Things are looking up for our economy. Governments are reporting increased construction and upticks in home values, leading to bigger budgets and more wiggle room. It seems the harsh slashing of funds is over for now, and many once-planned projects are beginning to take shape again. But we must not let our excitement about renewed economic times cloud our judgment, leading to a rush of overbuilding.
Everyone wants to see things bounce back with a return to the “good times,” but the way to achieve that is through responsible growth and learning from the mistakes of the past.
With things on the rise again, several major construction projects are taking shape, including Minto’s purchase of the Callery-Judge Grove property and a renewed focus on the long-dormant residential tract on the Palm Beach Aggregates property west of Seminole Pratt Whitney Road.
If approved as proposed, these projects would bring thousands of new homes to the western communities — 2,000 homes on the Palm Beach Aggregates land and an estimated 5,000 to 6,000 homes (based on the stated figure of 1.7 homes per acre) at the newly dubbed “Minto West.” That is less than the 10,000 homes Callery-Judge once proposed for the land, but far more than the 3,000 it currently has vested. Both projects have already garnered opposition, and it’s important that all the government entities involved take time to diligently evaluate them.
Because of the slow economy, the Palm Beach Aggregates project, known as the Highland Dunes PUD, was shelved. The PUD zoning it once had was changed to another residential class to allow the property to claim agricultural use. However, a petition for rezoning back to PUD was quietly placed on the Palm Beach County Commission’s zoning consent agenda Thursday. This is not how large scale developments should be handled — passed through without discussion.
Times have changed, and we are more knowledgeable now of what caused the economic crisis. Among the problems were a proliferation of construction that consumed and then devastated our area, resulting in one of the highest foreclosure rates in the country.
What we don’t need is more large-scale developments being passed through without first discussing the issues surrounding them and then giving renewed consideration to each project. What was considered good for the community five years ago may not match the community’s current vision.
Pushing projects through under the radar also does not give the public due consideration. Putting an item on the consent agenda leaves little opportunity for dissidents to at least have their voices heard. Residents should not have to fight their elected leaders to have these important discussions.
Minto, meanwhile, promises a vigorous discussion with the community regarding plans for Minto West. This is a good thing, but only if they approach with a spirit of compromise. While certainly something will be built on the Callery-Judge property, some of the ideas in the initial proposal have already riled up neighbors and the greater community.
As the economy continues to pick up, it is likely we will see more large-scale projects come forward. We ask that all elected officials take the time to consider each project in new light and evaluate the projects with due diligence. Whether the projects are approved or not, residents deserve to know that their officials took time to scrutinize the plans of what could be a monumental change for our area.