The Royal Palm Beach Village Council last week approved variances and a site plan for a large-scale commercial/industrial expansion of the Southern Mills Business Park planned industrial development off Southern Blvd.
Included in the Oct. 18 vote were landscaping conditions that would protect neighbors from an unwelcome view if existing invasive exotic plants surrounding a stormwater retention pond are ever removed.
The council approved a site-plan modification and architectural plan for the existing development, located on a 28.4-acre site about a half-mile west of State Road 7 and north of the South Star Storage facility at 103rd Avenue and Southern Blvd.
The site plan modification increased the overall square footage of the proposed buildings from 351,265 to 363,490 square feet, for an additional 12,225 square feet. But the number of buildings was reduced from four to three. The applicant also plans to move the existing internal road from the center of the site to the west side.
An existing 152,290-square-foot building is occupied by Millwork Sales on the north end of the property.
The development is flanked by the Bella Terra residential neighborhood to the east and north, Our Lady Queen of Peace Cemetery and the Nautica Lakes residential community to the west, and South Star Storage to the south.
One of the architectural variances allows the developer to reduce the depth of the building’s wall projections required to break up the length of walls longer than 100 feet from 3 feet in depth to 1-foot, 1-inch, and to allow no projections in the areas where loading docks are located.
“The applicant contends that the variance is justified given that the site is located at the terminus of a 1,200-foot-long private road that is not part of the streetscape and will not detract from the community character,” said Planning & Zoning Director Bradford O’Brien, who added that village staff recommended approval.
The Royal Palm Beach Planning & Zoning Commission recommended approval of the application at its Oct. 9 meeting in a 4-0 vote after listening to concerns from residents about landscape buffering.
The first new building would be occupied by a tire distribution center. The second new building would contain wholesale warehouses.
A fencing waiver was also granted to allow an 8-foot-high vinyl-coated chain-link fence with two strands of barbed wire along the top to be installed around portions of the truck loading areas, where code allows only 6 feet with three strands of barbed wire.
O’Brien said village staff members had met with residents of Bella Terra and the applicant to review concerns the residents had expressed at the Planning & Zoning meeting. Recommendations had included allowing existing coco plum hedges on the east property line to grow to 8 feet and to allow coco plums on the west side to grow to 6 feet.
The parties had also reached an agreement that if the existing invasive exotic plant growth around a pond separating Bella Terra and the industrial site, which is owned by a third party, is ever removed, the applicant would install new landscaping within 90 days.
Attorney Barbara Hall, representing Exeter Property Group, said changes to the site plan had moved activity that had been on the eastern and western sides of the property to internal areas instead.
“Under the previous site plan, all of the truck activity and the loading activity was taking place on the perimeter,” Hall said. “We are making the western side passive. There are no openings. There is no activity occurring on this side.”
The design changes will also allow increased landscaping on both the east and west sides, she said.
Hall added that Exeter landscapers had met with Bella Terra residents and agreed to put in an additional 25 slash pines against the eastern side of the building that would be exposed.
“If the residents can be confident that’s what we’re going to do, and we’re agreeing to have it made a condition of our site plan approval, and I don’t want to speak for them because they have their attorney here, I believe that resolves it,” she said.
Hall added that she thought the buildings were attractive even though the wall projections had been reduced. “The variances we’re asking are a compromise to make the buildings more efficient, but still honor your code by providing setbacks, banding, awnings and changes in the wall detail, all of which will break up the wall, even though they don’t meet the technical requirements,” she explained.
Village Manager Ray Liggins said the projection requirements were part of the village’s big-box ordinance, which is intended to apply to large buildings more visible to the public.
“The reason staff supports this is this is not on the streetscape,” Liggins said.
Bella Terra resident David Quilleon said he and his neighbors wanted to ensure that the landscape provisions were part of the plan. “We do have concerns about the landscaping that exists there,” he said. “If it does go away because of a storm or someone decides to get rid of it, there’s not enough of a buffer for our development. That is the concern, and I do believe it has been addressed.”
The council voted 4-0 to approve the variance and the resolution granting architectural approval, with Councilman Richard Valuntas recusing himself.