A standing-room-only crowd of residents packed Royal Palm Beach Village Hall on Thursday, Dec. 20 and delivered a petition containing about 1,000 signatures against a proposal by 13th Floor Homes to build 450 homes on the southern portion the Village Golf Club.
About a dozen residents formally filled out comment cards at the Royal Palm Beach Village Council meeting and spoke on record against the project, which was informally proposed to the community in a series of outreach meetings conducted in late October by Broward-based developer 13th Floor Homes.
The proposal, which has not yet been formally submitted to the Village of Royal Palm Beach, would build homes on nine holes at the golf course and work with the village to preserve the rest of the site as a nine-hole golf course or a natural area.
The developer held a series of open houses and homeowners’ association briefings regarding its plan to build 250 townhomes and 200 single-family homes on the southern half of the Village Golf Club in exchange for turning the northern half of the land over to the village. The purpose of the outreach, the developer explained, was to generate community feedback.
The response of the community was to organize against the project.
At the Dec. 20 meeting, with nothing related to the project on the agenda, an organized group of about 60 residents packed the council chambers. They didn’t come empty handed.
Led by Joe Sicilia, HOA president of Elysium and a 17-year village resident, the citizens delivered the petition, as well as informational packets to each elected official filled with facts and figures making the case that the project is bad for the village and its residents.
Sicilia was the first of a dozen or so residents to address the council.
“I am one of a large number of like-minded residents who oppose this project because it will decrease property values, hurt village quality of life and make Okeechobee Blvd. traffic even worse for residents,” he said.
Resident Nate Wood agreed.
“La Mancha was supposed to be the forever home for my family, but we are now worried about congestion and over-development,” he said, quoting from the village’s comprehensive plan about the requirement for projects to “not adversely affect existing neighborhoods.”
Resident Paul Eiseman also opposed the idea. “This project threatens all the reasons we chose Royal Palm Beach as the very best place to buy and live,” he said.
Curtis Elliott, a village resident for 30 years, warned the council against any village liability for assuming ownership of golf course land that could be polluted with pesticides.
No one at the Dec. 20 meeting spoke in favor of the project.
Mayor Fred Pinto thanked the residents for becoming so involved and emphasized that no formal application has been received by the village. “We can’t take any actions that will harm the due process that all village land owners enjoy,” he said.
After the meeting, Sicilia was happy with the turnout.
“With this weather, and with Christmas approaching, I was shocked but pleased by the heavy turnout,” he said. “I think the council listened to us and received our message loud and clear.”
After the council meeting, 13th Floor Homes responded with a statement that read in part: “Our intention is to gain a thorough understanding of the surrounding community and its needs, which is why we have held a round of preliminary community meetings before finalizing a site plan or submitting to Royal Palm Beach for approval. 13th Floor Homes has not acquired the Village Golf Club, as a successful dialogue with the Royal Palm Beach community and key stakeholders will largely influence the future of this project.”
13th Floor Homes President Michael Nunziata has previously said that he hoped to have the project approved over the next 12 to 18 months.
He said that any stakeholder who has comments on the proposed plan should send those comments via the project’s web site at www.villagegreenfl.com.