BOCA RATON, FL (BocaNewsNow.com) — In a controversial move being hailed as the right thing to do by countless Palm Beach County residents, Palm Beach County may consider collecting property tax from families of those who are memorializing accident victims with roadside markers.
“These people are using county property for free,” said James Tupelo, president of PLAMS, or “Public Lands Aren’t Memorial Sites,” a national group based in Boca pushing the Palm Beach County Commission to vote this year. “It’s about time. That memorial on Palmetto Park Road between the Turnpike and 441 is an eyesore.”
The memorial in question honors four teens killed in 1996. It occupies a large portion of land. It is often illuminated at night — potentially causing another crash.
“Those kids died 20 years ago,” said Tupelo. “Enough. They’d be like 40 now. That’s what cemeteries are for, not the side of a road. You can’t just take land from the public and use it however you see fit.”
Palmetto Park Road is lined with with memorials of drivers and motorcyclists who mistook lightposts for the road which is long and straight. Their impact locations are now marked with teddy bears, photos, candles and religious symbols.
A vast majority of BocaNewsNow.com readers weighing in on the potential plan agree with Tupelo and say Palm Beach County needs to collect tax from those using the land.
“I pay property tax,” said Mable Epstein, whose husband Saul died three years ago from cancer. “My beloved Saul is in a plot which we paid for and his photo hangs in my home. I didn’t demand his photo be placed on a Star of David in front of Boca Regional (hospital). Why are people demanding photos with crosses where they crashed into lights?”
Bart McNulty, who lives near a small memorial on St. Andrews Blvd, agrees.
“It’s absurd,” he said. “I appreciate that people are upset when a loved one dies, but Palmetto Park Road is beginning to look like the love child of ToysR’Us and FTD. These are grown ups killed in accidents that many caused themselves, yet they are being remembered with stuffed animals and daisies on a public median. Why are we honoring people who sped motorcycles into light posts? I don’t get it.”
Florida does permit small roadside markers, provided by the state, on state roads. Its “Office of Maintenance Memorial Marker Program” is a division of FDOT and approves circle memorials like the image above. But, says Tupelo, that is quite different than a 6 foot illuminated cross on the side of a road.
“There’s a memorial and then there’s church or synoaguage,” he said.”
Vincent DiPupolostis, a Professor of Grief and Mourning at Northern Minnesota State University of Indiana says there is a reason this hasn’t been an issue until now.
“Grief is a funny thing,” he said. “No one wants to call out someone mourning until that mourning affects them personally. President Trump has been speaking about infrastructure. Infrastructure is often synonymous with roads. And when people think about fixing roads, they think about taxes. And when they think about taxes, they wonder why mourners are using the right of way for free.”
PLAMS President Tupleo says his group plans to push Palm Beach County Commissioners to vote on the property tax levy by July.
“This needs to be brought under control,” he said. “It’s just a matter of time before a memorial is so over the top that it causes another fatal crash, leading to another memorial. Plain and simple, when people have to pay for something, they tend to think twice about doing it.”