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Duplex on the beach got a no vote

Despite an aggressive legal stance, a city advisory group voted down allowing a duplex one step closer to be built on the beach.  The Environmental Advisory Board agreed with city staff and voted no 4-0 after a five-hour public hearing Thursday.

A vote to sidestep a seaward legal line in the sand could have allowed a four-story to go up on 2600 N. Ocean Blvd. The issue now goes before the city council, tentatively scheduled for Feb. 9, according to the city.  It’s unlikely. But the council could override the vote and allow a variance to the Coastal Construction Control Line that prevents building seaward.

“I’m an environmentalist and there’s a reason for CCCL,” board chairman Stephen Alley said before the vote. The property owner knew the line existed when the site was purchased, he added. 

Attorney Robert Sweetapple represented the owner and a Delray Beach developer, who are not named. He made a case for property rights, saying the owner has every right to build because the site is zoned multifamily. “When you walk on his property, do you realize this is trespassing?” he said.

The duplex design was revised to comply with all city and state laws, including sea turtle nesting, dunes, and lighting, he said.

Proposed duplex for 2600 N. Ocean Blvd.  Rendering courtesy of RLC Architects.

If the city’s so intent on maintaining a pristine beachfront, it could buy the site for the appraised value of $7 million, he added.

The city’s presentation was based on fake science, Sweetapple alleged. He cross-examined city staff and criticized a sea turtle conservationist by name for not attending to subject his work to scrutiny.  

The city collected cards from 50 speakers, but not all had their way. Most were beachfront residents who want to keep the stretch between Palmetto Park Road and Spanish River Boulevard undeveloped.

“This land is rare among the concrete jungles,” said Darlene Ward, a Gumbo Limbo Nature Center trustee. “Do not approve paving paradise to put up a condo.”

“I have to drive or ride a bike to the beach. But this is our beach. It’s what we live here for,” said Tricia Krefetz, who burst into tears. Reading about the issue made her an instant activist, she said. 

Jessica Gray, founder of Boca Save Our Beaches that has campaigned against this project, said the size of the turnout surprised her. But she was glad so many residents supported the position.

By Marci Shatzman

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