Lox Council Denies Request Regarding B Road Work

On Tuesday, July 21, the Loxahatchee Groves Town Council denied a request from the developers of the commercial project at B Road and Southern Blvd. to grant them a self-help provision to proceed with a paving project at the intersection.

The property at B Road and Southern Blvd. is being developed into a new Palm Beach State College campus, along with two approved commercial developments. Road work on the projects has been delayed due to the completion of a right of way map survey being done by the Loxahatchee Groves Water Control District in preparation to turn over the rights of way to the town.

Joe Lelonek of Atlantic Land Companies, representing the property owner at the northwest corner, noted that a four-part agreement was signed several months ago between the town, Palm Beach State and the private developers regarding the road improvements. Money for the B Road work have been fully posted in escrow to connect the developments to Southern Blvd. using standard paving with a curb and gutter, while the section to the north will connect to Okeechobee Blvd. using open-graded emulsified mix (OGEM).

Lelonek said that the town’s engineering firm, Keshavarz & Associates, has started the design for the project and the survey work is complete, although the survey maps being done by the LGWCD were not complete as of mid-July.

At the meeting, Town Manager Bill Underwood said the survey maps had been completed that day.

Lelonek said missing from the agreement is a commitment from the town to complete the northern portion of the road, which the developers have paid for but is the town’s responsibility to do. He asked the council for either a self-help clause or a hard deadline for the completion of the OGEM section, although there is an existing two-year completion agreement.

“What we want to do is, one, insure that that road will be built in a timely fashion, which I think is what everybody is looking for, and, two, tell our tenants that we have solved the issue of having a road that is not going to be completed prior to a certain date so that we can actually start construction,” Lelonek said.

Town Attorney Michael Cirullo said he would strongly recommend against a self-help agreement because it would be granting final say to a private developer on a public project. He asserted that there have been no delays attributable to the town or the LGWCD.

In other business, the council adopted a preliminary millage rate of 1.4718 mills, which is the maximum allowable rate under Florida Statutes, over the current rate of 1.20 mills and over the rollback rate of 1.0759 mills. The rate can be lowered later in the budget process. The council also approved a solid waste collection assessment of $300, which is $44 less than the current rate of $344.

Underwood said the value of homesteaded residential property has increased, while agricultural land has decreased in value. Total assessed property value increased to $382 million in 2015.

With a property tax rate of 1.2 mills, the tax would be $1.02 for every $1,000 of taxable value, which would generate an additional $36,137 in revenue, while the agreement with Big Dog Ranch Rescue would generate another $7,000. With other miscellaneous revenue sources, Underwood proposed transferring $58,306 to the solid waste fund, pointing out that the Waste Pro contract has increased 3.5 percent from $414,000 to $428,000, which would reduce customers’ annual rate to $300.

Underwood also pointed out that the maximum allowable rate of 1.4718 mills would generate additional revenue that could also be applied to the solid waste payment, which could reduce the solid waste payment to $256 per customer.

Councilman Tom Goltzené made a motion to adopt a solid waste assessment of $300 per customer, which carried 5-0.

Councilman Ron Jarriel made a motion to approve the preliminary rate of 1.4718 mills, which carried 4-1 with Councilman Jim Rockett opposed. Rocket favored the current 1.2 millage rate.

Town staff planned to submit the TRIM (Truth in Millage) rate to the county on July 24, and a public hearing will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 4. Notices will be mailed to residents on Aug. 11, with discussion at another council meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 18. The final hearing date for the solid waste assessment is set for Tuesday, Sept. 1, while formal public hearings on the tax rate and budget will be held Tuesday, Sept. 15 and Tuesday, Sept 29. The new fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

The town also received a clean annual audit report. Terry Morton with the accounting firm Nowlen, Holt & Miner said the report was similar to last year, when the town received a certificate of achievement for a clean audit opinion.