Surfside land swap for Florida condo collapse site rejected

Sep 15, 2021, 5:27 AM | Updated: 6:01 am

SURFSIDE, Fla. (AP) — Commissioners in Surfside, Florida, have rejected a proposal to trade public beachfront to the eventual buyer of the condominium collapse site so that a memorial to the 98 victims could be built there.

The decision followed an emotional meeting Tuesday as family members of those who died in the June 24 collapse of the Champlain Towers South and town residents packed the commission chambers, the Miami Herald reported. They had to set up an overflow room to accommodate the crowd.

After about an hour of public comment, commissioners told the victims’ families that they wouldn’t consider a proposal to tear down Surfside’s community center and build a new one, along with a memorial, at the collapse site. They also said they would not put such a land swap before voters in a referendum.

“My heart breaks for you because I know this is something that you were getting your hopes up about,” Mayor Charles Burkett, who was the lone supporter of the proposal, said. “I hope you will not give up hope.”

Commissioners Salzhauer and Nelly Velasquez had appealed to opponents of the idea to speak up.

“This is the moment we come together as a community to defend our community center and all town-owned properties,” Velasquez wrote on social media. Salzhauer wrote separately that the town “will NOT allow this tragedy to be exploited for profit and become the undoing or Surfside’s priceless community center and our residents’ quality of life.”

Deliberations were interrupted at times by upset family members, the newspaper reported. One man yelled “Let the people vote!” A woman pressed Salzhauer on her recent comments, saying: “You called us delusional.”

The board agreed to explore ways to build a victims memorial, either on a sliver of land where part of the tower fell, or at another location.

Currently, an offer of $120 million for the Champlain Towers South property is on the table. The swap plan would have allowed the buyer to build a tower instead at the site of Surfside’s 10-year-old community center, which features an oceanfront pool and waterslide and multi-purpose rooms. A new center would be built, along with a memorial, at the disaster site.

Miami-Dade Judge Michael Hanzman, who is overseeing the class-action lawsuit over the collapse, had favored the swap as a way of compensating victims through a property sale while enabling a memorial to be built.

“It shouldn’t be their decision, it should be the residents’ decision,” said David Rodan, whose brother and three cousins died in the collapse. “They’re afraid because they know that the residents want to do the right thing, they want to look back in history and see a memorial where it should be instead of a building.”

Rodan told the Herald that he and his group will continue pushing for a referendum.

“The community wants to see a memorial there and if the land swap is the only option, the community is willing to move their community center five blocks,” Rodan said.

However some residents who oppose the land swap told commissioners they support a memorial site, but not at the expense of the community center.

“I’m in favor of a memorial. I think it’s only right for the victims and their families. I’m not in favor of a land swap,” Surfside resident Paul O’Malley told NBC6.

Raquel Oliveira, whose husband and 5-year-old son died in the collapse, asked commissioners to help the families find a way to build a memorial.

“Maybe the swap is not the best option or maybe it is,” she said. “What I ask is that we have a little bit of time to take the right decision.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Conservative Party leadership candidate Liz Truss smiles during a visit to the Onside Future Youth ...
Associated Press

In race to win, UK Conservatives accused of ignoring crises

LONDON (AP) — As Britain swelters through a roasting summer, and braces for a cold financial reckoning in the fall, calls for the Conservative government to act are getting louder. But the Conservatives are busy choosing a new leader, through a prolonged party election whose priorities often seem remote from the country’s growing turmoil. Britons’ […]
58 minutes ago
FILE - A man walks at the Cathay City, the headquarters of Hong Kong airline Cathay Pacific Airways...
Associated Press

Cathay Pacific losses narrow as COVID-19 restrictions ease

HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong airline Cathay Pacific Airways said Wednesday that losses in the first half of the year narrowed as a relaxation in quarantine rules boosted passenger numbers. But it cautioned that quarantine restrictions on its crew were limiting the airline’s ability to increase flight capacity. The company reported losses of about […]
58 minutes ago
Chinese Ambassador to Australia, Xiao Qian, speaks at the National Press Club in Canberra, Australi...
Associated Press

Chinese envoy tells Australia to show ‘caution’ over Taiwan

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia’s recent change of government was a chance to “reset” its troubled relationship with China, but the new administration must “handle the Taiwan question with caution,” a Chinese envoy said on Wednesday. Chinese Ambassador to Australia Xiao Qian said he was “surprised” that Australia had signed a statement with the United […]
1 day ago
People wearing face masks walk past a bank's electronic board showing the Hong Kong share index in ...
Associated Press

Asian stocks fall ahead of US inflation

BEIJING (AP) — Asian stocks followed Wall Street lower Wednesday ahead of U.S. inflation data that traders worry will show upward pressure on prices still is too strong for the Federal Reserve to ease off interest rate hikes. Shanghai, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Seoul declined. Oil prices edged lower. Wall Street’s benchmark S&P 500 index […]
1 day ago
Former President Donald Trump arrives at Trump Tower, late Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022, in New York. (AP ...
Associated Press

Trump says he’s testifying Wednesday in NY investigation

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former President Donald Trump will be questioned under oath Wednesday in the New York attorney general’s long-running civil investigation into his dealings as a real estate mogul, he confirmed in a post on his Truth Social account. Trump’s testimony comes amid a flurry of legal activity surrounding him, taking place just days […]
1 day ago
FILE - Serena Williams attends the Balmain Ready To Wear Fall/Winter 2022-2023 fashion collection, ...
Associated Press

Serena’s Choice: Williams’ tough call resonates with women

NEW YORK (AP) — Serena Williams said it plainly: It isn’t really fair. A male athlete would never have to make the same choice. But after a trailblazing career that both transformed and transcended her sport, Williams, who turns 41 next month, has told the world she’ll soon step away from tennis to focus on […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Dr. Richard Carmona

Great news: Children under 5 can now get COVID-19 vaccine

After more than two years of battle with an invisible killer, we can now vaccinate the youngest among us against COVID-19. This is great news.
...
CANVAS ANNUITY

Best retirement savings rates hit 4.30%

Maximize your retirement savings with guaranteed fixed rates up to 4.30%. Did you know there is a financial product that can give you great interest rates as you build your retirement savings and provide you with a paycheck for life once you retire? It might sound too good to be true but it is not; this product is called an annuity.
...
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Update your child’s vaccines before kindergarten

So, your little one starts kindergarten soon. How exciting! You still have a few months before the school year starts, so now’s the time to make sure students-to-be have the vaccines needed to stay safe as they head into a new chapter of life.
Surfside land swap for Florida condo collapse site rejected