The Royal Palm Beach Village Council approved a resolution last Thursday to send to the Palm Beach County Commission opposing a density increase for the GL Homes project west of The Acreage.
GL Homes is asking to change the land use of the 4,900-acre parcel from 0.1 to 0.8 homes per acre, similar to the density in The Acreage, where it stands to have the most impact. The request is also a comparable overall density given to the 3,900-acre Minto West (now Westlake) development on the former Callery-Judge Grove property, but with much less commercial development.
The GL Homes project is anticipated to add about 4,000 homes and 40,000 daily vehicle trips to an area that is currently underserved by roadways, according to the village’s resolution.
If the current amendment is approved, it would also significantly affect traffic in Royal Palm Beach and the surrounding communities. Therefore, the resolution asks the county commission that if it approves a density increase, it be only from 0.1 to 0.2 units per acre (or one unit per 5 acres), and that it balance the development with a corresponding number of non-residential uses in order to contain some of the traffic.
The council decided at a previous meeting to consider a resolution similar to one approved by the Loxahatchee Groves Town Council. Councilman Jeff Hmara asked that the item be pulled from the consent agenda for discussion.
Village Manager Ray Liggins said that it was important to understand the location of the GL Homes development and other factors. The proposed development is at the far northwestern corner of The Acreage, bordered on the north by the J.W. Corbett Wildlife Management Area, on the west by the Everglades Agricultural Area, on the east by The Acreage and on the south by undeveloped land. The eastern border is 2 miles west of Seminole Pratt Whitney Road.
“Requests for development in the western communities far exceed the county’s ability to provide roadways,” Liggins said. “Roadways needed to support the area are not feasible to build, or come with a significant physical, environmental or political restraint.”
He explained that developers in the area are relying on building Roebuck Road and widening Okeechobee, Northlake, Southern, Coconut and Persimmon boulevards, Seminole Pratt Whitney Road, 60th Street North, State Road 7 and the Beeline Highway to support the development.
Liggins added that Palm Beach County’s comprehensive plan allows the county to deny any changes in land use that result in any roadway failing to operate at the county’s required level of service.
“They have the greatest amount of discretion,” he said. “Exempting new development from this requirement is what GL Homes is requesting, and what GL Homes needs to go further with this project.”
Exempting the development from the roadway requirements pushes the roadway failure to a concurrency system that allows for no feasible solutions, Liggins said, adding that the state recently limited the county’s ability in concurrency to make the developers pay for their impact.
“If they approve the land use, then the county’s hands are tied with what they call a pro-rated fair share system that only requires the developer to pay their number of car impacts on the roadway, and not the total failure, as we used to do in the past,” he said.
Liggins said that GL Homes’ own conclusion in its report is that several road segments will not meet capacity standards.
“This is not a small capacity failure,” he said. “There are currently about 15,000 homes in The Acreage with about 36,000 residents and about 150,000 existing trips a day, so what the people of The Acreage are experiencing today on their roads is 150,000 trips being generated from the homes and everything that is out there today.”
GL Homes’ current land use on the property is about 1,300 acres in agricultural production that has no vested rights in development. About 3,650 acres has a land use of one unit per 10 acres, which equates to about 872 residents using the county standard of 2.39 people per household, and about 3,600 trips, he said.
“That’s what they currently have approval for on their property,” Liggins said.
The village’s resolution concedes to doubling the density, not only on the 3,650 acres, but also on the agricultural production property. This would bring about 1,000 allowable units, 2,300 residents and about 10,000 trips, which is about three times what it has now, Liggins said.
“Their request is for 3,600 homes, which would result in about 8,600 new residents and about 47,000 new trips,” he said. “You’ve got to compare that 47,000 trips to what’s there today. You think the roads are crowded now? This will be a 25 percent increase just for this project, but that’s not the end of the story.”
The nearby Iota property has the same requested land use, with about 10,000 trips, and Minto West has been approved for 4,500 homes with about 70,000 trips, Liggins said. Meanwhile, the Avenir project in Palm Beach Gardens has submitted an application projected to generate 58,000 new trips.
“The timing of Avenir and GL Homes [means] that neither one of them have taken into consideration the other person’s traffic,” Liggins said. “Avenir, when you look at the trips that are potentially being requested, and the Minto approval, you are looking at 185,000 trips on top of the 150,000 that are there today. That’s more than double. The roadways will fail, and not at a minor level… I think the county commission needs to look at this whole area and come up with a solution.”
Liggins noted that the county engineer has expressed frustration about being able to provide adequate roadways.
“If we think building State Road 7 outside of the water catchment area in an existing right of way is difficult, try building 12 lanes through the water catchment area,” Liggins said. “It’s just not feasible.”
Councilman Dave Swift supported the resolution.
“Clearly, we’re on the right side of this issue,” Swift said. “We’re kind of out in front of it in comparison to other communities.”
Hmara asked how the county can approve a land use change if there is a policy that requires it to deny a land use change that results in any roadway failing to operate at the county’s adopted level of service.
Liggins explained that the county lets applicants apply for a text amendment to allow their property to not be subject to that policy.
Hmara made a motion to approve the resolution, which carried 5-0.
The Western Communities Council has a meeting scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 2 at Royal Palm Beach Village Hall, where GL Homes is scheduled to make a presentation on its project.
The application is slated to go before the Palm Beach County Planning Commission on Dec. 11, with a county commission hearing on Jan. 20 to consider transmittal to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity for review.