The Loxahatchee Groves Water Control District on Monday approved the preparation of a quit claim to its 60-foot easement on B Road so that the town and developers, including Palm Beach State College, could proceed with development there.
The developers — Palm Beach State College, Loxahatchee Equestrian Partners, Solar Sportsystems and Atlantic Land Investments — have agreed to pave B Road as a condition of development, and the Town of Loxahatchee Groves asked the district to grant a quit claim to its easement in order for the road improvement to proceed.
The paving will be asphalt from Southern Blvd. to the college entrance and open-graded emulsified mix (OGEM) from the college entrance north to Okeechobee Blvd.
The district and the town are preparing maintenance maps to legally record all district easements in order to turn over roads after they are paved.
According to the district staff report, the asphalt portion of the road does not require maintenance maps to be recorded since adequate right-of-way either exists or can be provided by the parties to the agreement, but the OGEM portion of the road requires maintenance maps to be recorded to provide for the right-of-way necessary to construct that portion, including bridge culverts at Collecting Canal Road.
Supervisor John Ryan ultimately voted to approve the quit claim, but during discussion said he was bothered that the project engineer did not want to sign off on the OGEM portion and the spacing of speed humps there.
“The concern I’ve had all along is in the background,” Ryan said. “Keshavarz & Associates, the town engineer, is project manager. They don’t want OGEM.”
He added that the district’s engineering firm Erdman Anthony said it was not willing to sign off on the project unless other safety standards were followed. “Keshavarz wants guardrails, but nobody can afford guardrails,” Ryan added.
He said that Town Manager Bill Underwood wanted to be in control of the road before surfacing is complete, although the district has adopted a policy to turn over its roads to the town after they are paved.
Ryan said that Underwood’s position has been that he was not spending public money, but money that has been put in escrow by the developers. “Everyone is kind of glossing over on this,” he said.
Supervisor Don Widing said he understood Ryan’s points, but he wanted to move forward.
“I’m going to support this,” Widing said. “I don’t want to stall the process because an engineer might not sign off.”
He said that the LGWCD had proven that OGEM and speed humps are safer than dirt roads, thereby improving the road safety. “Resolving this will be the town’s problem,” Widing said. “I think we need to get this property where it needs to be.”
He added that he thought the town does have some fiduciary responsibility in that it is holding the improvement funds. “I think we need to keep this moving,” Widing said.
Vice Chair Robert Snowball also favored the quit claim. “I agree with Don,” Snowball said. “We need to get this moving sooner or later.”
Chairman David DeMarois also agreed with approving the quit claim. “We can drag this out or let it go forward,” he said.
LGWCD Attorney Frank Palin pointed out that the issue before them was whether to prepare the quit claim deeds.
DeMarois asked whether by quit claiming the district’s interests in the right of way and easements, the assessments would change, and District Administrator Stephen Yohe said they would not.
Widing asked about the cost, and Yohe said that it is about $2 million, which the developers are paying.
Widing said he did not want to risk holding up the project. “This has potential for a major development for the town,” he said. “I think the town will get to a ‘yes.’ This is a huge amount of money.”
During public comment, Loxahatchee Groves Vice Mayor Ron Jarriel encouraged supervisors to move the quit claim forward. “Get the monkey off your back and put it on the town council,” Jarriel said. “If we quit playing games, we will get it done.”
Widing made a motion to approve the quit claim, which carried 4-0 with DeMarois absent.
In other business, the board approved a letter of engagement with the accounting firm Rampell & Rampell to provide services to assure election procedures are adhered to in the June 2 election for the seat occupied by Snowball, who announced at the meeting that he will run for re-election.
His seat is the only one that is filled by a vote of qualified electors rather than the traditional one-acre, one-vote method by which the other four supervisors are elected. Qualified electors are registered voters who also own property, or his or her spouse.
Snowball, a 15-year board veteran, easily won the district’s first qualified-elector vote in 2012, defeating challenger Roy Parks 116-82. Snowball had said initially that he didn’t intend to run again because he felt the board would eventually be absorbed by the town.
Widing made a motion to approve the letter of engagement, which carried 4-0.