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.

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.”

County seeking reimbursement of Trump costs

Palm Beach County is seeking federal reimbursement for costs associated with escorting and providing security for President-elect Donald Trump, who spent the Thanksgiving holiday at his Mar-A-Lago mansion on Palm Beach.

County Administrator Verdenia Baker said the cost of escorting Trump’s motorcade and providing additional security over the holiday was roughly $250,000.

Baker’s staff is drafting a letter to the county’s U.S. congressional delegation to seek reimbursement. The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office is keeping track of Trump-related costs.

Click here for much more on this story.

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. (Getty Images)
President-elect Donald Trump. (Getty Images)

County scaling back emergency operations after near miss

Palm Beach County, breathing a collective sigh of relief, is scaling back emergency operations after its brush with Hurricane Matthew caused minimal damage.

“It’s been busy,” County Mayor Mary Lou Berger said during a press conference Friday at the county’s Emergency Operations Center. “It’s been interesting. It’s been annoying. It’s been exciting. But we have gotten through this.”

All evacuees can return, and the county is under no warnings or other advisories, County Administrator Verdenia Baker said.

An assessment found no damage to county structures or assets. About 38,750 people in the county lost power. FPL said it expects to restore power to all customers by Saturday.

Power outages or internal malfunctions have knocked out 20 to 30 traffic signals. The county urges residents to treat intersections with non-working traffic signals as a four-way stop.

Intracoastal bridges remain closed to boat traffic but are open to motorists.

Some 7,560 people sought refuge from Hurricane Matthew at the county’s 13 shelters, with 184 people staying at the special needs shelter at the South Florida Fairgrounds.

The pet-friendly shelter at West Boynton Recreation Center reached full capacity, with 245 people and 200 animals.

County staffers fielded 5,289 calls from residents who had questions about everything from warnings to road closures.

The Emergency Operation Center, where some county staff have stayed overnight monitoring the storm, will scale back its operations at 5 p.m. but will remain at an elevated level of readiness until Saturday afternoon or longer if needed.

County officials were ready for questions about whether they acted too aggressively given the muted impacts of the storm.

Baker said she would not change the county’s actions and warnings. Emergency Management Director Bill Johnson agreed.

“If folks have doubts whether we made the right decision, they just need to look up the coast a little and see what damage the storm is doing,” Johnson said.

Palm Beach County Administrator Verdenia Baker (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)
Palm Beach County Administrator Verdenia Baker (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

 

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 approves Wawa gas station despite opposition

Palm Beach County commissioners approved zoning and land use changes Thursday that will allow a Wawa gas station and eatery to be built at Hypoluxo and High Ridge roads.

Commissioners approved the changes despite intense and broad opposition to the station. County staff members received 649 calls opposing the station with many citing concerns about increases in traffic, noise, pollution and crime.

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

A Wawa convenience store and gas station is coming to Hypoluxo Road and High Ridge Road.
A Wawa convenience store and gas station is coming to Hypoluxo Road and High Ridge Road.

 

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.

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