ITID Eyes Regional Planning Council For Consulting Work

The Indian Trail Improvement District Board of Supervisors agreed Wednesday, May 15 to get the approximate cost of drafting a master plan for the district from the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council.

ITID President Betty Argue said the board had invited Treasure Coast to make a presentation to explain what that agency can do for the district as far as developing a vision. Based in Stuart, the agency has worked with municipalities, districts and other communities.

Kim DeLaney with TCRPC said the 10 regional councils are designated by state statute. Treasure Coast’s region is Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie and Indian River counties, representing about 1.9 million people. It is overseen by a 28-member board.

“We provide planning service with technical support, we help with hurricane evacuation, economic development, transportation planning, grant writing — whatever assistance local governments or agencies need,” she explained.

DeLaney said TCRPC specializes in urban design, community master plans and transportation planning.

“Community master planning can be small-scale or large-scale,” she said. “We do different kinds of regional plans, like, for example, Intracoastal Waterway planning in Palm Beach County and also the greenway trails master plan. That’s one where we worked with Indian Trail to make sure that we properly identified unpaved trails for equestrian users, as well as bicyclists and pedestrians.”

TCRPC also works on corridor plans to comply with local standards, as well as meet the standards of agencies that control the roadways, identifying roads that need to be paved or prioritized, and identifying how to direct traffic away from local streets and onto major roadways.

DeLaney said the agency also promotes the concept of “complete streets” that offer safe access not just for cars, but for all users of the roadway, balancing it out so that it is also bicycle, pedestrian and horse friendly.

“When we try to look at what’s happening in the district, the Acreage Neighborhood Plan was developed back in 1995 and updated in 2008,” DeLaney said, pointing out that its goals included land use controls as well as protecting the area’s lifestyle, which seem to be foremost to residents now in light of widespread development around them.

“There’s a whole lot of development that has been approved near the district, and this wasn’t envisioned in 1995,” she said. “Maybe not envisioned on this scale in 2008.”

DeLaney said the total development plans amount to about 14,000 units and about 11 million square feet of non-residential space that have been approved nearby.

“That’s a whole lot of impact to try to accommodate in an area that really wasn’t planned in a way to handle all that kind of traffic going back and forth,” DeLaney said, adding that there are a variety of ways to address the issue, such as developing town center areas that focus activity into smaller areas, rather than force a long commute.

“A rural town center, that’s probably about your scale,” DeLaney said. “What’s being developed literally next to you and within the area is really a suburban town center, so a conflict is going to happen because the trip generation rates between those things are very different from one another, so it takes a lot of work to try to get those things to synchronize.”

DeLaney said she also reached out to ITID’s traffic engineer, Captec, to get a better understanding of the work that firm has done as far as studying stop signs and traffic calming measures.

“One of the things we learned in that conversation was about prioritization, when and where those improvements take place,” DeLaney said. “That’s one of the opportunities you have in the district, to try to zoom down a bit, to look at how those pieces fit together, to be more competitive for grant funding and give more predictability.”

She said the speed of traffic is inversely correlated to safety because a faster traveling driver can only see a narrow field of vision. “That’s why traffic calming is so important,” DeLaney said.

DeLaney also talked to Captec about the vehicle crashes taking place at different intersections in The Acreage.

“You’re getting… almost 80 crashes over 10 years,” DeLaney said. “That is a very disturbing number for me, when I’m looking at data like this in lots of different communities.”

DeLaney said that ITID is being proactive in doing traffic studies and putting traffic calming in place and getting grants to help in the effort.

“Some roads are getting improved,” DeLaney said. “With all the development happening around you, there’s not really a clear understanding of where all that traffic is going to go, but that’s the approach you have underway and you’re making improvements.”

DeLaney said developing a transportation and infrastructure master plan would be the next step to be more proactive.

“At least a 20-year look at what your needs are and where investments should be made,” DeLaney said. “We would suggest the best plans that are developed like that have a very clear set of priorities.”

DeLaney said near schools and parks and high-crash intersections would be the highest priorities.

“Roadways that you know are going to be carrying a lot of traffic from Westlake, for example, should have higher scoring,” she said. “A next step up would be developing formal partnerships with Palm Beach County or neighboring municipalities because they can share costs. They can also make it much more competitive to get grant dollars.”

DeLaney said another step to consider is incorporation.

“I know that’s a subject that has been underway in the district for a long time,” she said. “The advantage of incorporation is you get more power and you have more control, and you get a seat at the table instead of being on the menu.”

DeLaney added that it is important to hold community meetings to keep residents involved.

Argue asked what the cost would be to engage TCRPC for consulting, and DeLaney said the agency is a nonprofit, but it does have to charge for its costs. She said she could have an approximate cost for the board at its June meeting, and by consensus, the board agreed to move forward.