Royal Palm Beach will make a bid to purchase a foreclosed home on the southeast side of Commons Park, which would be used for pedestrians in that area to access the park.
On Thursday, May 4, the Royal Palm Beach Village Council authorized Village Manager Ray Liggins to enter a bid of no more than $245,000 to purchase a house at 184 Sandpiper Ave. to be used as another bicycle and pedestrian access to Commons Park.
If the bid is successful, it would make the park more accessible and ease traffic issues that have troubled residents since it opened.
In 2015, the village purchased a foreclosed home on the north end of the park to improve access.
Liggins said 184 Sandpiper Ave. is going to auction in June. If the village gets the home, which is at the bend where Sandpiper turns from east to north, it would be used to connect to the FPL easement, which runs all the way from the north to the south end of the village and already has a pedestrian pathway.
“That would allow people to go in there, and we do have another access point that we bought a few years ago at Heron Parkway, so many people come from the north and just get off at that point and come into the park,” he said, explaining that residents within a mile of that potential access point must drive several miles to get to the park.
“This one’s interesting because if this connection were here, then people wouldn’t have to go out across State Road 80 and up Royal Palm Beach Blvd. and drive to the park,” he said. “Whenever we can get people there walking or on bicycles, it’s obviously better than being on the roadways.”
However, for that to work, it has to be convenient, he said.
“This is a situation where people will think it’s a lot more convenient to walk or ride a bicycle than drive to our park for the different events,” Liggins said.
If the village is successful in buying the property, it could install a pedestrian bridge across the canal there for additional access, which would add direct access for 390 parcels within a quarter-mile of the park, he said.
“We have 1,000 addresses that would be within a half-mile, which is considered walking or biking distance, and within a mile, there are almost 3,000 parcels,” Liggins said. “Those 390 parcels now, [for residents] to get into the park, they have to drive almost three miles, but it’s a quarter-mile walk. I think that would be more convenient for them.”
Liggins added that the village does not have a connection on the back side of Counterpoint Estates, but if one of those houses were to come up for sale, he would bring another possible purchase to the council for consideration.
“It reduces their drive from almost five miles to a half-mile or a mile walk or bike,” he said.
Liggins noted that the connection would also benefit homes in the State Road 7 and Southern Blvd. areas, such as where 1,000 units are planned in a project behind Lowe’s Home Improvement.
“In that development, we’re looking at south of State Road 80, we are making the developer look at bike paths and sidewalks within his development connecting to Shoma Homes and Victoria Grove,” he said. “Even though that’s a little bit out of the mile radius — Shoma Homes is probably a mile and a half — it’s still a shorter bike ride than it would be a car ride for all of those people south of State Road 80, so we think it’s a key piece of property to connect people to the center of Royal Palm Beach.”
Mayor Fred Pinto stressed that the village has no control over the time line on the sale of the property. “We have to position ourselves to be able to participate in that,” he said.
Village Attorney Jennifer Ashton said foreclosure sale dates are set by the court, adding that Liggins had tried to see if there was a bank representative with whom he could negotiate, but there was nobody to talk to.
Pinto said the council would take no action until the village had gone through a review process with people in the area.
“We want to make sure if there are any potential concerns, we are addressing those concerns,” he said. “Right now, we just need to position ourselves to be a player to acquire the property. That’s what we need to accomplish tonight.”
Vice Mayor Richard Valuntas complimented Liggins on being proactive and said he thought the proposal was a good one.
“[Traffic] is one of the issues out here that’s going to just keep getting worse, particularly on Royal Palm Beach Blvd., especially for the big events, like the Fourth of July and Winterfest,” Valuntas said. “It’s practically unbearable to try to get into Commons Park on those days, but if we can give someone an option of walking instead of having to drive three miles and deal with nightmare traffic, and actually taking those trips off the road, there’s not a whole lot of chances we get to do something like that.”
Councilman Jeff Hmara said council members often talk about ways to get people out of their cars and use different modes of transportation.
“Providing this kind of connection is a really powerful thing,” Hmara said. “What appealed to me… was with the Southern Blvd. development activity. This provides a connection that otherwise wouldn’t be there.”
Councilwoman Jan Rodusky added that getting traffic off the roads would add greatly to the safety of people attending events.
Councilwoman Selena Smith made a motion to participate in the bid process, which carried 5-0.