The Loxahatchee Groves Water Control District Board of Supervisors approved quit claim deeds to the Town of Loxahatchee Groves on Monday for North F Road, South F Road and the section of B Road undergoing improvements.
Approval of the B Road quit claim was unanimous and prompted little discussion, but the F Road action drew criticism that the transfer was “as-is.”
Supervisor John Ryan explained that the transfer process involved sending a resolution to the Loxahatchee Groves Town Council, which would approve it in concept and send it back to the LGWCD board for final approval, similar to the process used for the recent transfer of Marcella Blvd. and Bryan and Compton roads.
Supervisor Frank Schiola was skeptical, explaining that he was not confident that the town’s road contractor would put it in good condition.
“My attitude for turning over the roads hasn’t changed,” Schiola said. “Are they going to be here four months or six months from now? We need to be sure they are maintained.”
LGWCD Administrator Steve Yohe said that Town Manager Bill Underwood had told him that he had yet to direct the town’s engineering firm, Keshavarz & Associates, to conduct a study on F Road, but recommended putting the transfer before the council for approval.
“It needs a recommendation from the engineer before Mr. Underwood will consider accepting it,” Yohe said.
Dennis Lipp, who chairs the town’s Planning & Zoning Board, said that there is a section of F Road that has been damaged by heavy trucks operating out of a business there, and pointed out that the LGWCD has a provision that the property owner must repair the damage, while the town has no such provision.
LGWCD Chair Dave DeMarois said he would have Yohe look at that portion of the road.
Schiola asked if the town understands that it will take over the road in its current condition, and attorney Mary Viator confirmed that the quit claim deed states clearly that the town will take over the road “as is.”
Supervisor Don Widing made a motion to approve the F Road transfer, which carried 4-1, with Schiola opposed.
The board also approved the transfer of the portion of B Road, currently under construction through an agreement with Palm Beach State College and two B Road developers, subject to approval by the town and its engineering firm. Widing made a motion to approve that transfer, which carried 5-0.
In other business, Yohe reported that the college has objected to the construction of a recreational trail through its new campus under construction at the northwest corner of B Road and Southern Blvd. The trail is slated to go on a LGWCD maintenance berm adjacent to the west side of the property.
“Our staff told Palm Beach State College representatives on Jan. 15 that the town is the party that will determine if a recreational trail will be in this location or not,” Yohe said, explaining that the college submitted a letter to the town on March 1 raising its objections.
“It’s really up to the town to decide whether or not and where they want to have the trails,” he said. “Palm Beach State College has not filed a lawsuit against the district.”
Attorney Jamie Crowley, representing the college, said that PBSC is opposed to any permit that would potentially create an easement or equestrian trail where they have potential liability and safety issues.
“We have no problems with the maintenance easement,” he said. “Really, the reason I came here tonight is not to argue the merits of the legislation, but to request that the district, the college and the town get together with their staffs and try to work something out. I think that if we get everyone in the same room for a half-hour, we might be able to prevent this issue from going any further.”
The letter, from Brian Seymour representing the college, addressed to Town Attorney Michael Cirullo, stated that the college does not believe that the district has any rights to a maintenance easement over college property.
“The district has not maintained the property over which they claim an easement,” the letter stated. “We have reviewed historical aerial photography and discussed property conditions with those familiar with the history of the property. It is clear that the district did not use the property claimed.”
The letter continued that the district cannot acquire a prescriptive easement over college property because it is a subdivision of the state.
“It has long been the law of Florida that one cannot acquire interests in state-owned lands by adverse possession or prescription,” the letter explained. “As you may recall, during the process of the development approvals for the college property, there were several discussions about horse trails on college property. The college explained, and we believe the town understood, that this would create significant concerns for the students, faculty and visitors to the college.”
Seymour’s letter added that “if the town moves forward with horse trails as proposed on college property, we will have no choice but to file suit to seek a declaration of our rights.”
During public comment, resident Nina Corning, a member of the town’s Roadways, Equestrian Trails & Greenway Advisory Committee, pointed out that there are other colleges with greenways on them.
“I just don’t like the attitude,” Corning said. “I don’t feel this is our friendly neighbor they were talking about being.”
The board took no action on the report.