County Commission Rejects Proposal To Widen 60th Street

The Palm Beach County Commission.

The Palm Beach County Commission unanimously rejected a proposal Wednesday, May 2 to widen the 60th Street North right-of-way in The Acreage from 80 to 100 feet for about two miles between 120th Avenue North and 140th Avenue North.

The controversial project would have involved taking at least part of 43 residents’ properties.

The staff-initiated request would have begun the process to amend the county’s comprehensive plan to allow the increased right-of-way on the thoroughfare map to allow an eventual five-lane road in the future.

According to the staff report, a five-lane roadway fits within an 80-foot right-of-way, but space in the area is unusually constrained by the City of West Palm Beach’s M Canal. The M Canal encroaches into the existing 80-foot right-of-way on the north side, and West Palm Beach holds a canal access and maintenance easement over the existing right-of-way.

Additional right-of-way is needed to provide enough space for both a five-lane roadway and the required berm and guardrail adjacent to the M Canal, as was constructed on 60th Street North from east of 120th Avenue North to State Road 7.

Future right-of-way acquisition would have been expected along the south right-of-way line, impacting about 20 feet of frontage on those properties. Construction of a three-lane paved road that includes provisions for an ultimate five-lane roadway for this segment of 60th Street North is shown in Fiscal Year 2021 in Palm Beach County’s Five Year Road Program.

The proposal was first presented at the Jan. 31 county initiation hearing, where commissioners directed staff to meet with area residents and the Indian Trail Improvement District. At that meeting, two ITID representatives spoke in opposition to the item, citing a need to examine the transportation issues on a broader scale in the area prior to proceeding with changes to this segment.

Subsequent to the hearing, county staff met with the Acreage Landowners’ Association on Feb.13, wrote letters to right-of-way parcel owners on March 23 and letters to parties within 500 feet south of 60th Street North on March 29. E-mails were sent to the ALA, the School District of Palm Beach County and the South Florida Water Management District. Updated information was presented at ITID’s meeting on April 10.

At the May 2 meeting, several residents and public officials spoke against widening the right-of-way, pointing out that it would go through a residential neighborhood.

Drew Martin, representing the Loxahatchee Chapter of the Sierra Club, pointed out that the ITID Board of Supervisors had sent a letter opposing the widening.

“I am concerned about traffic and quality of life, and I think this is being expanded… because of all the development that’s being approved out there,” he said. “A lot of dense traffic and dense housing is really not quality of life. I think we need to continue to think about why people want to live in Palm Beach County.”

Lenard Griffin, who lives on 60th Street North, said he and his neighbors do not want the widening.

“At this time, there is no reason to even consider it,” he said. “The developers out there, they want it, but it [doesn’t] go anywhere. It’s a rural area… and you don’t need a five-lane superhighway going through it. If you want to do something like that, you should buy all the houses on the street, there’s 43 of them, and build whatever you want.”

Griffin also pointed out that no accommodations had been made for road drainage, and that residents would lose their septic tanks and wells by taking their property.

“The county says you have to have so much property to have septic tanks,” he said. “When you do that, you take it away.”

Griffin pointed out that at the last meeting, 38 of the 43 property owners spoke against the proposal.

“It’s a two-lane road now, and we’ve been there for 38 years, and I have no problem with a dirt road,” he said.

ITID Engineer Jay Foy said the request for an additional 20 feet over two miles minimizes the real issue.

“The real issue is we need to look at the overall transportation problem,” he said. “This is a very tiny piece, so we’re asking you to look at the overall picture — Northlake, 60th and the Seminole Pratt extension to the Beeline, the whole thing. To take this little piece is out of context.”

Foy also pointed out that the letter from ITID asks the county to take Persimmon Blvd., which is owned and maintained by the district, off the transportation map.

“There’s a hole in the state legislation for 298 districts. We get no money to fund anything,” he said. “Anybody can use our roads, yet there is no state funding. We want Persimmon taken out of the analysis that the developers outside of the Indian Trail Improvement District are using. The road network needs to stand on its own without the roads we built, and we pay to maintain.”

Palm Beach County Mayor Melissa McKinlay, whose district includes The Acreage, said she would oppose the 60th Street proposal.

“I attended the community meeting and listened to the residents,” McKinlay said. “I think that we can build a sufficient roadway to address the needs that we have in that area with the right-of-way that has already been agreed upon, and I do not want to see another 20 feet taken off of those property owners’ property, making most of them non-conforming lots.”

She added that if the county commission really wants to purchase additional right-of-way it should start putting aside money to fully purchase all of those properties.

McKinlay asked for the other commissioners’ support to reject the proposal, and they agreed 7-0.