GL Homes Gets Comp Plan OK From County Commission

The Palm Beach County Commission gave approval for a privately initiated comprehensive plan amendment Thursday, Sept. 22 to GL Homes’ Indian Trails Grove application for a change from 0.1 to 0.8 dwelling units per acre on the 4,872-acre property west of The Acreage.

The approval allows for the development of approximately 3,592 acres of the property, leaving approximately 1,279 acres retained as agricultural use. This will allow up to 3,897 homes and 350,000 square feet of commercial use on the property.

Planning Director Lorenzo Aghemo said comments by state agencies as a result of transmittal to Tallahassee following the preliminary hearing in April had been incorporated into the final draft of the ordinance.

Planning Division Project Manager Bryan Davis said that the parcel sits in the county’s agricultural tier just west of The Acreage, which is in the exurban tier.

The land use change puts the area to be developed into a newly created designation of “Western Communities Residential,” which will have an overlay specific to the project as a limited urban service area. It creates an overlay specific to the project and provides an exemption from the county’s Long Range Transportation Planning policy. Civic space will be dedicated, including school sites, parks and a fire station.

Davis pointed out that more than 50 percent open space has been assigned to the project, including the 1,279-acre agricultural area, 640 acres for regional water management, 11.5 miles of pedestrian trails and bicycle paths, 17 miles of equestrian trails, local water retention areas and buffers.

“We felt that was a very significant component of this project coming forward, and it helps respond to the rural location of the project,” Davis said.

Davis added that the open space will be for public use, not just for residents, and would not become the responsibility of the county.

Roadway improvement commitments include portions of 60th Street North, 190th Avenue North, Orange Blvd., and connecting to Hamlin Blvd., as well as a $5 million payment over the developer’s requirement for its proportional fair share.

Key to county staff’s recommendation for approval has been the public benefits that the developer has agreed to, which include its offer of 640 acres to the Indian Trail Improvement District for water retention, the large amount of land to remain as open space, and a more sustainable development form, providing traffic reduction by providing commercial services closer to where residents live, and providing a variety of residential home choices.

Davis noted that the commercial nodes will follow the traditional marketplace concept that has been utilized in other parts of the area.

“We’re not just talking single-family homes here, we’re also talking about some zero-lot-line homes and some townhomes, closer to those village center commercial nodes,” he said.

County Engineer George Webb said the development will be accessible primarily off of Seminole Pratt Whitney Road by Orange and Hamlin boulevards. He pointed out that Hamlin, Temple, Orange and 180th are all ITID roads, and that 190th doesn’t yet exist.

Webb added that other developments planned nearby, including Avenir, Westlake and Arden, are all contributing to traffic issues in the area. “Lots of approvals, lots of new dwelling units, lots of future potential traffic,” he said. “This doesn’t change what we’ve been anticipating.”

Contributions by the developer under the proportional share agreement would be more than $41 million over the life of the project for improvements to the road network.

Davis said that conditions include that the development could not annex into another municipality or incorporate until it is substantially completed and turned over to the homeowners’ association.

He said that the county had received letters from ITID that included requirements that the development becoming an active unit of ITID, that it will not use ITID roads for construction access, the dedication of the 640-acre impoundment, restrictions on incorporation or annexation, and for contributions to road improvements west of Seminole Pratt Whitney Road.

Attorney Martin Perry, representing ITID, said the big issue is development going on in the area that commenced in the 1950s before the county had zoning regulations.

“We’re attempting to cure something that has existed for a long time,” Perry said. “We need to keep in mind there are 17,500 existing homes in the Indian Trail Improvement District. We’re talking about well over 30,000 homes out here, and it’s the impact of that on these roads that really weren’t built to sustain that type of traffic.”

Perry added that GL Homes has been cooperative.

‘We’ve had several meetings with them,” he said. “We expect to have several more. Our mutual goal is reaching a written understanding that will be enforceable. We haven’t got to that point yet; we’re still in the negotiating stage.”

Among the things they have agreed on is for the GL Homes project to become an ITID active unit of development and the conveyance of the 640-acre area for water retention, although there is still discussion about the cost, estimated at $50 million, to dig out or berm the property.

Perry said that ITID roads, including Hamlin and Orange boulevards, remain items of discussion, because ITID is saddled with the necessary improvements.

“Hamlin and Orange are going to become heavily traveled roads, and they need special treatment,” Perry said. “We’re dealing with them on our own, but we could sure use some help.”

Commissioner Hal Valeche made a motion to approve the amendment, but Commissioner Melissa McKinlay offered a substitute motion to approve the amendment, but take out ITID roads — Hamlin Blvd. from Seminole Pratt Whitney Road to 190th Street North; Orange Blvd. from Seminole Pratt Whitney Road to 180th Avenue; and 180th Avenue between Orange and Hamlin boulevards — from the county’s thoroughfare plan.

Commissioner Shelley Vana said she would support the motion.

“This is sustainable growth,” Vana said. “This is what we’re looking for, and it’s not just continuous residential areas that go on forever.”

McKinlay’s motion carried 6-0 with Commissioner Paulette Burdick, who has been critical of the project, away from the dais.

The GL Homes project still needs to go through the county’s rezoning process.