LIGHTHOUSE POINT—Millionaires and billionaires can live anywhere, so what's so special about this 2.4 square-mile city of 11,020 people that sits snug between Federal Highway and the Intracoastal Waterway?
Driving along U.S. 1 at Sample Road, if you didn't already know Lighthouse Point was tucked away to the east, you might cruise right past.
Ranch houses dating from the city's 1956 incorporation stand alongside massive, Florentine castle-palazzos and pastel-painted Key West-style places with big porches. Boat masts and antennas peek above many of the 3,457 single-family roofs.
"We've found that all the traffic lights turn red when you approach them, and that's not necessarily a bad thing," said Florida Commission on Ethics Vice Chair Roy Rogers, a 31-year resident. He says the tableau along the three-mile-long Lighthouse Drive - of parents jogging behind strollers, dogs walking their owners and older couples strolling hand-in-hand - is what the city is all about.
Residents say it's the emphasis around family activities like the youth sports and sailing programs, the local fire, library and police services and a maritime lifestyle that draws them there.
Radio rebel Paul Castronovo says the cops flash their lights in greeting as he heads to his Paul & Young Ron show at 4 a.m. each day. His family is in its second home on the same street where his boat doesn't leave the dock as often as he'd like and neighbors share their freshly caught fish fillets.
"I call this neighborhood 'Mayberry,' " said Castronovo, whose son plays in the city's athletic leagues. "It's a vibrant lifestyle and I love it."
Ten small bridges lighted by blue dock lamps span 18-miles of canals that give water views to nearly half of the 5,449 residences. A private yacht club and public marina serve boaters, including the captain of Jimmy Buffett's Last Mango, and the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.
Federal officials rented two marina slips long before 9/11 terrorists used the city library prior to their attacks, said Maureen Canada, a city native who owns the facility with sister Debbie Edwards and brother Christian Spieker. A gleaming $500,000 Midnight Express pursuit vessel that can reach 80 mph sits dockside, five minutes or less from Hillsboro Inlet and the Atlantic Ocean.
"If you want to be partying, this is not the place," Spieker said. "If you want seclusion, you come here."
Security for his family drew Washington Redskins Wide Receiver Santana Moss to the city. He was raised in the Carol City section of Miami.
"It is a quiet place that has really nice neighborhoods and good people," Moss said by e-mail. "When you grow up in Miami, you want to get out a little bit, but still be able to go back and be close to everything you knew. Being in Lighthouse Point gives me that opportunity."
Other NFL players and homeowners are Moss's teammate, running back Clinton Portis, and Super Bowl XLII star wide receiver Plaxico Burress, whose neighbor Terry Keene called him "a good guy with a delightful wife."
Sicilian Oven co-owner Andrew Garavuso has served Super Bowl players and Oscar winners, as has neighbor Donna Schlager at The Fin & Claw.
"I didn't know who he was, but a beautiful white Bentley gave him away," said Schlager of actor, singer and comedian Jamie Foxx.
The star was plainly dressed in shorts and a T-shirt, "without bling," and posed for photos. "I wish he came in more," she said.
Foxx has stayed in the city and also visits Tennessee Titan Jevon Kearse across the inlet in Pompano Beach, Garavuso said. The actor likes Sicilian Oven's Shrimp Palermo, sausage and broccoli rabe. Burress ordered the wood-fired oven pizza recently, shortly before beginning a prison sentence after shooting himself in the leg at a New York nightclub last year.
"He was somber about it and said he still hopes to have a career when he gets out," said Garavuso, who calls the city "a quiet pleasure-ville. [Celebrities] keep a low profile in their oasis."
The National Wildlife Federation certified the city as a community wildlife habitat last year for its seven parks and plentiful homeowners' and public gardens.
Bruce Barrington, developer and former owner of Hawks Cay resort in the Florida Keys as well as a medical software company, raised three children here with wife Gayle. The family has donated to the library as well as the tennis center and sports leagues their children joined.
"The primary reason we moved here 30-years ago was when we drove around various areas in South Florida, Lighthouse Point homes had bicycles in the driveways," Barrington said. "The kids weren't inside in the air conditioning. It's a great neighborhood, the people are friendly and easy to get along with and city services have been great. We love it here."
Linda Trischitta can be reached at ltrischitta@SunSentinel.com or 954-356-4233.