Mayor Muoio’s Open Letter on Baseball and Grassy Waters

Open Letter to Residents on Baseball and Protecting Grassy Waters

baseball and glove closeup

Dear Residents and Friends,

As your Mayor and before as a Commissioner there have been no issues I have fought harder against to protect our water supply than the extensions of State Road 7 and Roebuck Road.

My resolve to fight these projects has never been stronger and I will never do anything to weaken our ability to oppose the County on these issues.

As you know, I have successfully negotiated with baseball, the County and local economic leaders to meet deadlines and find ways to bring Major League Baseball spring training to our city. I have done it with safeguards that will protect our resources.

This week, the City Commission asked the Legislature to change the size of an easement on the proposed baseball site. The easement is two miles from Grassy Waters Preserve and is not located in any environmentally sensitive area. The language we are seeking to change is so narrowly written that it has no bearing on either the Preserve or on our ability to fight State Road 7 from being constructed there.

During the meeting some residents and Commissioners asked if this change will “give up our challenges” to the State Road 7 extension. The answer is NO.

Before the Commission meeting, I called an executive meeting with the County, the baseball teams and the Economic Council of Palm Beach County. I told them all that we could not move forward unless we got a public admission from the County that this action is 100% unrelated to any issues involved in State Road 7.

I also made it clear if there were any attempt now or in the future to alter the language in the bill that must pass for baseball to work in an effort to link this decision to State Road 7, I would pull the legislation off Tallahassee’s agenda!

In public and on the record, representatives from Palm Beach County testified during the meeting that they do, in fact, concede this change has no bearing on State Road 7, and is unrelated to any arguments that might be made in support of constructing the roadway. Should the County change course in the future, exhibit number one in our case will be the video from Monday’s meeting and their agreement that the bill is for the baseball site only.

It is also important to understand the timing of our actions. You will recall several months ago, the County wanted to take our 160-acre property (appraised at over $20 million dollars), and give the city nothing in return.

Had we given away the land, it would have been a violation of the public trust and a slap in the face to the residents who elected me to fight for their interests. Had we made the deal, the city would have received nothing in return for its property.

In mid December the County changed its position and agreed to trade land they owned in our downtown for the Haverhill site. Because we stuck to our principles, we will now receive a premiere piece of downtown land that will serve as a catalyst for redevelopment around it.

But because it took the County months to change its position, it has left a very small window for the legislative change to be drafted and voted on by the City Commission, the County Commission, and the Palm Beach County Legislative Delegation before going to the full Legislature in Tallahassee. A process that usually takes months has been compressed to just weeks.

I want to be crystal clear on one important point. While I support the idea of having baseball in our city, every decision made moving forward will be judged through the lens of how it affects Grassy Waters Preserve. I will not sacrifice any ground in our fight over State Road 7 to get baseball.

My track record on this issue speaks for itself.

Monday’s Commission meeting was a shining example of how leadership, collaboration, trust and agility can work to resolve complicated issues while building new partnerships that benefit the residents of West Palm Beach.