Baker Co. commissioner reaches out to McKinlay on opioids

Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay

Baker County Commissioner Cathy Rhoden reached out to Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay for tips on how to start an opioids task force, an email exchange between the two commissioners shows.

“Our county, Baker County, is heavy into meth addiction and now we are seeing heroin move in,” Rhoden wrote to McKinlay.

But Rhoden has a more personal motivation to get involved in the fight.

“With a daughter who is a heroin addict and a grandson who is in prison from meth addiction I would like to do whatever it takes to educate and help our community about this issue,” Rhoden wrote.

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The daughter of a former aide to McKinlay died of an opioid overdose in November, a day before The Palm Beach Post published a series of articles on the devastation the crisis has brought to the county.

McKinlay has become a vocal advocate for more state and local action to combat the crisis, which has not only devastated families but wreaked havoc on local budgets.

The commissioner pushed for Gov. Rick Scott to declare a public health emergency, a move he ultimately took. And McKinlay has asked the county attorney to research the possibility of bringing suit against pharmaceutical companies, whose potent products are at the heart of the crisis.

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Delray Beach has decided to file suit against Big Pharma, a decision McKinlay shared Wednesday with other elected officials as they participated in a joint meeting between the Palm Beach County Commission and the Palm Beach County League of Cities.

Responding to Rhoden about forming a task force, McKinlay reached out to Palm Beach County Fire Rescue Capt. Houston Park.

“He led the charge,” McKinlay wrote. “I’ll ask him to call you.”

McKinlay invited Rhoden to Palm Beach County to attend an opioid task force meeting and offered sympathy for her family’s struggles.

“Thanks for sharing your story,” McKinlay wrote. “I am so sorry your family has been dealing with this.”

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.

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.”

WPB concerns slow work on Seminole Pratt Whitney expansion

Minto’s Westlake Community Center on Seminole Pratt Whitney Road across from Seminole Ridge High School in Westlake. (Allen Eyestone /The Palm Beach Post)

Construction in Palm Beach County’s newest city, Westlake, will add more cars in the coming years to already over-burdened Seminole Pratt Whitney Road.

That’s why the Seminole Improvement District, which oversees road and sewer services in Westlake, wants to widen the road.

But the city of West Palm Beach, mindful of not running afoul of state law giving it control of a part of the M-Canal and a nearby water catchment area, has not issued a license so the bridge over the canal can be widened.

The county has already signed off on the widening project, and Minto Communities, the developer building Westlake, has already agreed to help pay for it.

The dispute with West Palm Beach, however, has slowed work on the project, increasing fears of the type of traffic snarls preservationists warned against when they opposed large-scale development in the area.

A city official says she’s confident the dispute can be worked out. Th Seminole Improvement District has triggered a state-mandated mediation process, which must be pursued before the parties can file suit against one another.

PBC approves land use change for horse manure recycling

082812 (Gary Coronado/The Palm Beach Post) -- Boynton Beach -- Palm Meadows Thoroughbred Training Center is helping out horse owners in flooded areas of Palm Beach County by opening its stalls to the public at their facility in Boynton Beach on Tuesday. Palm Meadows is not charging for the temporary stalls and owners have to provide their own care, hay, feed and bedding. They are currently housing 11 horses in their 1400 stalls. (Gary Coronado/The Palm Beach Post)
(Gary Coronado/The Palm Beach Post)

Palm Beach County commissioners approved a land use change that would allow a horse manure recycling facility to operate between Belle Glade and Wellington, the epicenter of the county’s equestrian industry.

The land use change will be transmitted to state officials for review and come back to commissioners for final approval in March or April when Horizon Compost hopes to get approval of its zoning application for a facility that would be located on 32 acres eight miles east of Belle Glade and eight miles west of Wellington.

Horizon says it has a process that can clean horse bedding, which can be re-used while the manure is turned into a high-grade fertilizer.

Commissioners, who unanimously approved the land use change, said they believe the recycling facility can reduce illegal dumping of manure in the county.

Pinto, McKinlay have sharp exchange on car burglaries

Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay
Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay

Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay and Royal Palm Beach Mayor Fred Pinto recently exchanged sharply worded emails over a public safety issue in the village, a break from the usually harmonious dealings between local public officials.

The flare-up was especially remarkable because it occurred between officials who share constituents. Typically, such officials are eager to be seen as working together for those constituents.

Pinto was elected to the village council in 2003 and was elected mayor in March. McKinlay was elected in 2014 to serve a district that includes Royal Palm Beach and other municipalities west of Florida’s Turnpike.

Their dispute centered on McKinlay’s response to a complaint from a Royal Palm Beach resident and council member about a rise in car burglaries in the village.

McKinlay reached out to the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office and sought to hold a community meeting on the issue.

Pinto, displeased, admonished the commissioner for not first reaching out to him or the village administrator, Ray Liggins.

“Any issues or concerns regarding crime activity in the Village should have been brought to the Village Manager’s and my attention,” Pinto wrote to McKinlay. “Members on the Village Council will be advised that any ‘official business on behalf of the Village’ with The County Commissioners Office, or other agencies must go through the Village Manager and the Office of the Mayor.”

McKinlay fired back.

“My apologies but when residents in my district contact me and one of your councilmembers, I feel obligated to respond,” she wrote to Pinto. “I fail to see the problem here. We simply were trying to address some concerned citizens’ worries and all I did was ask my contacts at PBSO if there was a possibility we could do a community meeting with the worried residents.”

McKinlay later added: “Of the seven cities I represent, no other city censures their elected members from contacting me directly. I am here to help whenever someone within District 6 contacts me. My apologies if anyone felt their toes had been stepped on, but such a strong censorship is not necessary.”

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

Taylor hosting meeting to oppose Glades land bill

Palm Beach County Commissioner District 7, Priscilla A. Taylor in West Palm Beach, Florida on March 22, 2016. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Former Palm Beach County Commissioner Priscilla Taylor is putting together a breakfast meeting Saturday to call attention to legislation she argues will harm residents of the Glades, an impoverished area along the banks of Lake Okeechobee.

The object of Taylor’s ire is a bill filed in the Florida Senate (SB 10) that calls for the purchase of land south of the lake for a reservoir project that would end the necessity of the lake discharges blamed for the algae bloom that fouled water along the Treasure Coast last year.

The legislation, authored by Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, calls for the land to be purchased from willing sellers. But Taylor, a former state legislator whose district included the Glades, worries landowners in the area would be compelled to sell.

One area of particular concern, Taylor said, includes a mill that employs more than 1,000 people.

The closing of that mill “would be devastating to that area,” Taylor said, adding that she is frustrated that there have been no public discussions of the legislation’s potential impact.

Taylor is organizing a “call to action” breakfast from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Saturday at Payne Chapel A.M.E. Church at 801 9th St. in West Palm Beach.

Building in new PBC city of Westlake underway

What does a new city look like when it’s under construction?

A lot like this:

Minto Communities, the developer building Palm Beach County’s newest city, Westlake, has started construction in the first 500 acres of what is expected to be a city of 4,500 homes and 2.2 million square feet of non-residential development along both sides of Seminole Pratt Whitney Road.

Minto Vice President John Carter said the builder has also started work on a town center and the first 300-home subdivision.

Westlake used to be known as Minto West. Minto changed the development’s name not long before backing an effort to incorporate the area, a move that surprised and angered Palm Beach County commissioners who had approved the project over the objections of environmentalists and preservationists.

Up Interstate 95, in Daytona Beach, Minto is partnering with Margaritavile Holdings to build what it describes as an “active adult community” called Latitude Margaritaville.

“With Minto’s expertise in creating master planned developments and Margaritaville’s inherent ability to deliver fun and escapism, Latitude Margaritaville has the exact coordinates for those looking to live the Margaritaville lifestyle as they grow older, but not up,” said John Cohlan, chief executive officer of Margaritaville Holdings.

County delays vote on Iota Carol development project

Palm Beach County commissioners voted 5-2 Monday to postpone a decision on comprehensive plan changes to accommodate the Iota Carol/Delray Linton Groves development project west of The Acreage.

Commissioners had given preliminary approval to changes last year, which were then reviewed by state government officials. Two of the commissioners who voted in favor of those changes have been replaced by new commissioners, and new County Mayor Paulette Burdick – who has expressed concern about over-development in the county – now chairs commission meetings.

Burdick and Commissioner Melissa McKinlay, whose district includes the project site, voted against the postponement.

The project, which calls for the construction of 1,030 homes on a 1,288-acre tract, will be reconsidered by the commission when it meets on April 8.

 

Palm Beach County Commissioner Paulette Burdick talks about her desire to discuss issues regarding Uber and public safety, instead of putting it off, during a Palm Beach County Commission meeting on Sept. 22, 2015. The commissioners voted to extend Uber's temporary operating agreement until the end of March 2016 or until the state legislature makes any decisions. (Brianna Soukup/Palm Beach Post)
Palm Beach County Mayor Paulette Burdick (Brianna Soukup/Palm Beach Post)

Pot, the president’s plane and development projects on PBC agenda

Several hot-topic items are on Palm Beach County’s to-do list this week, including discussions about how to deal with Air Force One flights into Palm Beach International Airport, a new zoning framework for western portions of the county and whether to move forward with a one-year moratorium on zoning applications for medical marijuana dispensaries and treatment centers.

On Tuesday, commissioners are expected to get a presentation from Airports Director Bruce Pelly on how to deal with flight restrictions stemming from future arrivals of Air Force One, which will be bringing President Donald Trump to his part-time home at Mar-a-Lago.

The airport discussion is scheduled to be held at 2 p.m. at the Weisman Governmental Center at 301 N. Olive Ave. in West Palm Beach. It is the third item on Tuesday’s agenda, following a 9:30 a.m. discussion of youth services in the county and an 11 a.m. overview of the county’s library system.

During a zoning meeting that begins Thursday at the Weisman Governmental Center at 9:30 a.m., commissioners will consider whether to move forward with a new zoning framework that would accommodate large development projects proposed for western portions of the county.

Commissioners will also consider a one-year moratorium on zoning applications for medical marijuana dispensaries and treatment centers in unincorporated parts of the county.

If given preliminary approved on Thursday, both the new zoning framework and the moratorium would be up for final approval on February 23.

President Obama arrives on Air Force One at Treasure Coast International Airport and Business Park in Ft. Pierce on June 3, 2016.  He will be spending the weekend playing golf at Palm City's Floridian National Golf Club, which straddles the line between St. Lucie and Martin counties.  (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)
(Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)