Royal Palm Council Hears Update On Aquatic Weeds

By Briana D’Andrea

The Royal Palm Beach Village Council heard an update last week on the status of aquatic vegetation maintenance in the village from Public Works Director Paul Webster.

At the Thursday, Oct. 16 meeting, Webster said that soundings conducted by Royal Palm Beach’s aquatic vegetation contractor in September found that village waterways and the M-1 Canal are 78.4 percent clear.

“The overall system control percentages were lower than what we executed at the end of the month,” he said. “The standard is 85 percent based on the data, so clear water is just about 7 percent lower than what it should be.”

In previous years, the village has struggled to keep control over aquatic weeds in local canals, especially during the summer growing season.

“The base part of this system that I’m outlining, which includes the M-1 Canal, does meet the standard at 85 percent,” Webster said. “But, when you take in the ponds, such as the old Northern Palm Beach County Improvement District canal and the area in the lakes and commons, that’s where it drops to 78 percent. When we started the year in March, it was at 92 percent.”

The village’s new contractor, Lake & Wetland Management, has completed a survey of the entire system and has begun treatments within the system, Webster said.

The firm conducted treatments for grasses and emergent weeds during the week of Oct. 6 through Oct. 10, and treated algae the week of Oct. 13, using a small harvester to remove surface algae and debris in various areas of the system. The contractor was to begin submersed weed treatments in the system beginning on Oct. 20, Webster said.

“As part of the contract, they will be performing sounding and mapping of the center of the system on a monthly basis during the term of this contract, and will conduct a full mapping of the system in March and September of each year,” he said. “The work effort provides data on the depth of the system, the percentage of biomass by volume in the system and the consistency of the sediment in the system, which will map the softer muck areas.”

Despite lower numbers in some areas, Webster said the overall system has shown improvement over previous years.

“The system is in a lot better condition than what the 78 percent would represent,” he said. “But clearly, there are some areas that they need to work on, and they recognize them and know what they are and have already put together a plan.”

Resident Bob Carter was very happy with the outcome of the findings, because he had become frustrated with the vegetation creeping up in his yard. “You did a pretty good job,” he said. “Keep up the good work.”

Council members were generally happy with the work of the new contractor.

“The growing season for aquatic vegetation is going to slow way down in November and pick back up again in March,” Vice Mayor David Swift said. “I would like to suggest we start this back up again in March.”

Webster instead suggested pushing it back to April, and Councilman Richard Valuntas agreed. “I would agree with putting it off until April, and I think that’s a good course go to,” he said.

Regarding future presentations, Swift made a suggestion to the contractors at Lake & Wetland Management.

“The thing I would be interested in is the criteria for success,” he said. “For example, with what we’ve been presented with. I’d be interested in what you think of it, and if we should continue with presenting that information, or if you think there would be a better way to show it. Is the message being relayed, or is there a better way to express the data?”

There are several additional public hearings on aquatic vegetation maintenance scheduled in the future.

In other business:

• The council unanimously gave the green light to add a new permitted use of patio homes to the RS-3 single-family residential zoning district.

Planning & Zoning Administrator Bradford O’Brien described patio homes as a single-family detached dwelling unit, which can be planned to accommodate cluster development with sheltered private outdoor living areas for each home.

“Designed with one continuous, windowless, zero-lot-line wall or staggered-zero-lot-line walls, consistent with the provisions of the patio home selection of the Royal Palm Beach zoning code, patio homes are also known as zero-lot-line homes,” he said. “The purpose and intent of the patio homes will remain the same as single-family detached dwellings.”

The homes will be required to have a minimum lot width of 55 feet. It is expected that the patio homes category could be used by a future developer seeking to build on the former wastewater treatment plant property at the village’s north end.

Village Manager Ray Liggins clarified that it will be up to future developers to decide what type of homes will be built at the wastewater treatment plant site.

“What we’re doing tonight is a change to the RS-3 zoning district, and it has nothing to do with the piece of property at the wastewater treatment plant at this time,” he said. “We did make that part of the vision. When we have somebody under contract, the purchaser may use this RS-3 as an option to make that vision a reality. That will be a buyer’s choice, and those decisions have not been made yet.”

After research, Liggins said that village staff found that the neighborhoods surrounding the site are at a higher density than what is proposed for the treatment plant property, such as Hawthorne, which came out to 2.8 units an acre, and the Huntington Woods neighborhood, which came out to 3.1 units an acre.

“What we were proposing is, if the purchaser of our wastewater treatment plant were to take advantage of this change that allows patio homes… that would be about 2.6 units an acre, and that’s less than the surrounding areas,” Liggins said. “It seems the common denominator of the people who hear about the project is less homes.”

According to Liggins, the project is not going to increase any more traffic than what was initially allocated and approved for the site. “This is single-family, at half the density that the land use allows,” he said.

• The council unanimously gave final passage to a resolution approving the voluntary annexation of nine parcels totaling 88.4 acres, located on the south side of Southern Blvd. west of State Road 7.

The annexation was first approved by the Royal Palm Beach Planning & Zoning Commission back in July, and another 5-acre parcel was added to the annexation request in September. The council gave preliminary approval to the annexation on Oct. 2. The site is currently being used for single-family homes and an animal rescue facility.

According to O’Brien, all of the necessary paperwork was filed and they are in compliance with state statutes on annexation.

“The annexation will reduce the size of the existing enclave,” O’Brien said.