RPB Council OKs Letter Supporting Pioneer Road Improvements

The Royal Palm Beach Village Council will notify Palm Beach County that it supports improvements to Pioneer Road on the west side of State Road 7.

The decision at the Nov. 7 council meeting was made despite complaints from residents in the unincorporated Westwood community, which borders the northern portion of the road.

In May, the council approved transmittal of a land-use change from residential to commercial for 10.6 acres on the southeast corner of Pioneer Road and State Road 7, over objections raised by some residents of Westwood and nearby Whispering Woods.

The Pioneer Road improvements will improve access and safety as the development to the south is completed.

According to a Royal Palm Beach staff report, Pebb Enterprises, which is developing the property with commercial and multifamily homes on the south side of the road, sought council support regarding a proposed acquisition of right-of-way by the county to improve mobility and safety on Pioneer Road.

The property to be acquired is located in the unincorporated southeast quadrant of Pioneer Road and State Road 7. The proposed improvements include additional turn lanes, sidewalks and a parallel access corridor along State Road 7, connecting the commercial developments to the south to Pioneer Road.

Palm Beach County also requested confirmation that the village supports the county’s proposed acquisition and improvements.

The item appeared on the council’s consent agenda, which meant it would have passed without discussion if there were no objections. However, several Westwood residents were on hand to speak.

Robert Fink, one of several who spoke, said he could not understand the county’s ability to take property at the developer’s request when the improvements appeared to benefit only the developer.

“I don’t know exactly what ‘consent’ means on an agenda,” Fink said. “It sounds like it’s already done, but I don’t know what this means except to help a developer by claiming private land.”

Elyce Werner, president of the Westwood Property Owners’ Association, said the group opposes the council supporting the county improvement plan because it is premature, as the developer had not yet applied for site plan approval and the tract analysis had not asked for access from Pioneer Road.

“Westwood is the affected property, and we have vested property rights,” Werner said. “I have also been in communication with our District 6 representative, [Commissioner] Jess Santamaria, who stands behind Westwood, and supports us to keep our quality of life and the character of the community. I’m asking that the village not support this request. It will directly affect our lifestyle. You will be destroying a buffer that has been there for 32 years.”

Mayor Matty Mattioli told the residents their complaints would be turned over to the village manager and village staff for review. Since the road work is a county project, the council did not have detailed information, only a letter from Don Hearing of Cotleur & Hearing, representing the developer, asking for village consent for the right-of-way acquisition.

“I can’t answer what’s going to become of it, but I can assure you that something will start tomorrow to find a solution,” Mattioli said.

The council then approved the consent agenda unanimously.

Hearing’s letter to the village pointed out that Royal Palm Beach had already approved the change from residential to commercial with the understanding that significant improvements were needed to Pioneer Road.

“Pebb Enterprises and their team have been working collaboratively with Palm Beach County to facilitate mobility and safety improvements to Pioneer Road,” Hearing wrote. “It is our understanding that both the county and Village of Royal Palm believe these improvements are important public benefits and that a public purpose exists to pursue the acquisition of the necessary right of way.”

The letter acknowledged that Pioneer Road is a county road, making it the appropriate agency to pursue the acquisition of right of way. “All of the costs associated with this effort are being offset by Pebb Enterprises with no expenditure of public dollars,” Hearing noted.

Liggins’ letter to County Administrator Bob Weisman confirmed the village’s support of the project.

“As you are aware, there has been increased development around the State Road 7 corridor in the past several years. This development has resulted in increased traffic,” Liggins wrote. “Given the increased traffic, Pebb Enterprises, the owner of a commercial parcel, has agreed to make certain improvements to Pioneer Road.”

Liggins letter went on the state that Royal Palm Beach supports any county efforts to improve mobility and traffic safety in the area.