Royal Palm Beach Council Scales Back Planned Bike Paths

By Briana D’Andrea

Plans are underway to knock down a village-acquired home in a neighborhood near Royal Palm Beach Commons Park. However, the site at 109 Heron Parkway will not be used to create a pedestrian and bike path into the park.

At the Sept. 4 meeting of the Royal Palm Beach Village Council, Village Manager Ray Liggins said his staff is moving forward with the plan to take down the house, a decision previously approved by the council.

“We are applying for grants to do those pathways on Commons Park property, and are moving to take the house down,” Liggins said. “It will be down, hopefully, before the end of the year.

Initially, there were plans to add a connecting paved walkway from the front of the property to the park’s walkway, but that has been removed at the request of Heron Parkway residents.

Last month, Village Engineer Christopher Marsh presented details of a $1.3 million bike path plan, showing new extensions to the existing village bike path. He noted that village staff had conducted a survey back in April for Royal Palm Beach residents, and that the results showed the importance placed on expansion of pedestrian and bicycle connectivity.

“Additional pedestrian access points into Royal Palm Beach Commons Park are necessary, because currently there are only access points located at the southern end of the park,” Marsh said at the Aug. 21 meeting. “Lastly, they requested a pathway connecting Royal Palm Beach Commons Park and Village Hall, which measures about 650 feet.”

Additionally, residents had the opportunity to ride around the northern portion of the park to figure out what sorts of improvements they wanted to see. Their vision was all about completion of the area, Marsh said.

“Conclusion of the charette was that the creation of the northern pathway should be designed at a width of eight to 10 feet to accommodate pedestrian and bicycle traffic,” he added.

In June, the council approved the site plan for it.

Another portion of the project involves the current 10-foot FP&L easement pathway stretching from Southern Blvd. all the way to the northern sections of Royal Palm Beach. There are about 2,000 homes just east of the pathway and south of Okeechobee Blvd. that have pedestrian and bicycle access to the pathway.

Marsh said the issue is that there’s no connection between Royal Palm Beach Commons Park and the pathway.

“There is a proposed 8-foot pathway to connect the two from the recently acquired 109 Heron Parkway property, which will eventually connect to the Royal Palm Beach Commons pathways and bring that 8-foot pathway out on the south side of the road and connect to the FP&L pathway.”

However, several residents who live in that area along Heron Parkway were unhappy with the plan to build a bike path that ultimately would cut into their properties.

“This is my street; these are my neighbors,” Barbara Palmowski said. “I know we had a little petition and we walked the streets, and everybody said they did not want this huge bike path in front of their house.”

Ed Palmowski, Barbara’s husband, suggested that people should just ride on the road rather than have the village add the FP&L connection to the park.

Councilmen Richard Valuntas and Jeff Hmara agreed with the neighbors who live along Heron Parkway. “There are ways to deal with increased utilization or bike traffic along Heron Parkway, other than putting the bike path in,” Hmara said.

Resident William Coyne disagreed with putting a path between his and his neighbor’s property as part of the Village Hall connection.

Vice Mayor Swift favored eliminating it. “If you wanted to turn over that land to have that access, OK. It doesn’t have to be on the map as far as I’m concerned,” Swift said. “If you don’t want it, we could take it off.”

Valuntas said he didn’t have a problem with removing that section, either. “I would definitely not vote to try and put anything on there or condemn any property, unless the people who actually owned the property wanted it to happen,” he said. “I don’t see the harm of having it on there, but I’m not tied to it.”

The council passed a motion to remove the Village Hall connector and the connection off Heron Parkway.

Liggins said the plan now is to extend an existing 8-foot walkway north of Business Parkway along the canal right of way and connect to existing off-street pathways on Bobwhite Court connecting to Bobwhite Road, which would eventually lead to Royal Palm Beach Commons Park and the 10-foot FP&L corridor.

Additional deletions include Meadowlark Drive and portions of Sandpiper Avenue. A portion of Park Road North would also be removed because the village applied for a grant but was unsuccessful in getting one.

An improvement off Pioneer Road, constructed by the developer to connect the residential neighborhood on the eastern portion of the project, is set to take place.

Sparrow Drive, between Royal Palm Beach and Crestwood boulevards, did get funded, and there will be a 10-foot pathway that will be developed by next year.

The $1.3 million bike path project, which started back in 2012, is being developed in two parts. The first phase has already begun, with a price tag of $550,000, and the second phase will take place next year at the cost of $790,000.

A combination of Florida Department of Transportation grants and money from the village’s impact fees fund will finance the project.