The Indian Trail Improvement District Board of Supervisors approved a resolution Wednesday night that would look into ways to mitigate impacts the community will feel from the proposed Minto West development.
Supervisors voted unanimously to authorize a limited traffic study, look into an area-wide approach for developmental impacts caused by Minto West and establish a level of service for ITID roads.
The resolution will also allow ITID representatives to draft a “protective concept plan” for the area and ask the Palm Beach Metropolitan Planning Organization to remove ITID easement roads from its 2040 plans.
ITID Attorney Mary Viator stressed to the board that Indian Trail is limited in its ability to address Minto West.
“Decisions related to approving Minto West are not in the district’s authority,” she said. “Palm Beach County staff has, however, asked ITID to comment on how the development may affect the district.”
Earlier this year, the board hired land-use attorney Marty Perry to help develop strategies to address the influx of proposed developments in the area. Perry put together several consultants. He said his team believes the Minto West project could be a “disaster” for The Acreage without careful long-term planning.
“It will be a disaster for this area without some kind of long-term regional approach to the roads,” Perry said. “The only way I see to protect these roads is to look at conceptual planning. We have to look at neighborhoods within The Acreage and make a plan to protect the roads within those neighborhoods by preventing traffic from going through them.”
Perry said Minto’s location poses a problem. “It’s smack in the middle of The Acreage,” he said. “When I first got involved with this, my first reaction was that Minto West by itself will represent a pretty significant impact.”
But other developments could also impact The Acreage, Perry said, pointing to the GL Homes property to the west and the Avenir project in Palm Beach Gardens.
“If [Minto West] is approved at 6,500 homes, GL Homes could come in and ask for at least that many,” Perry said. “All potential developments have the ability to impact the road structure in this area which, quite frankly, is inadequate for the current population, let alone future populations.”
Although ITID does not have the ability to deny or set conditions on Minto West, Perry said it does have control of the roads.
“We have to look at how to protect our roads,” he said. “Our purpose here tonight is to ask you direction on a number of things, pretty much all dealing with roads.”
Currently, Minto has proposed using 60th Street, Persimmon Blvd., Orange Grove Blvd. and 40th Street as outlets to the community.
“The traffic put onto those roads would impact the community,” Perry said.
Attorney Frank Palen said that Indian Trail is unique in its road systems.
“The roads are special in how they are created, how they are maintained and how they function,” he said. “They were built using bond funds and are maintained by an annual assessment on landowners. The property owners maintain the road systems.”
Unlike most municipal roads, Palen said the roads in The Acreage are considered easements.
“They are not separate pieces of land,” he said. “There are no rights dedicated to the public. The public can use them, but they are not acquiring any property rights; they are being given the privilege to use them. Only citizens within the district have the right to use them.”
Because of this, Palen said the county does not have the right to use ITID-maintained roads in its planning process, “although it tends to do so,” he said.
Consultant John Kim pointed out that Minto West is using several Acreage roads in its traffic study. “They are connecting three streets to what are, for all intents and purposes, district roads,” he said.
A 1966 agreement between the owners of Callery-Judge Grove and surrounding property owners allowed for limited use of the easements, Palen said. Minto West is now using this agreement to claim it has the right to use ITID-maintained roads.
“If you look at the document, it doesn’t at all substantiate the claim that Minto West has the right to use the roads,” he said.
Although some road improvements are planned by the county for Seminole Pratt Whitney Road, Northlake Blvd. and Royal Palm Beach Blvd., consultant Joe Capra said Minto West isn’t planning improvements beyond what is already set by the county in upcoming years.
“They’re tying their collector roads into our local roads,” Capra said. “This encourages cut-through traffic on our roads. There is a lack of mitigation at this point.”
ITID Engineer Jay Foy said the traffic issue will be compounded if the county does not extend State Road 7 to Northlake Blvd. and Seminole Pratt Whitney Road to the Beeline Highway. He noted that although the county had given up its land for the planned Seminole Pratt extension, it had the option to buy it back.
On a map, he showed the route residents would take if the extensions were not completed, with traffic directed instead through The Acreage.
“Keep your eye on the ball,” Foy said. “We have to get State Road 7 and Seminole Pratt through, or we end up with this.”
One of the solutions, Perry said, could be to close off some neighborhoods to prevent cut-through traffic. “When those [major] roads get clogged, the traffic is going to filter onto your roads,” he said. “We want to have our planners take a look at whether there’s a way we can create neighborhoods and protect our roads by closing them off.”
Perry suggested Indian Trail reach out to surrounding municipalities in the western communities, many which are equally concerned about Minto West.
“They are all concerned, not just about the impact of Minto West, but also the GL Homes property,” he said. “I suggest you adopt a resolution addressing your concerns about your roads and your drainage solutions. But I also suggest we reach out to other cities, asking them to take the same type of action. We believe the district and its residents can have an impact, but not nearly the same as each of these cities reaching out with the very same concerns.”
He asked the board to approve a resolution to help his team move forward with a traffic study and other planning strategies.
“We are asking you for the authority to go forward and do what we think is necessary to make a recommendation for your protections,” he said.
Supervisor Michelle Damone said she feels ITID needs to be proactive. “We need to lead by example,” she said. “We need to set an example and the tone for this discussion.”
During public comment, residents urged ITID to take a strong stance.
“ITID sat back with Mecca [Farms],” resident Alex Larson pointed out. “I think you need to step up to the plate this time. This is at the center of The Acreage.”
Resident Patricia Curry said the roads were not open for use by developers.
“ITID was created to serve the residents of the district,” she said. “The roads and drainage improvements were created for the benefit of residents, not for any outside developer. ITID should be blocking off our roads, not allowing a developer to use them.”
She also asked supervisors to look into whether the county truly owns all of Seminole Pratt Whitney Road and Orange Blvd. “I don’t believe the county owns [all of the roads],” she said. “Please take every single step to protect the residents you represent.”
Supervisor Gary Dunkley said Palm Beach County is failing residents of The Acreage.
“They are not looking at the overall impact,” he said. “They have no plans to look at the impact of future development. It’s first-come, first-served. That’s a formula for disaster. If Minto wants to come to the table to talk to us instead of trying to fool us with propaganda, I’d say ‘let’s negotiate.’ But don’t try to shove this down my throat.”
ITID President Carol Jacobs said she wanted to see the measure approved so ITID could have a strategy to prevent Minto from adversely affecting the area, if possible.
“Before their process gets further, we need to speed up our process,” she said. “That way, when they go back to this, we have already blocked off the sections that we have the right to.”
Damone made a motion to approve the resolution, which carried unanimously.