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In Lake Worth, Worry That Developers Will Overtake Public Beach

In Lake Worth, some residents fear that private developers will be given too much power in controlling the city's beachfront.

Lake Worth beach has always been one of the coolest in South Florida -- awesome for people-watching, surfing, and chilling. You could grab breakfast at John G's, fish off the pier, drink a beer at Benny's on the beach, pick up some flip-flops at the surf shop, and even take a freshwater dip in the municipal pool. In contrast to superdeveloped South Beach or Hollywood, which has a megacomplex Margaritaville coming in, Lake Worth has always been a real people's beach.

But now come allegations that city officials have been meeting with developers in secret -- a turn that is worrying some residents.

The city is more than a million dollars behind in repaying a $6 million loan it used to upgrade the casino building three years ago. Money was taken from its water utility fund.

Seeking solutions, the city last fall put out an "invitation to negotiate," inviting private developers to propose ideas to redevelop the beachfront. Specifically, it sought commercial ventures such as restaurants and bars, special event companies, and someone who could upgrade the pool to attract adults in the afternoons and evenings (a tiki bar was specifically mentioned). The ITN specifies that certain meetings will be confidential while others will be public.

City Manager Michael Bornstein has admitted that the city has been meeting confidentially with developers. He said ideas would be brought the public and to the city commission once they are refined. He said public access to the beach would remain.

However, concerned citizens are worried about the closed meetings and say that one private company has submitted plans for a new building at the beach -- one that would have a private club and add an air of exclusivity. According to the Keep Lake Worth Beach Public webpage:

One of the Developers making a beach proposal is named Hudson Holdings. They also own the Gulfstream Hotel. They held a meeting on Wednesday, February 25, to which only certain property owners were invited. They announced that they have submitted plans to the city for a Conference Center on our beach property that would include a Beach Club (that would sell memberships), a retail component, and 20,000 sf of conference space. This development is designed to be located directly south of our new Casino building. It is planned to cover at least one acre of our beachfront property.

Today, Lake Worth is holding municipal elections, and the people behind the grassroots campaign are urging citizens to vote for candidates who have said they want to make talks about the beach 100 percent public:

District 2 - Christopher McVoy (PBPost 3/3/15) District 4 - Ryan Maier (PBPost 3/3/15)

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Deirdra Funcheon

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