The Acreage Landowners’ Association hosted Indian Trail Improvement District President Betty Argue on Tuesday, Aug. 13 for a review of possible changes to be made to the Acreage Neighborhood Plan.
The Acreage Neighborhood Plan, which is intended to be a guide for development in the semi-rural community, was written in 1995 and has not been reviewed since 2008, when a clause was inserted to allow the gas station at the Publix shopping center on Orange Blvd. Previously, the plan prohibited all gas stations due to the threat of fuel leaks into the aquifer, potentially contaminating wells used by most residents.
The plan, which is recognized by Palm Beach County, calls for an annual review in October and for comments to be submitted to the county. “It has been 11 years since there has been any review or update to the neighborhood plan,” Argue said.
Attending the meeting were three ALA board members, as well as a few residents and ITID Supervisor Joni Martin.
“Part of the neighborhood plan is that you do a review annually and you send that to the county,” Argue said. “That’s pretty much evaluating where you’re at on a yearly basis and what may be your concerns that have arisen for the community, and then there is the amendment process.”
She said it is important to review what is in the neighborhood plan, recalling that at a previous meeting attended by Palm Beach County Senior Planner Bryan Davis, the ALA board had reviewed the plan and pointed out items that either had been accomplished or were no longer relevant.
“You really need to take a look and have a discussion with the community and get feedback from the community about where we’re going, what kinds of things are happening in the community, the sort of patterns that we’re seeing, what’s changed, and think about what you want in the neighborhood plan,” Argue said.
She suggested that the ALA board extend invitations to residents through social media and other media to get them engaged.
“Do we need 20 Wawas in the western communities?” she asked as an example. “We have a Wawa that’s going in on Southern [Blvd.], and maybe the board thinks that’s more than sufficient, and it probably is, considering that it is a gas station. If you want to stay with what’s currently in the neighborhood plan, then it would be inconsistent to support a Wawa within the boundaries of The Acreage.”
She reminded board members that the Acreage Neighborhood Plan is part of the county’s comprehensive plan.
“The whole purpose is to recognize that there are unique characteristics of neighborhoods, so the neighborhood plan is to identify those characteristics and try to provide a plan that reflects that neighborhood,” Argue said, adding that the neighborhood plan’s mission statement — “preserving and promoting our unique rural lifestyle by planning today for tomorrow” — has not changed since it was written in 1995.
“That ties into what I’m saying. There are things changing around us that are going to happen,” she said, referring to a presentation made recently to the ALA by Realtor Chad Hanna, who recently purchased a lot at the southwest corner of Orange Blvd. and Seminole Pratt Whitney Road with the intention of opening a real estate office there. “Would we have felt that was appropriate a year ago before there was a daycare that went into the property next door? There’s those kinds of things to think about. Would you support another commercial retail store there? Not likely, right? Because it doesn’t give you a transition to your residential area.”
Argue noted that the county does not view The Acreage as having “evolved” with the community growing around it.
“If you actually show that you’re putting some thought into what is happening around you, and how you want it to evolve, then I think you can have a better discussion and have a voice and be heard about these things,” she said, pointing out that simply taking a negative stance to any kind of change has not worked. “If you show that you’re actually evaluating and thinking about the impacts and what the potential is, then I think that you can have a more comprehensive discussion.”
She pointed out that the county’s comp plan and the Acreage Neighborhood Plan support possible commercial development on 10-acre parcels at the intersection of two arterial roads, such as Seminole Pratt Whitney Road and Northlake Blvd.
“So, what would you want that to look like?” Argue asked. “The county has a real issue with affordable housing. Perhaps a developer comes in and says, ‘I want to build townhouses on that 10 acres.’ These are the kinds of thing you have to grapple with.”
She emphasized that although some kinds of commercial, such as the Realtor’s request to open an office at Orange Blvd. and Seminole Pratt Whitney Road, might be acceptable, a line should be drawn somewhere. “We don’t want to turn every corner on Seminole Pratt Whitney, which pretty much ends up being the whole thing, into commercial row,” she said. “We want everything that is there, in my opinion, to be compact and to be within a certain area.”
Argue warned of the slippery slope of dealing with developers in granting them a project that promises local enterprise and winds up with a big franchise.
“By the time they’ve built the thing, you’ve got a McDonald’s,” she said. “We don’t have a mom-and-pop kind of restaurant.”
Argue noted that the ALA board has a lot to go over, but she recommended that it try to compose a statement to send to Palm Beach County’s Planning, Zoning & Building Department by October to show that they still consider the Acreage Neighborhood Plan a functioning document.