Western Boynton, Delray residents turn to officials to stop development plan

More than 400 residents attended a community meeting to oppose a GL Homes plan to allow more development in the Agricultural Reserve.

Nearly 500 people have downloaded a form letter from the web site of the Coalition of Boynton West Residential Associations urging opposition to possible rule changes that would allow more development to take place in Palm Beach County’s Agricultural Reserve, a 22,000-acre farming zone located west of Boynton Beach and Delray Beach.

The letters, many of which have already been emailed to county commissioners, is the second wave of an assault the politically powerful coalition plans to make against the proposed rule changes, which it argues would lead to over-development in an area where building has been limited to accommodate agriculture. COBWRA held a meeting on the topic on June 7, drawing 400 people despite heavy rain and long car lines.

Ag Reserve rules require builders to preserve 60 acres there for every 40 they wish to develop in the reserve. Developers have not been allowed to preserve land outside of the Ag Reserve so they can build within it.

GL Homes has floated a plan to change those rules so it can preserve land it owns in The Acreage/Loxahatchee area and build more on land it owns further south in the Ag Reserve.

Residents in The Acreage/Loxahatchee area, pleased by the prospect of less development in their midst, like the idea. But many south county residents fear the rule changes will mean over-development, jammed roads and lower property values for them.

COBWRA posted the form letter to its web site earlier this week, and, by noon on Friday, 475 people had downloaded it, according to figures provided by the group.

GL is not expected to formally request Ag Reserve rule changes until later this year, but they have already become a focal point of discussion in the ongoing battle over development in the county.

Opponents to West Boynton development come to COBWRA meeting

More than 400 residents attended a community meeting Wednesday night to oppose a GL Homes plan to allow more development in the Agricultural Reserve.

More than 400 people attended a meeting of the Coalition of Boynton West Residential Associations Wednesday night to note their opposition to a GL Homes plan that would allow more development in the Agricultural Reserve, a 22,000-acre farming zone located west of Boynton Beach and Delray Beach.

Palm Beach County rules have restricted development in the Ag Reserve by requiring builders to set aside 60 acres for every 40 acres they want to develop. Land set aside for preservation must be in the Ag Reserve.

GL Homes, however, wants to change that rule. After getting approval to build 3,900 homes on 4,900 acres it owns in the Loxahatchee area, the developer has floated a plan to preserve that acreage in exchange for permission to build on land it owns in the Ag Reserve.

Homes in the Ag Reserve would likely fetch far more than homes in the Loxahatchee area, but GL officials  have said their new plan isn’t driven solely by a desire to make more money. GL has built many of the high-end developments in the Ag Reserve, and its officials have said they want to continue building in an area where it has established a footprint and where services like roads and drainage are already in place.

Loxahatchee and Acreage-area residents are pleased with the plan, seeing it as a move away from what they fear is over-development in their area.

COBWRA, however, has emerged as a powerful opponent, as demonstrated by its ability pack a meeting room in the GL Homes-built Valencia Reserve residential development on a rainy night.

Those in attendance ripped the plan, which they said would open up the Ag Reserve for additional development.

“For me, for COBWRA, this GL scheme is a defining moment,” COBWRA President Myrna Rosoff said.

GL officials have said they expect to formally present the plan to the county late this year.

County, water management district still at odds over Ag Reserve land

Palm Beach County and the South Florida Water Management District remain at odds over a 571-acre tract of land in the Agricultural Reserve, and the district’s governing board has not accepted the county’s invitation to have a meeting to hash things out.

At issue is whether the county will agree to the district’s request to sell the jointly-owned land in the reserve, a 22,000-acre farming zone located west of Boynton Beach and Delray Beach.

The county, using money from a bond issuance approved by voters, purchased the 571 acres in 2000 with the intent to keep it in preservation or agriculture.

The district later bought a 61 percent stake in it with plans to use the site for a reservoir. But the district has shelved those plans and wants to sell the land.

Some residents, however, are concerned that selling the land to a private party could one day lead to its residential or commercial development. Those residents are not mollified by plans to expand conservation easements aimed at preventing development.

Several commissioners share those concerns and rejected a staff recommendation that they join the district in a sale.

Instead, commissioners directed staff to arrange a meeting with the governing board of the district, which has indicated it will sue the county to force a sale if one isn’t mutually agreed upon.

County Administrator Verdenia Baker reported back to commissioners that the district’s governing board “essentially felt that a meeting would be premature.”

Baker said the district directed its staff to work with their counterparts at the county on three issues: ability to obtain state funding the county would use to buy out the district; identifying a third party/environmental groups to hold the conservation easements and evaluate potential projects on which the district would use proceeds from the sale of the 571 acres.

“Unless we receive objections from the BCC, County Staff intends to work with District Staff to explore these three(3) issues and report back to the Board for further direction at either the February or March meeting,” Baker wrote to commissioners.

Verdenia Baker
Verdenia Baker

 

581-acre chunk of Ag Reserve could be up for sale

The South Florida Water Management District has designed a 581-acre piece of Palm Beach County’s Agricultural Reserve to be surplus and available for sale, increasing the prospect of more development in a farming zone some fear is being gobbled up by builders.

The district co-owns the 581 acres with Palm Beach County. A majority of the seven-member county commission would have to agree to a sale.

Last year, when the district first began discussing the idea of declaring the land surplus and taking bids on it, Commissioners Paulette Burdick and Melissa McKinlay opposed private ownership of the land, which is part of a 624-acre tract purchased with public money in 2000.

Check back later today with http://www.mypalmbeachpost.com for more on this story.

 

PostonGrowth Post on Growth sig

 

Horse bedding recycling firms seek locations in Palm Beach County

At least 11 firms have expressed interest in operating a horse bedding recycling business in Palm Beach County. But finding the right spot for such an operation has proved difficult.

The County Commission was set to discuss the issue during a zoning meeting today, but the discussion was postponed because Commissioner Melissa McKinlay’s return flight from Washington, D.C. was delayed. McKinlay, who was in Washington for a National Association of Counties conference and to discuss issues related to Lake Okeechobee, represents the western areas of the county where equestrian pursuits are popular.

PBC Commissioner Melissa McKinlay
PBC Commissioner Melissa McKinlay

In October, the Commission turned down a request to create a special zoning district where a horse bedding recycling facility could be operated.

That request had drawn concerns about the possibility of the facility being operated in the Agricultural Reserve, a farming zone located west of Boynton Beach and Delray Beach. The request did not include plans to operate a bedding recycling facility in the Agricultural Reserve.

Bedding recycling facilities could be located in areas of the county zoned for industrial businesses. But because of the possibility of foul odors, those locations aren’t deemed to be a good fit – hence the effort to find a more isolated spot in the county that can be re-zoned for a bedding recycling facility.

Much of the manure in the county is spread over lands owned by U.S. Sugar. But as the equestrian industry grows in the county, illegal dumping of manure is becoming more of a problem.

McKinlay has said she does not want to repeat the Commission’s October discussion. She said she does want the county to work toward a more permanent solution.

The Commission could discuss the issue at its next zoning meeting in March.