The Loxahatchee Groves Town Council granted preliminary approval to long-anticipated zoning changes to commercial use for two properties at the northern corners of Southern Blvd. and B Road on Tuesday.
The parcels are the 21.73-acre site at the northwest corner known as Loxahatchee Groves Commons and the 90.33-acre site on the northeast corner known as Groves Town Center.
Both properties have been in the process for several years, held up by land-use and zoning moratoriums while the town finalized its comprehensive plan and land use requirements, as well as changes to the property on the northwest corner with the inception of the Palm Beach State College plan to build a campus there.
The zoning for both properties was changed from the town’s zoning designation of agricultural residential to multiple land uses that will allow for low-intensity commercial, office, institutional and residential uses.
Bob Bentz of Land Design South, representing Loxahatchee Groves Commons, said their request was for a low-intensity commercial planned unit development.
“It’s important for you to remember that this is first reading and you’re going to be seeing this again for a second reading,” Bentz said. “All we’re asking for is a rezoning. You are also going to see it again for the initial site plan approval. You’re going to be seeing this a lot in the future. I know you have seen a lot of it in the past.”
The applicant requested for two waivers, on separation of alcoholic beverage establishments from educational institutions, and to reduce the parking space size requirement.
“You are probably the proud owners of the largest parking space requirement in Florida,” Bentz said.
The applicant asked for a reduction for some of the spaces from 11 by 22.5 feet to 11 by 20 feet.
“As you know, in Loxahatchee Groves there are a lot of RV vehicles and a lot of trucks, and your code reflects the requirement to have parking spaces that are larger than normal,” he said.
He pointed out that the county’s width requirement is 9.5 feet and the typical length is 18.5 feet. The waiver also asks that the 28-foot parking aisle be reduced to 26 feet.
On the application presented, about 15 percent of the parking spaces are the larger ones, Bentz said. The remaining spaces would be 10 by 20 feet, which he said would still be larger than most spaces in the county.
“We also have a request for a waiver for alcoholic beverage establishments,” he said. “That is because we are adjacent to the college, which is our neighbor, for the 750-foot requirement that they be separated from any school buildings. We are not sure where those school buildings will be located on the site, hence the request for this waiver. It’s also relevant to point out that there are no bars allowed on this property.”
The overall size of the property including the college is 97 acres, he said. The original proposal for the site called for a comp plan change from agricultural to low-intensity commercial and office uses. “That was the original comp plan approval by the town, then the college came into the picture,” Bentz said.
The applicant eliminated the commercial office use and retained the commercial low designation on 21.73 acres at the northwest corner of Southern Blvd. and B Road, while the college pursued development of the remaining property.
Loxahatchee Groves Commons proposes three access points, with two on Southern Blvd. and one on B Road. The eastern access point on Southern will be the main access and will allow right and left turns into and out of the property. The western access point on Southern will be shared with the college and will allow right turns only, in and out. Both access points on Southern have been approved by the Florida Department of Transportation.
The third access point will be at Tangerine Drive and B Road, which is intended to be somewhat of a main street, and will tie in with an access point to Groves Town Center to the east. The proposed Tangerine Drive extension would terminate on the western edge of the Loxahatchee Groves Commons property, and the architecture will follow the town’s guidelines.
The largest element of the site will be a 6-acre lake north of the Tangerine Drive extension, which would be complemented by a half-acre community park, as well as a multipurpose equestrian trail that would run around the lake.
Bentz said the application has been before the town’s Planning & Zoning Board as well as the Roadway, Equestrian Trails & Greenway Advisory Committee, which had comments that had been incorporated into the plan, including equestrian trails that tie in via a bridge with other trails to the north at Collecting Canal Road.
“You could effectively ride your horse down to the center. You’re only allowed to be on the northern third of the property, but you could tie up your horse and go shopping,” Bentz said.
The community park by the lake was originally located in the middle of the parking area, but some people suggested moving it next to the lake, he said.
Improvements to B Road will be made in a partnership with the college, Loxahatchee Groves Commons and Groves Town Center. B Road from Southern Blvd. to the college’s entrance north of Tangerine will have asphalt paving, while the road between the college entrance and Okeechobee Blvd. will have open-graded emulsified mix (OGEM).
The proposed rezoning will limit development to 94,665 square feet of retail, including a grocery store, pharmacy, bank, fast-food restaurant and local retail.
Councilman Jim Rockett made a motion to approve the application subject to the conditions, which carried 4-0 with Councilman Tom Goltzené absent.
Attorney Marty Perry, representing Groves Town Center, said their application was not as detailed, but they had been invited to join in due to the B Road agreement.
“We have what is commonly known as a conceptual master plan,” Perry said. “Even though we’ve been tracking side by side with the comprehensive planning process, we were not as prepared to go forward as they were. We joined in this because of B Road, and we felt it was important to continue the partnership and assist with B Road because it would be beneficial to us as well as to the town and the college.”
He pointed out that Groves Town Center is a much larger plan, spread over more than 90 acres, which will have a lower floor-to-area ratio.
Planner Bradley Miller said the conceptual plan calls for 34 acres with 103,000 square feet of commercial retail, 15.87 acres of commercial office and 40.47 acres north of Tangerine with a 128-bed assisted-living facility.
Miller said the applicant is sticking with the conceptual plan that was presented to the council, with the only changes being some minor adjustments to the access point at Tangerine Drive.
The plan calls for substantial buffers on the north and east sides of the property.
Councilman Ron Jarriel made a motion to approve the project’s preliminary reading, which also carried 4-0.