Palm Beach Co. salvages deal to buy local marina

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. – Palm Beach County commissioners have voted to salvage a $14 million deal with the Palm Beach Yacht Center that could preserve water access for area boaters and save marine industry jobs, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported in a story on its Web site this week.

Boating industry interests had urged commissioners not to abandon the development rights deal with the yacht center, saying jobs are at stake. About 40 people work for the marina and scores more are employed at ancillary businesses, doing everything from painting and washing boats to filling up gas tanks and repairing motors.

"There's no other places to go," Manny Zarate, who owns a boat-painting business and has worked out of the center for five years, told the newspaper. "We all know we don't need more condos in Palm Beach County. We need more boatyards."

John Sprague, government affairs director for the Marine Industries Association of Palm Beach County, added: "The waterfront homeowner has his place to put his dock. But everyone else in this county, unless we have these public facilities, they will not be able to get to the waters of Palm Beach County."

The marina deal is being revisited after federal prosecutors charged that a former commissioner, who docked his boat at the marina at a discounted rate, secretly took a $48,000 payoff for helping push through the $14 million payment.

In the deal, the county paid a premium for development rights at the 9-acre site in the hopes of preserving what marine interests described as the only spot in south Palm Beach County where boaters can get their vessels worked on, the Sun-Sentinel reported.

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