Kelly Slater surf center moves closer to reality

Kelly Slater surf center moves closer to reality

You may be able to catch a wave eight miles away from the beach.

On Thursday morning, Palm Beach County commissioners agreed to move forward with a plan to bring a surfing facility to Jupiter Farms.

But several residents spoke up against the idea.

World famous surfer and Florida-native Kelly Slater is behind the proposal called "Surf Ranch Florida."

At a commission meeting Thursday, representatives from the company described the facility as a giant pool with a machine built to generate waves at different strengths. Professional surfers would use it for training, it would host events and offer surf classes to the community.

"There will be opportunities for young children to learn how to surf. It gives the opportunity to dial back the strength. Our client has told me that even I could learn how to surf there and stand up on a board, which is something I'm excited about trying because it's something I've never been able to do," explained Ken Tuma, with Urban Design Kilday Studios.

Before the facility can open at the Palm Beach Park of Commerce near the Beeline Highway and Pratt Whitney Road, the county would have to change the area's zoning to allow commercial and recreational uses in an industrial area.

On Thursday, commissioners gave staff approval to move forward at looking at what is necessary to make those changes. The county commission will revisit the topic this summer.

Several homeowners from the Jupiter Farms neighborhood, plus members of the Sierra Club and Audubon Society, all spoke at the meeting in opposition to the proposal.

They argued Slater's celebrity status shouldn't distract commissioners from environmental concerns. The Pine Glades Natural Area is directly north of this proposed site.

They raised concerns about water pollution, traffic and bringing big crowds to an industrial area.

"All of the commotion, the special events they'll be having, the daily activities right next to an environmental area, is a great concern to us," explained Susan Kennedy, president of the Jupiter Farms Environmental Council.

She said groups created the council to fight a different recreational proposal on the same plot of land 18 years ago. The developer withdrew that proposal, according to Kennedy.

Tuma countered that the design of the facility is very environmentally friendly. The center will be built of recycled materials and be solar powered. He added if water leaves the pool, it will be designed to flow south, away from Pine Glades.

"If it does create some issues down the road and we have to drain a portion of it, we have 12 acres set aside to drain the pool. That's part of the design process," he explained.

County staff promised commissioners they would meet with the developer and residents while reviewing this project.

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