approved in 2010 and are no longer interested in any compromise.

The decision came after dozens of town residents, who arrived at the County Commission chambers in West Palm Beach on buses, reiterated one by one their fears the beachfront park would create dangerous traffic and swimming conditions as well as be detrimental to nesting sea turtles.

County Commissioner Marci Woodward, whose district includes the 5.6-acre park straddling State Road A1A, said that she had initially sought to come up with a compromise that would reduce the number of parking spaces there and eliminate bathrooms and a lifeguard station included in plans approved in a 2010 settlement agreement following a court battle.

But she withdrew her willingness to compromise, she said, after Highland Beach town commissioners passed a resolution saying they wanted the county to sell the park property to developers and then refused to rescind the resolution.

Fellow Commissioner Sara Baxter, who said the resolution was seen as “a line in the sand,” asked if she would be willing to come back to the table if the town rescinded the resolution now. Woodward balked.

“If we open this up, we’ll be met with a wall of resistance,” she said.

Residents, many of whom suggested that the property be turned into a walking park, left the meeting knowing their plans to stop the park’s development were dashed. But Woodward said she is still willing to work with the town as plans are rolled out.

The west side of the park will still have more than 100 parking spaces, she said, but the property will be fully landscaped and the parking lot could be mulch, for example, instead of asphalt.

Following comments by more than two dozen residents opposing the park, Cam Milani, whose family sold the property to the county for $3.9 million in 1987, said he thought it was time the 36-year-old fight between the county and residents came to an end.

“At some point you have to do something,” he said.

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