In a workshop Tuesday, the Loxahatchee Groves Town Council agreed to consider two local bills for the state legislature’s approval. One would let the Loxahatchee Groves Water Control District turn over ownership of roads to the town, while the other focuses on alternative rights of way, such as horse trails.
The first bill would be modeled after one the legislature previously approved that turned over paved segments to the town. Neither of the bills had been drafted as of Tuesday’s meeting, but the idea of an equestrian bill came up during discussion of the road bill.
Town Administrator Mark Kutney said the first bill had come about from the Sept. 27 meeting of the Intergovernmental Coordination Committee attended by LGWCD Administrator Steve Yohe, LGWCD Supervisor John Ryan, Councilman Tom Goltzené and Kutney.
At that meeting, Ryan, who helped the first local bill to passage, said the district was interested in considering a similar bill to turn over other district roads to the town as they become paved, since the roads no longer require grading and watering by the district, and the town has more traffic control authority.
“I’m not sure if we can go forward at this time because we simply don’t have the proposed act in front of us,” Kutney said. “There is an issue relative to having a lobbyist and having the town participate in the payment of that.”
Mayor Dave Browning said the meeting had been specifically called to discuss the proposed bill. “We set up this meeting to discuss this stuff,” he said. “I thought this was what we were going to do.”
Councilman Ron Jarriel said he thought they might talk about a lobbyist. “I know we needed a lobbyist [previously],” he said. “Seems like we could come up with an answer whether we want a lobbyist and how much we want to spend on one.”
Jarriel said that Ryan might be able to provide input on a lobbyist. “As far as the legislation, I was thinking we would use the same legislation we used before,” Jarriel said. “I didn’t know we were going to change the game plan. Maybe John can help us out on that. We came here to discuss it, and if we can settle it tonight, we do need to move on legislation. Each month we wait, it’s going to get harder and harder to pass.”
Kutney said the district’s attorney is working on the legislative act, which he anticipated would be ready shortly. “I guess the big question is, number one, our concurrence in working with them on the language of the act, and if the town council wants to participate in the funding of the lobbyist,” Kutney said.
Ryan said the legislative delegation would be meeting in mid-December, rather than November as they had the previous year, which reduces the urgency.
“Essentially, it’s going to be the same bill,” Ryan said, adding that the district has already contacted its lobbyist, David Ramba. “He does a lot of work with special districts, and he was very effective. I think what happened was that the attorneys didn’t get a circulated draft of the bill in time for the workshop discussions tonight.”
Ryan said it is a simple bill, dedicating the width of the remaining district roads to the town. “It’s not a title taking, it’s recognizing the roads where they are,” he said. “In one bill, it confirms the public road status of all the remaining district roads and sets them up to be turned over to the town as resurfacing improvements are made.”
Goltzené asked whether dirt roads would be turned over to the town, and Ryan said that would depend upon agreements for the district to continue grading and watering the roads, but the town would not be prohibited from taking over those roads.
Goltzené asked whether the bill addresses other easements along the road that might be suitable for horse trails, and Ryan said his understanding was that it deals only with the roads themselves. He thought it would be a stretch to try to include other easements, such as canals and maintenance roads.
Goltzené said the canal serves as drainage for the road, and his understanding was that in Florida, the entire right of way is considered part of the road. “I think the attorneys might review this, especially since this was the town council’s directive,” he said. “I think it might be at least worth trying.”
Taking into consideration several residents with equestrian interests attending the meeting, Goltzené said he thought it was important to take all opinions into consideration. “As a town and as a council, it is our need to act collegially and worry about everybody’s concerns, and not just the district road issue,” he said.
Ryan said he thought their goal was to get what is realistic, explaining that modeling the bill after the previous one would almost assure its passage.
Goltzené said the local bill as written stands to preclude the establishment of future horse trails. “The point I’m making is you’re stabbing a lot of people in the back who have been waiting on these horse trails,” he said.
After more discussion, council members suggested separate bills, one for roads and another to transfer other rights of way. The council directed legal staff to write the bills for consideration at the Nov. 5 meeting.