A divided Loxahatchee Groves Town Council refused an ordinance Tuesday that would have amended the town’s comprehensive plan to allow commercial uses for two properties at 444 and 556 B Road.
The properties, which include the Country Corner feed store, horse barns and a private residence owned by Seth Brier, is within a mixed-use “superblock” surrounded by Collecting Canal Road to the north, Southern Blvd. to the south, C Road to the east and B Road to the west. It is near the new Palm Beach State College campus and the adjacent shopping center.
Councilman Todd McLendon reiterated what he had said at the preliminary reading and state transmittal hearing in December, which passed 4-1 with McLendon opposed. He noted that adjoining property would have to have a 300-foot buffer between Collecting Canal, as well as a 100-foot buffer between the property requesting the change.
“If that property gets a change to commercial or whatever other designation, there is really no sense in having that 100-foot buffer on the neighboring property,” he said. “More importantly is the 300-foot buffer. I don’t know how we could continue a 300-foot buffer down Collecting Canal when the parcel to the north of this one is probably only 330 feet wide, and it’s included in here. So, if that person wants to come in here and try to get commercial, we surely can’t ask him to designate 95 percent of his property to this buffer.”
McLendon added that the only access as the application is presented is on B Road.
Mayor Dave Browning was concerned that there is no commercial use all the way to Collecting Canal anywhere else in town.
“Our intent was on Southern [Blvd.] facing Southern, so it didn’t impact other roads,” Browning said. “This changes it, and maybe sets a precedent.”
The property in question is almost surrounded by non-residential uses. Directly to the west is the new college campus, and to the east and south are commercial and institutional uses owned by Solar Sportsystems.
Attorney Al Malefatto, representing Brier, pointed out that the property is almost surrounded by non-residential uses and is a high-traffic area, particularly with the new shopping center nearby.
Resident Ken Johnson said that the area all the way to Collecting Canal is too large, and commercial uses should be confined to Southern Blvd.
“B Road commercial should not be allowed,” Johnson said. “Why should commercial be allowed to continue up B Road?”
Resident George Perez also opposed commercial uses on B Road.
“I feel really strongly about that,” Perez said. “I like the Southern Blvd. corridor. It was designated for that. What was built at B Road, the college, the Publix, it’s a class act out there. They did it right. Any time they want something, they come in for a variance and they go through the process. I don’t see any reason why it would hurt us just to say no.”
Brier noted that he has been a Loxahatchee Groves resident since 2004.
“I didn’t ask for a shopping center to be built next to me, in front of me, on the side of me or behind me,” he said. “My residential property is deemed valueless. Nobody wants to live next to all that.”
He added that his current equestrian use has been impacted by the changes.
“[With] the lights coming in, the horses can’t sleep,” Brier said. “I understand what the residents are saying, but I’ve been a resident here, too. There was no protection from the town council for me as a resident when you approved all that.”
He added that the new entrances on B Road for the shopping center and the college have brought heavy traffic up and down the street.
“It wouldn’t be fair for me to have to live like that, with all the shopping center lights, to be surrounded completely by commercial and to have residential property that I’ve invested my life savings in to build horse barns and to have a little feed store so I could be in an equestrian community and an equestrian town,” Brier said.
McLendon responded that Brier has been cited for code violations on his property, and the process he wants to start is to fix the violations, adding that the town has taken steps to protect his property by requiring a 100-foot buffer around it.
“All we’re doing is shifting the burden,” McLendon said. “So, we allow commercial now on these properties all the way to Collecting Canal. We just shifted the burden to the people on the other side of Collecting Canal. Where does it stop?”
Councilman Ryan Liang made a motion to approve the amendment, seconded by Vice Mayor Ron Jarriel. The motion failed 3-2 with Browning, McLendon and Councilman Dave DeMarois opposed.