The City of Westlake will soon have a 7-Eleven store and gas station across the street from Seminole Ridge High School, according to plans presented on Monday, June 17 at a planning and zoning meeting of the Westlake City Council.
Planning firm Cotleur & Hearing represented the developer requesting rezoning of 1.89 acres of property west of the packing house on the east side of Seminole Pratt Whitney Road in front of Westlake’s city hall, a converted double-wide portable that was once Callery-Judge Groves’ meeting hall.
Donaldson Hearing said that his client’s application sought site plan approval for the 16-pump gas station with a convenience store, which would be on the former parking lot of city hall.
“It is a requested use,” Hearing said, adding that he felt it was appropriate for the area. “It also is perfect, given the lands that we have that are outside the packing plant that are up along the perimeter, along Seminole Pratt Whitney Road. It’s a good way to make the corridor look better, with the packing house in the background as opposed to it being the first thing that you see.”
The location will have access to the signalized intersection opposite the high school.
“That also makes it very appropriate for this particular use, so the area will continue to leave your council chambers here, at least for some interim time, and the parking area has been moved immediately south of the council chambers,” Hearing said. “We did set this up so that there is connectivity between parcels so that one could go either to the north or to the south without having to go back out onto Seminole Pratt Whitney Road.”
He pointed out that the land use is appropriate for the surrounding area, which is “downtown multiple use” under the city’s comprehensive plan and zoning. The elevation shows a buffer between the store’s pumps and the 4,500-square-foot building with landscaping that ties in with the future rural parkway.
“The rural parkway doesn’t exist in this particular area, but we made sure the palette is very similar and compatible with landscaping around the buffers, and we have two points of ingress and egress so there is virtually a right in and right out at the northern end of the site, and we have an additional access into the site from the access road,” Hearing said.
The store will include a car wash, which includes sufficient space for stacking, he said. All the pedestrian walkways will be contiguous, and traffic from the community will have easy access to the commercial area.
“The idea is to keep cars from having to come out onto Seminole Pratt, and ultimately, you’ll be able to come from the interior of the community and come all the way here from the various roadway networks in place,” Hearing said. “All that is planned as part of your comprehensive plan… in order to provide connectivity.”
Hearing added that all sides of the site will have landscaping surrounding it. “There really is no front,” he said. “We want it to be aesthetically pleasing.”
Hearing noted that the city had reviewed the building permit prior to zoning approval.
“Even though we haven’t filled out the final approval yet, they are doing everything they can to make the process as smooth, efficient and effective as possible,” Hearing said.
Immediately following the planning and zoning meeting, the council met for its regular meeting and approved the final reading of the ordinance to rezone the property from agricultural to downtown multiple use.
Vice Mayor Katrina Long Robinson made the motion, which carried 4-0 with Councilman Phillip Everett absent.
In other business:
• City Manager Ken Cassel reported that Westlake will contract with the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office for law enforcement.
“This will be back for action in July,” Cassel said, explaining that the PBSO will begin full-time coverage for the area in October.
“I did have a number of discussions with Maj. [Eric] Coleman,” Cassel said. “The council has provided some input on his contract as well. We will be reworking some of the wording before it comes back to you. We are in line with the overall cost that is being paid by other municipalities around us, if not a little bit lower for the coverage that you will receive.”
There will be one full-time deputy assigned to the City of Westlake around the clock.
“The vehicle will have ‘City of Westlake’ on it, as you see in Wellington and other communities,” Cassel said. “That will also include basically five officers here, plus a sergeant, lieutenant and all the command structure of the sheriff’s office and all specialty items that would be required if necessary.”
The cost is about $139,000 per officer.
“What they are proposing is $650,000,” Cassel said. “That includes officer training, vehicle, radios, gear and more.”
Robinson asked and other council members agreed to schedule a workshop on the contract prior to approval, since city revenue is currently not enough to cover that amount.
Cassel said the alternative is for the city to start its own police department, since the PBSO is the only service in the area.
“I’ve lived with that nightmare,” he said. “I believe the city attorney has lived with that nightmare.”
Robinson said she did not object to the PBSO contract and was only concerned about cost projections and the city’s ability to cover the money.
• The council also agreed to give the county traffic jurisdiction over Seminole Pratt Whitney Road.
City Attorney Pam Booker explained that the agreement was actually reached last year but was never placed on a council agenda. “It should be on the county’s agenda in September,” she said.
Councilwoman Kara Crump made a motion to approve the agreement, which carried 4-0.
• Cassel recommended keeping the town’s property tax rate at 5.125 mills.
“Even with the increase in taxable value, last year’s tax revenue was about $238,000, this year’s projection is about $555,000… With the 5.125 rate, we’re still not where the city is self-sufficient at this point in time,” he said. “In that budget is also still another 1.8 [mill] developer contribution for the next year as a backstop, but as things come online, I’m hoping we can balance the budget.”
• John Carter, vice president of Minto communities, reminded council members that the developer is holding a grand opening for its Westlake Adventure Park on Saturday, June 22. “We’re planning to start the event at noon, so we’re asking you to come out at about 11:45 a.m. so we can kick off right at noon. This is a beautiful facility,” he said.