By Dan Moffett
Despite opposition from Ocean Ridge residents and commissioners, developer William Swaim is making another attempt to secure the permits needed to build a residential development in the mangrove lagoon behind the Town Hall.
In September, Swaim’s Waterfront ICW Properties LLC of Delray Beach applied for a permit with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, seeking permission to fill in part of the 3.34-acre site in the lagoon and build three houses.
To mitigate potential environmental damage and loss of wetlands, Swaim is offering to transfer to the state other submerged land he owns in the Palm Beach Inlet near John D. MacArthur Beach State Park on Singer Island.
Swaim has been pushing the Ocean Ridge project for four years, suing the town and residents who have opposed his plan. The developer needs an easement from the town in order to gain access to his land behind Town Hall. The Town Commission has ignored Swaim’s repeated requests, saying he needed to satisfy state requirements and obtain permits before asking for an easement.
Town Attorney Brian Shutt said he couldn’t comment on Swaim’s recent permit application because of the ongoing court case. Residents from the Wellington Arms condominiums, who live just east of the proposed development site, have been vocal in their opposition, arguing the mangrove-rich lagoon has to be protected and preserved.
Pat Ganley, a Wellington Arms resident, said his group remains committed to blocking the project. “We are still fighting this,” Ganley said.
Opponents suffered a setback last year when a mediation judge issued a judgment that sided with Swaim and concluded that parts of the lagoon were created by human activity and potentially not protected as environmentally sensitive native land.
The Army Corps has opened the permit request to public comment until Oct. 15. A decision on Swaim’s application is likely months away.
Comments on the project should be submitted in writing to the Army Corps District Engineer, Palm Beach Gardens Permits Section, 4400 PGA Blvd., Suite 500, Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33410.