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Highland Beach

A view of Highland Beach from the Intracoastal Waterway

A view of Highland Beach from the
Intracoastal Waterway, 2004.

The first homes along this three-mile stretch of A1A, bordered by Delray Beach  and Boca Raton, were mostly beach rentals. In 1949 twenty-one voting residents created the Town of Highland Beach as a water district and as protection of their lifestyle. Due to salt water intrusion in the town’s wells and the inability to contract with neighboring towns for fresh water, the residents of this one-half square mile formed a town and raised funds to build a water plant. The town’s name was selected because the site was high for the area, about 20 to 25 feet above high tide. 

Highland Beach is a residential community, although a Holiday Inn has operated there for many years. The population is mostly retirees—4,000 year-round and 8,500 during the winter season—who live in 10- to 15-story condominium buildings and multi-story mansions. During construction of the Parker Highland condominiums on A1A in 1980, Florida Atlantic University professor M. Yasar Iscan led the excavation of a mass burial ground dated to 800 A. D., then thought to be the largest such site in Florida.

In the 1980s, town officials successfully fought developers to maintain a low density. In the 1990s, they readdressed the water issue and built a $17.3 million reverse-osmosis water plant, which treats salt water from the Florida Aquifer.

Since 1987, the town and Palm Beach County have been in disagreement over 352 feet of oceanfront property. The county purchased the 5.6 acres for $3.9 million from Lucia Milani with the understanding that it would become Cam D. Milani Park. The residents of Highland Beach have said they do not want a public park in their town.

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