Lox Groves Okee Workshop Dec. 5

The Town of Loxahatchee Groves has a workshop and barbeque planned for Saturday, Dec. 5 to talk about future plans on Okeechobee Blvd.

Discussion of a workshop arose Oct. 20 when the council sent a proposed overlay ordinance with land use amendments for the Okeechobee Blvd. corridor back to town staff, saying that it did not accurately reflect what the council and residents want, including for the road to remain two lanes. It also extended a zoning-in-progress moratorium ordinance to June 30, 2016.

Planning issues came to a head in 2012 at a packed meeting when the council deadlocked 2-2 on an application by the Day property, a 9.3-acre parcel at the southwest corner of Folsom Road and Okeechobee Blvd. adjacent to the Red Barn, to change the density from rural residential to low-density commercial with a floor-to-area ratio (FAR) of 0.10, equal to a floor area covering 10 percent of the land.

The deadlock led to a lawsuit by the Day family that was settled with an FAR of .074 for that property only, which took the property from 44,000 square feet to 30,000 square feet of space.

The idea of an overlay arose when council members realized that in the comp plan, Okeechobee Blvd. had the same density as Southern Blvd., where writers of the comp plan had intended most commercial development to be.

The workshop will attempt to reach a compromise with residents on Okeechobee who want to develop their land commercially and those who want to remain residential.

Vice Mayor Ron Jarriel proposed the workshop with a barbeque similar to the grand opening of the new town hall earlier this year. He was not happy with the draft plan presented by staff.

“We sent it back to the table, and we wanted a workshop, because I personally was dissatisfied with what they came up with,” Jarriel told the Town-Crier on Tuesday. “I’m hoping that we’ll have a good turnout so that we can hear from the residents, because the residents are what I’m going to be concerned about the most.”

Jarriel said that after the research and money put into the overlay, the best thing that has come out of it is what may be an acceptable floor-to-area ratio.

“What I like about that is that only certain size businesses can come in Okeechobee Blvd.,” Jarriel said. “I think that was the primary problem that we had to solve. We had to come up with the FAR. We’ve done that.”

Another item he wants to discuss at the workshop is dog kennels.

“Some of the things I disagreed with, and it will be out at the workshop, is the planning and zoning board agreed on dog kennels,” Jarriel said. “We had the situation with Big Dog Ranch, which is starting construction, and the attitude I got from the residents was they did not want that, so here we are wanting to add more kennels to Okeechobee Blvd.”

He added that he objected to the planning and zoning board’s inclusion of veterans clubs, but not the sale of alcohol.

“I happen to be a veteran, and I don’t know of any veteran-type club, whether it’s the VFW, the American Legion, where they run into trouble or are a problem with the towns they are located in,” he said. “They agreed on the clubs, but they wouldn’t allow the alcohol, so I thought that was kind of ridiculous. Those are the kind of things I’ll be talking about.”

He said that there was also discussion of restricting businesses to non-franchises.

“That kind of cuts down on big businesses coming in when you don’t allow franchises,” he said. “We’re wanting to allow mom-and-pop businesses.”

He added that a Dunkin’ Donuts is included in plans for the Day property.

“That’s a franchise, but it’s at the corner of Loxahatchee Groves,” Jarriel said.

He hopes the workshop brings the discussion of the roadway’s future toward its conclusion.

“The biggest problem is solved if we can all come up with an FAR, and that will restrict what’s going on Okeechobee Blvd.,” Jarriel said.

The meeting will be held at Loxahatchee Groves Town Hall (155 F Road) starting at 9 a.m.