RPB Zoners OK Industrial Buildings With Better Buffers

The Royal Palm Beach Planning & Zoning Commission recommended approval Tuesday for the expansion of Southern Mills Business Park with conditions that it add foliage to buffers separating it from the Bella Terra community to the north and east of the site.

The applicant sought approval for a site plan modification and architecture approval for an existing industrial development located on a 28.402-acre site about one-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 seeks to increase the overall square footage of the proposed buildings from 351,250 to 363,490 square feet for an additional 12,240 square feet. However, the number of buildings was reduced from four to three. The applicant is also proposing to move the existing internal roadway from the center of the site to its west side.

Development Review Coordinator Kevin Erwin said the applicant wants to reduce the size of building projections required by the village code in order to maximize the usable space of the buildings, one of which will house a tire distribution center.

There would be no projections for the tire distribution building on the loading dock side, which will be on the west, facing a cemetery and the Nautica Lakes community.

Village staff recommended approval of the application and variances.

Attorney Barbara Hall, representing Exeter Property Group, which is developing the two new buildings, said the projection variance was requested in order to maximize building space while still recognizing the village code.

Attorney Peter Mollengarden, representing Bella Terra, said the homeowners’ biggest concern was to have landscaping that will buffer them from the project. “They are concerned that the landscaping currently is inadequate and believe there should be something more substantial to screen this, along the lines of what the council did four years ago when the other building went in,” Mollengarden said. “What the members want is to increase the landscape there so the homes have some screening.”

He suggested a layer of areca palms to increase the existing screening.

Gloria Rote, treasurer of the Bella Terra HOA, said there is currently a buffer consisting largely of Australian pines, which are on the county’s list of invasive exotic species. “We are worried that if they come down for whatever reason, there won’t be enough buffer for the homes on Bella Vista [Way],” Rote said. “That would create an issue for the entire community because the property values would go down.”

Erwin said that the Australian pines encircle a stormwater catchment pond that is 700 feet wide. “I drove out there today,” he said. “Those Australian pines are 30 to 40 feet tall. There’s also quite a bit of Brazilian pepper out there. It’s very, very thick.”

Hall said that the lake is owned by a shopping center, but a buffer put up during the first phase of the business park could be allowed to grow taller in case the invasive exotics are ever removed. The buffer includes coco plums, which she said could grow as tall as 20 feet.

“That may be the better alternative to using layers of very attractive landscape buffer and putting areca palms in front of it,” Hall said. “The answer is we’re certainly willing to talk about it and see what alternatives are possible. This buffer has been there for a long time, and it works very well.”

Erwin said the existing coco plums could grow to 8 feet without a variance.

Commissioner Richard Becher said he thought the building design was pleasing to the eye. “I really don’t have a problem,” he said.

Commissioner Darrell Lange agreed that the design is nice, but he was concerned about the reductions in the variations of flat planes on the reasoning that the code did not apply in this case because it was away from other developments.

“The code was not written just for malls,” Lange said. “Here we are with a code variance for massing standards. We’ve been down this road before.”

Commissioner Jackie Larson said the building design was not unpleasant. “For an industrial building, it’s beautiful,” she said, adding that if the commission was going to give in on some of the variances, the applicant should work with them to provide more landscaping.

Larson made a motion to recommend approval of the site plan modification with the condition that the existing coco plums be allowed to grow to 8 feet and that the applicant continue to work with the village to improve the landscape buffers.

Included in the motion was a condition that if the existing invasive exotics around the lake should be removed, the developer would take steps to further improve the landscaping within 90 days. The motion carried 4-0 with Commissioner Michael Newkirk absent.

The commissioners also approved a related measure granting variances for code requirements that building surfaces could not extend for more than 100 feet on the same plane. That motion also carried 4-0.