Mayor Deb Tarrant
Issues impacting Town of Hillsboro Beach
Taxes and Property Values
I. Beach Erosion
Translates to tax assessments for Hillsboro Beach property owners
unless we address the root causes of the problem
Coastal Science - Three Indisputable Facts
1. In southeast Florida, Nature moves sand from north to south just offshore
in a suspended “river of sand.” In perpetual motion and if uninterrupted
by man, waves push sand onto the beach, and waves and gravity pull sand
away from shore and back into the suspended river of sand in an
2. Inlets, most of which are man-made, pull sand out of this natural flowing
river of sand.
3. Groins/jetties/rock mounds are man-made obstacles built with the purpose of trapping sand and removing it from the natural flow.
For decades, taxpayers in Hillsboro Beach have purchased sand for the northern end of town, only to watch it repeatedly wash out to sea. Stated in 2015 dollars, taxpayers have shouldered a $27 million burden. To put this in perspective, the Hillsboro Beach 2015/2016 annual budget was $5.5 million. The last sand assessment, a 10-year tax, began in 2011. The sand purchased through this assessment was gone after just three years, yet taxpayers will be paying for a beach that’s no longer there until 2020. The Town did another $1million nourishment in 2015, and as we expected, in less than three years, this nourishment too disappeared.
The root causes of our erosion problems are actually located in other municipalities. We have spent millions to temporarily address a problem not of our making, and not caused by Mother Nature. The rock mounds (groins) in Deerfield Beach trap sand that would normally flow south to us, giving Deerfield a huge beautiful beach at our expense, and leaving us with a northern end scoured clean of sand.
The second cause of our unnatural erosion is the Boca Inlet. Inlets literally suck sand in, and must be dredged periodically by law, putting sand back into the natural flow. Boca, however, is not dredging the amount of sand needed on an annual basis to re-establish the level that would otherwise naturally drift south (a requirement of FS 161.142).
For five decades, the Hillsboro Beach Commission has opted time and again to take the path of least resistance for our beach woes. They chose to maintain the status quo and assess taxpayers in lieu of addressing the root causes of our problem with our neighbors. Even though regulatory agencies encourage cooperation among municipalities and acknowledge that downdrift communities suffer because of man-made obstacles updrift, Hillsboro Beach has NEVER had a seat at the table for discussions regarding the Boca Inlet or the Deerfield rock mounds (groins).
Since being elected in March 2015, I have traveled to Tallahassee to meet with State officials at the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to present the facts about the situation in Hillsboro Beach. I have spoken to the Governor on two occasions as well. I have reached out to County officials multiple times requesting the County's involvement. Making no headway, I spearheaded a workshop to hire a marine attorney, and led behind-the-scene efforts to put together the necessary historical information to support a legal case.
Relating to Deerfield's groins, the most important documents involved, and the foundation for our position, are the actual State permits issued to Deerfield in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s allowing Deerfield to install the groins as long as certain conditions are maintained. Language in the permits stipulates that should there be damage to downdrift property as a result of the groins, it is the responsibility of the permittee (Deerfield) to mitigate these damages.
Enforcement of the conditions of the permits is the responsibility of DEP; however, given that the State/DEP has opted to remain on the sidelines in the dispute over Deerfield's groins, Hillsboro Beach had no other alternative except to initiate legal proceedings.
Specifically, on April 7, 2016, Hillsboro Beach invoked Florida Statute 164 which requires disagreeing municipalities to meet and discuss their differences. This action does not constitute a lawsuit, but is simply a means to bring parties together in an attempt to avoid a lawsuit. Obviously, for this mediation process to be effective, both parties must desire a resolution. Given that Deerfield's only goal continues to be to maintain the status quo, the process was useless.
Left with no other option, the Town of Hillsboro Beach filed a lawsuit under F.S. 120.69 on April 24, 2017. The wheels of justice move extremely slowly, especially in Broward County. A trial date is scheduled for October 30, 2018.
Although a final solution to the erosion problem in Hillsboro Beach is pending, for the first time ever, the interests of Hillsboro Beach taxpayers are being represented. My goal is to see the terms of the Deerfield permits enforced in such a way that our residents will no longer pick up the tab for damage done by obstacles in other municipalities. These efforts are not meant to be adversarial, only to protect the rights of the citizens of Hillsboro Beach.
We depend on A-1-A for EVERYTHING
A. Sewer Lines, Water Lines, Utility Lines & Fiber Optics
Our sewer and water lines are 60 years old and must be replaced for the health, safety, and welfare of Hillsboro Beach residents. By law, the lines are on opposite sides of the street from one another for safety reasons. The Town of Hillsboro Beach owns the water lines, and in November 2017, the Town began the project to replace our water main. The target completion date is May 27, 2018. The sewer lines are owned by Broward County and will be replaced as part of a County-wide project. This project is planned to begin in April/May 2018, following the water main replacement. It was not possible to schedule the two projects simultaneously as this would have necessitated closing A-1-A completely.
One of my earliest projects was investigating the feasibility of burying utility lines/adding fiber optics. In order to bury power lines, FPL would require an additional 9' easement, beyond the 20 'easement from the center line currently held by FDOT. Given the narrowness of the island and the anticipated push-back from property owners for such an easement, burying utility lines has been tabled. Similarly, the idea for adding fiber optics to be managed by the Town has been tabled, given that two providers currently have main lines for fiber optics installed along A-1-A.
B. Flooding in the South End
Because A-1-A is a State road, we are dependent on the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) as the primary source for deliverance from our traffic and flooding issues.
In December 2015, I began efforts to get FDOT to address the frequent closing of A-1-A due to flooding in the south end of Town. Initially, FDOT representatives agreed to start the design work to raise the road on a temporary basis until a complete redo of A-1-A could be financed by the Department. Subsequently, FDOT made the decision to forgo a temporary fix. This project is now scheduled, in conjunction with the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), for 2022. The design phase is budgeted to begin in 2019.
C. Traffic in the North End
Traffic at the intersection of A-1-A/Hillsboro Boulevard and all along the Deerfield S-curve gets worse each year. The increased popularity of Deerfield's beach provides revenue for Deerfield, while the congestion affects very few Deerfield residents. Every Hillsboro Beach resident, on the other hand, is impacted for emergency care and access to our homes. Because our emergency services are contracted with Deerfield, impeded emergency access could be a matter of like or death.
As a first step to address the issue, I initiated conversation with FDOT in May 2015, specifically suggesting two possible changes to the traffic pattern in the overburdened area. On July 4, 2015, FDOT sent representatives to evaluate the area and saw the full impact of holiday beach traffic. FDOT agreed with my suggestions, and on October 2, 2015, forwarded a formal recommendation to Deerfield Beach to make the changes. Because the suggested shift in the traffic pattern involved two streets owned by Deerfield east of A-1-A, the changes had to be undertaken by Deerfield. Deerfield refused to make the FDOT recommended changes.
As a follow-up, FDOT did a more in-depth traffic study in March 2017. The Town provided FDOT with drone footage showing traffic heading east on Hillsboro Boulevard backed up nearly to Dixie Highway. To date, the Department has not issued formal results from this study.
D. Pedestrian Safety and Recreational Cyclists
In February of 2015, residents spoke loudly and clearly against reducing the size of our driving lanes to 10' in order to add 5' bike lanes, which is what the MPO proposed to do. Currently, driving lanes measure 11' - 12, ' and the shoulder is 3', at best.
As part of the FDOT/MPO A-1-A discussion I initiated, the agencies have agreed to maintain our drving lanes at 11'; and rather than a 5' bike lane, a 4' lane will be marked instead. What we have now is technically a 3' shoulder, but with the new plan, we will have an actual marked bike lane of 4'. According to our Police Chief, this means that cyclists MUST stay in the bike lanes once the redo is complete. Because we currently do not have a bike lane per se, cyclists are allowed to ride in the road. The one-foot wider bike space is obviously safer for the cyclist, and drivers should be less frustrated if our Police officers enforce the marked-bike-path rule for cyclists.
As part of my research, I found that people who walk along the shoulder of A-1-A are nearly always residents of our Town. 70% of Hillsboro Beach residents live in the north one-mile of Town, therefore, it was determined that a sidewalk will be added in that area as part of the 2022 project. I am happy to report the cost for the sidewalk installation will be covered by MPO, not Hillsboro Beach taxpayers.
For decades, our elected officials ignored the big issues facing our Town, opting instead for the status quo and the path of least resistance. As a result, there were many hurdles to be cleared when I came into office in 2015. After three years, I can say with certainty much has been accomplished. On a day-to-day basis, the single biggest improvement has been the addition of a Town Manager to monitor daily operations. However, the snail's pace of government bureaucracy and the legal system means there are a number of long-term issues still to be addressed. I remain dedicated to these efforts, and want to thank you for choosing me to work on your behalf!