By Dan Moffett
Rob Sivitilli might have finally run out of ideas for saving his family’s building at 5011 N. Ocean Blvd. in Ocean Ridge.
Two more chances for a reprieve fell apart during the Town Commission meeting on March 2.
Commissioners voted 4–0 to reject de-annexing the property and turning it over to Briny Breezes, a plan Sivitilli had been trying to sell for the last two months. Commissioner Gail Adams Aaskov, who has a real estate office in the building, recused herself from the vote.
The commission also voted 3–2 to reject a proposal to ask the town’s planning and zoning board to consider creating a commercial, mixed-use zone in the south end of town that would include the Sivitilli building.
Aaskov was allowed to participate in that vote, but she and Commissioner Lynn Allison came out on the losing side.
Sivitilli, who over the last six months has offered the town an array of proposals and incentives to overhaul the building and bring it into compliance with codes, said he wasn’t sure where to go from here.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I’ll have to think about it.”
In the end, the de-annexation idea collapsed because Ocean Ridge couldn’t find a benefit in giving the property away and Briny Breezes couldn’t find one for taking it.
Sivitilli tried to convince Briny’s Town Council at its February meeting that annexing the property would increase the town’s tax base. But Council President Sue Thaler wasn’t persuaded.
“We’d get about $1,800 a year in taxes from the building,” Thaler said. “I’m not sure that’s worth annexation.”
Briny Breezes Town Attorney John Skrandel said that a proposed interlocal agreement between the two towns to restrict the businesses that could operate in the building would make Briny vulnerable to lawsuits.
“I can almost guarantee you we’d get sued,” he said.
Ocean Ridge Mayor Geoff Pugh said there is no advantage for his town in giving real estate away and letting commercial enterprises remain — but under another municipality’s rules.
“I see no benefit to the town of Ocean Ridge to carve out a piece of property that is controlled by another entity, with all respect to the town of Briny Breezes,” Pugh said.
Sivitilli may have received a minor concession when Ocean Ridge commissioners didn’t support a motion to set a date certain to begin enforcing the building’s code violations. Since last June, when a deadline from a court agreement expired, only the residential apartments on the second floor of the building have been in compliance with the town’s rules.
Town Manager Ken Schenck said he and police have been waiting to take action against the property until the commission decided whether de-annexation or another solution was possible. Schenck told commissioners that their two votes against the Sivitillis tell him all he needs to know.
In other business, the commission voted unanimously to evaluate Schenck after completion of budget hearings this year, around Oct. 1.
Performance evaluations have become an issue in the town since commissioners learned that former Police Chief Chris Yannuzzi had been evaluated only once in five years on the job.
Though that evaluation rated him “outstanding,” Yannuzzi was forced to resign in January after a dispute with Commissioner Richard Lucibella.
“We are obligated to do this,” said Allison, who urged commissioners to decide on a format and schedule for reviews. “If we don’t set performance criteria and review it on an annual basis, then we have no basis for any salary changes, dismissals, whatever.”
A majority of the commission balked at evaluating Schenck in a public forum. Instead, commissioners decided to complete written evaluations and make them part of the public record.