County: Ag Enclave Rules Control Minto West Process

Palm Beach County staff members were on hand Wednesday to give presentations on the controversial Minto West proposal during a meeting hosted by County Commissioner Jess Santamaria at the original Wellington Mall.

A transmittal hearing for Minto West’s text amendment request will go before the Palm Beach County Commission on Wednesday, Aug. 27.

The request, designed to accommodate the planned Minto West development, would increase the allowed density of the 3,750-acre property from 2,996 residential units and up to 235,000 square feet of non-residential use to 4,549 homes and up to 2.1 million square feet of non-residential use.

About 75 people attended Wednesday’s meeting.

Palm Beach County Principal Planner Bryan Davis explained that Minto West, situated on the former Callery-Judge Grove land, is designated as an agricultural enclave by the state. In fact, it is the only ag enclave in Florida. It received that designation in 2008 at the request of Callery-Judge.

As an ag enclave, it is entitled to an intensity of development similar to what has grown up around it, which is The Acreage and Loxahatchee Groves. That was the basis of the property receiving the density it is already approved for.

“An agricultural enclave is a parcel of land in an unincorporated area that is not developed in the sense that there’s no residential, commercial, industrial or other entitlement on it,” Davis said. “It’s in ag use of some kind. It has to be under single ownership, and it has to be under what is called bona fide agricultural use.”

Davis said it has to be surrounded at least 75 percent by land that is designated or already developed as residential, commercial or industrial.

The designation as an agricultural enclave gives the owner the ability to work with local government on the density of the enclave’s development.

Davis also pointed out that under recent state legislation regarding comprehensive plan amendments, even if the county commission votes against transmittal of the requested amendment, it is still transferred to the state for consideration.

“It was a local government preemption, if you will,” Davis said. “If you decided not to take action, or if you took an unfavorable action, it would automatically be sent to the state as part of the land use amendment process.”

The amendment request will come back to the county commission for adoption or denial in October.

An ag enclave is also entitled to a presumption of not being urban sprawl as long as it is consistent with the uses in the surrounding area, Davis said.

The ag enclave must also employ “New Urbanism” concepts, which is intended to curb urban sprawl while protecting landowner rights.

Davis said that the county’s legal staff has determined that the state statute prevails over local regulations, which led to conflicts with the county’s comp plan, including the county’s long-range traffic requirements that the ag enclave no longer has to observe.

“That’s why there have been a number of discussions publicly about whether or not long-range traffic was considered,” he said. “There was a policy exemption in there from 2008.”

The amendment request and concurrent rezoning application goes before the county commission on Oct. 2.

County Engineer George Webb said his staff has a new traffic study that was recently posted to the county’s web site at that shows a widespread need for improvements to accommodate the Minto West development and others behind it.

“We’re going to be presenting it to the board on Wednesday as part of the comp plan process,” Webb said.

The study shows that under the approved plan, 60 percent of the residents of the new community will be going outside the community to and from work, and under the proposed amendment, there is a 50-50 split due to jobs that theoretically will be created in the 2.1 million square feet of commercial and work space.

The peak hour eastbound traffic increase would be about 30 percent, or about two cars per minute, he said, adding that the project will also draw about 2 percent more morning traffic westbound on lanes that are not currently heavily utilized.

Webb pointed out that the developer does not have to improve the affected roads but, under recently enacted proportional share statutes, will pay a certain amount to the county to develop the infrastructure.

According to Webb, Seminole Pratt Whitney Road in front of the high school will get the highest priority. “Right out of the box, that would be a requirement for the project,” he said.

Secondly, although Loxahatchee Groves has objected to the idea, the next set of dollars would probably be used for four-laning Okeechobee Blvd., Webb said.

Also important will be an overpass interchange at Northlake Blvd. and the Beeline Highway.

“People living at PGA National don’t think so, particularly those living right next to the intersection, but we don’t see how that works at all without them,” he said, explaining that Northlake Blvd. crosses a railroad track right at the intersection. “The railroad controls the crossing. The railroad has told us in no uncertain terms, ‘We will not let you put one additional lane of traffic across that track. If you want to get more capacity, go up.’”


ABOVE: The revised plan for the Minto West project.