Lox Council OKs Annexation Of ‘Old Groves’ Parcels

The Loxahatchee Groves Town Council approved the preliminary reading of an ordinance for the voluntary annexation of three pieces of residential property at the south end of Folsom Road last week.

Currently under Palm Beach County control, the parcels are at 347, 397 and 455 Folsom Road, located south of the Palms West Veterinary Clinic. Totaling 3.85 acres, they recently went through the voluntary annexation process. The annexations include the adjoining 140-foot Folsom Road and canal rights of way up to Collecting Canal Road.

The item was approved as part of the Palm Beach County Commission’s Zoning Hearing consent agenda on March 23.

According to the county’s staff report, the parcels are located within an area known as the Unincorporated Protection Area, which is defined as all unincorporated lands located outside the Urban Service Area established in the Palm Beach County Comprehensive Plan. It provides a different method for voluntary annexations outside the Urban Service Area.

Annexations in the Unincorporated Protection Area require approval by an affirmative vote of at least five members of the county commission.

The county’s Planning Division had not received any negative comments from the departmental review. Also, the parcels are within an existing unincorporated pocket, and their annexation will eliminate the pocket.

The annexation requests to the town were from Sharon Spector, who owns a 0.75-acre parcel, and Debra and Gary Cramer, who own two 1.55-acre properties.

At the March 21 council meeting, Councilman Dave DeMarois asked whether the annexations were being paid for by the property owners or the town, and Town Manager Bill Underwood said the town was paying, per a resolution passed by the council stating that voluntary annexations would be paid by the town.

“If someone wants to come in and assist the town with future taxes, the council decided it would be best for the town to pick up the initial costs into the town, because henceforth they will be remitting money,” Underwood said.

Town Attorney Michael Cirullo said the resolution approved by the council identifies specific areas that could seek voluntary annexation.

Councilman Ron Jarriel asked if the voluntary annexation is cost-effective. “How much will we be paying? I’ve got the taxes that they will be paying and what they have paid in the last few years,” Jarriel said. “I do not believe we will ever receive the money back that we have invested in bringing these people into the town. I guess I voted for it like everybody else, but I think it’s time for this council to think about the future when we invite people into this town, and we tell them we’re going to pay all the costs to get them in here. I don’t think we’re going to reap the money back where the taxes are going to be lower than Wellington or Royal Palm Beach. They’re reaping a benefit by just coming into our town.”

Jarriel asked why town staff had not done a cost-benefit study, and Underwood said the property owners would be paying taxes to the town forever.

“Number one, you’re assured to get the money back,” Underwood said. “Number two, those parcels are abutting commercial areas. You don’t know what’s going to happen in those areas in the next 10 years or 20 years. I suspect it may not stay residential forever. But I do know you’re going to collect taxes forever, and the cost benefit is you’re going to get your money back.”

Mayor Dave Browning commented that historically the area is considered part of Loxahatchee Groves.

“To me, our neighbors to the east took that land from us,” Browning said, explaining that Royal Palm Beach said it would fight the town’s incorporation if those parcels were included. “It’s part of historic Loxahatchee Groves. I would like to see us get it back. I don’t think it’s going to cost us that much, and it would be part of the town. It’s already part of the Loxahatchee Groves Water Control District.”

Councilman Ryan Liang said he favored the annexation because it would bring the town and the LGWCD closer to matching boundaries. “It will make it simpler in the future if we can work toward that,” Liang said. “I think it’s worthwhile.”

Councilman Todd McLendon said he agreed with Underwood that the town would get the money back eventually.

“Unless you know the end of the world is around the corner, we’re going to get the money back,” McLendon said.

McLendon made a motion to approve the ordinance, which carried 5-0.