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.

Would you live in a shipping container?

Rick Clegg’s shipping container eco retreat with frontage on the Loxahatchee River in Jupiter Friday, November 20, 2015. (Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)

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.”

Shipping container-like living isn’t just something out of a William Gibson short story. In fact, the concept has already been brought to Palm Beach County.

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.

“I’m interested,” she said. “If they’re dressed properly, then, yes. Why not?”

Baker said her staff would want to make sure the shipping container homes are “durable and stable for us and not a fad.”

After ripping Trump, Frankel meets with local mayors

Lois Frankel speaks to the media on March 6, 2017. (Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)

U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, held a discussion with mayors in her congressional district Wednesday, when they complained about a lack of mental health resources and sought her help in getting more federal funding.

Frankel started her day by ripping President Donald Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey. But that hot topic gave way to more municipal concerns when the congresswoman met with nine mayors in her district, Chief Deputy Michael Gauger of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office and Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay.

Frankel reminded those in attendance that a recent federal funding bill includes money for local governments that have incurred security and roadway management expenses during President Trump’s many trips to Palm Beach County.

“The burden is spread out among the taxpayers,” Frankel said before joking that the county could see fewer presidential trips now that the weather is warming.

“All I can say is thank goodness it’s summer,” she said.

Frankel told the mayors Delray Beach is working on an ordinance to regulate sober homes. The mayors said more beds need to be available for the mentally ill and told the congresswoman they’d like to get more federal funding to help with community renovation projects, tearing down abandoned buildings and youth programs that could steer young people away from drugs and make a dent in the opioid crisis.

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.”

Building in new PBC city of Westlake underway

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.

County delays vote on Iota Carol development project

Palm Beach County commissioners voted 5-2 Monday to postpone a decision on comprehensive plan changes to accommodate the Iota Carol/Delray Linton Groves development project west of The Acreage.

Commissioners had given preliminary approval to changes last year, which were then reviewed by state government officials. Two of the commissioners who voted in favor of those changes have been replaced by new commissioners, and new County Mayor Paulette Burdick – who has expressed concern about over-development in the county – now chairs commission meetings.

Burdick and Commissioner Melissa McKinlay, whose district includes the project site, voted against the postponement.

The project, which calls for the construction of 1,030 homes on a 1,288-acre tract, will be reconsidered by the commission when it meets on April 8.

 

Palm Beach County Commissioner Paulette Burdick talks about her desire to discuss issues regarding Uber and public safety, instead of putting it off, during a Palm Beach County Commission meeting on Sept. 22, 2015. The commissioners voted to extend Uber's temporary operating agreement until the end of March 2016 or until the state legislature makes any decisions. (Brianna Soukup/Palm Beach Post)
Palm Beach County Mayor Paulette Burdick (Brianna Soukup/Palm Beach Post)

County looking for help in homeless count

Palm Beach County and other groups are looking for volunteers to help them conduct a count of the county’s homeless population.

The point-in-time count, to be conducted during a 24-hour period starting at noon Thursday, is mandated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. State and federal money is tied to the count, which will also be used to direct assistance to those in need.

Those interested in helping with the count are encouraged to call 561-355-4766 or visit http://discover.pbcgov.org/communityservices/humanservices/Pages/HHA.aspx.

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Housing Seminar set for Jan. 23 in Belle Glade

022215-met-pbg-house-repair-04Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay will host a seminar for homeowners and local contractors from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Jan. 23 at the Palm Beach County Public Library Belle Glade Branch, at 725 NW 4th St. in Belle Glade.

The event will provide information about low-interest rate loans for home improvement projects. Financing is available at below market-rates and homeowners with poor and limited credit history are eligible to apply. Local contractors also are invited to learn more about how these financing programs can help their businesses:

Programs:

  • *U.S. Department of Energy low-interest rate loans to for energy efficiency improvements.
  • The non-profit Solar and Energy Loan Fund, which provides low-interest rate options for improvements. Call (772) 468-1818.
  • Contractor recruitment for SELF. Approved local contractors can use SELF financing options.
  • Job training programs available from the building trades.

Riviera Beach reaching out to help storm-ravaged Haiti

The death toll from Hurricane Matthew’s rampage across Haiti now stands at 1,000. Hundreds of thousands more are in need of assistance as the storm damaged the impoverished nation’s water supply, wrecked its already-feeble housing stock and cut off communities.

Officials from Palm Beach County are reaching out to help.

Delray Beach Commissioner Al Jacquet is already on the ground in Haiti assessing the need for volunteers and rescue efforts, according to a news release from Riviera Beach.

Riviera Beach Mayor Thomas Masters, Port of Palm Beach Commissioners Wayne Richards and Jean Enright and a team of about 30 doctors will be joining Jacquet in Haiti in two weeks to deliver aid and medical supplies.

“The best way to receive a blessing is to be a blessing,” the mayor said in announcing the delegation’s travel plans.

Bishop Thomas Masters, mayor of Riviera Beach. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post).
Bishop Thomas Masters, mayor of Riviera Beach. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post).

Florida’s Haitian-American population is the largest in the nation, according to figures from the U.S. Census Bureau. Port-au-Prince is 750 miles from Riviera Beach, and many Haitian-Americans have settled there and in other communities in south Florida.

Haitians are in particular need of antibiotics and medical supplies to treat open wounds.

A list of other medical supplies and needs, along with instructions for the packing of donations, can be found on the World Harvest Missions Outreach web site at http://www.newlife4kids.com.

Local residents can bring donations to containers at A/C Self Storage on Blue Heron Blvd. in Riviera Beach and to Trinity Church International at 7255 S. Military Trail in Lake Worth. Donations can also be brought to the fire stations at Riviera Beach’s municipal complex and on Singer Island.