The Loxahatchee Groves Planning & Zoning Committee recommended approval Tuesday, Oct. 16 of a site plan for the development of an Aldi, Wawa and Chase Bank at the Groves Town Center, as well as an equestrian trail that will border the overall development.
Planning Consultant Jim Fleischmann said the application for about 7.2 acres at the northeast corner of B Road and Southern Blvd. is a small part of the entire 90-acre Groves Town Center project.
The Aldi grocery store will be 21,630 square feet on 2.63 acres, the Wawa will be 6,119 square feet on 1.91 acres and the Chase Bank will be 3,470 square feet on 0.76 acres. A ring road, swale and green space around the north and east portions of the pod take up 1.9 acres.
The planned unit development (PUD) amendment, which modified ingress and egress and improved drainage and equestrian trails, was approved at its preliminary reading by the Loxahatchee Groves Town Council and is scheduled for its second and final reading on Nov. 6, along with the site plan currently under discussion.
“That’s a major condition and addition to the PUD,” Fleischmann said, adding that the agreement adds construction deadlines, including for a horse bridge across Collecting Canal.
Two waiver requests, for lighting at Wawa and bollards instead of a raised sidewalk, were also approved at the first reading.
Attorney Matthew Scott, representing owner Brightwork Real Estate, said there are many pieces to the development.
“There is the overall PUD that needs to be amended that allows for this site plan that we’re talking about tonight,” Scott said. “If you recall, when we were here a few months ago, you had specific questions about the site plan, and we told you to hold off on that until we came back… We are here tonight to talk to you specifically about the site plan for the southwest corner of the project.”
Scott said the bollards require a waiver because the current town code requires wheel stops and curbing between pedestrian and vehicular portions of commercial areas.
“Through extensive experience by the proposed users, what we found is that bollards are a safer option than an elevated pedestrian walkway and wheel stops, so for all of the projects that Wawa and the other users are proposing, what we prefer to do is have pedestrian areas and vehicular areas flush, as opposed to having an elevated walkway, and then put bollards in,” Scott said.
He explained that bollards are preferable to wheel stops and elevated pedestrian walkways because the bollards prevent vehicles whose driver has mistakenly put the car in drive instead of reverse from catapulting over the wheel stop and sidewalk into the front of the store.
“It is recommended by the various safety organizations and insurance companies as a best practice,” Scott said, pointing out that wheel stops and curbing are a tripping hazard for pedestrians.
The other waiver being sought relates to lighting.
“The code doesn’t prohibit uses to be open 24 hours. However, the code does limit lighting in commercial uses,” Scott said. “It requires that lighting be turned off at 11 p.m. We’re asking for a waiver from that requirement to allow the Wawa to have lower lighting from 11 [p.m.] until dawn because the use is going to be open during those hours.”
Scott said that due to the design of the lamps, there will be no light spillage onto adjoining properties.
Fleischmann said the lighting waiver only applies to the Wawa. The other lights will be turned off at 11 p.m.
The Wawa proposes 16 pumps at its fuel island, with its overall design complying with the town’s guidelines.
“We heard from you that you wanted to make sure that it has some rural components,” Scott said. “We heard it from the town council as well, so we went back to the drawing board, and we revised the elevations to be consistent with the rural design guidelines.”
They include redesigned roofs, added stone and a front porch feel for the Aldi entrance.
“I think these are a drastic improvement from what was initially proposed and is consistent with what the town is looking for with design,” he said.
Scott added that at the town’s request, they kept the large size of the parking spaces to accommodate large vehicles common in the community and added more landscaping.
“All the parking spaces are the code minimum, meaning the larger size, and the head-to-head parking now has landscaping buffers between it, and we have a 25-foot landscaping buffer on the south side with a 3-foot elevated berm,” he said.
Scott noted that all the designs comply with the town’s newly amended Uniform Land Development Code.
Fleischmann said that town staff and the ULDC Committee recommended approval of the proposed waivers with conditions.
Attorney Al Malefatto, representing the property owner to the north, two pieces with a total of 15 acres that have access to B Road, asked if there could be access provided from the property under discussion.
“I’m not here to oppose this. We actually welcome this and look forward to their presence,” Malefatto said. “The reason for that is that we have an application in for a multiple use as well.”
He asked that a condition be added to allow a road connection between the two properties, pointing out that the ULDC suggests that off-road access be provided wherever possible.
“I think it’s clearly possible here to adjust the site plan so there’s a connection to the ring road,” Malefatto said.
Board Chair Dennis Lipp pointed out that an access road would disrupt the horse trail, which other board members spoke against.
“I don’t think a roadway across the equestrian trail is appropriate,” said Board Member William Bell, who pointed out that the application to the north had not yet been considered, and granting any kind of access might constitute a presumption of approval.
Board Member Veronica Close made a motion to recommend approval of the amended application with conditions, which carried 4-0 with Board Member William Ford absent.
Scott said the proposed equestrian trail, the second item for discussion and approval that evening, was one of the requirements under the original PUD approval in 2013, that a horse trail be constructed in conjunction with the first site plan to come in.
“The horse trail was to be constructed in the buffer area,” he said. “The buffer area is 100 feet wide along the northwest side… and it’s 300 [feet] for the remainder.”
After research, the developer settled on a meandering trail with a stabilized base a minimum of 10 feet wide and an aerial clearance of 12 feet.
“Some other components that were added along the way during a collaborative process were that bollards be added at the entrance points to prevent vehicles from going onto the horse trail, and signage would be added indicating what is allowed and not allowed on the horse trail,” Scott said.
A point of contention was building an equestrian bridge over Collecting Canal.
“You, the council and the horse community wanted us to build it now. You all know there is an expense associated with that, so there was a back-and-forth about when we would do that,” Scott said. “What we heard from the community was the equestrian trail is not much use to anyone unless there is that bridge.”
The developer agreed to build the equestrian trail now and the bridge by 2020.
Lipp asked when the developer is expected to break ground on the project, and Fleischmann said it’s probably a year out.
Close made a motion to approve the application, which also carried 4-0.