The Palm Beach County Legislative Delegation approved two local bills Wednesday that would transfer control of road and canal easements from the Loxahatchee Groves Water Control District to the Town of Loxahatchee Groves.
Lobbyist David Ramba, representing both governments, said the first bill is similar to a previous one that transferred newly paved portions of A, C and D roads from the district to the town.
“There was some concern at the time with taking of land and those types of issues during the construction of those roads,” he said. “The construction was completed, and none of that happened. This is part of a very thoughtful process in taking a deed that was drawn out in pen in 1919 and turning it over to an established city.”
Ramba said that state law would give the town the ability to do what the district could have done if it had been incorporated and continuously maintaining the roads for seven years.
“The city hasn’t been in existence that long,” he said, explaining that it allows surveying of the roads to establish their lanes and gives the town ownership and, with it, maintenance responsibility. “[This is] part of the natural progression of overlaying a city over the water control district and getting these roads fit for use and fit for future maintenance by the town.”
Ramba introduced Loxahatchee Groves Town Manager Mark Kutney, Town Attorney Mary Viator, LGWCD Attorney Michael Cirullo and LGWCD Supervisor John Ryan, who were present to answer questions. He noted that both the district and the town had resolutions in the delegation’s package supporting the bill.
State Rep. Mark Pafford (D-District 86) made a motion to approve the bill, which carried 11-0. It will now be introduced as a local bill in Tallahassee with the full approval of the county’s legislative delegation.
Ramba said the second bill would allow for the dedication and use of canal maintenance easements for horse trails, noting that the town’s comprehensive plan, when it was created, provided for connections between different locations, and the routes that are taken have been used for years as horse trails.
He pointed out that the town’s Recreation, Equestrian Trails & Greenways Committee had applied for a state recreation grant and had been turned down because they didn’t have the correct legal descriptions for the easements in order to complete the trails.
“There is a trail system out there that is used every day by that community,” Ramba said.
He said he’d talked about the bill before the meeting with State Sen. Maria Sachs (D-District 34), who was concerned about the area the bill covered.
“This is not for Boca Raton,” Ramba said. “They’d be upset if they saw horses walking behind their houses. This is solely for Loxahatchee Groves, and it would allow their use to be expanded on the maintenance of the canals to allow for basically what’s occurring out there now, and the town would be able to receive these grants.”
Pafford made a motion for approval of the second bill, which also carried11-0.
In other business, the delegation also approved a local bill authorizing the Seminole Improvement District, controlled by Callery-Judge Grove, to allow telecommunications services there.
Terry Lewis of Lewis Longman & Walker, representing the district, said the 3,800-acre property was an orange grove that has been almost wiped out by citrus greening and canker.
“The property is consigned ultimately for future development areas, which would have to be approved by Palm Beach County,” Lewis said. “The infrastructure within that 3,700 acres is provided by Seminole Improvement District. They are the government. This short piece of legislation, when and if development is approved, [would] provide district-wide, high-speed telecommunications infrastructure, not going into the business of providing telecommunications but providing the infrastructure for an investor-owned utility.”
Several residents in the area spoke against the bill, opposing development of the land, which was recently purchased by Minto Communities Florida for development.
The tract, off Seminole Pratt Whitney Road, has a future land-use approval for up to 2,996 dwelling units and up to 235,000 square feet of non-residential uses. Minto is requesting up to 6,500 homes and about 1.4 million square feet of workplace and community-serving commercial uses.
State Rep. Pat Rooney (R-District 85), chairman of the legislative delegation, made a motion to approve the bill, pointing out that as a representative of The Acreage, he is sensitive to their concerns.
“We will keep an eye on this thing as it goes forward, and if there is going to be any kind of disruption or perceived disruption in the lifestyle out there, I won’t be able to support it as it goes forward,” he said. “I understand why the folks moved out there and their desire to keep that preserved.”
The motion carried 12-0.