By Dan Moffett
South Palm Beach council members are looking for a lobbyist to get behind their beach project. Never mind that they don’t have a beach project to get behind.
The plan to stabilize the town’s shoreline with concrete groins fell apart in February when county officials pulled out their support because of soaring costs and opposition from neighbors to the south.
That left South Palm Beach scrambling to find an alternative project that would do something to address residents’ concerns about their eroding beachfront.
“We’re looking at other options,” said Mayor Bonnie Fischer. “Nobody is giving up.”
Fischer said during the March 19 town meeting that she wasn’t ready to disclose those options. She also said she wasn’t ready to hire a lobbyist.
“I’m not against a lobbyist. But I think it’s a little premature.”
Despite her reluctance, Fischer grudgingly supported the proposal from newly seated Councilman Mark Weissman to find a lobbyist who can convince state and county officials that the town needs help to save its beach. Weissman’s motion passed 4-0 with Councilwoman Stella Gaddy Jordan absent.
“It’s good to have a lobbyist,” said Vice Mayor Robert Gottlieb. “But we also need a project to lobby for.”
Weissman argued the town should search for the right person now so the council is ready to go when it settles on an alternative project.
“Perhaps in the investigation we can find out who we want to engage, who’s available, who doesn’t have a conflict,” Weissman said. “Perhaps there’s somebody who’s done this at another municipality along the coast.”
Because condo buildings in South Palm Beach sit on a rocky ledge so close to the waterline, traditional beach renourishment projects are not feasible, environmental engineers say. Without groins to hold it, sand trucked in and deposited on the beach would quickly wash away.
“One little, tiny rainstorm and there goes the beach,” Fischer said. “It’s very disconcerting.”
Residents of Manalapan and farther south oppose groins because of concern they will interrupt the natural downstream flow of sand to their beaches. Manalapan and the Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa threatened to sue to block the project.
Despite the opposition, Fischer said the town and the county “still have momentum” to move forward and find a plan that works for everyone.
In other business, the council honored police officers David Hul and Adam Farrish for lifesaving efforts.
Farrish provided aid to a heart attack victim walking along State Road A1A on Jan. 21.
Hul was first to respond in front of the Imperial House condominium on Jan. 24 when a motorist struck Rinaldo Morelli and his wife, Lena, police say, as they walked along A1A. Rinaldo Morelli, 75, died despite Hul’s efforts to save him with CPR. Lena Morelli was treated at Delray Medical Center and released.
Investigators from the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office have not finished their report on the incident. Police believe the driver, Janet J. Reynolds, 91, of Palm Beach, drove her 2009 Lexus off the road and struck the couple. Officials say the investigation is likely complicated because of efforts to look into the driver’s health and medical background.