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.
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.
With some people happily living in tiny homes the size of a couple rooms in a traditional house, that’s not as nutty a question as you might think.
Certainly, Craig Vanderlaan, executive director of Crisis Housing Solutions, doesn’t think it’s a crazy notion.
During an affordable housing summit in West Palm Beach Wednesday, he told a ballroom full of county officials, lenders and developers that re-purposed shipping containers can be part of the answer to a problem they said has reached a crisis point.
Vanderlaan said shipping containers have been re-purposed into housing units in the Netherlands, Los Angeles, Michigan and in Washington, D.C.
“You can put 16 to 25 units on a half-acre,” Vanderlaan said as audience members looked at each with expressions that ranged from bemusement to intrigue. “Listen, it’s being done. We are basically shovel ready. We’ve already got the shipping containers being donated.”
Rick Clegg has a shipping container “eco retreat” with frontage on the Loxahatchee River in Jupiter.
“People come here to experience what it is like to live in a container, but they come back for the location,” Clegg told The Palm Beach Post in 2015. “This is the first building permit for them in south Florida. They are all welded together. This is where I’m coming in a hurricane.”
Clegg’s retreat brings to mind comments Vanderlaan made on Wednesday.
“Look at ’em like Lego blocks,” he said. “You can fun with this. Millennials love this stuff.”
Traditional residential builders poked fun at the concept.
“I don’t want to live in a container house,” said Tony Palumbo, real estate acquisition director for Pulte, which, according to its web site, builds houses in 50 markets across the country. “I don’t care how cute it looks. And I don’t think my kids do, either.”
As the audience chuckled, Palumbo added: “But I would like to follow it through the permitting process.”
County Administrator Verdenia Baker said the county wouldn’t automatically reject a development project that included shipping container homes.
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.
Palm Beach County won a big battle in the fight to extend State Road 7 Friday when Administrative Law Judge Bram Carter found that the county had followed all applicable permitting criteria and is entitled to an environmental resource permit.
The county has pushed to extend State Road 7 north to Northlake Boulevard, but the city of West Palm Beach has pushed back, arguing that the extension threatens the Grassy Waters Preserve, a 24-square mile marsh that is the source of its drinking water.
Carter’s recommended order is a major victory for the county.
“The project would not adversely impact public health, safety, and welfare associated with the city’s public water supply in the water catchment area because the project would have no effect on the city’s water supply operations,” the judge wrote. “In addition, there are reasonable protective measures to prevent a spill from entering the city’s public water supply.”
All parties now have 15 days to petition the South Florida Water Management District with errors they believe Carter committed in the order.
If SFWMD agrees that an error has been made, the erroneous portion of Carter’s order will not be followed.
But in an email to county officials, Assistant County Attorney Kim Phan pointed out that un-ringing the bell Carter just struck is no small task.
“An agency’s ability to reject any portion of a recommended order is very limited to conclusions of law and interpretation of administrative rules,” Phan wrote. “Also, the agency may not reject or modify the findings of fact unless it was not based on competent substantial evidence on the proceedings (or) did not comply with essential requirements of law.”
Construction in Palm Beach County’s newest city, Westlake, will add more cars in the coming years to already over-burdened Seminole Pratt Whitney Road.
That’s why the Seminole Improvement District, which oversees road and sewer services in Westlake, wants to widen the road.
But the city of West Palm Beach, mindful of not running afoul of state law giving it control of a part of the M-Canal and a nearby water catchment area, has not issued a license so the bridge over the canal can be widened.
The county has already signed off on the widening project, and Minto Communities, the developer building Westlake, has already agreed to help pay for it.
The dispute with West Palm Beach, however, has slowed work on the project, increasing fears of the type of traffic snarls preservationists warned against when they opposed large-scale development in the area.
A city official says she’s confident the dispute can be worked out. Th Seminole Improvement District has triggered a state-mandated mediation process, which must be pursued before the parties can file suit against one another.
Palm Beach Shores Mayor Myra Koutzen has written to County Commissioner Hal Valeche to express her support for a plan to build sports fields on 27 acres of the North County District Park.
Koutzen notes that Palm Beach Gardens wants to use some of its money from the one-cent sales tax increase to build sports fields on park land, which is located in Valeche’s district.
“As a small community with very limited public space, our residents have particular need of the types of recreational space proposed for that area of the North County District Park,” Koutzen wrote in am email to Valeche. “We are particularly appreciative that Palm Beach Gardens opens their facilities to residents of neighboring communities such as ours. This proposal would support their ability to continue to provide this access in the future.”
What does a new city look like when it’s under construction?
A lot like this:
Minto Communities, the developer building Palm Beach County’s newest city, Westlake, has started construction in the first 500 acres of what is expected to be a city of 4,500 homes and 2.2 million square feet of non-residential development along both sides of Seminole Pratt Whitney Road.
Minto Vice President John Carter said the builder has also started work on a town center and the first 300-home subdivision.
Westlake used to be known as Minto West. Minto changed the development’s name not long before backing an effort to incorporate the area, a move that surprised and angered Palm Beach County commissioners who had approved the project over the objections of environmentalists and preservationists.
Up Interstate 95, in Daytona Beach, Minto is partnering with Margaritavile Holdings to build what it describes as an “active adult community” called Latitude Margaritaville.
“With Minto’s expertise in creating master planned developments and Margaritaville’s inherent ability to deliver fun and escapism, Latitude Margaritaville has the exact coordinates for those looking to live the Margaritaville lifestyle as they grow older, but not up,” said John Cohlan, chief executive officer of Margaritaville Holdings.
A Dallas-based firm with offices in Palm Beach Gardens has been selected as the project manager for the vast array of projects that will be paid for with money from the sales tax increase voters approved in November.
Jacobs Project Management beat out two other firms for the right to track and report the sales tax projects and provide information to the citizens oversight committee, a county-approved body that will monitor sales tax expenditures.
Commissioners ratified Jacobs’ selection Tuesday, authorizing County Administrator Verdenia Baker to begin negotiating a consulting fee with Jacobs.
That fee could be substantial, as the county expects its portion of the sales tax increase to be about $810 million over the next decade for upgrades to parks, roads, bridges and county-owned buildings.
Commissioners, with input from county staff members, will retain final say over which firms will be selected to undertake the sales tax work.
Jacobs will provide project updates to the oversight committee and to county staff.