Lox Groves Town Council, LGWCD OK Trail Agreement

The Loxahatchee Groves Town Council and the Loxahatchee Groves Water Control District Board of Supervisors agreed on an accord for the development of recreational trails in a joint workshop Tuesday, after months of hammering it out.

The LGWCD board approved the agreement May 11, and the town council is set to give final approval at its next meeting.

Town Attorney Michael Cirullo said he had brushed up the agreement substantially since its first draft in February, working out details with LGWCD attorneys Mary Viator and Frank Palin.

LGWCD supervisors made only minor changes before giving their OK, and the council will give the interlocal agreement a final look at its next meeting on June 16. The scheduled June 2 meeting has been canceled.

Town Manager Bill Underwood said he felt comfortable with the document, which will give the town the ability to develop multiuse trails on district canal rights of way. The LGWCD will retain use of the rights of way for canal maintenance.

“I think what we’ve got will work and provide what we need,” Mayor Dave Browning said.

Former Councilman Dr. Bill Louda said he was glad that the two entities finally had reached an agreement, although there were still details to be addressed.

“I’m glad that we can see where we’re going, what we can do, and then the other pieces that are missing we can work on later,” Louda said.

Some rights of way remain to be pinned down, and the district is working on maps to help with plotting the trails. Vice Mayor Ron Jarriel said the town plans to develop trails where the rights of way are more clearly defined.

“The ones where we have difficulty… we will be communicating with the residents because we don’t want to take easement rights away,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of problems we’re going to come up with. Hopefully, we’ll solve them, and everybody will be happy.”

Roadway, Equestrian Trails & Greenway Advisory Committee Member Nina Corning said she hoped to have a complete trail system at some point.

“I know there’s a lot to be done, but today is the time to get the agreement settled, and then we work little by little through all the sections,” she said. “Some sections are easier, some sections will take a little more work, but the commitment is there. The future trails are there, and that is what I will look for in the future from the council. This is giving the power to the council to implement the trails we have been working so long for.”

Corning said that during a recent conference on natural areas, representatives of the county’s Northeast Everglades Natural Area (NENA), which is developing greenway connections, had told her they were impressed with the progress of the trail project.

Corning said that the county officials watched the legislation move through Tallahassee and be signed by the governor. “They were amazed that this was happening,” she said. “They thought it was such a fantastic use of the space that is there anyhow, and we are using this for something that is more for the town, for the people who are here.”

At its regular meeting after the workshop, the council gave site plan approval for commercial development on the Day property at the southwest corner of Okeechobee Blvd. and Folsom Road.

In November, the council approved an arbitrated settlement for the 10-acre site after it had previously turned down an application for more intensive development. The applicant sued the town, contending that it had complied with all the town’s land use regulations.

The plan calls for about 30,000 square feet of mostly commercial retail space.

Chris Barry, project manager with Urban Design Kilday Studios, representing the Day family, said he hoped to finalize approval of the site plan that evening, explaining that the plan had not changed much from the plan submitted previously.

He said two buildings had been removed and the land would be used for open space. The site plan also complies with the town’s Rural Vista guidelines.

However, Barry said he had contacted the owner of the Red Barn commercial site next to the property about the council’s desire to connect the two parcels so customers do not to have to get onto Okeechobee Blvd. to go next door, and they were not interested.

The site plan currently shows a drive-through restaurant at the northwest corner of the property where the connection had been requested.

Barry said he thought the connection would be of more benefit to Red Barn than his client, but he did not want a lack of response from Red Barn to hold up their approval process.

The plan submitted did not include easements for equestrian trails, but the council insisted that they be included and that negotiations continue to create a Red Barn connection.

Barry added that they had been in contact with the county about a traffic light at Okeechobee Blvd. and Folsom Road, and pointed out that current traffic warrants a light there.

Councilman Jim Rockett made a motion to approve the application with the conditions, which carried unanimously.