Lox Groves OKs Commercial Moratorium On Okeechobee

The Loxahatchee Groves Town Council approved the preliminary reading of an ordinance Tuesday to impose a moratorium on the processing and review of applications to the town’s comprehensive plan relating to commercial uses on Okeechobee Blvd.

The council had talked for several months about a moratorium after its denial of the Day family’s application for a project at the southwest corner of Folsom Road and Okeechobee Blvd. had led to litigation.

In November, the council approved a litigated settlement for a small-scale land use change and rezoning for the 10-acre parcel east of the Red Barn property. The zoning changes the land use from rural residential, one unit per five acres, to commercial low to accommodate future development to a maximum of 5.3 acres of commercial use.

The changes were the result of litigation between the town and the property owners after the council initially refused to approve commercial development on the land, although town staff had advised that under the comp plan and land use code as written, the Days were entitled to commercial development there.

Town Attorney Michael Cirullo said the moratorium would be in effect until May 31, and the Loxahatchee Groves Planning & Zoning Board would begin discussing the necessary comprehensive plan changes at its next meeting.

Mayor David Browning explained that the density on Okeechobee Blvd. is currently the same as on Southern Blvd., which was where council members had decided they wanted to focus on commercial development while developing the comp plan.

“When we dealt with the project that was proposed on Okeechobee, we realized that we had a problem because we had the same floor area ratio on Okeechobee as we did on Southern, which was really nobody’s intent to have that intensive commercial,” Browning said. “This is why we put the moratorium. This is why the committee is working on it and trying to come up with something that is more reasonable for that corridor that we can all live with.”

Councilman Ryan Liang made a motion to approve the ordinance, which carried 4-0 with Councilman Tom Goltzené absent.

In other business:

• The council gave preliminary approval to an ordinance to amend the unified land development code to delete references to aviaries and wildlife sanctuaries where local laws conflict with state laws.

Cirullo said he had contacted the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, which has specific regulations for those uses that would supersede local regulations.

“It does not affect any other items that may generally apply to those uses,” Cirullo said. “The state gives them licenses, and that’s how they would be regulated.”

Browning explained that the town cannot have laws that conflict with the state’s laws.

“A town cannot have conflicting statutes, so basically this says we’re just going to go with what the state does,” he said. “We still are able to complain about noise and some of those things that are in our code, but as far as controlling those animals, that jurisdiction is the state’s, and we can’t step on their toes.”

Councilman Jim Rockett made a motion to approve the ordinance, which carried 4-0.

• During his report, Town Manager Bill Underwood said progress was being made on an agreement with the Loxahatchee Groves Water Control District for maintenance of town roads. “I expect to see a new draft of the agreement in the very short future, and we will bring that to you for your concerns,” Underwood said.

• Negotiations for the purchase of the Central Palm Beach County Chamber of Commerce building are also moving forward, especially for the town’s acquiring the land the building occupies, which is owned by the county and leased to the chamber for $1 a year.

“We did a significant amount of discussion,” Underwood said. “We did submit a formal proposal to the county administrator, offering $20,000 and agreeing to the stipulations wherein they retain three-quarters of the mineral rights, and the property will remain in the public purpose usage.”

Underwood said he will meet with County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay on Jan. 26, and it is on the Palm Beach County Commission’s agenda for Feb. 3.