| Special to The Post
The company preparing a Fountains Country Club golf course for a residential development has promised to better protect the health of residents from unacceptable levels of dust.
“If we can make things better, we will,” said Jonathan Grebow, president of New Jersey-based Ridgewood Real Estate Partners, a company that specializes in golf-course conversions.
Ridgewood needs to remediate the soil at the shuttered golf course to bring arsenic levels to acceptable levels before apartments and townhouses can be built on what was once fairways.
At issue is the amount of dust being generated. Some residents say they are experiencing respiratory problems.
More: Palm Beach County developers finding arsenic a costly expense to remove
More: West Palm, PBC strike deal to allow South End golf course, downtown county offices
More: First homeowners move in to revamped Polo Trace, minus the golf course
Grebow and residents of Trevi Court, a neighborhood at the Fountains, spoke to one another at a virtual meeting last week. Grebow was roundly criticized by Rob Jacobs, a Trevi Court board member, who said promises made to residents in February at a public meeting were not kept.
Jacobs noted, for example, that Ridgewood said work would be done on one-half acre sites at a time. Instead, un-watered mounds of fill, some of them 40-feet tall, lined fairways close to Trevi Court last month.
“You have demonstrated little concern about the need for dialogue and adjustments,” Jacobs told Grebow, suggesting that Ridgewood only agreed to the meeting after pressure from local elected officials and the Palm Beach Post report on the conditions at Fountains.
“Over reliance on minimal standards doesn’t take into account the broader health and safety concerns of an aging population with respiratory ailments and a very young population with developing lungs. However, embracing best practices does.”
Grebow said the work would have been better monitored had it not been for the pandemic that made it difficult for him and other company executives to travel to South Florida. But he agreed to address the concerns of residents.
Grebow said trucks hauling away fill will be covered to reduce the amount of dust getting into the air. He also pledged to power wash the windows of residents that have been coated with dust and to reimburse the association for damage to a sprinkler line.
Ridgewood, at the request of the state Department of Environmental Protection, reduced the size of the mounds of fill and moved them farther away from the Trevi Court condos. Grebow said his company is following the plan and protocols that were submitted and approved by the Florida DEP. “We did not have to lower the size of the mounds or move them but we did,” Grebow told the residents.
Suzi Poll, president of the board at Trevi Court, said contractors did a terrible job of removing trees, noting they were shaken so hard that leaves and branches flew into the air. Grebow said he does not know why that happened.
Sen. Lori Berman, D-31, told DEP in a letter dated Oct. 1 that it appears that the work is not following “best practices” and is causing adverse health consequences to Fountains residents. She called on DEP to further investigate “these safety concerns.”
To improve communication, Grebow suggested that the different neighborhoods work through the Fountains Community Organization, the group that oversees the entire Fountains complex. Jacobs said Trevi Court wanted to reserve the right to communicate directly with Ridgewood as well.
Jacobs said some progress was made Wednesday night but he noted that time will tell if Ridgewood lives up to its commitments. He added that he was not happy with what he saw Thursday.
The trucks moving fill had no covers, he noted, and dust was visibly coming off them.
Email Mike Diamond at [email protected]