Groves Council Finalizes Ordinance Easing Building Setbacks

The Loxahatchee Groves Town Council approved the final reading of an ordinance reducing setbacks for the town’s agricultural residential lots last week, inserting a clause that they would not be more restrictive than Palm Beach County regulations.

The ordinance will revise the Unified Land Development Code related to setback requirements in the agricultural residential (AR) zoning district. The council had directed staff to reduce by 50 percent the standard setbacks in the AR zoning district.

Vice Mayor Todd McLendon made a motion at the Sept. 18 meeting to approve the ordinance.

Planning Consultant Jim Fleischmann said that there are two categories of properties, conforming lots of 5 acres or more and non-conforming lots of less than 5 acres.

“Each of those setbacks are handled in different sections of the code,” Fleischmann said.

The standard setbacks of 5 acres or more were handled by a simple 50 percent reduction in the setbacks. The non-conforming lots are more complicated, he said, explaining that the setback reductions are based either on the size of the property or the dimensions of the property, less than 200 feet in width or depth.

“We also included council direction that no setback could be less than 10 feet,” he said, adding that the version is unchanged from the preliminary reading on Sept. 6.

During public comment, Mary McNicholas said because she is chair of the Unified Land Development Committee, several people had raised concerns with her about the ordinance.

“Under no circumstances am I speaking for the committee, because it didn’t come to us,” McNicholas said. “I’ve tried to do a quick synopsis and ideas of things that might help. The areas of concern are only non-conforming lots.”

McNicholas said that the neighborhoods of concern are the smaller lots on roads such as San Diego, Los Angeles, Tangerine and Raymond drives, 22nd Road and Marcello Blvd.

“These neighborhoods have been established for quite a bit. They were built under and/or had the codes applied by the county,” McNicholas said. “It will be more restrictive than Palm Beach County.”

McNicholas suggested a solution, to insert “not more restrictive than Palm Beach County” somewhere in the ordinance.

“We were originally not to be more restrictive than Palm Beach County,” McNicholas said. “Because of those neighborhoods… it doesn’t really fit.”

Town Attorney Michael Cirullo said he could insert the clause in the ordinance if that was the direction of the council.

Fleischmann said he didn’t agree with McNicholas’ assessment that the county’s restrictions would be less than the town’s, but had no problem putting the language in.

“But when you do the calculations, we’re going to show that the town’s calculations are less restrictive than the county’s, but it doesn’t hurt to put the language in there,” Fleischmann said, adding that staff considers both the acreage and dimensions of the property and decides on what benefits the property owner. “Looking at the setbacks from those two perspectives, on every lot that I’ve seen in the town, versus the way that the county does it, ours are more favorable to the property owner.”

Fleischmann reiterated that despite his interpretation, he had no problem putting in the language McNicholas had requested.

McLendon agreed to add the language change to his motion.

Former Loxahatchee Groves Water Control District Supervisor Connie Bell said that she did not realize that some of the lots in town were that small.

“Some are less than half an acre,” Bell said. “Even though we think of Loxahatchee Groves as 5-acre parcels, we have many non-conforming lots that are under half an acre.”

McLendon’s motion to approve the amended ordinance carried 5-0.