County wants out of suit challenging development orders in Minto case

Palm Beach County has filed a motion to withdraw from a suit challenging development orders it issued to facilitate Minto’s massive project in The Acreage.

Two Loxahatchee area residents and a preservation group, 1000 Friends of Florida, sued Minto and county, arguing that the development orders the county issued violated its comprehensive plan.

Minto and the county won the case, which was appealed.

Now, the county – citing the Minto development area’s incorporation on June 20 as the new city of Westlake – wants out of the case.

“Thus, as of June 20, 2016, the County no longer possessed the authority to administer the development orders it originally issued, rather, the City of Westlake possesses exclusive authority to administer those orders,” the county wrote in a motion filed Tuesday with the 4th District Court of Appeal.

The county’s motion notes that lawyers for those who sued the county and Minto do not object to its request to withdraw from the case.

The attorney representing Minto will handle the appeal, “and the City of Westlake should be substituted for the County,” the county’s lawyers wrote.

Minto's Westlake Community Center sits empty on Seminole Pratt Whitney Road across from Seminole Ridge High School in Westlake, Florida on June 24, 2016. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
Minto’s Westlake Community Center on Seminole Pratt Whitney Road across from Seminole Ridge High School in Westlake, Florida on June 24, 2016. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

 

 

Groups that opposed pro-Minto changes ordered to pay attorneys fees

Two Loxahatchee area residents and a pair of preservation groups were ordered to pay attorneys fees after their effort to block changes to Palm Beach County’s comprehensive plan failed.

In a ruling issued earlier this week, Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Donald Hafele said Robert Schutzer, Karen Schutzer, 1000 Friends of Florida and ALERTS of Palm Beach County “knew or should have known” that the changes – approved by the county so the giant Minto West development project could move forward – were permissible.

The Schutzers and the two groups had sued Minto and the county to block the changes. They and others opposed the development project, arguing that it would generate sprawl, gobble up open space and increase traffic.

Minto and the county have won a string of rulings in the case, and the development project – now known as Westlake – is moving forward.

Ryan Smart, president of 1000 Friends of Florida, said his organization has appealed the ruling that cleared the comprehensive plan changes. He said the organization is also seeking a re-hearing on Hafele’s order regarding attorneys fees.

“We strongly disagree with the judge’s ruling, and we will be filing a motion for a re-hearing,” Smart said.

Minto's Westlake Community Center sits empty on Seminole Pratt Whitney Road across from Seminole Ridge High School in Westlake, Florida on June 24, 2016. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
Minto’s Westlake Community Center sits empty on Seminole Pratt Whitney Road across from Seminole Ridge High School in Westlake, Florida on June 24, 2016. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

McKinlay asks IG to look into Minto support for Westlake

Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay has asked the county’s inspector general to look into the support Minto Communities has pledged to the county’s newest city, Westlake.

Westlake’s interim city manager, Ken Cassel, told council members on Monday that Minto Communities will cover any budget shortfall for the next five years.

Minto is the largest landowner in Westlake, and, as such, represents nearly all of the new city’s tax base. The developer plans to build at least 4,500 homes in the area.

McKinlay, whose district represents Westlake, has asked Gov. Rick Scott to investigate the circumstances of the city’s incorporation, which some view as a Minto-inspired move that will allow the builder to go beyond the development limits it had agreed to two years ago with the county.

McKinlay wrote Inspector General John Carey on Wednesday, inquiring about “the legality of a landowner funding the same council that will ultimately decide the landowner’s permits, land use and quasi-judicial zoning issues.”

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

Commissioner Melissa McKinlay
Commissioner Melissa McKinlay

Westlake city attorney defends her tenure in Port St. Lucie

Pam E. Booker, fired as city attorney in Port St. Lucie but hired for similar work in the new city of Westlake, defended her tenure in her previous job.

She said she was fired for being “too strictly letter of the law” and unwilling to be political in a job she viewed as strictly legal in nature.

Westlake’s hiring of Booker – and its decision to pay Booker’s firm $276,000 per year – will likely increase criticism of how the new city was incorporated.

Stay with http://www.mypalmbeachpost.com for complete coverage of Westlake.

City of Westlake interim city attorney Pam Booker during a city council meeting in Westlake, Florida on July 11, 2016.  (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
City of Westlake interim city attorney Pam Booker during a city council meeting in Westlake, Florida on July 11, 2016. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

 

Four-year old law, five people bring PBC a new city

The law that led to the creation of Westlake, Palm Beach County’s newest city, was never supposed to be used.

Find out how a four-year old law, five people – and one powerful developer – brought the county a new city.

Check out Westlake’s back story here and stay with http://www.mypalmbeachpost.com for full coverage on this topic.

Indian Trail Improvement District joins call for review of Westlake

The Indian Trail Improvement District has joined a call by Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay to have Gov. Rick Scott investigate the incorporation of Westlake.

“As the Indian Trail Improvement District Board of Supervisors, elected to serve the residents with regards to drainage, parks and roadways of central Palm Beach County commonly known as The Acreage, we are extremely concerned about the circumstances surrounding the recent conversion of the Seminole Improvement District to Palm Beach County’s 39th municipality called Westlake,” board members wrote to Scott on Friday.

Board members raised many of the same concerns highlighted by McKinlay, who reached out to Scott on Thursday.

Westlake incorporated on Monday when the five votes in favor of conversion were certified by an elections canvassing board.

Minto Communities, the largest landowner in the Seminole Improvement District, backed incorporation, with its vice president, John Carter, saying the developer was having a hard time working with the county as it moved forward with plans to build 4,500 homes in the area.

McKinlay and the Indian Trail Improvement District have raised questions about the legality of the five votes in favor of the conversion plan.

“We respectfully ask that you investigate this issue to ensure the voting process was lawful and free of fraud and that it coincides with the intent of the governing special district conversion legislation,” Indian Trail board members wrote.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott
Florida Gov. Rick Scott

McKinlay asks governor to investigate incorporation of Westlake

Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay has asked Florida’s governor to investigate the incorporation of Westlake, a city that sprang to life on Monday with the support of only five voters.

McKinlay raised questions about the new city’s charter, which only requires that two of the five transitional council members reside in Palm Beach County. McKinlay, whose district includes Westlake, also noted that each of the five people who voted in favor of incorporation are listed in elections records as sharing the same address.

Property records show that address is for a set of offices owned by Minto Communities, the builder that plans to construct 4,500 homes and develop 2.2 million square feet of commercial space in Westlake.

Minto Vice President John Carter has said his firm backs incorporation in part because of difficulty in working with the county on such things as permitting.

In an interview with The Palm Beach Post on Thursday, Roger Manning, a printing business owner who lives in unincorporated Lake Worth, said he agreed to be Westlake’s mayor at the request of Carter. Both Carter and Manning are board members of the Central Palm Beach County Chamber of Commerce.

McKinlay has questioned Minto’s role in the conversion of the Seminole Improvement District to the city of Westlake and points out what she sees unusual aspects of the new city’s charter.

“I understand that no law requires municipal officials to reside in the city they serve, but allowing a majority of the Transitional Council to live not only outside Westlake, but also outside of Palm Beach County, strains acceptable principles of representative government,” McKinlay wrote. “On behalf of the 40,000 residents of the Acreage and surrounding communities, I respectfully ask that you investigate the issue to ensure the voting process was lawful and coincides with the intent of the governing special district conversion legislation.”

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

Commissioner Melissa McKinlay
Commissioner Melissa McKinlay

Mayor of Westlake runs printing business, looking forward to serving

The newest mayor of Palm Beach County’s newest city doesn’t live there, and he’s not sure he will move there even after taking the oath of office.

But Roger Manning, who lives in unincorporated Lake Worth and has run a printing business there for more than 30 years, said he is looking forward to serving as Westlake’s inaugural mayor.

Nothing about Westlake’s founding has been standard, and Manning, 62, didn’t become mayor by kissing babies and earning votes.

He said he was asked to serve as the infant city’s mayor by John Carter, vice president of Minto Communities, the builder that plans to construct 4,500 homes and develop 2.2 million square feet of commercial space in an area of The Acreage that is largely fields and groves.

Carter and Manning serve as board members for the Central Palm Beach County Chamber of Commerce.

Minto is the largest landowner in Westlake and supports its incorporation, much to the chagrin of area residents, who don’t want the hustle and bustle they believe the developer will bring to their quiet area.

County officials who endured intense criticism two years ago when they worked with Minto to set limits on the size of the development – only to have Minto support an incorporation that could open the door to even more development – aren’t thrilled, either.

County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay, whose district includes Westlake, has called Minto “greedy” and said it’s backing of incorporation was “a dishonest business practice.”

In an exclusive interview with The Palm Beach Post on Thursday, Manning said he is aware of the frustration surrounding Westlake’s start as a city.

“Some things are shocking for a start, but, once people work together, things can work out,” Manning said.

Manning said his decision to stand as mayor wasn’t a snap choice. He said he visited the area and determined that it could use much of what Minto plans to bring.

“There is a real need for services in that area,” he said. “The area looks like it needs more services.”

Read more about Westlake’s new mayor – including his views on a jailed former Westlake council member and on how he plans to work with Minto – later today at http://www.mypalmbeachpost.com.

Westlake Mayor Roger Manning
Westlake Mayor Roger Manning

 

 

Jailed Westlake council member resigns

Anthony Fritz, one of Westlake’s founding city council members, resigned on Tuesday in letter addressed to the new town’s mayor.

“Mayor,” Fritz wrote in the undated letter. “This letter serves as my formal notice of resignation from the City Council of the City of Westlake effective immediately. Thank you for the opportunity to serve the City of Westlake.”

The letter, stamped as being received on Tuesday, was sent to The Palm Beach Post on Thursday by the manager of the Seminole Improvement District, which, with the votes Fritz and four others, was converted into Palm Beach County’s newest city on Monday.

Fritz, 27, has an extensive arrest record and is currently in jail in Belle Glade on a charge of battering his live-in girlfriend.

Minto Communities, the developer who plans to construct 4,500 homes in Westlake, has supported incorporation, which has drawn opposition from area residents and some county officials.

Efforts to reach Fritz or any of the voters or council members involved in the founding of Westlake have been unsuccessful. Minto, whose vice president was quoted in a statement announcing the city’s incorporation, did not respond to requests for information about the voters or council members.

The Seminole Improvement District manager, Ken Cassel, also did not provide information about those involved in the incorporation when asked on Wednesday.

Anthony Fritz
Anthony Fritz

 

Minto, PBC prevail in legal challenge to development project

Minto Communities and Palm Beach County have prevailed in a legal challenge to the 4,500-unit development project in The Acreage.

ALERTS of Palm Beach County, a Loxahatchee community group, 1000 Friends of Florida and two Acreage residents sued Minto and the county, arguing that the county did not adhere to its comprehensive plan in approving the project.

But on Tuesday acting Palm Beach County Circuit Court Judge Edward Garrison ruled in favor of Minto and the county.

The ruling was one of several that have cleared the way for construction to take place.

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

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)