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Riviera Beach Councilman Says New Chronic Nuisance Property Rule Won’t Force Gentrification

 Riviera Beach Councilman Douglas Lawson
Riviera Beach Councilman Douglas Lawson

The City of Riviera Beach unanimously approved a new "chronic nuisance property" rule during a recent city council meeting. Some residents fear that the new measure will lead to gentrification but officials claim that’s not the case.

Officials in Riviera Beach say gunshots, drug activity and other disturbances are negatively affecting city resources.

Councilman Douglas Lawson, who represents district 5 in Riviera Beach, says the chronic nuisance property rule protects residents' rights from people unwilling to help improve parts of the city.

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The councilman says violations will occur if police respond to five nuisance calls within a 30-day period. Property owners repeatedly violating the city's various enforcement laws must explain their case to the city’s magistrate. And could be fined up to $500 for each violation.

“Anyone can be affected by this policy as long as they're considered a nuisance property,” said Lawson. “So if we're getting multiple phone calls and concerns to a retail shop, to a gas station, to some of these 24-hour marts we have in the community, we will definitely address the same concerns as we would with a homeowner or with a renter in the community.”

He said the city council “had to put something together and put some teeth into a policy” that would get “repeat offenders, these bad tenants and these abusers of our city resources out of our city.”

Riviera Beach has been underdeveloped, Lawson says, despite its attractive beach, popular marina village, and other city amenities. But gentrification is the number one fear expressed by his constituents.

“Residents think this is just another reason for the city to take property to gentrify the community but that’s honestly not our approach,” said Lawson. “Our approach is simply to just provide a good quality of living or status of living in our community.”

For years, crime and blight have been major concerns for officials and residents of Riviera Beach.

“We can’t focus on the developers, the process of building up Broadway [Avenue] or our downtown corridor or even our main land,“ said Lawson. “We have to focus on the residents that are currently here — how to protect them and prepare them for what’s actually currently happening.”

He says the nuisance ordinance will help economic development that’s already happening, without the displacement of its current residents.