PBC angered by House passage of expanded homestead exemption

Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay (Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)

Palm Beach County officials reacted with anger Wednesday to the passage in the Florida House of Representatives of a joint resolution that would allow voters to decide if they want to expand the homestead exemption from $50,000 to $75,000.

The expansion plan, approved on a vote of 81-35, must be approved by three-fifths of the Senate and then by 60 percent of voters before it could become law on January 1, 2019.

County officials argue that the expanded exemption will suck at least $29 million from its budget. The overall impact on area governments is more than $70 million, they say.

“I’m disgusted that the House leadership would think this is a tax cut for the people,” Commissioner Melissa McKinlay said. “This is a tax shift.”

PBC rejects Iota Carol development project

Palm Beach County commissioners voted 5-2 Wednesday to reject an application for comprehensive plan changes to accommodate the Iota Carol development project.

Wednesday’s vote kills the proposed project, which called for 1,030 homes on 1,288 acres west of The Acreage. In rejecting the project, the commission – with a new chair and two new commissioners – broke sharply from its pro-development stance of recent years

Residents near the proposed project complained about the additional traffic it would cause. Commissioners shared those concerns.

Tiny houses considered in addressing big problem in PBC

Darrin and Jodi Swank’s 520-square foot house in Loxahatchee. (Damon Higgins/The Palm Beach Post)

The scarcity of affordable housing in Palm Beach County is a big problem. One county commissioner thinks tiny houses could be, well, at least a tiny part of the solution.

Earlier this week, as county commissioners were getting an update on redevelopment efforts in the Westgate/Belvedere Homes community, Commissioner Melissa McKinlay offered a suggestion: Why not allow tiny houses to be built there?

Tiny houses – the subject of HGTV’s Tiny House Builders show – are an increasingly popular choice for some who want to reduce their impact on the environment, save money and push back against over-consumption.

“Perhaps we could look at some pilot language,” McKinlay said.

There was no vote on the idea, but no one spoke in opposition to it, either. The Westgate Belvedere Homes Community Redevelopment Agency is looking into it, as is county staff.

Commissioners had just finished getting an overview of the county’s workforce housing program and lamented, again, the dearth of affordable housing.

Tiny houses could be an option for single people or young families, McKinlay said, adding that Leon County has already begun approving plans for tiny houses there.

“Maybe we could look at them for an example,” she said.

Darrin and Jodi Swank are raising their three children in a 520-square foot house in Loxahatchee.

“It’s five people in one little house,” Jodi Swank told The Palm Beach Post in July. “We try to live simple. And we’ve loved it.”

PBC wants Trump administration policy change on animal breeders

Palm Beach County is expected to discuss a resolution Tuesday calling on the Trump administration to resume posting information on animal breeders who violate standards monitored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In an effort to shut down so-called pet mills, which critics contend house and breed animals in inhumane conditions, the county banned the sale of puppies and kittens at new pet stores. But existing pet stores were allowed to continue selling the animals as long as they were obtained from breeders who are licensed and not in violation of USDA standards.

» Trump administration’s policy change undercuts county puppy-sales law

In February, however, the USDA under the Trump administration removed from its website information on breeders with violations. That means neither the county nor pet stores know which breeders have violations.

The USDA change, along with concerns about the treatment of animals at Star Pups in Royal Palm Beach, has led to calls for the county to revisit its policy of allowing existing pet stores to sell puppies and kittens.