County Planners Give Thumbs Down To Northlake Project

A controversial development at the corner of Northlake and Coconut boulevards in The Acreage met with stiff opposition at last week’s Palm Beach County Planning Commission meeting.

The commission recommended denying the requested zoning change in a 9-0 vote at its meeting Friday, June 14. The request is scheduled to go before the Palm Beach County Commission at a transmittal hearing Wednesday, July 24.

The developer is requesting a land-use change for the property from rural residential to commercial low on the 11.25-acre site formerly owned by the United States Postal Service, which abandoned plans for a post office there and sold the property in 2012. The current owner is proposing a multiple-use planned development with commercial uses of a maximum 49,005 square feet.

According to a county staff report, between 2006 and 2009, the county approved land-use amendments for four commercial properties in the immediate area along Northlake Blvd.

The closest is a 30-acre site located immediately to the west across Coconut Blvd., known as the Coconut/Northlake Commercial, which was rezoned in 2010 for a commercial project called the Shops at Indian Trails with 106,000 square feet of commercial space. Although that site has not yet received final site plan approval, it includes a grocery store, retail pharmacy, a convenience store with gasoline sales, a restaurant with a drive-through, a medical office and two banks.

To the south is residential development in The Acreage with single-family homes on lots ranging from 1.25 to 2.5 acres. To the east is a 22-acre site subject to a South Florida Water Management District conservation easement. Farther east are the unincorporated residential communities of Bayhill Estates and Rustic Lakes, followed by the Ibis community and the Shoppes at Ibis, both in the City of West Palm Beach.

Most of the property directly to the north is the 4,700-acre Vavrus Ranch land within the City of Palm Beach Gardens, a municipal golf course and publicly owned environmentally sensitive land.

According to the application, the proposed amendment is necessary to allow the rezoning of the property for the development of commercial uses including a convenience store with a gas station, retail, a fast-food restaurant and a bank.

County staff recommended denial of the proposed amendment.

The proposal has also garnered sharp opposition from local groups. The Acreage Landowners’ Association voted against the proposed development and sent a letter to the county expressing its opposition.

The Indian Trail Improvement District Board of Supervisors also expressed opposition after a presentation by the applicant and followed up with a letter of opposition to the county.

The ITID letter, dated April 23, points out that the ITID supervisors voted unanimously to oppose the amendment, adding that it is inconsistent with the Acreage Neighborhood Plan and the community’s rural character.

“The Acreage Neighborhood Plan is intended to avoid a pattern of development hostile to the community’s desired lifestyle,” the letter stated, explaining that the greatest threat to maintaining rural character is strip commercial development, a prime component of urban sprawl.

“Creeping commercialization is recognized as one of the greatest threats to the integrity of The Acreage community’s rural character,” the letter continued. “Intense community response to this comp plan amendment cannot be understood except in this context.”