Groups that opposed pro-Minto changes ordered to pay attorneys fees

Two Loxahatchee area residents and a pair of preservation groups were ordered to pay attorneys fees after their effort to block changes to Palm Beach County’s comprehensive plan failed.

In a ruling issued earlier this week, Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Donald Hafele said Robert Schutzer, Karen Schutzer, 1000 Friends of Florida and ALERTS of Palm Beach County “knew or should have known” that the changes – approved by the county so the giant Minto West development project could move forward – were permissible.

The Schutzers and the two groups had sued Minto and the county to block the changes. They and others opposed the development project, arguing that it would generate sprawl, gobble up open space and increase traffic.

Minto and the county have won a string of rulings in the case, and the development project – now known as Westlake – is moving forward.

Ryan Smart, president of 1000 Friends of Florida, said his organization has appealed the ruling that cleared the comprehensive plan changes. He said the organization is also seeking a re-hearing on Hafele’s order regarding attorneys fees.

“We strongly disagree with the judge’s ruling, and we will be filing a motion for a re-hearing,” Smart said.

Minto's Westlake Community Center sits empty on Seminole Pratt Whitney Road across from Seminole Ridge High School in Westlake, Florida on June 24, 2016. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Minto’s Westlake Community Center sits empty on Seminole Pratt Whitney Road across from Seminole Ridge High School in Westlake, Florida on June 24, 2016. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)