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.

Taylor hosting meeting to oppose Glades land bill

Palm Beach County Commissioner District 7, Priscilla A. Taylor in West Palm Beach, Florida on March 22, 2016. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Former Palm Beach County Commissioner Priscilla Taylor is putting together a breakfast meeting Saturday to call attention to legislation she argues will harm residents of the Glades, an impoverished area along the banks of Lake Okeechobee.

The object of Taylor’s ire is a bill filed in the Florida Senate (SB 10) that calls for the purchase of land south of the lake for a reservoir project that would end the necessity of the lake discharges blamed for the algae bloom that fouled water along the Treasure Coast last year.

The legislation, authored by Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, calls for the land to be purchased from willing sellers. But Taylor, a former state legislator whose district included the Glades, worries landowners in the area would be compelled to sell.

One area of particular concern, Taylor said, includes a mill that employs more than 1,000 people.

The closing of that mill “would be devastating to that area,” Taylor said, adding that she is frustrated that there have been no public discussions of the legislation’s potential impact.

Taylor is organizing a “call to action” breakfast from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Saturday at Payne Chapel A.M.E. Church at 801 9th St. in West Palm Beach.

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

 

Get tips from Palm Beach County on hosting your own backyard veggie garden

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20120924 (Thomas Cordy/The Palm Beach Post)---BOCA RATON--Max Roseberg, right, (double check with story), 9, Mynda Barenholtz (cq center), 9, and Jennifer Barenholtz, all of Boca Raton were photographed at a new micro garden at the campus today, Monday, September 24, 2012.
(Thomas Cordy/The Palm Beach Post)

It’s hard to beat; the aroma of a fresh basil plant. If you always have wanted to have your own vegetable garden, help is available.

A workshop on small vegetable farms and gardens is set for 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 7, at the Palm Beach County Cooperative Extension Service’s Hutcheson Agricultural Complex, 559 N. Military Trail, West Palm Beach. It will be conducted by Arthur Kirstein, Palm Beach County’s coordinator of agricultural economic development.

Participants will get tips and techniques on site preparation, plantings, crop maintenance, and harvesting. The seminar is followed by a tour of the vegetable garden at the adjacent Mounts Botanical Garden.

The program is free but is limited to the first 100 who sign up. Call 561-233-1792 or email mallman@pbcgov.org.

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

 

Solution for excess horse manure?

Palm Beach County has a problem – too much horse manure. And that’s not because presidential candidates keep coming here.

No, the county has a vibrant equestrian industry. But some of the waste from those horses is dumped illegally, threatening the environment.

More companies that recycle or process that waste have wanted to set up shop in the county, but residents, wary of the potential odorous effects of such an operation, have shouted NIMBY (not in my backyard).

County officials now hope they have a solution.

Commissioners have given preliminary approval to an amendment of the county’s comprehensive plan that would allow an equestrian waste recycling pilot project to operate in an area called the Glades tier, a large swath of unincorporated farming land west of Wellington and east of Belle Glade.

The goal is to have the operation located close enough to the equestrian hot spot of Wellington but not close enough to Wellington (or to cities in the Glades, for that matter) for it to foul the air of neighborhoods and depress property values.

Commissioner Priscilla Taylor initially expressed concern that the operation would be foisted upon already economically depressed cities in the Glades, but Commissioner Melissa McKinlay, whose office has been working on the issue, assured her that is not the case.

McKinlay’s district includes the Glades, and she bristled at the suggestion that she would support foisting anything on the area.

Ultimately, commissioners voted unanimously in favor of the amendment, which must be reviewed by state officials before it comes back to the county for final approval.

McKinlay viewed the amendment as a step in the right direction.

“We’ve got hundreds of thousands of tons that need to be disposed of,” she said.

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Indian Trails Groves gets initial approval from PBC Commission

The massive Indian Trails Grove development project west of The Acreage got preliminary approval from the Palm Beach County Commission Tuesday.

Commissioners voted 6-1 in favor of moving forward with the project, which calls for 3,900 housing units to be built on 4,900 acres west of 180th Avenue North and south of Hamlin Boulevard. Commissioner Paulette Burdick cast the lone dissenting vote.

Some area residents, environmentalists and preservationists opposed the project, saying it will invite sprawl, increase traffic and degrade the environment.

A pair of public hearings will be held later this year before the project could get final approval.

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

Post on Growth
Post on Growth

 

 

Hug a tree and win in Palm Beach County contest

MDELRAY BEACH-031104 NPD CLPhotograph a “tree hugger” and you might win a prize in a contest being staged by Palm Beach County.

The “Hug a Tree for Earth Day” Instagram Photo Contest is sponsored by the county’s Department of Environmental Resources Management.

The winning photographer gets a kit filled with eco-friendly products, including a native tree and a rain barrel. There’s no fee to enter.

To enter, take a picture of a tree hugger in action, follow @pbcerm on Instagram, upload your photos on Instagram and tag with #ermgreen @pbcerm, and include location and, if known, tree species.

Photos must be taken in Palm Beach County and shared between April 1 and April 30. Earth Day is April 22.

ERM also, in partnership with the county’s Cooperative Extension Service , will give away  up to two native trees or shrubs per home address on April 16 at the Black Gold Jubilee event in Belle Glade. Supplies are limited.

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.