Bridge Opening, Charter School Among Concerns At Tuttle Royale

The bridge leading into the Tuttle Royale development from Southern Blvd. is expected to open soon.

The Royal Palm Beach Village Council last week reaffirmed its commitment to a charter school being built as part of a large development at the village’s southern end, and also expressed a desire to have the new bridge at Southern Blvd. and Tuttle Road open as soon as it could be.

Developer Brian Tuttle is leading the Tuttle Royale project along the south side of Southern Blvd. just west of State Road 7. It will include a variety of residential and commercial uses on the site of the former Acme Ranches community.

Included will be a K-12 charter school with a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) theme. Tuttle said that because of the Sunshine Law, he felt it was best to bring the matter up at a public meeting to ask the full council about their current attitude toward a charter school at the site.

“My question is, in general, is the council excited about seeing the charter school or, in general, is the board leaving it up to the developer,” Tuttle said at the Thursday, April 18 meeting, adding that the land could also be used for other options, such as office and medical space.

Tuttle also asked if the council really felt they needed the charter school, given that there are several in Royal Palm Beach already.

Councilman Richard Valuntas said that he liked the idea.

“One of the things that is innovative about the school is the fact that it is K through 12,” he said. “The STEAM is great, but what made it different was the K through 12. That is not being offered anywhere else. A charter school sounds good to me.”

Councilman Jeff Hmara agreed. “Capacity is certainly something that the charter school is bringing to the community, but the school brings a unique configuration of K through 12,” he said. “The management is also important — the quality of the staff and educators.”

Both Vice Mayor Jan Rodusky and Mayor Fred Pinto said that they were comfortable moving forward with the charter school plan.

“In a broader context, the whole concept of charter schools is to fill some of the areas that maybe public schools don’t,” Pinto said.

Hmara added that the school will have other unique facets. “The providers of this charter school have experience and expertise in sports management, and that is another uniqueness that we thought would be a good thing for the community,” he said.

While Tuttle thanked the council for their input regarding the school, he was not as pleased with the situation regarding the transfer of the bridge his firm has built over the C-51 Canal to the Village of Royal Palm Beach.

The long-awaited opening of the bridge from Southern Blvd. into the development is nearing fruition, and participants are eager to see it operational.

Tuttle had a sense of urgency for opening the 7-lane, 160-foot-long bridge — including sidewalks and bike lanes — that Village Engineer Chris Marsh referred to as proactive.

“I’ve never found it so hard to give away a $6 million bridge,” Tuttle said, offering suggestions to have it opened in the next day or two after the meeting.

“There is a process for opening the bridge,” Marsh replied. “There is one ‘I’ that needs to be dotted and one ‘T’ that needs to be crossed… There are a few items on the punch-list.”

Marsh noted insurance issues for encroachments into the easements, cosmetic and aesthetic features yet to be completed, and a final sign-off by Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue that the bridge will accommodate their equipment.

Steve Patterson from the nearly completed Town Southern Apartments project is spokesman for what Tuttle described as a $100 million development that has no other access into the property except the bridge.

Patterson said that the apartments are finished, but nobody lives there since the public can’t legally get to it. “It’s eerie,” he said. “The pool is cleaned every day, but no one is around.”

Tuttle said that 43 families are awaiting the opening of the bridge to move into their homes.

“We want to make this happen as expeditiously as you do,” Pinto said. “We will do everything in our power to get it open.”

Councilwoman Selena Samios stressed, “We have full confidence in the staff.”

On Wednesday, Marsh told the Town-Crier that the bridge will be open very soon.

“We are close to opening, and it could be today,” he said. “They have removed cones and need to remove the bags from the traffic lights.”

Those traffic lights were still bagged and holding on red at the end of the day. However, there has been progress with PBCFR. “Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue signed-off that it was safe to operate their trucks,” Marsh said.

Village Manager Ray Liggins said that the bridge should be open Wednesday or Thursday, and that everything is moving forward. He rejected any suggestion that the village is holding up the process. “Mr. Tuttle has control over when it is ready to open,” he said.

In other business:

• A first public hearing was held about a measure to codify the number of required parking spaces in single-family and multi-family residential communities to be used for recreation facilities. No one spoke on the measure.

“We have encountered problems because the village’s parking code isn’t clear on the reasonable count of spaces for recreational facilities such as the pool, basketball, tennis, racquetball, pickleball courts or the like,” Village Attorney Jennifer Ashton said. “We were using the code that would be appropriate for a commercial structure, which is over-burdensome for a private community.”

• Also last week, Royal Palm Beach staff was instructed to proceed with research regarding adding a ballot question of council term lengths and another on economic tax incentives for local businesses to be put to a vote at a future election.