judy davis_web.jpgSpecial to the South Florida Times

RIVIERA BEACH — Marina developer Wayne Huizenga Jr. is remaining silent on whether he will  invoke the terms of a lease he signed with the Riviera Beach City Council to develop part of the municipal marina as a mega-yacht servicer.

The lease was practically nullified in a referendum forced by opponents who won a victory that put a stop to any plan by the city to bring in a major developer for the marina.

That scuttled plans by Huizenga’s RybovichSuperyacht Marina company to lease 121,000 square feet at the southern part of the seven-acre city marina to develop a facility to service yachts of at least 150 feet. The 25-year lease requires Ryobich to pay the city $581,040, along with about $150,000 in property taxes, annually.

A judge approved the referendum but the ballot language was so confusing the city to put the issue back before voters. On March 8, voters rescinded the results of the earlier election.

But on March 4, Huizenga, accompanied by political heavyweights such as Democratic Congressman Alcee Hastings, Republican Congressman Allen West and West Palm Beach Mayor Lois Frankel called a press conference to announce he was no longer going to pursue plans for the city facility.

In an interview with South Florida Times following the March 4 press conference announcing plans to shift to his family property, Huizenga said he was doing so in order to adhere to the wishes of the people. “We’re big on unity and we believe this would benefit the entire city and we would love for the people to embrace it,” he said then.
But with the more recent election again clearing the way for his project, Huizenga can  enforce the terms of his lease – or withdraw it.
His nemesis, activist Emma Bates, does not believe he will give up on the 30-year-old city marina and tear up his lease.
“I don’t think that he’s gonna do it. They pushed too hard for a ‘yes’ vote. They’re going to go back to their original plan,” said Bates, whose Citizens Task Force launched a petition drive that put the issue on the November ballot.
On the other hand, Amon Yisrael maintains his support for Huizenga.
“I want this marina not just to be a marina but one of the best in the world,” Yisrael said. “If you bring million-dollar yachts to a part of our marina, that would increase the value and bring in a better clientele of boats, which would be more money for the city. It would all be just a tremendous boost to that area.”
On Wednesday, Huizenga said in an e-mail response to South Florida Times that he was on his way to St. Bart’s to woo sailing yachts to come to Palm Beach County, where he already has a yacht servicing facility.
That’s exactly what Yisrael wants, arguing that developing the city marina would bring an international presence to Riviera Beach. The co-founder of the Committee for a Better Riviera Beach said he wouldn’t want Huizenga to make any promises to not pursue the public marina deal in the future.
“I wouldn’t want them to obligate themselves to doing something that may not be in the best interest of our city. They should do what the people want and the most recent vote says the people want them,” Yisrael said.
Judy Davis, chairwoman pro temp of the Riviera Beach City Council, described the city as a “diamond in the rough” with unlimited potential.  Davis, who supported the March 8 referendum that reversed the November vote, said the city only needs the right people to realize its greatness.
“It just takes the right people who have the vision to see this as a bustling city, where people have jobs,” she said. “I know it can be that way.”