Last Thursday night, Jan. 14, after the Royal Palm Beach Village Council delayed the vote on the RaceTrac proposal at Southern and Royal Palm Beach boulevards for the fourth scheduled meeting, your council voted 4-1 to approve the biggest gas station ever in Royal Palm Beach. It will sit at the entrance to our neighborhood.
Three council members and the mayor argued that this was a legal decision and that they must pass it by law. Yet they also could have approved a motion made by Councilman David Swift, which would also have been legal, allowing for 12 pumps rather than 20, and very importantly would keep the median with all the beautiful palm trees, placing the project in an appropriate scale for our village. Not councilmen Pinto, Hmara or Valuntas, or the mayor, would second that motion. They did not listen to the residents; they did not vote for the residents, whose quality of life will change forever and whose roads will become a “constricted roadway” blocking first responders, all neighborhood traffic and endangering pedestrians and bikers young and old.
Some have argued that the owner has the right to develop his property, and that is true. However, it is the owner’s choice. We have learned that big developers, for the most part, have no concern over communities that they come into and leave, but in this case, it is our very own developer, who lives here and says he cares about his community.
There were other choices for this land. For instance, the landowner already owns an adjacent hotel. It is well known that the Economic Council of Palm Beach County has said that there is a dire lack of beds in the mid-county area. What a great option to expand a beautiful hotel, offering rooms for the equestrian tourism and ecotourism. It could offer banquet and meeting rooms for the large crowds that our current clubs and restaurants cannot accommodate, causing our events to go east instead of remaining local. In fact, it was this very Royal Inn in the early 1960s that brought northerners here and developed our village more than 50 years ago. I was here then and knew of its reputation for being a great vacation hotel. Wouldn’t it have been nice to revive that? What a grand and nostalgic look for the front door to Royal Palm Beach!
But instead of “Tree City USA” or “One of the Best Cities for Families,” Royal Palm Beach is now the small town with the biggest gas station in the county. This is a sad day for all the families and small businesses that have made us the “just right” place to live. RaceTrac is our turning point. Will we continue down this congested road or make changes on March 15? It is your decision to make.
Martha Webster, Royal Palm Beach
Editor’s note: Ms. Webster is a candidate for mayor of Royal Palm Beach.