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.

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.”

County gets favorable ruling in push to extend SR7

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.”

Minto starts work on expansion of Seminole Pratt Whitney

Minto Communities is touting its work to expand Seminole Pratt Whitney Road in the new city of Westlake.

The builder’s plans call for the construction of 4,500 homes and 2.2 million square feet of non-residential development on 3,800 acres along both sides of Seminole Pratt Whitney Road. In getting its project approved by Palm Beach County, Minto agreed to expand Seminole Pratt Whitney Road.

County commissioners, displeased by Westlake’s incorporation in June, have wondered aloud whether Minto plans to honor commitments it made to set aside land for parks, recreation and drainage, areas over which the new city now has control.

In a press statement, Minto made clear its intention to follow through with the widening of Seminole Pratt Whitney.

“As part of our development order with Palm Beach County, we agreed to step up and commence construction on this substantial improvement to Seminole Pratt Whitney before putting a shovel in the ground for our new community,” Minto Vice President John Carter said. “We are pleased to see this major transportation improvement project starting.”

The project is estimated to cost $19 million and will take one and a half years, Carter said.

Seminole Pratt Whitney is to be expanded from two lanes to four with a landscaped median. The road will be widened from the northern end of Seminole Ridge High School to just past 60th Street North.

John Carter, vice president of Minto Communities, discusses the company's controversial Minto West project in West Palm Beach, Florida on July 30, 2014. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
John Carter, vice president of Minto Communities, discusses the company’s controversial Minto West project in West Palm Beach, Florida on July 30, 2014. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

 

Commission approves comprehensive plan changes for Indian Trails Grove

Palm Beach County commissioners voted 6-1 Thursday in favor of comprehensive plan changes GL Homes sought for its Indian Trails Grove project west of The Acreage.

Commissioners had given preliminary approval of those changes in April. Zoning changes for the 3,900-home project will be addressed early next year.

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

map of Indian Trails Grove project
map of Indian Trails Grove project

 

County to hold public hearing on Indian Trails Grove project

Palm Beach County is holding a public hearing Thursday on GL Homes’ Indian Trails Groves project west of The Acreage.

The public hearing is scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m. on the sixth floor of the Weisman Governmental Center located at 301 N. Olive Ave. in West Palm Beach.

The 3,900-home project got support last week from the board of supervisors of the Indian Trail Improvement District, which provides water, drainage and road services in the area. Supervisors voted to send a conditional letter of support for the project to county commissioners, who themselves have already voted in favor of preliminary approval.

Backers of the project say it will provide more housing to a growing county and commercial development to an area in need of it.

Opponents, meanwhile, argue that the project will threaten the environment, reduce open space and snarl traffic.

PostonGrowth Post on Growth sig

 

 

Indian Trail Improvement District backs GL Homes project

GL Homes picked up key support Wednesday night for its 3,900-home development west of The Acreage when the Indian Trial Improvement District’s Board of Supervisors voted to send a letter of approval to the Palm Beach County Commission, which will have final say on the project.

Supervisors voted 5-0 to send the letter, which urges commissioners to approve GL Homes’ Indian Trails Grove project if the developer agrees to meet certain conditions, including setting aside 640 acres for a reservoir to help alleviate flooding problems in The Acreage.

Land use and planning attorney Martin Perry made the pitch for GL Homes, giving supervisors an overview of the developer’s plans.

Martin Perry (Brianna Soukup / Palm Beach Post)
Martin Perry (Brianna Soukup / Palm Beach Post)

County commissioners have already given preliminary approval to GL Homes’ request for comprehensive plan changes that would allow it put more homes than would otherwise be allowed on the 4,900 acres it owns in the area.

A letter of support from the  district, a government entity set up to provide road and water services, indicates to commissioners that the project has some local support. Others are likely to oppose the project as another that will increase traffic, threaten the environment and damage the area’s quality of life.

On Thursday, commissioners will hold the first of two public hearings on Indian Trails Grove. In addition to comprehensive plan changes, GL Homes must also get approval for zoning changes it’s seeking for the project.

PostonGrowth Post on Growth sig

 

 

Bonlarron to offer his two cents on one-cent sales tax hike

Politicians conduct listening tours. Over the next month, Assistant Palm Beach County Administrator Todd Bonlarron is heading up a talking tour.

Bonlarron, tapped by County Administrator Verdenia Baker to lead the county’s effort to educate voters on the proposed sales tax increase, is coming to a library near you.

He won’t just be talking sales tax, though. A flier from the county’s library system notes that Bonlarron will discuss ballot initiatives dealing with the homestead tax exemption, solar power and medical marijuana.

State law forbids Bonlarron or any other county official from making overt political arguments, but there is no law against telling voters how the county plans to spend its portion of the roughly $2.7 billion the sales tax increase is expected to generate over the next 10 years.

Bonlarron is scheduled to hit two library branches on Thursday – the Jupiter Branch at 2 p.m. and The Acreage branch at 6:30 p.m. He’ll be at the Lantana Road branch at 3 p.m. on Friday, and he’ll resume the tour on Wednesday with a 1 p.m. stop at the West Boynton Branch.

Voters are encouraged to pre-register and can visit the system’s web site to find out when Bonlarron is scheduled to visit a branch in their area.

Bonlarron
Bonlarron