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Buyer Backs Out of Rich Deal for Trailer Park

MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

An update now on a story we reported on last year about a South Florida trailer park where residents were poised to become millionaires.

A developer offered residents of Briny Breezes a half-billion dollars for their 43 acres on the ocean between Palm Beach and Boca Raton. But as NPR's Greg Allen reports, residents have seen their vision of instant wealth slip away.

GREG ALLEN: It's been a rollercoaster ride for the thousand or so residents of Briny Breezes, one that began when they voted to accept a bid by Ocean Land Investments to buy the town of 488 trailers for $510 million.

NORRIS: It was like New Year's Eve almost. I mean, the only thing that wasn't there was snow and hats and horns...

ALLEN: Roger Bennett is mayor of Briny Breezes. Although it's a trailer park, it's hard to envision a nicer setting, nestled between a white sand beach and the Intracoastal Waterway. Eighty-two percent of residents voted to trade in their little bit of paradise for cold, hard cash.

That's a decision not welcomed by Briny Breezes' posh neighbors - the towns of Ocean Ridge and Gulf Stream. They, along with state officials, weren't enamored of Ocean Land's proposal to build a dozen 20-story towers containing a hotel, time-shares and 900 condo units.

Last week, Ocean Land Investments asked for an extension on the deadline for their next payment, saying it needed more time to deal with objections from neighboring communities. Briny Breezes' board said no. And just like that, the promise of a million dollars per trailer vanished.

Mayor Bennett says the turn of events hit residents hard, especially those who had already made down payments on other places to move when the sale was complete.

NORRIS: The ones that I really feel sorry for are the, perhaps, the ones who are on meager income who looked at this as a way of getting sufficient funds to buy their way into a nice retirement home or a convalescent center, that kind of thing.

ALLEN: All may not be lost, though; since the deal with Ocean Land fell through, other developers have come forward. Among Briny's, the sense is that it's just a matter of time before this last little bit of old Florida vanishes.

Greg Allen, NPR News, Miami. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

As NPR's Miami correspondent, Greg Allen reports on the diverse issues and developments tied to the Southeast. He covers everything from breaking news to economic and political stories to arts and environmental stories. He moved into this role in 2006, after four years as NPR's Midwest correspondent.
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