Cam D. Milani Park Postponed 'Til 2025 | Highland Beach Real Estate
For those who have passed through the short mile-long strip that is Highland Beach, a wide parcel of land (wide by Highland Beach standards) on the west side of A1A is likely to stand out to viewers. For a town exclusively on A1A and entirely comprised of condos, with a single business to boast, a public park is a noticeable addition to the Highland Beach real estate market. As we dug into this noticeably empty parcel, we learned there's a whole lot more to the past, present, and future of the proposed Cam D. Milani Park than meets the eye.
Cam D. Milani was a prominent area developer for years. Currently succeeded by his wife Lucia and his son, also named Cam, they are at the fulcrum of what has been a three-decade legal battle happening right under our noses. In 1987, Lucia Milani sold the parcel of land designated for Cam D. Milani Park for $3.9 million with the caveat that the land is used as a park and named in the senior Milani's honor. The 5.6-acre land has a portion on the inland and beachside of A1A, with space for 120 cars to park. Over 30 years later, and the Milani family remain frustrated with the city's continued push to delay and block development.
In two words: legal challenges. Nearby residents, especially those representing the Boca Highland Beach Club, purport that the park would create major parking and safety issues. A lawsuit filed by the city delayed construction for well over a decade, with current circumstances stemming from a 2010 ruling that has delayed construction for over 10 years. Most recently in 2019, county commissioners voted 4-3 on the potential postponement of development for another five years.
Despite decades of legal jargon, lawsuits, back and forth, and ongoing delays, the arguments for and against the commissioning and completion of Cam D. Milani Park are quite simple and unrelated to any other land-lobbying disagreements that may embroil the Milani Family and Highland Beach. Here are the arguments, albeit simple and brief, that each side brings to the table.
Vocal proponents of the argument against the park have argued that adding a public park to Highland Beach (there currently is none) would lead to greater concerns for pollution, crime, noise, and trespassing, mainly with the adjacent Boca Highland Club in focus. Parks & Rec officials have also argued that our parks are operating at a functional capability and are not currently facing spacing, staffing, or funding issues. Simply put: concerns aside, the neighboring parks have been more than enough to supply the ever-growing quantity of tourists with access and necessary facilities. Lucia Milani contends that the delays are the result of a few homeowners with NIMBY (not in my backyard) syndrome and a desire to maintain a seemingly unfair exclusivity about Highland Beach from the general public. Much of Highland Beach is only accessible via private residential access points and waterfront condos.
Simply put, the argument begins with honoring the legal (and moral) commitment as a city to the Milani family, who have waited over 30 years for the city to fulfill its contractual obligation. Lucia Milani regrets never putting a deadline on development in her initial 1987 deal, but outside of legal requirement, it is within the purview of common decency to avert further delays and honor an agreement made nearly 40 years ago. Beyond that simple truth, the nearby resident's concerns with Cam D. Milani Park somehow becoming grounds festering with crime fail to recognize the many public parks and access points that flank both sides of Highland Beach. Within a mile or two alone, one could visit South Beach Park, Atlantic Dunes Park, Red Reef Park, Gumbo Limbo Nature Center, and Spanish River Park. Each of these is no more than a few miles to the north or south of Highland Beach. The entire surrounding area is renowned for its high-class waterfront living and demonstrably low crime rate. Somehow despite adjacent parks no more than a few hundred yards in either direction, the residents of Boca Highland seem to believe that Cam D. Milani Park will be the one exception to the otherwise serene parks and well-behaved visitor populace.
While nearby residents may have salient concerns about a 120 spot parking lot and beach access is a 1 mile town with only 4,000 year-round residents, it is patently absurd to believe that a comparably small park no more than a mile from the next access point would be the linchpin to an explosion of noise, crime, and pollution. For a town as classy and upscale as Highland Beach, these concerns are especially unfounded, as its centrality between Boca and Delray makes it unlikely for out of town visitors to select Milani Park above others as their beach access. Ultimately, while some of these concerns may be legitimate, further evaluation is needed. Anything less than the city honoring its decades-long commitment to the Milani family is a legal snafu and dishonorable at the very least. Once the park opens, city officials can learn what they must do, but before any cost/benefit can be weighed, Cam D. Milani Park must be given the green light and the red ribbon.