To: Hillsboro Beach Taxpayers
Subject: Proposed Settlement for Beach Litigation
Original Proposal Tabled
On October 4th, the Commission voted to table for 30 days a settlement proposal for the litigation between Deerfield and Hillsboro regarding our beach. Tabling the proposal was necessary because several key elements needed further clarification, the two most significant being the placement of a proposed easement that would facilitate third-party funding (County, State, and Federal) and the availability of third-party funding. The primary basis of the proposed settlement was the assumption that third-party funding could be obtained to lessen the burden on Hillsboro Beach taxpayers for repairing the damage caused by Deerfield’s groins.
Critical Information Gathered
Since the proposal was tabled, the Commission has gathered critical information regarding third-party funding. According to Broward County representatives, neither the Federal government (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – USACE) nor the County is a viable source of third-party funding. The USACE considers a beach nourishment project of the size covered by the settlement proposal to be too small to warrant even the cost of the evaluation study necessary for a Federal project.
Regarding potential funding from the County, according to County personnel, a nourishment project as described in the settlement proposal does not qualify for County funding because the County’s beach dollars come from the Tourist Development Tax (TDT) and can only be spent to further tourism. Obviously, Hillsboro Beach has no restaurants or hotels that contribute TDT tax dollars.
Location of Proposed Easement
An easement granted by Deerfield Beach to Hillsboro Beach as part of the settlement proposal was necessary to support “adequate public access” to be eligible for third-party funds. Deerfield’s proposed placement of the easement, south of their rock revetment/boardwalk, was first presented to the Commission on Friday, November 1st, and is unquestionably inappropriate for a number of reasons:
- This is the most chronically eroded area of the entire beach. Access is routinely blocked when the area ends up underwater. State funding mandates that an access point remain viable for 10 years following a nourishment.
- This area is unsafe for pedestrian traffic given the instability of the rock revetment and the instability of the beach itself in that area due to erosion. This creates a liability for the Town.
- The proposed easement would put the Town at risk for a potential lawsuit from private property owners because the easement would steer pedestrians directly onto private property in order to get to the public portion of the beach. In addition to infringing on residents’ rights, this could put the Town in violation of HB 631 signed into law on July 1, 2018 which says municipalities cannot lay claim to private property without going through a court procedure.
Commissioners Voted on Nov. 5, 2019
At a special meeting Tuesday, November 5th, Commissioners voted unanimously (5-0) to reject the proposed settlement agreement. The bottom line is that without a viable easement and with only State money as potential third-party funding, the burden for correcting the issues caused by Deerfield’s structures remains far too great for Hillsboro Beach taxpayers to shoulder. Commissioners were initially optimistic that a viable partnership could be achieved. Sadly, what started out to be a real potential settlement, ended up as basically the status quo with the exception that the agreement would have taken away Hillsboro’s right to pursue mitigation in the future, and it would have created a new onus for Hillsboro to maintain a public access point in an area that is impossible to maintain if Deerfield chooses to ignore their responsibility to keep sand on the beach.
What Happens Now?
On December 11th, Judge David Haimes has scheduled a case management conference so he can be brought up to speed on what has transpired while mediation was being pursued. At that time, we will be asking the Judge for a “date certain” for the trial to be set as quickly as possible because the litigation is creating a burden for two municipalities. There is no guarantee the Judge will grant a “date certain.” We may have to go back on his trial calendar for the next available “calendar call.” The trial is estimated to take five days. At this point we cannot venture a guess as to when that might be.
The Commission is very disappointed a viable settlement for a true partnership with our neighbors could not be achieved.