Groves Manager Expects A Year Of Accomplishments

Loxahatchee Groves is looking forward to the completion of a number of projects in 2016, as well as some others getting underway as the town heads into its 10th year of incorporation.

Town Manager Bill Underwood said that projects in the area of Southern Blvd. and B Road will see significant progress this year — including the completion and opening of the new Palm Beach State College campus. “I think that’s big,” he said.

Coupled with that will be the completion of B Road improvements being paid for by the college and two commercial projects at the northwest and northeast quadrants of the intersection.

“I believe that it will be one of the better road segments in the town, from Southern to Okeechobee,” Underwood said. “It looks like it’s a little bit ahead of schedule. They’re looking to complete it well within the next year, and I’m anxious to see how that works, with proper drainage and engineered speed tables to control the traffic flow.”

Underwood said that he is very pleased that the Loxahatchee Groves Town Council decided to use the town’s engineering firm, Keshavarz & Associates, to design the road in a manner he thinks will last for a number of years without crumbling.

The council is also looking for improvements to the overlay plan for Okeechobee Blvd., which was sent back to staff at a recent council meeting to try to retain a two-lane road despite pressure from developers to make it a thoroughfare, and include provisions for small local businesses to operate there.

“I firmly believe and pray that we will complete that by early spring, and it will be such that the town can maintain its rural character,” Underwood said. “I think it’s very critical.”

He said some residents have requested potable water lines, and he has met with Palm Beach County to explore the feasibility. “I don’t know that we’re actually going to get them, but I’m still working in that infrastructure area to improve those things,” Underwood said.

He is also working on getting land in the county-run Loxahatchee Groves Park near Loxahatchee Groves Town Hall for an equestrian arena.

“We want them to keep it as a county park and work with the county to take a small piece of that and allocate it for equestrian facilities, such as a ring that’s open to the public,” Underwood said.

Recreational vehicles have become an issue over the past year. Some people see restrictions as an attack on the equestrian industry because it is largely equestrian people who use them, but the issue arose when it was discovered that some property owners were running illegal RV camps with some tenants dumping raw sewage into the canals.

Underwood hopes that town officials and residents will reach some accord over the issue in the coming year.

“There is some level of harmony that can be reached, and less division amongst the population that will resolve that issue and others,” he said. “I’ve heard that Wellington has similar problems with RVs. They have worked to address that.”

Underwood said that Loxahatchee Groves is working on a short-term resolution of the issue, but a longer-term solution is needed.

He said the town will probably have to bring back targeted enforcement for manure haulers dumping illegally because some haulers are coming in from outside of the town.

“I got two complaints from last Thursday and this week,” he said. “We have made huge strides, and I think when we put the targeted enforcement in place with the PBSO, it was a great concept and it worked well.”

Underwood also looks forward to Big Dog Ranch Rescue relocating to Loxahatchee Groves at the southeast corner of D Road and Okeechobee Blvd. The nonprofit recently began construction on its new facility.

He said that Big Dog recently paid the town a $100,000 impact fee for paving D Road from Okeechobee Blvd. to Big Dog’s entrance.

Underwood is proud of the job that his staff is doing providing town residents with the government they deserve.

“They have seen that it is transparent, open, and we will try to provide the best level of response we can to as many people as possible,” he said. “I hope that continues into next year and into the future years. There is a very active population, of which I am very honored and pleased to have been associated with over the last five years.”

Underwood added that he thinks that the council has made tremendous strides in expanding its purview of governmental ideals.

“Since I’ve been here, no council member had ever attended a legislative meeting of the Florida League of Cities,” Underwood said. “That has occurred. To the best of my knowledge, they never attended legislative issues in Tallahassee. That is about to occur. I think they’re seeing that while it’s important to maintain the rural character, issues and problems and legislation outside of their purview can affect what happens internally. I think that is a big step forward for the council, and I cannot be any more positive or praise them any higher.”