The Palm Beach County Commission denied postponement Wednesday of a request for transmittal of a land-use change from rural residential to low-intensity commercial for property at the southeast corner of Northlake and Coconut boulevards.
In refusing to delay, the commissioners doomed the proposal and heeded the contention of Acreage leaders that the postponement was only a stall tactic.
Palm Beach County Planning Director Lorenzo Aghemo said the developer had asked for a postponement of the heavily opposed development, pushing it to the January 2014 transmittal hearing.
This turned discussion to whether to postpone or not, rather than the merits of the proposed land-use change on the 11.25-acre site. Once slated for a post office, the current owner proposed a multiple-use planned development with commercial uses up to 49,005 square feet, including a gas station.
The development received many letters of opposition from Acreage residents, unanimous disapprovals from the Indian Trail Improvement District and the Acreage Landowners’ Association, and recommendations of denial from county staff and the Palm Beach County Planning Commission.
Former ITID Supervisor and ALA Liaison Mike Erickson said the matter was vetted in numerous meetings, where it was roundly rejected.
“The reason they are asking for postponement is they haven’t gotten the answer they want, which is a positive affirmation of developing this corner,” Erickson said. “I believe that the proposal as it’s written is in the wrong place. The Northlake Corridor Study, which I spent two years helping develop when I was on the Indian Trail board, absolutely says this is not to go in this place.”
Erickson pointed out that the community approved commercial use for the west side of the intersection.
“We approved a gas station, which is controversial in The Acreage, and we approved it,” he said. “Why would they bring forward a proposal to put another gas station, let alone get into the merits of the size of that gas station.”
He added that the land use already approved for the corridor has been determined to meet the needs of the community through 2030.
“We don’t need more on this corridor,” Erickson said. “This is a crucial corridor from a transportation standpoint. When you look at Northlake Blvd., it has everything to do with who can get in and out. We only have a few in-and-outs. By the way, we need another one, Seminole Pratt to the Beeline, but that’s another day and another agenda.”
Erickson asked commissioners to deny the postponement based on the merits of the proposal.
“Your own planning commission doesn’t support it, and let’s get the word out to them right now — don’t bring these kinds of proposals forward,” Erickson said. “Bring things forward that are going to become an asset to the community, that are going to help The Acreage, not more strip centers and corner gas stations.”
A representative of the developer said the requested postponement had nothing to do with the objections Erickson had raised, explaining that the developer had a petition with more than 600 signatures, but most of the signatories were out of town at a horse convention.
Dr. Crystal Gates, a resident of Hamlin Blvd. to the south of the site, said many of the 600 signatures the developer had obtained did not give addresses.
“There’s no way to tell if that list comprises community support or not,” Gates said. “I believe that they are postponing it because they know they are not going to get approval.”
Attorney Martin Perry, representing a property owner immediately south of the proposed site, questioned justification for the postponement.
“It has been argued that they have a petition with 600 names and a lot of those people are not here, but as you can see, there are a great many of the people that are affected that are here,” Perry said. “The real issue is the corridor study, and it is not possible, in my opinion, and I think that would be shared by your planning staff, for them to do another corridor study between now and the next scheduled hearing. It would simply be delaying matters… The county has spent a great deal of time and money doing the corridor study not once, but twice, and that really is the issue here.”
ITID Vice President Carol Jacobs asked the commissioners to deny the postponement.
“You will destroy the community in that area,” she said. “I totally agree with what Mike Erickson said, so you’re going to hear us keep repeating ourselves.”
Commissioner Jess Santamaria made a motion to deny postponement, which carried 7-0. The developer’s representative said they would pursue other uses on the property.