RPB Council Gives Initial Nod To New Senior Living Ordinance


The Royal Palm Beach Village Council gave preliminary approval to an ordinance Thursday, June 4 that would provide definitions for senior housing, aimed at clearing the way for a senior living facility near Royal Palm Beach Commons Park.

The ordinance would repeal a section on “convalescent care centers” and replace it with a section on “senior housing facilities,” providing definitions and regulations for adult care facilities.

“It is the intent of this ordinance to provide locational criteria and reasonable minimal standards for the development of suitable senior housing facilities at Commons Park and in the village as a whole,” Planning & Zoning Director Bradford O’Brien said.

The ordinance defines terms such as senior housing, independent living, assisted living, memory care, continuing care and adult daycare facilities.

“Senior housing facilities are any facilities for adults 55 and older, which may offer residents services, meals or skilled nursing care,” O’Brien said. “This use does not include addiction disorders, eating disorders, and physical, behavioral and mental/emotional issues that are directly attributed to those disorders.”

Independent living facilities are defined as a community of individual dwelling units with a kitchen and bathroom in each. A variety of services are provided to residents to promote independent living, such as housekeeping, laundry service, transportation, activities, social programs, and access to exercise equipment and amenities such as pools, spas and clubhouses.

Assisted living is a system of housing providing private, semiprivate or group dwellings for individuals who are not sufficiently incapacitated to require skilled or full-time nursing care, provide congregate dining, and offer assistance in daily living activities on an as-needed basis, including bathing, dressing, eating, walking and taking medications. They also arrange for healthcare services, provide monitoring and have amenities such as exercise equipment, pools, spas and clubhouses.

Memory care facilities would provide full-time convalescent or chronic care, or both, to people who because of advanced age, chronic illness, functional impairment or infirmity are unable to care for themselves.

Adult daycare facilities would provide care for three or more persons 18 or over who are not related by blood or marriage and require such services less than 24 hours per day in a protective and non-institutional setting, with therapeutic programs of social, health and leisure activities, self-care training, nutritional services and respite care.

The ordinance also provides minimal standards for landscaping, site development, density, recreation, parking and signage, plus it requires emergency electric generators.

Vice Mayor David Swift said he was pleased to see specifics for the various uses.

“Now we have a pretty good definition of several different types [of senior housing],” Swift said. “And I think that’s a very good thing.”

He asked what the source of information was for the minimal site development standards, and O’Brien said the perimeter requirements are consistent with requirements for nonresidential or multi-family facilities.

“We figured if they are adjacent to single-family residences, we wanted to be consistent with that,” he said. “We figured the intensity would warrant those types of things.”

Swift asked whether staff went to different facilities in the county offering those services, and O’Brien said they had solicited the requirements from different municipalities and had gotten floor plans for some of the more recent, successful projects, and tried to emulate them.

Swift noted that the village has had difficulty getting assisted-living facilities to respond, and that some of the developers assumed they could build apartments if an assisted-living concept was not successful.

“In reality, they knew the market was weak,” he said. “How would this play out, if, for example, we don’t get a memory-care or assisted-living facility, and we have these minimum standards? That doesn’t mean they can develop apartments, does it?”

O’Brien said that there are conversion requirements imbedded in the new code that prevent that from happening.

Village Attorney Jennifer Ashton said conversion requirements are provided if the assisted living is not successful, and would be limited to six units per acre.

“We’re not going to allow them to convert to 18 units per acre, so we did try to insert as many protections as we could into this code to ensure that,” she said.

Councilman Fred Pinto asked if the new requirements do any harm to other nursing homes in the village, and Ashton said the existing convalescent facility is already nonconforming with the old code.

“They’re still grandfathered in,” Ashton said.

“Good job pulling this together,” Pinto said. “I know it has been a lot of work, and I’m glad that we did take a look at some of the existing facilities… We don’t want to have a situation where a facility gets built and then hear complaints that the parking, for example, is a problem.”

O’Brien said they drafted an ordinance more comprehensive than other codes they reviewed.

“We did try to tailor as much as we could so that the regulations in the site plans that we’re seeing would be suitable for the Village of Royal Palm Beach,” he said. “We sent this out to someone actively trying to locate a facility here, but we have not heard back from them. We have been reaching out to another developer for these types of facilities.”

Councilman Jeff Hmara said he thought the ordinance was very comprehensive, especially in noting that services such as a beauty shop and barber shop would be exclusively for tenants’ use, and that the facilities could not be used as halfway houses.

“I’m glad that you’re reaching out to the vendors and those that might actually build in accordance with the ordinance,” he said. “Keep the focus on what we’re intending to do. I think it’s really well done.”

Hmara said that part of the challenge will be what “affordable housing” means in the context of Royal Palm Beach, and finding a way to solicit bids that include some indication of price ranges. He was also concerned about giving priority to village residents.

“I know that this is a challenging area, because as soon as you accept federal funding, you find yourself limited in what you can do in that regard,” he said.

Pinto made a motion to approve the preliminary reading of the ordinance, which carried 5-0.

In other business:

• The council approved the preliminary reading of a measure to add “dry cleaner with drive-through” in the general commercial district as a special exception in the zoning code.

O’Brien said applicant Pebb Enterprises had asked to modify the code by adding the exception for a drive-through dry cleaner, explaining that sections of the code suggest that use was acceptable, but it was not listed specifically.

“Village staff feels, therefore, that this use may have been contemplated and that the text amendment will serve to rectify the village code,” O’Brien said.

Staff recommended approval of the change, and Swift made a motion to approve the amendment, which carried 5-0.

• The council gave final plat approval for the Cypress Key mixed-use development. The final plat specifies 23 single-family and 124 townhouse lots, several open-space tracts, as well as two commercial tracts, on the 35.9-acre site at the northwest corner of Southern and Cypress Head boulevards. In a separate resolution, the council approved landscaping changes for the project, including the location of trees away from water and sewer lines, as well as changing the species of trees from crepe myrtle to ligustrum.

• The council also approved the preliminary reading of an ordinance that would require the installation of emergency generators for service stations when a modification is made.


  1. It’s going to be a mammoth (could be up to 7 stories if Comp plan is changed) low income senior government subsidized housing. Government Vouchers/Credits will be used.

    There is absolutely no guarantee that Royal Palm Beach residents will get in. It’s Government type housing and there is no discriminqation.

    In addition, if an elderly person is the guardian of any children, those children will be housed in the building. It’s would be a violation of the Federal Government’s Familial Housing Rights.

    A representative from RPB Council (Jeff) sat in on a presentation to the Wellington Senior Committee on Wellington’s planned government subsidized, voucher credit building/s that is planned on a 10 acre open green playing field in Wellington.

    You’re giving up your open public land for a government building with subsidized residents.

    In 30 years the baby boomers will have died off (sorry, but it’s true) and the building will just become another “Ivy Green” eyesore and a problem site like they are in the Northeastern US.

    It’s those who moved from the Northeast who are perpetuating these monstrosities.

    Look for smaller buildings, patio homes as an alternative.

    No more concrete towers for our small communities in S Florida!

    Don’t recreate what you ran from in the Northeast. The same problems will arise.

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