Lox Council OKs Low Density Commercial For Drysdale Land

The Loxahatchee Groves Town Council gave the owners of the 6.55-acre Drysdale property on Southern Blvd. a green light Tuesday for a commercial land use.

The commercial use was previously outlined for the property in the town’s comprehensive plan.

At the owners’ request, however, the council stripped a condition for 28,532 maximum square footage on the site, but left intact a maximum floor-area ratio of 0.1, which council members said works out mathematically to approximately the same square footage for the property.

The land is located at the northwest corner of Southern Blvd. and Loxahatchee Ave. The small-scale land use amendment changed the property’s designation from rural residential (one dwelling unit per 5 acres) to commercial low.

Owner Nancy C. Drysdale’s son, Glen Drysdale, spoke on her behalf, asking for special consideration for the property.

“There are a couple of things that we would like to talk to the town about,” he said. “We agreed to the conditions that are being asked except for the floor-area ratio. We’d like to bring that back to you when we have an actual site plan, and we are very close to that.”

Drysdale said they had met with a developer who is working with them on specific tenants. “When he shared with us what he wanted to bring to the town, and emphasized over and over how anxious they are to come here, and when we saw who he wanted to bring, we looked at each other and said, ‘What a perfect fit,’” he recalled.

He could not share specifics about the plans because they had signed a non-disclosure agreement. “We’re excited about the site plan, but we don’t want to get too bound up for now,” Drysdale said. “We want to bring that to you and address the floor-area ratio at that time.”

He explained that his mother is self-employed as a real estate broker. “You probably know that real estate brokers do not have a retirement pension,” he said. “This property is mom’s retirement plan. Mom has lived in the town for 35 years, and 25 years ago she bought this land so that one day it could be her retirement, so I hope you would look upon her a little differently than if she were some developer out of Broward County coming up here to develop land.”

Drysdale said they agreed to all the other conditions proposed by the Planning & Zoning Board, including:

• A county traffic performance standards review, including a concurrency determination, to be completed at the time of site plan review.

• Direct ingress and egress to a future commercial development from Tangerine Drive will be prohibited.

• Rural Vista Guidelines, as directed by the council, will be incorporated within the development design.

• PalmTran will be contacted during the site plan approval process to determine whether a bus shelter is needed.

• A vegetative survey, including a native plant and habitat inventory, will be completed with site plan approval, including identification of preservation and/or mitigation.

• Prior to submitting a site plan, the Roadways, Equestrian Trails & Greenways Advisory Committee will be consulted regarding the incorporation of an equestrian trail within the development.

Councilman Tom Goltzené asked whether the floor-area ratio is a reduced ratio or the maximum allowed for that parcel, and planning consultant Jim Fleischmann said it is the maximum allowed in the comp plan and zoning rules.

“The issue I have now is if we don’t pick a number, or if we pick a number over 0.1, doesn’t that give everybody else in the corridor the opportunity to come and say, ‘Hey, you gave her more than you gave us?’” Goltzené asked.

Fleischmann said the 0.1 floor-area ratio is very clear in the comp plan. “Point-one is the max,” he said.

Town Attorney Michael Cirullo said the square footage of 28,532 could be removed from the conditions and the 0.1 floor-area ratio still would stand.

“The only benefit of taking it out is the flexibility in case you allow a greater ratio later,” Cirullo said.

Goltzené pointed out that there are other small properties that could ask for the same thing if the council granted an exception to the Drysdales.

Vice Mayor Ron Jarriel said he favored taking out the square footage, and Councilman Jim Rockett agreed, although he did not see how that would help.

Drysdale said he would not be able to keep the developer interested with a 0.1 floor-area ratio on that small of a piece of property. “If you have 20 acres and you have 94,000 square feet, you can make any business plan work,” he said.

Nancy Drysdale said she thought the developer’s plan would be something the town would want. “I don’t think there’s a member on this panel who will not be thrilled, and say demographically this fits for our town,” she said.

Goltzené said he appreciated their request but that it’s similar to those made by other property owners.

“I’ve heard this pitch this very week from somebody wanting to put four houses to the acre, explaining to me that’s the only way it works,” he said. “Are we there yet? If we are as a town, OK. We’re open for business, let’s hang the sign. But otherwise, if we’re going to stick with what we did when we incorporated, we said we’re going to have low density, and we are in a way condemning ourselves to a lower economic condition. Certainly, CityPlace is a far greater use than a cow barn, but which is more Loxahatchee Groves?”

Resident Ken Johnson pointed out that the Drysdale property is the Florida Department of Transportation’s preference for one of several stormwater retention ponds as part of its plans to widen Southern Blvd., but Glen Drysdale said he and his mother are not willing sellers. FDOT is reluctant to employ eminent domain to obtain retention areas.

“This property was ranked number one,” he said. “Number two and number three were ranked very close behind. She is not a willing seller, and the other two properties noted on the FDOT plan are willing sellers.”

Goltzené made a motion to approve the land use amendment and the zoning ordinance without the specific square footage condition, which carried 5-0.