Letter: RPB Wrong To Buy Heron Parkway House

I would like to respond to Ms. Zaskey’s letter in last week’s Town-Crier (RPB Needs Pedestrian/Bike Park Entrances, Feb. 21) regarding the village’s purchase of the 109 Heron Parkway residence, village biking and the petition I presented at the Feb. 6 council meeting. The delivered petition was originally generated to address local neighborhood concerns that would result if a connection to the park was created at this location. The petition was circulated only on Heron Parkway, and the revisions to the village’s master plan were not public knowledge when it was. It was later found that master plan revisions included, among other things, a new park entrance through 109 Heron, plus a second through the middle of the yard of a Sandpiper Avenue residence that was being proposed without the property owners there even being informed of plans to construct a throughway to the park for “hundreds of homes” feet away from their pool and private area.

Unfortunately, I was misquoted in the Feb. 14 Town-Crier as stating that I supported the purchase of 109 Heron. I had actually said that I did not support the purchase, only code enforcement efforts to get the bank to put it up for sale. If I, or any of the neighbors I spoke with, were aware of the council’s scheduled vote to buy the home the week before Christmas, we would have spoken up at that time. The village was not the purchaser of last resort; the home had only been on the market for about 10 days when the village intervened in the free market process and brokered a deal. This shut out other bidders who would have purchased, restored and maintained it as a single-family residence. The village’s purchase and planned demolition arguably appears to be in violation of their own Comprehensive Plan Objective H-1.7 that calls for the conservation of existing village housing stock and demolition only after methods of rehabilitation have failed.

Purchasing the property and establishing a new public right of way through it essentially results in a land-use change from Single Family to Public Use without the process and hearings that are otherwise required when such changes are proposed.

People have been biking the tree-lined Willows neighborhood streets for the last 40-plus years; it’s a nice place to do so. The Willows has a 25 mph speed limit and streets designed to only convey local neighborhood traffic. If I, or any neighbors, desire to bike within the Commons Park, we do as everyone else does and enter the park through the existing entrances from these streets.

109 Heron was purchased for $156,000. Combined appraisal, staff, legal, demolition, design and construction costs for improvements will likely more than double that. What is the benefit of this project? The village engineer indicated that the proposed entrance is to save “600 homes within a half-mile radius” of it an average of third of a mile ride to the existing entrances, this for people who are presumably out for some exercise in the first place. If all improvements were completed for $300,000, that would be equivalent to $500, or $1,500 per mile, for the decreased entry distance, for each of the 600 homes. What about the lost tax revenue from the demolished residence?

Some I have spoken with believe that creating a bike entrance at 109 Heron is really a means to create a new right of way through this location for the extension of the park entry road (Poinciana Drive) north from its current abrupt end to Heron Parkway, thereby creating a new traffic corridor through the village to alleviate traffic on Royal Palm Beach Blvd. While I would like to believe that is not the case, can it be ruled out considering events to date? However, I do believe that there are issues of process, procedure, planning and spending called into question with this purchase that extend far beyond the concerns of 34 residents signing onto a local neighborhood petition.

Ed Palmowski, Royal Palm Beach