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.

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.”

South Florida Water Management District OKs new budget with no tax rate increase

nckrnyt9Tax rates for the South Florida Water Management District won’t go up for a sixth straight year.

On Tuesday in West Palm Beach, the 16-county district’s governing board approved a $726.6 million budget for 2016-2017 in which property owners will pay $33.07 per $100,000 of taxable land value, the agency said in a release.

The budget comes from a mix of property taxes and other income from local, state and federal sources, as well as fees, investments and farming taxes.

About 85 percent of the budget goes for flood control, operations and maintenance of lands, as well as ongoing restoration goals. That includes $54.1 million for the next phases of an $880 million plan to improve Everglades water quality. The release said the budget contains $234 million in state money to accelerate restoration projects.

Palm Beach County Water Utilities: we got a clean bill of health for 2015

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Stiles (Post/Bill Ingram)

092707 MET Glades Water 3.jPalm Beach County Water Utilities’ drinking water did not have any state or federal violations in the 2015 calendar year, Director Jim Stiles told county commissioners Thursday in an e-mail.

Stiles, in issuing his annual summary, said he was “proud to report” that water both in the general utility and in the area formerly covered by the Glades Utility Authority “met or exceeded all federal and state requirements.”

Last year, the primary service area got a clean rating for 2014, but the Glades authority got one violation, for unacceptable levels of coliform bacteria.

The county utility, which serves about 500,000 households countywide, including the Glades, said it can produce up to 110 million gallons a day of drinking water.

It says drinking water nearly always will contain small amounts of some contaminants, including viruses and bacteria from sewage, plants and animals; salts and metals from runoff; pesticides and herbicides; organic chemicals; and radioactive contaminants.

Read 2015 Water Quality report: