From now until the Aug. 30 primary election, the Town-Crier will ask questions each issue to the seven people running for two seats on the Indian Trail Improvement District Board of Supervisors. This week’s questions: What are your thoughts on development projects planned in areas adjacent to The Acreage? What can or should ITID do regarding these planned developments?
ITID SEAT 4
Betty Argue — ITID has no control over county decisions regarding planned developments. ITID does have control over our roads but has failed to assert its authority. The county has claimed rights on our roads that it does not have. Should 60th Street and Persimmon Blvd. be extended to Seminole Pratt Whitney Road, they will become major thoroughfares as busy as Northlake Blvd., benefiting developers and to the detriment of ITID residents and roads. The City of Westlake could increase its number of homes and commercial with no accountability to ITID, surrounding communities or the county, other than a check to the county for impact on county roads only. GL Homes and Delray Linton Groves have asked for an increase in residential units and commercial space. They need our roads. ITID must defend its rights and protect our roads. It is crucial to consider all options to mitigate impact, protect our roads and residents. I will work in concert with the other supervisors to achieve that. Most importantly, ITID residents should not bear the financial burden of development impact. This can only be accomplished by an active, not passive, board. I have been at the forefront opposing the Minto development. Our residents deserve to be respected, not trampled. Do you trust the person who has supported and advocated for Minto, voted against protecting ITID rights, as well as turned over ITID roads to the county, giving up ITID control during her 16-year tenure, to protect ITID rights now and in the future?
Michelle Damone — In 1996, I built and moved into my home here in The Acreage. I loved the community exactly how it was, but so did many others. Empty lots surrounding my home were cleared and had homes built on them. Should I have protested my neighbors from moving in? Do they not have the same right to build as I had? So, as a community leader, I have reached out to all of the developers to listen to their plans and have had input on items that directly affect our community and have offered suggestions based on my 20 years of knowledge of the area. I also do not treat them disrespectfully, and I firmly believe a “just say no” approach will only lead to results forcing us to live with decisions that do not complement our community. ITID’s responsibilities are limited. Since we live in unincorporated Palm Beach County, the Board of County Commissioners has final approval on development. However, ITID has influence and has power of its internal roads and drainage. If any candidate suggests “closing roads” as a solution; it is not in the best interest of the public’s safety, health and welfare. It is irresponsible. 911 response times are already higher in The Acreage than other areas of the county. Trust me, if you need an ambulance to arrive at your home to save your loved one’s life, you will want to rip up every speed hump or open a road for that emergency vehicle to arrive. I am extremely disappointed by Minto’s use of their incorporation power. It happened overnight, and it was not in the best interest of the area. However, I firmly believe it was an abrupt decision made by Minto after entering several costly lawsuits filed by the ALERTS group, 1000 Friends of Florida and individuals. I feel Minto was forced to use incorporation to avoid millions of dollars spent in frivolous lawsuits. You can either be at the table or on the menu. I choose to be at the table with positive influence in shaping our area for future generations to enjoy.
Keith Jordano — This is a good example why more residents of The Acreage need to get involved and vote for the honest, qualified candidate. Our elected officials in Tallahassee voted for a law that fit one land mass — what is now called Westlake. This law was past several years back, so I’m not happy that the longtime members of the ITID board let this happen under their watch. The ITID board should have lobbied the elected officials harder not to approve. Again, money won out, not the will of the people. Why is it that big money can get approval for all this development, and we cannot get a mile of road done? The planning is not there. The total number of homes and commercial development will affect our quality of life. ITID and all the voting residents need to speak up. How? By voting for candidates who can be trusted to do the right thing. We need to work with local and state elected officials. We need to work with the developers to become good neighbors and not enemies. We will need to improve our roads, build alternate roads to help with traffic and install traffic-calming features. We will need to make sure our drainage is improved, not made worse. We will need to improve and add public services and safety. Most of all, not make The Acreage pay for it.
ITID SEAT 2
Ryan Bernal — The projects are the culmination of a lack of representation and respect from the county commissioners and the state. These projects will bring the headaches of a non-conforming/non-rural lifestyle to our back yards. I painfully remember the commissioners voting in favor of the Minto deal despite their advisory council’s unanimous disapproval. They knew its passage would be a slippery slope for similar projects to be approved, despite having inadequate infrastructure in the area. The roads are already unsafe and unsuitable for the area’s current populations. Peak commuting hours currently experience traffic slowdowns, and gridlock is always a minor accident away on each of the primary routes to and from the community. The county’s neglect for our area’s interests should serve as a call for incorporation and greater self-control of our own future. Until then, ITID has little say in the matters outside its jurisdiction. However, that should not stop ITID from making our current residential roads safer and developing appropriate plans of action to address the projects’ impacts on increased traffic and potential drainage issues. The added traffic and lagging infrastructure will bring commuters onto the residential roads of The Acreage, so ITID must keep that traffic as calm as possible. Thus far, traffic calming has primarily been a talking point, while lives are being lost on our roads. A speed bump or a roundabout should be installed preemptively, rather than as a result of a fatal accident. One life lost on our roads is one too many.
Gary Dunkley — The developments in and surrounding The Acreage are a serious threat to our infrastructure. This area was never meant to accommodate the traffic projected by these developments. The reason Palm Beach County had a comprehensive plan was to protect residents and their ways of life. Minto/Westlake, Walsey/GL Homes, Sluggett, Lion Country, Arden and Vavrus/Avenir were all zoned one home per 10 acres. Their 1,000 percent increase in density was based on pure greed. We at ITID paid $500,000 for a study which showed our existing roads could not and should not be impacted in such a way. Some of my fellow board members ran in the last election based on ITID fighting this gross injustice, saying we were going to court to fight for our residents’ rights. When elected, they voted not to use the study. The residents of The Acreage own their roads, they paid the taxes, they paid for the maintenance of the dirt roads, the paving of roads, and our drainage system. They deserve ITID elected officials who fight to keep The Acreage an area where our children can continue to ride a bicycle, ride a horse and walk safely, as they have in the past. These developers need to come to the table showing how their traffic works in our area, not the other way around. The people of The Acreage have been very good stewards since the first home was built 40-plus years ago. Close to 15,000 of the 17,000 lots exist, and residents of ITID deserve their way of life. They deserve their investment to be protected.
Steve Roberts — My thoughts of the proposed developments that are being considered adjacent to us are twofold. I do believe that there is a great opportunity for us to grow and create additional jobs for the residents here, higher revenues for the small businesses we have and property value increases that benefit all of the Indian Trail Improvement District’s residents. I have seen developments first hand create major improvements financially over the past 20 years that I have been in the real estate finance industry. On the other hand, the increased traffic will have to be monitored to ensure that our equestrian community and children are protected and kept safe. In working with the developers, engineers and with community input, I am extremely confident that these issues and concerns can be addressed efficiently and effectively. Our community is going to have the additional growth, and unless we are able to reach out and voice our concerns, we will be living in a situation where the neighbors feel like our enemies, and that is not what we need or want. ITID has an obligation to ensure that our roads are maintained, our water management is under control and our parks are kept up. Additional traffic and residents of neighboring communities will have an impact. That being said, we will have to be a voice of reason and strong in requests that we are compensated for the additional wear. We need to be vigilant in having a plan for strengthened infrastructure that does not financially burden our residents, and that public safety services are being offered to help keep everyone in ITID safe.
Timothy Sayre — There are so many facets to this question that involve The Acreage, the owners of the property and the planned development (over development) of some areas. This comes along with the establishment of a new city adjacent to The Acreage. Development is inevitable, but with development comes the need and, in my opinion, the responsibility of the developer to provide the additional services and infrastructure to support the additional residents without impacting, or with as little impact as possible, on the lives of those already in the area. What can or should ITID do regarding these planned developments? ITID has spent money on traffic-calming studies. It needs to implement calming according to the needs of each area and not simply impose a single strategy throughout The Acreage. It needs to push for a designation of a traffic backlog district so future property value increases are used in our area to help alleviate the cost of new and improved road structures. The board needs to stand firm on its previous advisement to the county that they will not allow Minto to use our roads for their monetary gain. Any future or presently planned communities need to be worked with and asked to submit signed letters of intent to not build more than the currently allowed one home per 1.25 acres. (I know it used to be one per five or 10 acres where they bought, but that has been undone by the county). ITID should steadfastly refuse to move beyond the current two-lane roads that exist as paved roads, such as Orange, Temple, Mandarin, etc.