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Condo memorial rejected by panel

by The Associated Press | September 16, 2021 at 4:11 a.m.

SURFSIDE, Fla. — Commissioners in Surfside rejected a proposal to trade public beachfront property to the eventual buyer of a condominium collapse site so a memorial to the 98 victims could be built there.

The decision followed a meeting Tuesday in which town residents and family members of those who died in the June 24 collapse of the Champlain Towers South building packed the commission chambers. An overflow room had to be set up to accommodate the crowd, the Miami Herald reported.

After about an hour of public comment, commissioners told the victims’ families that they wouldn’t consider a proposal to tear down Surfside’s community center and build a new one, along with a memorial, at the collapse site. They also said they would not put such a land swap before voters in a referendum.

“My heart breaks for you because I know this is something that you were getting your hopes up about,” said Mayor Charles Burkett, who was the lone supporter of the proposal. “I hope you will not give up hope.” Commissioners Eliana Salzhauer and Nelly Velasquez had appealed to opponents of the idea to speak up.

“This is the moment we come together as a community to defend our community center and all town-owned properties,” Velasquez wrote on social media. Salzhauer wrote separately that the town “will NOT allow this tragedy to be exploited for profit and become the undoing or Surfside’s priceless community center and our residents’ quality of life.” Deliberations were interrupted at times by upset family members, the newspaper reported. One man yelled “Let the people vote!” The board agreed to explore ways to build a victims memorial, either on a sliver of land where part of the tower fell, or at another location.

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