Mayor Gail Coniglio, Town of Palm Beach
The County Commission considered the Maritime Museum’s request for expanded activities on Peanut Island today and unanimously decided to deny the proposal.
Mayor Gail Coniglio spoke forcefully in opposition to the plan and both Commissioner Hal Valeche and Commissioner/Mayor Priscilla Taylor expressed their opinion that no additional commercialization should be permitted. The commission unanimously agreed to stick with the status quo.
Civic Association President Ned Barnes also attended the meeting to voice opposition to the continued attempts to commercialize Peanut Island.
Below are the remarks made by Mayor Gail Coniglio addressing the Palm Beach County Commission:
Good morning Mayor Taylor and Palm Beach County Commissioners.
My name is Gail Coniglio and I am the mayor of the Town Of Palm Beach.
The Palm Beach County Commission has been good stewards of Peanut Island for more than 80 years.
Ensuring for the public, a passive park enjoyed by families, campers and children discovering the environs of “old Florida.” Peanut Island has supported a multi-pronged approach to activities.
And while these activities vary widely, they share a common compatibility based on a recreational and passive use.
The central portion provides a soil and sand depository from the channel floor,
The northeast corridor offers camp grounds, limited restrooms, picnic tables and a boat dock, and the south side an educational attraction consisting of the former U.S. Coast Guard Station and Kennedy bunker.
All a great “fit” to preserve the quiet enjoyment and protected by a long-standing history prohibiting commercialization.
The Maritime Museum is trying (again) to significantly intensify the level of activity on Peanut Island, including not only more frequent events but also a broader array of events than has never been allowed.
As you know, the current restrictions are not in place accidentally; but, enacted and enforced by the county to protect against over-commercialization, and protect surrounding communities from excessive noise and other negative impacts.
I am deeply sympathetic and fully support the concerns that have been continually identified by our sister city, Riviera Beach. The fragile infrastructure based on the island will further burden their water and wastewater systems with the potential to cause undue harm to their residents. Police and fire-rescue operations are compromised by the lack of ready service to and from the island incurring additional budget costs and no benefits. And the lack of parking further exacerbates the proposed supplementary uses by the Maritime Museum.
A bar and restaurant operation was prohibited in the year 2000 by the Palm Beach County Commission due to these same deleterious effects outlined at that time.
In May of 2012, Palm Beach County Commissioners restricted the consumption of alcohol to the permitted camping area, a wise decision to ensure public safety and preserve the passive character of the island for recreational users.
Activities of the property owner, in this case the Maritime Museum, are clearly enumerated by county staff in option one as existing conditions of approval, with all functions again compatible with current use.
What benefits to the residents of Palm Beach County will be achieved by this proposed commercial intensification?
Only Mr. Miller will benefit.
The activities proposed by him are clearly not customary to a museum and are difficult for staff to regulate.
Special event permits are restricted based on the fact that in essence, a full bar and catering service is operated.
By staff’s own admission due to the island’s lack of accessibility, the number of attendees, access, parking, lighting, noise levels, restroom capacities, and emergency measures are nearly impossible to enforce.
Like you, I employ past experiences as a foundation for decision-making. As a parent of 6 teenagers, I often relied on the “trust and verify” method of judgement. The Maritime Museum has violated that trust over and over again. They have ignored, or blatantly flaunted P.B. County ordinances requiring appropriate land use permits with unauthorized commercial activities, including by their own public admission hosting over 25 weddings a year.
The list of illegal operations include:
• Management of a type 1 restaurant
• Conduction of helicopter tours
• And written advertisements marketing the museum as a bed and breakfast
All unregulated functions potentially hazardous to the safety and welfare of the public.
Successful prosecution of these code enforcement violations was achieved in November 2011 but at a cost of county staff time and associated legal expenses.
Is this the type of activity that warrants loosening long standing protections? I do not believe so.
In 2001, a formal letter from the Town Of Palm Beach to the Palm Beach County Board of Commissioners endorsed the prohibition of all commercial retail uses, including restaurants.
And now I quote, “With the additional concern related to types of food service for large groups, such as catering as an ancillary use, which would impact the peaceful enjoyment of our northend residents, properties some of which are little more than 500 feet from Peanut Island.”
Today I stand before you, again vehemently opposing any changes in the current regulations that would allow additional intensification and the “creep” of commercialization on this peaceful oasis.