County, water management district still at odds over Ag Reserve land

Palm Beach County and the South Florida Water Management District remain at odds over a 571-acre tract of land in the Agricultural Reserve, and the district’s governing board has not accepted the county’s invitation to have a meeting to hash things out.

At issue is whether the county will agree to the district’s request to sell the jointly-owned land in the reserve, a 22,000-acre farming zone located west of Boynton Beach and Delray Beach.

The county, using money from a bond issuance approved by voters, purchased the 571 acres in 2000 with the intent to keep it in preservation or agriculture.

The district later bought a 61 percent stake in it with plans to use the site for a reservoir. But the district has shelved those plans and wants to sell the land.

Some residents, however, are concerned that selling the land to a private party could one day lead to its residential or commercial development. Those residents are not mollified by plans to expand conservation easements aimed at preventing development.

Several commissioners share those concerns and rejected a staff recommendation that they join the district in a sale.

Instead, commissioners directed staff to arrange a meeting with the governing board of the district, which has indicated it will sue the county to force a sale if one isn’t mutually agreed upon.

County Administrator Verdenia Baker reported back to commissioners that the district’s governing board “essentially felt that a meeting would be premature.”

Baker said the district directed its staff to work with their counterparts at the county on three issues: ability to obtain state funding the county would use to buy out the district; identifying a third party/environmental groups to hold the conservation easements and evaluate potential projects on which the district would use proceeds from the sale of the 571 acres.

“Unless we receive objections from the BCC, County Staff intends to work with District Staff to explore these three(3) issues and report back to the Board for further direction at either the February or March meeting,” Baker wrote to commissioners.

Verdenia Baker
Verdenia Baker

 

Get tips from Palm Beach County on hosting your own backyard veggie garden

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20120924 (Thomas Cordy/The Palm Beach Post)---BOCA RATON--Max Roseberg, right, (double check with story), 9, Mynda Barenholtz (cq center), 9, and Jennifer Barenholtz, all of Boca Raton were photographed at a new micro garden at the campus today, Monday, September 24, 2012.
(Thomas Cordy/The Palm Beach Post)

It’s hard to beat; the aroma of a fresh basil plant. If you always have wanted to have your own vegetable garden, help is available.

A workshop on small vegetable farms and gardens is set for 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 7, at the Palm Beach County Cooperative Extension Service’s Hutcheson Agricultural Complex, 559 N. Military Trail, West Palm Beach. It will be conducted by Arthur Kirstein, Palm Beach County’s coordinator of agricultural economic development.

Participants will get tips and techniques on site preparation, plantings, crop maintenance, and harvesting. The seminar is followed by a tour of the vegetable garden at the adjacent Mounts Botanical Garden.

The program is free but is limited to the first 100 who sign up. Call 561-233-1792 or email mallman@pbcgov.org.