By Rich Pollack
With Highland Beach voters rejecting a proposal to allocate $2.1 million for a streetscape plan, town commissioners are going back to the drawing board to ensure a 3-mile stretch of asphalt on the west side of State Road A1A is not a safety hazard.
For years, officials have discussed making long-term fixes to the path and improving landscaping and signage.
After months of discussion and creation of an ad hoc committee to develop a proposal to replace the asphalt with decorative concrete, voters declined to greenlight funding for the project. Voter approval is required in Highland Beach for any project costing more than $350,000.
With the delay and concerns about pedestrian safety, commissioners decided to spend about $250,000 to resurface the entire walking path with asphalt, while also continuing to explore development of a new plan with the town’s planning board.
“We need reliability, not liability,” said Mayor Carl Feldman, who led the ad hoc committee that developed the streetscape plan.
In agreeing to proceed with the asphalt overlay, commissioners rejected a second option to spend about $25,000 on spot repairs.
Commissioner Rhoda Zelniker, who didn’t support spending the $2.1 million on the project, agreed that repairs to the path needed to be done quickly and supported the asphalt overlay.
“We can’t have someone fall on our sidewalk,” she said. “We have to do something for the safety of our community.”
Zelniker said she thinks residents want improvements to the path and other enhancements but rejected the old streetscape plan because of the process used to develop it.
“Everybody wants a new walk path,” she said. “The objection was how it was done.”
In addition to voting unanimously to do the resurfacing project, hopefully this summer, commissioners also voted unanimously for the planning board to devise a plan for sidewalk improvements and beautification efforts of adjacent areas.
The resurfacing, Vice Mayor Alysen Africano-Nila said, will reduce the urgency to come up with long-term improvements.
“It will take the pressure off and give us the time to do the project the right way,” she said.
Both Riesa and Commissioner Peggy Gossett-Seidman said they would like to see the town coordinate the streetscape improvements with the Florida Department of Transportation, which must approve any changes along the state road.
Gossett-Seidman said drainage problems along A1A, currently being addressed by FDOT, should be resolved before the town moves forward with the streetscape plan.
Town officials said they will pay for the resurfacing with money from the town’s share of the Palm Beach County Infrastructure Surtax Program, funded through a 1-cent countywide sales tax increase voters approved in 2016.