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Jupiter Council approves partial digging on archeological site

Town documents say it's a Native American religious site with artifacts
Suni Sands property in Jupiter. July 25, 2023.jpg
Posted at 10:35 PM, Jul 25, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-25 23:35:11-04

JUPITER, Fla. — The Jupiter Town Council voted Tuesday night to allow a developer to partially dig on Suni Sands property at A1A, which town documents consider a Native American archeological site.

The vote, a 3-2 decision, reverses a decision from the town’s Historic Resources Board to not allow any digging at the location. According to town documents, developers planned to build a 125-room hotel, 72 apartments, 6,439 square feet of retail space and 5,650 square feet of restaurant space.

Suni Sands, which is a 9.8-acre parcel with waterfront estuary, contains the “Suni Sands Shell Midden,” which is listed on the Florida Master Site File survey as an archaeological site that is eligible for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places, according to the Jupiter Inlet Foundation.

Suni Sands is located on top of a pre-historic Indian Village site, the foundation said.

Town Councilwoman Malise Sundstrom, who voted for the partial digging plan, said staff gave her the impression a total denial broke town ordinances. She said she believed the decision would get reversed if the developer sued the town.

"It doesn’t have a legal or factual basis and would be overturned," Sundstrom said. "The denial of a certificate to dig doesn’t have a legal basis.”

However, the town could face legal action from Native American advocacy groups like the Floridia Indigenous Alliance or the American Indian Movement.

Robert Rosa, who is a member of both groups, said they plan on taking legal options. Video, which WPTV reviewed, shows people against the application to dig and at least one council member spouting at each other after the meeting.

The Town of Jupiter said Tuesday's vote only sets conditions to protect resources unearthed, if or when development occurs in the future. It says developers will still have to get approval for their plans for the property north of Indiantown Road.

The Town of Jupiter also said if human remains are found, then all activities on the property must stop and developers must notify the Seminole Tribe of Florida and the State Division of Historical Resources among other public groups.

It also says artifacts recovered from the property must get documented and a copy of the findings must be provided to the Town, which will become donated or loaned to the Loxahatchee River Historical Society or another recognized historical organization.