Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Surfrider Economist Shows Flaws in Benefit Analysis

Dr. Richard Weisskoff, our economist, is an associate professor who teaches economics in the School of International Studies at the University of Miami. He also is author of the book The Economics of Everglades Restoration: Missing Pieces in the Future of South Florida. Yesterday he challenged a town consultant's assertion that beachfront property values will fall if the beach isn't rebuilt. Portions of Stronge's Reach 8 report were "very disturbing to me, as someone studying the economics of beaches," Weisskoff said.

The Town's expert had testified Aug. 27 that failure to rebuild the beach would over time diminish taxable property values by $180 million. But Weisskoff said Stronge's conclusion was based on a 1997 Broward County study in which he found beachfront condos were valued at 17 percent more than identical properties that didn't have a beach.

"He didn't take enough factors into account," Weisskoff said. "You have to look at market forces and insurance costs over time to determine the impact of erosion and nourishment on market values."

Weisskoff said he persuaded a real estate agent to research the market values of units in one Reach 8 condominium building and found they moved with the market, regardless of erosion to the beach. Even without a wide beach, beachfront condos still are prized for their ocean views — another factor Stronge didn't account for in his assessment, Weisskoff said.

Stronge also failed to examine the economic value of "ecological services" reefs provide as storm barriers and for recreation, Weisskoff said.

Weisskoff was our last expert witness. The hearing is taking place at the Emergency Operations Center on the third floor of the central fire station. It is open to the public. Tomorrow is likely the last day.