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After years of delays, Lake Worth Beach is one step closer to replacing its shuttered public pool

Rendering of new oceanfront pool in the Beach Complex in Lake Worth Beach
By CPZ and city of Lake Worth Beach.
Rendering of new oceanfront pool in the Beach Complex in Lake Worth Beach

After years of delays, the Lake Worth Beach commission has finally agreed on a developer’s updated plan to replace a dilapidated, oceanfront pool at the Casino and Beach Complex, across from the city's popular pier.

City commissioners on Tuesday voted 4-1 in favor of moving the design plans forward — but there’s still more work to be done.

“This commission has inherited the difficult task of weighing the pros and cons. And whether it's a viable project or not,” Mayor Betty Resch told a room of proponents and opponents of the plan. “My vision of the pool is that it can become a central place for residents to gather and enjoy the spectacular and unique place we have been given.”

The future of the public Olympic-sized pool, a community staple since 1971, had sparked contentious debates since the city shuttered it in 2017 due to high repair costs related to leaks and other structural issues.

At a string of hearings on the matter, a majority of participating residents have been calling for a total replacement — an intense rallying cry for community events, swimming lessons, and relief from extreme heat advisories.

But financing for the $16 million projectremains the biggest concern for officials and some residents. After the recent vote, commissioners expect to take up discussion on the cost of construction and maintenance for the pool at a yet-to-be-determined date.

READ MORE: Benny’s on the Beach survives Lake Worth Beach rent fight, but needs repairs

The lack of accessibility to public swimming pools has become a national health crisis. And Lake Worth Beach residents have grown impatient.

Elizabeth Flynn is among the passionate locals who have been the vocal majority pushing for new plans at commission meetings. She told commissioners she has been frustrated with the lack of tangible progress in the project.

“The most beloved public pools, when they receive good investments, attract Americans of many backgrounds, creating a space for people to swim and who may not otherwise interact. That’s why we need the pool,” Flynn said during public comment. “Like libraries and parks, they are an essential piece of social infrastructure in democracy.”

Long running divisions over the pool

Residents and officials say the Lake Worth Beach pool, prior to being shut down, was underutilized.

“Most of the citizens share my sentiment that it’s a shame that it was allowed to close," Mayor Resch said. "It was a shame that it didn’t have programs that attracted people to it. It wasn’t open at night when people could actually go to the pool.”

But over the years there have been deep divisions over what to do with the pool.

The most recent delay centered around a dispute over the conceptual designs. Commissioners had requested a deeper and larger pool proposal after rejecting CPZ Architects’ previous $12 million design with a pool that measured just 4 feet deep.

After a meeting in December, city staff agreed on new pool features, such as a splash pad, tiki bar and cabanas, as well as the accommodation of activities like scuba diving lessons, movies, water aerobics and youth camps.

At Tuesday's meeting Carmen Davis, the city manager, said selecting the final pool designs and amenities would help staff determine the overall cost.

Commissioners Kim Stokes, Reinaldo Diaz, and Sarah Malega agreed with the plans, but requested certain features be changed, such as relocating the proposed splash pad from the parking lot area. Commissioner Christopher McVoy was the sole dissenting vote, on the grounds that he disapproved of the design plan.

A 2019 conceptual Lake Worth Beach pool design by CPZ Architects. Lake Worth Beach commissioners rejected the design for a rectangle shaped pool and other amenities.
CPZ Architects
A 2019 conceptual Lake Worth Beach pool design by CPZ Architects. Lake Worth Beach commissioners rejected the design for a rectangle shaped pool and other amenities.

Some residents also oppose the pool replacement plans.

Lake Worth Beach resident Wes Blackman, a certified urban planner, told the meeting he’s concerned that the city doesn’t have an “economic model and a marketing analysis” to determine how the new pool could stay open. He also said he's “not a fan of a pool at the beach” and thinks "there are other alternatives and smart money could be spent somewhere else.”

The plans are moving forward despite the uncertainty of its cost and funding sources. Mayor Resch told WLRN transportation from downtown to the beach is another idea that she’d like to present to residents in the near future.

“We need to figure out some mobility issues in the city. And maybe have a little tram that goes around the city in the morning and picks everybody up that wants to go to the beach,” she said.

Wilkine Brutus is the Palm Beach County Reporter for WLRN. The award-winning journalist produces stories on topics surrounding local news, culture, art, politics and current affairs. Contact Wilkine at wbrutus@wlrnnews.org
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