Royal Palm Zoners OK Acme Ranches Land Use Changes

The Royal Palm Beach Planning & Zoning Commission last week approved several large-scale comprehensive plan amendments and rezonings for two parcels of land south of Southern Blvd. behind the Lowe’s Home Improvement store in the area known as Acme Ranches.

An almost 30-acre tract was approved for multifamily residential housing, and an almost 60-acre tract was approved for single-family homes. Both applications were brought by Southern Boulevard Properties represented by the Wantman Group.

At the Sept. 24 meeting, Site Plan Coordinator Kevin Erwin said the 30-acre parcel currently contains single-family homes and the Big Dog Ranch Rescue facility, which were annexed into the village recently.

The 60-acre tract, planned for single-family development, was in a separate application because it is under different ownership. Staff recommended approval of the request.

Jeff Brophy of the Wantman Group said that the 30-acre tract planned for multifamily homes is one phase of an overall 200-acre area.

“I’m going to split them up because we are talking about separate applications tonight with the understanding that not only are we here talking about this phase one of the 88 acres, but also what will happen here in the future with additional annexations as they come in,” Brophy said, explaining that the 30-acre site is west of another parcel that was annexed by the village last month.

He said many details remain about where the access points will be, tentatively planned at Southern Blvd. within the most recently annexed property. “A lot of that is going to come up in the site plan review,” he said.

Brophy said that the multifamily use is appropriate next to the Southern Blvd. corridor.

“The idea was that on the north side of Southern Blvd. and along State Road 7 is a pretty intensive commercial and industrial corridor,” he said, explaining that the single-family use is to the south, farther away from Southern Blvd., and compatible with the Victoria Grove neighborhood to the south.

The zoning request is for 18 units per acre, although Brophy said that it will be closer to 13 units per acre, which is still under site plan review but has been approved by village staff. The plan has received traffic approval from Palm Beach County.

The builder is the Miami-based Related Group, which was the developer of CityPlace in West Palm Beach, as well as high-end rental properties in Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

“I think it will be an asset of the highest quality and something you don’t often see here in the western communities,” he said.

Brophy added that his firm also represents Big Dog Ranch Rescue within the overall site, which recently received approval to move to a site in Loxahatchee Groves.

“They are an inch away from getting their land development permit, and are excited to start development on their new facility,” he said, explaining that the projects are expected to coincide.

Commissioner Michael Axelberd asked about the density for studies that were done for water, sewer, school and traffic approval, and Erwin said that it is based on 392 units for the multifamily portion and 131 units for the single-family portion.

Commissioner Jackie Larson agreed that high density was preferable for the location of the land, but was apprehensive at approving 18 units per acre, the highest density allowable in the village. Brophy said that they intend to stick with the 13.1 units indicated in the site plan.

Commissioner Richard Becher said that he appreciated that the plan is for high-end units, but was concerned about wetland tracts that had been identified on the property.

Brophy said that they will have to mitigate them through the South Florida Water Management District.

Erwin added that the wetland areas are isolated, and they will also have to get approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, as well as the village, which is typically a buyout based on the value of the land.

Becher made motions to approve the comp plan amendments and rezoning for the 30-acre tract, which carried 5-0.

The 60-acre tract comprises eight separate single-family tracts, and the applicant sought a future land use amendment and rezoning from the county’s to the village’s single-family residential designations.

Commission Chair Joseph Boyle read three comment cards opposing the development over security and traffic concerns.

Steve Hainline, a member of the Palm Beach Little Ranches Homeowners’ Association in Wellington to the west, said that he and other property owners had concerns about security in their community, and thought that there could be an impact on their water supply.

“We’re really concerned with the development that’s going in that it’s going to affect our water levels,” Hainline said, also raising concerns about increased traffic on Southern Blvd.

Larson again complimented the applicant for a thorough package, but questioned plans for zero-lot-line homes. “With all that property, why not go for a mix?” she asked. “Why just zero lot lines?”

That would be a question for site plan approval, Erwin replied.

Larson also questioned whether the Big Dog property, formerly the Folke Peterson Wildlife Center, should have remained a wildlife sanctuary. Brophy said that they had received approval for development from the owners, and Village Attorney Jennifer Ashton said that she and Planning Director Bradford O’Brien had reviewed the records and found no restrictive covenants.

Becher asked if there would be any conversation with the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office about security, and Erwin said that each year the village updates its contract with the PBSO.

Ashton added that questions about security would come under site plan review. Brophy said he would get more information on security concerns when they get to that stage.

Axelberd made a motion to approve the comp plan amendment, which carried 4-1, with Larson opposed. Becher made a motion to approve the rezoning, which carried 4-1, again with Larson opposed.