Zoners OK Less-Specific Commercial Use For Office Park

The Royal Palm Beach Planning & Zoning Commission approved an application for a small-scale land-use amendment Monday for the Royal Office Park from commercial low to commercial, which will allow more retail uses.

The 8.16-acre development is on the east side of State Road 7, eight-tenths of a mile south of Southern Blvd.

Site Plan Coordinator Kevin Erwin said the change will not affect the traffic impact or intensity of use on the development site. The requested action also conforms with uses shown on the future land-use map of the comprehensive plan.

“The proposed land-use designation is entirely consistent with the directives, goals and policies of the Royal Palm Beach Comprehensive Plan,” Erwin said. “The developer is required to participate in a proportionate share of any improvement costs necessary, and/or provide infrastructure needed to serve the new development. However, the infrastructure and services are already built on the site through previous permits issued for the existing and proposed construction on the site.”

Attorney Brad Biggs explained that the question under consideration was legislative, and a broad, policy-based idea, regardless of whether the area is amenable to the particular land use.

“Ultimately, what you’re going to talk about to the council and letting them know is whether or not you think this parcel is a good fit for that particular land use,” Biggs said. “Once it gets that land use, then the rezoning is a quasi-judicial matter that will determine that the zoning should be consistent.”

Agent Jan Polson with Cotleur & Hearing explained that the Royal Office Park was annexed in 2005 and is part of the Toys “R” Us site. It received a commercial low designation and special exception approval as an office complex with a site plan modification in 2011 to be combined with the Toys “R” Us site to the south.

Polson said the development is currently split in the middle with two different land use designations. “The Royal Office Park is the commercial low designation, and it’s the northern portion of the site,” Polson said. “The southern portion of the site is the commercial designation, which includes the Toys ‘R’ Us and retail. The Royal Office Park is partially developed with an office building and has one parcel that has not been developed. The request today is to change the commercial low and commercial office and provide consistency on the whole site to commercial.”

The property to the south is the mixed-use Isla Verde development, which includes a residential area to the east of the site. The Pioneer commercial development to the north received approval last month.

“The application is quite extensive, but all we’re really asking for is a change of the commercial low to commercial district,” Polson said. “It will allow more flexibility in the future of the site. It is consistent with all the commercial uses in the area.”

Commissioner Joseph Boyle asked about the actual zoning approval, and Polson said that although there is already a zoning approved for the site, the developer will be required to come back with a zoning plan for general commercial use.

Biggs said commercial low has a more limited number of uses than general commercial, which allows retail.

Biggs added that small-scale comp plan amendments used to be sent to the Department of Community Affairs, which made observations, recommendations or comments if it chose. “Now, under the Department of Economic Opportunity, they aren’t even allowed to make comments,” he said. “We just send it up. It really is a local decision now.”

Commissioner Barbara Powell asked whether the board is going to start considering stormwater in approvals, and Biggs said developers will have to start complying with the village’s recently approved stormwater ordinance.

Powell was also concerned about whether the application is consistent for the community and whether it constitutes “sprawl.”

“I appreciate that the application says basically that they’re consistent, but that is from the developer’s point of view,” Powell said. “And then we have staff support, but my question goes back to why is that determined to be consistent to our comprehensive plan for providing for a mixed use or mixed residential? Is it really necessary for us to move to a more intense land-use designation for this area, especially since we do have a residential community close to that area?”

She asked why village staff felt it was the best use for that particular piece of land, and Erwin said it’s consistent with the comp plan.

“As far as its proximity to residential, the board recalls when this development came through, originally there was about a 2.5-acre wetland to the rear of the property, which they did preserve,” he said. “That’s acting as a very good buffer between the residential and the commercial, which is not always possible with a commercial development.”

Commissioner Richard Becher said he thought the change made sense and would not affect the area negatively. “I don’t have a problem with it,” he said.

Commission Alternate Felicia Matula said the change seems logical. “I look at the office spaces that we have around our village and Wellington, and we seem to be overrun with available office space,” she said. “I think that by changing the designation and getting the retail, you have a far better chance of being successful.”

Polson said her client has been successful at keeping its buildings at a high rate of occupancy.

Becher made a motion to approve the application, which carried 4-1 with Powell opposed.