Palm Beach County water main extension assessments will be on the agenda again at the next Indian Trail Improvement District meeting on Oct. 14, and a public hearing of the Palm Beach County Commission will be held on Oct. 20 to approve new assessments. If 51 percent of the people on your quarter-mile street segment want public water, the “powers that be” think they can force the other 49 percent to pay for the water main lines. It may not be your street this time, but it is just a matter of time before you will have to face this reality.
Acreage property owners need to be reminded of some history. Do you remember back in 2005 when Scripps was planned for Mecca Farms and the Palm Beach County Water Utilities Department needed utility easements to run the water main lines? To purchase these easements, the utility department went directly to Acreage property owners on 40th Street North, not ITID. Some of these property owners were paid more than $11,000 for granting a utility easement, and some granted a utility easement in exchange for future free access to the water main line. Either way, Acreage property owners were compensated for granting utility easements, received free access to public water and did not pay the county a $10,000 to $12,000 assessment on their property for 20 years at an obscene interest rate of 5.5 percent.
Per the property description on our deeds, verified by our title insurance policies, ITID only owns easements for road maintenance and drainage — that’s all! ITID did not, does not and never owned utility easements to run water main lines through our property, which means they never sold our easements to the utility department. You cannot sell property that you do not own.
The “water wars agreement” was just that, an agreement to stop the war about who will supply water to The Acreage. Go to the ITID web site and read the agreement for yourself (PBC & ITID Potable Water, Reclaimed Water & Wastewater Utilities Interlocal Agreement ). There is no transfer or sale of our privately owned easements to the county. This document is clearly a settlement of a territorial dispute. Furthermore, without a public safety or environmental reason, the utility department has no right to run water lines through our land and charge us obscene amounts merely to provide public water to a neighbor for their “convenience.”
Acreage property owners and some ITID supervisors are being deceived into believing that the Palm Beach County Water Utilities Department has the right to force us to pay for water main lines. And for those of you who have already signed on to this deception, you gave away something of value, a utility easement, and you will pay dearly every year for 20 years for your error. Agreeing to this easement deception will also make you vulnerable to future assessments for sewer main and storm water lines. Furthermore, if you sell your property, the remaining assessment balance must be paid to the county out of the proceeds of your sale. It will not transfer to the new owners.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that public water will make your property more valuable. To the contrary, the assessment will be viewed as a debt by both lenders and potential buyers and will reduce the equity in your property.
Protect your property rights. Educate yourself and seek legal counsel before you sign on to public water in The Acreage.
Anne Kuhl, The Acreage