Public uproar over the proposed Rybovich marina in Riviera Beach, Florida may lead to a formal ballot question in November. That is, if residents who are upset over city officials possibly granting commercial usage of submerged lands get their way.
According to an article in the Palm Beach Post, a group called the Riviera Beach Citizens Task Force aims to collect more than 2,000 signatures of registered city voters. A minimum of 2,053 signatures is required before officials can consider adding a question to November ballots. If the group is successful in obtaining the signatures by August 7, election officials will receive and review them for verification.
For the past several months, Rybovich has been in negotiations with Riviera Beach officials to establish a megayacht-refit yard there. When Rybovich and Riviera Beach officials publicly revealed the plans in May, a primary issue was whether the city could legally enter into the proposed 25-year lease of the southern part of the property. That’s because the state of Florida set aside submerged lands at the marina strictly for municipal park and recreational usage, and current laws do not include exceptions for leases.
The petition being circulated by the Riviera Beach Citizens Task Force and others states that the marina and its public municipal properties are to be owned, managed, and operated strictly by the city for public use, not industrial commercial use. According to the Palm Beach Post article, Emma Bates, the chairwoman of the Riviera Beach Citizens Task Force, likens the Rybovich lease proposal to “environmental racism.” “The people are waking up and realizing they have a voice,” she was also quoted as saying. “This way, everyone will get a chance to voice how they feel through their vote.”
High-profile officials are siding with the residents. Thomas Masters, the mayor of Riviera Beach, was quoted as saying, “People want to have the last word on how the marina’s developed. It’s not the mayor or the council who owns the property. It’s the people.” In addition, Priscilla Taylor, the Palm Beach County commissioner, wrote a letter to Governor Charlie Crist in June, reminding him that there aren’t many marinas with public access and prevent the city from converting the submerged lands. “I respectfully request that as you review the city’s request that you are mindful of the residents’ concern and not deviate from the original dedication,” she wrote.