Always easy to gore someone else's ox, and Palm Beach County business interests have long been ready to take a knife--or a bulldozer--to Kennedy Estates, part of Jupiter's 100-year old black community, Limestone Creek*.
Developers plans for a road adjoining the neighborhood's park (a humble enough scrub of land as it is) have for years been fiercely opposed by he community. Last week, the resistance prevailed, as Palm Beach County Commissioners deadlocked on approval of the project.
The road was to be a final piece of the county's biotech puzzle, enabling access to Hawkeye Jupiter, a development whose owner has committed to build 250,000 square feet of buildings for bioscience. In their desperate quest to lure Scripps Research Institute to the county, local leaders in 2006 promised former Gov. Jeb Bush there would be a whopping 8 million square feet of space for biotech. The county's yet to hit that number.
Last week's showdown was the fifth time the road proposal has been before the commission. It followed a one-last-try sitdown to broker an understanding between the developers and the community. The developers, the county and the Town of Jupiter offered a package of landscaping, neighborhood improvements, and $200 thou for 4 years of job training and tutoring of neighborhood residents and their kids. The residents were unmoved.
A long train of supplicants appeared before the commission on hearing day. The suits lined up to back the road and the prospect of biotech money and jobs. The residents asked why it was their tranquillity and safety that had to be on the block. Environmentalists and local lefties charged environmental racism. (Hawkeye owner Ronnie Pertnoy's rabbi showed up and swore he'd never heard a prejudiced word from his congregant.)
What spasm of conscience and humanity seized half of the commissioners present is anyone's guess. The commission has a history of corruption. But even the most venal of them have not been heartless fanatics. (This may be Flori-duh, traditionally part of the Deep South, but culturally and politically the county more closely resembles New Jersey than Mississippi.)
The commission was divided into two camps--the "it's too bad we have to do this but we really need the road for the greater good of the community, economic development blah-blah-blah" camp and the "they live there, grew up there, it's the only home they know and they don't want thousands of vehicles full of who-knows-what driving by their homes every day, especially right past the only playground their kids have" camp.
Commissioners Shelley Vana, Burt Aaronson and Priscilla Taylor voted no. Commissioner Paulette Burdick was absent, leaving the seven-member body tied.
Fire Ant doesn't mean to say the "Build it!" commissioners don't really believe the economic fallout from the project won't, some day, some way, rain down manna on the people of Kennedy Estates. And that the offered payoff wasn't generous compensation. But like one of the road's opponents said, that kind of money, spread out over the needs of an entire community, that money's gone after a few years; the road is forever.
Nothing, no legal provision, guarantees the developers won't come back before the commission for another shot at gaining approval for the road. But for now, the witch is dead.
*'Term-limited Commissioner Karen Marcus--a country club Amazon who's reigned from the commission's North County seat for some 20 years--never passes up an opportunity to insist that Kennedy Estates is not part of Limestone Creek. The latter, she insists, is on the north bank of the Loxahatchee, the former on the south.
Geographically, she's right. The two locations are divided. But socially, culturally, historically, and by blood relation, the two neighborhoods are one, and consider themselves so. It's so very like schoolmarm Marcus to presume to dictate otherwise.
Fire Ant, an invasive species, tinged bright red, with an annoying, sometimes fatal bite, covers Palm Beach County. Got feedback or a tip contact firstname.lastname@example.org
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