West Palm Beach seems to be trying a new approach to block a road that a key voting bloc opposes.
At Mayor Jeri Muoio’s urging, the city commission this week sought to get Grassy Waters Preserve listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The preserve, which has a nature center, also is known as the Water Catchment Area, since it serves as the city’s main reservoir.
The roughly 20-square-mile preserve is beautiful — less so during drought — but historic? A city spokesman says the preserve meets three of the four criteria for designation, because it is “associated with events that have made a significant contribution broad patterns of our history” and “associated with the lives of the persons significant in our past,” and “has yielded or is likely to yield information important in prehistory or history.”
That’s more than a stretch. The criteria apply to “districts, sites buildings, structures and objects…” The register of nearly 90,000 places includes, among others in Palm Beach County, the Comeau Building in West Palm Beach, Sundy House in Delray Beach and the old city hall in Boca Raton. The House of Refuge is one of several Martin County sites. All, obviously, are structures.
The move seems more designed to keep the Florida Department of Transportation from recommending a route for the State Road 7 extension that would run next to the preserve — and, not coincidentally, next to Ibis Golf & Country Club. Ibis residents vote in large numbers, and Mayor Muoio lives there, though she has said she intends to move.
There is no dispute over the first section of the extension, from Okeechobee Boulevard to 60th Street. The second stretch will run from 60th Street to Northlake Boulevard, providing an evacuation route for, and relieving traffic problems in The Acreage. The FDOT was supposed to recommend a route last December, but a spokesman says the decision has been delayed for two years to address the concerns of a federal agency. Work on both sections is supposed to start in 2016.
Historic designation for the preserve, the city could argue, means the road should go elsewhere. Of course, if West Palm Beach’s concern is safety of its water supply, what about all the trucks that go by Clear Lake and Lake Mangonia? Water from the preserve flows there.
Historic designation would not change the fact that the road was part of Ibis’ development order. West Palm Beach seeks to preserve a position that doesn’t hold water.
for The Post Editorial Board