On Aug. 27, the Palm Beach County Commission had the opportunity to curb development in the western communities, specifically in The Acreage, and once again they failed the residents, siding with the developer (Minto) by voting 5-2 to transmit to the state the comprehensive land use plan amendments Minto seeks in order to expand Minto West beyond what it is legally entitled to build.
In the face of the preponderance of data presented during the meeting that paint a dire picture of traffic congestion, net fiscal deficits leaving all county residents to shoulder the shortfall via property and gas sales tax hikes, of Indian Trail Improvement District residents facing additional taxation to pay for Minto’s traffic on our privately owned roads, of safety issues, of impact on schools, especially those closest to Minto, of water concerns, of erosion of our quality of life, of the domino effect of other landowners seeking similar developments adding to our woes, and in light of the obvious fact that Minto West is incompatible and inconsistent with the surrounding area, the board sided with the developer. Despite the pleas of residents speaking in opposition, the growing number of surrounding communities issuing resolutions in opposition, the thousands of petitions submitted in opposition, and the opposition of 1000 Friends of Florida and the Sierra Club, the board sided with the developer.
The disregard and disrespect of the board toward the experts and residents in opposition were clearly reflected in comments by some commissioners. In particular, Shelley Vana commented that we are an urban area as defined by the U.S. Census. Since when? And where is that documentation to support that assertion? Regardless, in the State of Florida, we are zoned exurban in the Rural Tier within a Rural Service Area. Vana said we should “stop having babies” and “put a wall around Palm Beach County.” She justified continued pro-development by saying it was done to Native Americans. She indicated that change has always happened in The Acreage with no residents fighting it, failing to recognize changes in attitudes toward land preservation, technology and social media, and implying that change begets change and past changes justify continued change with no regard to those who are directly impacted.
Newsflash: We, as residents and your constituents, are circling the wagons and drawing a line in Acreage soil. We do not want to be the next Broward County. We do not want the character of our community destroyed and the quality and our way of life compromised. We are going to fight this, all the way to the courts if need be. We will do our utmost to unseat you during your next election. We will ferret out which commissioners have been funded by developers and related special interest groups. And there are growing numbers of residents all throughout the county becoming increasingly dissatisfied with how the Board of County Commissioners is structured, and I foresee a referendum in the future seeking a change so that residents, countywide, vote for commissioners, instead of per district.
Commissioners have one more chance to prove to residents and neighboring communities that they are “of the people, by the people, for the people” rather than “of the developers, by the developers, for the developers” on Oct. 29 when they convene to consider final approval of Minto West. As I said during my closing comments to the board, “Think of the legacy you leave and not the currency of the moment.” Consider your vote, its impact on residents, our land, our way of life, that legacy, and the consequences of your vote very carefully.
Jean Edwards, The Acreage