Lox Council Hears Updates On Commercial Projects

The Loxahatchee Groves Town Council heard updates Tuesday on plans for commercial developments at Southern Blvd. and B Road.

Attorney Martin Perry made a presentation on the Loxahatchee Town Center site, also known as the Solar Sportsystems property, at the northeast intersection of B Road and Southern Blvd., while agent Bob Bentz gave an update on the Loxahatchee Groves Commons project, on the west side of B Road at the southeast corner of the Simon property site, adjacent to the planned Palm Beach State College campus.

Town Manager Mark Kutney said the presentations were a required part of the planning and zoning process. “This is the next step in moving forward,” Kutney said.

Perry said the Loxahatchee Groves Commons Planned Unit Development (PUD) has gone through a number of public workshops in the past five years as the town developed its comprehensive plan.

“You have probably seen enough of this, and we’re going to try to keep this brief,” Perry said, explaining that the plan is not much different from the conceptual plan shown when the council approved the comp plan amendment. “It shows you essentially the rezoning of the PUD, which is essentially almost identical to the concept plan. In terms of actual square footages and acreages of different uses, it is identical.”

Perry pointed out that a 300-foot buffer on the north side of the property had been retained, as well as buffering along other property lines. “We have substantial buffering,” he said.

The buffer will contain an equestrian trail consistent with discussion during the comp plan process. The plans for the 74-acre site include commercial retail on about 35 acres along the lower portion of the site below Tangerine Drive and commercial office space on the north side.

The area is to include retail and professional office space, as well as a 3.6-acre circular open area that Perry said would be suitable for green markets and other public activities. “It’s a large green area,” he explained. “We think it’s the kind of thing that would lend itself for different types of community usages.”

Perry said the floor-area ratio would be about .07, with 103,000 square feet of retail space, 44,000 square feet of office space, and an assisted living facility with 128 beds. “I think that’s really consonant with what you’re trying to achieve in trying to keep everything low key,” he said.

Councilman Tom Goltzené said he was glad to see that the plan retained the 300-foot buffer to the north. “So long as it proceeds like that, it looks good,” he said. “I’m very happy.”

Councilman Ryan Liang liked the transition of the plans to where it is now. “I think it’s a lot more along the lines of what we were thinking of, and I look forward to seeing what’s going to happen,” he said. “It looks good, especially the horse trail and the buffer and the large green space. We didn’t ask for that, and you guys put that in. That’s a great idea, and I’m sure we can figure out how to use that.”

Councilman Jim Rockett asked about entrance and exit points to the site on Southern Blvd., and Perry said they have been realigned, but they are essentially unchanged from the original plans with three right-in, right-outs on Southern Blvd.

Residents Marge Herzog and Thais Gonzalez were concerned about the 128-bed assisted living facility becoming a voter bloc. Herzog added that during public workshops, they had talked about no commercial north of Tangerine, but the commercial office space has been placed north of Tangerine.

During his presentation, Bentz said the commercial component of the Simon property will be about 21 acres, adjacent to the 75 acres now owned by the college.

He said the Loxahatchee Groves Commons and campus plans have a letter from the Florida Department of Transportation approving four entrances with two on Southern Blvd. and two on B Road, with one of them aligning with Tangerine Drive. The plan is essentially unchanged from the last time it came before the council. “Tangerine is sort of the main street for Loxahatchee Groves,” Bentz said. “It will terminate at the college property.”

Plans are for 91,000 square feet of commercial space on the property with an expected grocery store anchor. On the northern portion is a 6-acre lake surrounded by an equestrian trail.

“We have actually identified on our plan where you can tie up your horses and access the retail center,” Bentz said.

The site will also have a passive green area for public use such as art shows. Plans will follow the Loxahatchee Groves Rural Vista guidelines, making use of cupolas and metal roofs and wooden-style siding, as well as an arcade running along the front of the buildings along Tangerine Drive.

“We have been working with the community for many years,” he said. “It is all intended to give that rural character and design similar to what you are looking for in Loxahatchee Groves.”

Bentz said the three developers would work together to get B Road paved, including open graded emulsified mix (OGEM) north of Collecting Canal Road to Okeechobee Blvd., and asphalt pavement south to Southern Blvd. Plans also include widening the crossing at Collecting Canal, he said.

Resident Marsha Newell said she felt the public is not aware of both projects. “I heard you’ve been talking about it for a long time,” she said. “Here again, I don’t believe the public knows it, just like with the college. One of the things about the college we were talking about a few months ago was the commercial, and we didn’t need a whole bunch… Now all of a sudden we’re going to have a hell of a lot of commercial on the other side of the street.”

Newell said the council must try harder to communicate with residents. “The people of Loxahatchee Groves somehow need to be informed,” she said.