By Steve Plunkett

An archaeologist will have to survey Ocean Strand before the ocean-to-Intracoastal parcel can ever be turned into a park.

There are no known archaeological resources on the nearly 15-acre site, “nor was this property ever subjected to a cultural resource assessment survey to locate and evaluate such resources,” the state’s Bureau of Historic Preservation wrote the city.

But the bureau attached another letter it had sent Boca Raton in 1993 saying Jerry Kennedy, an anthropology professor at Florida Atlantic University, had identified an “intact aboriginal shell midden” or mound on the property.

“Unfortunately, we have no data showing that Dr. Kennedy ever submitted a Florida Master Site File for this site, or a report regarding the site investigation,” wrote Laura Kammerer, a historic preservationist supervisor for the state.

The state’s comments came in a review of Boca Raton’s proposed changes to its land use plan for Ocean Strand. The City Council unanimously changed the land use May 8 from Residential Medium to Recreation and Open Space and rezoned the acreage from Multi-Family Residential categories to Public Land.

“For council, City Council, it’s been about a one-year process for you guys,” said Joe Pedalino, chairman of KeepYourBocaBeachesPublic.org. “For our group it’s been about a 2½-year quest, and for Ocean Strand it’s been a 17-year waiting period, waiting to be classified as a public park and beach.”

His group quickly formed after Florida-Penn Cos. in late 2009 proposed putting a cabana club at Ocean Strand to augment a luxury hotel planned for downtown. Neighbors were shocked to learn the city’s comprehensive plan labeled the parcel Residential Medium, which would have permitted 141 units to be built there.

The new designations limit development to 51,749 square feet of park-related uses such as restrooms and picnic pavilions, said Jim Bell, the city’s acting manager of planning, zoning and development.

The Greater Boca Raton Beach and Park District, which owns the land about a mile south of Spanish River Boulevard, ordered a halt to Ocean Strand park planning in February. Curtis+Rogers Design Studio Inc., the consultant hired to plan a park, recommended the work being stopped.

The beach and park district bought the property in 1994 for $11.9 million but never developed it.

KeepYourBoca BeachesPublic.org filed a lawsuit seeking a special election to bar private clubs on public land on the barrier island. The Fourth District Court of Appeal has not scheduled a hearing yet.         Ú

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