By Paul L. Gaba
Wheels are turning for Royal Palm Beach to involuntarily annex nearly 98 acres of residential land in an unincorporated enclave at the village’s south end.
The proposal was approved on its first reading by the Royal Palm Beach Village Council on Aug. 20 and by the Royal Palm Beach Planning & Zoning Commission, meeting as the Local Planning Agency, on Aug. 25. That starts the process of determining whether 21 parcels of land at the southewest corner of State Road 7 and Southern Blvd., totaling 97.94 acres, will be added to village jurisdiction. Both boards unanimously approved the proposal.
The council will readdress the topic at its Thursday, Sept. 3 meeting. If the proposal is approved there, it will go to voters in the affected area via a mail ballot in October.
The property is located in unincorporated Palm Beach County, behind the Lowe’s Home Improvement store.
According to Royal Palm Beach Planning & Zoning Administrator Bradford O’Brien, the property is zoned for single-family residential. The village has already approached Palm Beach County officials regarding a required urban services report. O’Brien said that the annexation request meets statutory requirements set by the county.
At the council meeting, several people spoke in support of the involuntary annexation proposal.
“I appreciate the council picking this up,” said Brian Tuttle, a landowner in the affected area. “This is the best way to get rid of this enclave. We don’t have to worry about the county serving certain areas, and it can make for better planning in the area.”
“We are in favor of the annexation,” said Sharon Willcox, on behalf of her mother, who is an area landowner. “The time has come for that area to be developed.”
Willcox questioned whether a vote — if the proposal advanced that far — would be for residents in the entire village, or just those in the affected region. Village Attorney Jennifer Ashton said that all registered voters in the 21-parcel area would be afforded the opportunity to cast ballots, including renters, family members and property owners.
The council unanimously approved the proposal at its first reading. Vice Mayor Richard Valuntas said that the proposal is a good one for the future of Royal Palm Beach.
“It makes a lot of sense,” Valuntas said. “An enclave is not a good situation, and this lets the people decide. It will make for better planning, and make things more consistent.”
Ashton said that while it is called an “involuntary annexation,” the terminology is misleading. An involuntary annexation is one that is commenced by the village, as opposed to an annexation request brought by the residents or property owners. It opens with a village ordinance calling for the annexation to take place.
After the proposal goes through two council readings and a review by the Planning & Zoning Commission, it goes before the voters in the area as a referendum. If a majority of voters approve the ordinance, the property becomes part of the village.
If the annexation is approved, Royal Palm Beach’s tax base will be slightly increased. The village will also begin offering services in the area, such as law enforcement.
Ashton noted that there will be numerous notices to residents, including legal notices in area media, and mailers to all residents in the affected area.
“The notice process is very thorough for involuntary annexation,” Ashton said.
If the council approves the proposal next month, a special election by mail ballot will take place. The Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections office would handle the vote, mailing out ballots to the 97.94-acre area. Ballots would need to be returned to the elections office by Oct. 27.