The Royal Palm Beach Planning & Zoning Commission on Tuesday postponed a request for a land use change for a 24-acre parcel on State Road 7 until the applicant can meet with residents who objected to the change.
Property owner Pebb Enterprises TDBA of Boca Raton seeks two large-scale future land use amendments to change the designation on about 13 acres from single-family residential to low-density multifamily residential for up to nine units per acre, and to change about 11 acres from single-family residential to commercial. The property is located on SR 7 near Pioneer Road.
Agent Jan Polson of the land planning firm Cotleur & Hearing said the multifamily units would serve as a buffer between the single-family homes and the commercial areas, providing housing for people who work in the commercial areas along SR 7.
However, Elyce Werner of the Westwood Property Owners’ Association, representing residents to the north of the subject property, said she didn’t think there was a necessity for another density increase allowing multifamily units, since another development just across SR 7, the Enclave, is under construction with 268 new units.
Werner also disagreed with the applicant’s contention that the property was too close to SR 7 for single-family residential development. “I do take a little bit of offense to that,” she said. “That’s where we live.”
Commission Alternate Joseph Boyle said he was surprised there was only one comment from neighbors. “There are other single-family homes across the street on Pioneer,” he said.
While Site Plan Coordinator Kevin Erwin noted that adjacent areas are not in the village, Planning & Zoning Department secretary Chris Wax confirmed that property owners within 300 feet were notified, whether or not they were in the village.
Werner said that she had not received a notice from the village, but found out about the plan from other homeowners in the area, pointing out that there are only four homes on Pioneer Road abutting the subject property.
Boyle added that at the March 21 Royal Palm Beach Village Council meeting, Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Paul Miles had reported on crime issues at the Shoma Homes multifamily development across SR 7 from the subject property.
“That’s probably the highest problem in Royal Palm Beach, and this is a similar type of area,” Boyle said. “I don’t believe it’s a buffer for single-family homes. I would be very concerned if I lived in any of those single-family homes and suddenly I saw a repeat of what was happening on the other side of the street occurring here.”
Boyle was also concerned about the parcel being a relatively confined area with little recreational space.
“People have to drive to go anywhere,” he said. “I’m not sure if they would really be populating the jobs along State Road 7… I don’t think the village gains anything from it.”
Polson said the site plan would include a recreational element when it comes to the village, but they were asking for the land use change that evening, which is required before the site plan is submitted.
Boyle added that the applicant was applying for a retail area to the west.
“We’re talking about basically a small area where we’re going to push in some multifamily homes with basically no breathing room,” Boyle said. “I think single-family homes should stay as the designation until we get further along in the process.”
Erwin said village staff had encouraged the property owner to meet with all neighboring property owners early in the process. Werner said Westwood representatives had met with the developer and tried to be cordial, but the developer wanted to cross the Westwood buffer.
“We explained that we didn’t want anyone crossing our buffer,” she said. “That started a little war. He was very not nice, and that basically ended our relationship. He did try, but not in a nice way.”
Werner pointed out that she was there with four other members of their HOA.
Regina Smit, who lives three blocks from Pioneer Road, said the developer used what she considered “not-nice tactics.”
“This gentleman is using tactics that are negative for our community. It’s not a safety measure to put multifamily homes there,” she said. “To reiterate what Mr. Boyle said, we have had major crime problems in our community, and they’re coming from across the street. Imagine the access they’re going to have if we have them down the street.”
Polson said that they had looked at the problems with the Shoma area and were taking steps to see that the situation was not repeated.
Commissioner Barbara Powell agreed with Boyle’s comments. “I think this may be an inappropriate request,” she said. “Going from an RS 2 to an RS 9 in this area may not be in the best interest of this community or the best interest of the village.”
Vice Chair Richard Becher said he was also concerned about traffic issues that already exist in the area.
Becher asked whether the developer could make another attempt to sit down with the residents to try to work things out. “I’m hoping you guys might want to give this another opportunity to see what their concerns are,” he said.
Commissioner Darrell Lang made a motion to postpone the application to April 23, which carried 5-0.
The commissioners also denied the commercial application on the other tract in a 3-2 vote, but members agreed that it could be reconsidered at the April meeting.