Article Courtesy of The Palm Beach Post
By Tony Doris
Published October 5, 2017
PALM BEACH SHORES — Sailfish Marina says it is being
pressured to sell a property it doesn’t want to give up.
The battle by Buccaneer Condominium against neighboring Sailfish Marina’s
dock expansion has ramped up, with an allegation Buccaneer is trying to
force Sailfish to sell land so Buccaneer’s marina can expand its own docks.
The two combatants occupy waterfront land just north of
the busy Lake Worth Inlet, across from Peanut Island.
The Sailfish, a popular waterfront dining spot, wants to
expand the northernmost of its three docks to allow bigger
boats. The Buccaneer says that would make it unsafe for
boats to get in and out of the Buccaneer’s southernmost
This summer the condo association and condo owner Benjamin
Sharfi sued Great American Life Insurance Co., owner of
Sailfish, to stop the project, which Buccaneer says would
reduce the “fairway” between the properties’ docks to 74
feet from 93, depriving Buccaneer of water use rights that
date as far back as the 1980s. The Buccaneer put up a nearby
billboard and launched a public relations skirmish to boot.
Now the Sailfish is pressing its own public relations effort
to navigate the waters of public opinion and make the case
for the dock expansion.
Sailfish alleges the Buccaneer’s motivation is that
Buccaneer wants Great American to sell it a parcel at 144
Lake Drive, just north of the condo and is holding up the
dock expansion with the lawsuit to force a deal on that
Palm Beach Shores’ Buccaneer Marina paid for this
billboard at PGA Boulevard and U.S. 1 to protest Sailfish Marina’s
dock expansion plan.
Sharon Merchant, Sailfish’s public relations consultant, provided The Palm
Beach Post with a copy of a letter from a Sharfi lawyer in May, saying that
if Sailfish would sell the land for $1.5 million or less, Sharfi would
consider avoiding litigation.
Great American bought the land in December 2004 for $1.8 million. The Palm
Beach County estimates its current market value at just under $1.4 million,
though those estimates tend to be low.
But Great American doesn’t want to sell, Merchant said.
“No one can force another to unwillingly sell a property,” she said.
“Sailfish is only using the south side of the north dock. That provides the
fairway they need on the south end,” she said.
But John Raymond Hook, a consultant for the Buccaneer, said the condo no
longer has an interest in the parcel and isn’t trying to force any sale.
When the dispute between the marinas heated up in May, the Buccaneer
suggested the purchase as a way to resolve the matter. Having that land to
the north would have allowed the Buccaneer to put docks there, with easy
access for its boats, while allowing room on the south for Sailfish to
expand its docks and get “a pretty large economic uptick.”
To Hook’s mind, the issue goes back to how Sailfish’s north dock was
permitted in the mid-1980s. That was a matter of contention but it was
resolved with an agreement that the new expansion plan disrupts, he said.
“It was all about safety. Safety’s still safety, our main concern. “We don’t
really care how well Sailfish prospers or what kinds of things they come up
with, as long as they don’t jeopardize our well being. That’s what’s going
With the land solution rejected, the Buccaneer filed an administrative
petition, asking the state Department of Environmental Protection to revoke
its approval of the expansion. That petition was dismissed last week but
will be amended and refiled, Hook said. It could take four to five months to
run its course, he estimated.
Meanwhile the circuit court suit, if not settled, could go on for a couple
of years, he said.
Hook, a Palm Beach Shores resident since the early 1970s, said that the
Buccaneer is trying to prevent being encroached upon by big corporate
interests. As he frames the issue, “What we’re trying to protect here is a
piece of old Florida.”