County Might Hear Comp Plan Changes More Often

The Palm Beach County Commission agreed last week to consider allowing more than two transmittal rounds of comprehensive plan changes to the state per year, over objections from some residents who said it is already difficult to keep track of proposed land use changes.

Any comp plan changes outside the two transmittal rounds would only be considered if approved by a super-majority of five votes.

The proposed amendment was prompted by legislative changes last year that altered growth management provisions, including the elimination of the twice-per-year limit on amendment rounds, as well as the bulk of the requirements for the period of evaluation and appraisal of comprehensive plans.

The county’s Local Planning Agency recommended approval of the change in an 11-0 vote March 9.

Mike Erickson, governmental liaison for the Acreage Landowners’ Association, said he thought having the ability to hold additional rounds for land use changes ran contrary to transparency in government.

“As a layman with a job trying to make a living, trying also to protect our community, it’s a challenge to make all these meetings,” Erickson said. “I believe that two rounds are absolutely enough for land use. Land use is a big picture. It’s a long-term plan for the future.”

Erickson said he believed that giving a developer the ability to apply for a large-scale land use change at any time would be detrimental to neighboring residents’ ability to object to a plan if they desired.

“The legislation passed says you could do more, but that doesn’t mean we need to be like Tallahassee,” Erickson said. “I implore you to protect this community, to keep it at the original schedule of two rounds per year.”

Acreage residents Patricia Curry and Alex Larson also spoke against the amendment.

Palm Beach County Planning Director Lorenzo Aghemo said the new legislation allows local governments to have more than two transmittal rounds but does not require it.

The proposed amendment allowing more than two rounds per year reflects the commission’s expressed interest last year, Aghemo said.

Assistant County Attorney Robert Banks said the commission now only has the power to conduct an additional transmittal hearing in the event of an emergency such as a hurricane that would necessitate a faster response, and the amendment would give the commission the flexibility of responding to a situation such as a favorable business opportunity.

Commissioner Steven Abrams suggested that staff create criteria for allowing more than one round.

“Maybe we want to have more flexibility than civil defense,” Abrams said.

Commissioner Priscilla Taylor said she would like to have the discretion.

“We have to assume that when times get better we might have the opportunity that someone wants to come in to create jobs or enhance our area,” Taylor said. “I don’t see where there is a downside.”

Commissioner Burt Aaronson also favored the amendment. “If somebody were to come in tomorrow and say they needed something real fast and we needed to make a decision, otherwise they were going to another county, it gives us the flexibility to be able to do it. It doesn’t mean we have to do it, but it gives us the flexibility,” he said.

Deputy County Administrator Verdenia Baker asked for feedback on the types of circumstances commissioners would consider to hold an additional meeting and said county staff would develop a policy.

Commission Chair Shelley Vana suggested that they simply require a 5-2 vote to consider any amendment outside the two regular rounds.

Aghemo said that concept would be added when the amendment comes back for adoption in July or August.

Commissioner Karen Marcus made a motion to approve the amendment for transmittal, and it carried 6-0 with Commissioner Jess Santamaria absent.