Mr. [Curtis] Knight’s letter last week concerning the Wastewater Treatment Plant Task Force’s recommendations and the Royal Palm Beach Village Council’s response (Why Did RPB Ignore Its Task Force, May 3) was based upon limited information. Recalling the public uproar and extensive media coverage at the time, his expression of surprise when reading “now” about these recommendations indicates it is unlikely he was then part of our community. As a former member of the task force and the president of two homeowners’ associations abutting the property in question, I believe I can help place this issue in perspective.
In 2010, the council, looking for options to make one of the largest village-owned properties, the old wastewater treatment plant tract, attractive to potential buyers, hired a consultant who produced a study containing a detailed site plan, which supported one option, commercialization. Then-Councilwoman Martha Webster championed the study, which was also accompanied by a proposal to create a new land-use designation specifically designed to support it, when it came before the council. Hundreds of irate residents, many of whom were from nearby neighborhoods and had not even been consulted or informed up to that point, came out to speak and protest at village workshops and other public meetings in order to make their views known. In the end, the council listened to the residents and rejected the land-use amendment by a 3-2 vote.
In 2011, the council created a citizen task force to identify an appropriate land use, and appointed Mrs. Webster as chair. With the agenda and the speakers chosen by Mrs. Webster, skewing most discussions toward non-residential use, the task force balked, finally reaching a compromise in which almost all of the tract should be set aside for single-family residential or a passive park. I was chosen by the task force to present its report to the council. Having no single land use to consider and with no expressed interest by anyone to purchase the land, the council accepted the report and wisely chose to take it under advisement for future consideration.
Fast forward to this year’s council election, in which the question of what would be developed on this property was a major issue. Residents told the candidates they wanted the council to wait no longer. It was time to address the single-family land use and draw a line in the sand. In fact, many believe Mrs. Webster’s original and continued support of a land use for something other than single-family was a major factor in her defeat. After the election, listening and responding to the residents, the council voted to again consider the single-family land use designation.
This is the right time. The housing market has changed and the commercial growth of the village has become more focused. Questions such as a passive park, traffic, environmental concerns, even RV and boat storage, must be considered. Unlike before, the process will begin with public input even before the drafting of any conceptual plan. I am confident that the council members have listened to the residents, learned from the past, and, as County Commissioner Jess Santamaria stated at a recent council meeting, “will make the right decision.”
Joseph Boyle, Royal Palm Beach