Developer Seeks RPB’s Help To Get Charter School Project Moving

The Royal Palm Beach Village Council discussed several items related to developer Brian Tuttle’s Tuttle Royale project on Thursday, Sept. 19.

Discussion of Tuttle’s project, located on the south side of Southern Blvd. west of State Road 7, began with the council approving a land use change for a 13-acre parcel from low residential use to open space. The land will eventually be used to accommodate the project’s recreation requirements.

Tuttle followed the vote with a presentation on the project by Urban Design Kilday Studios and his own comments.

“I just wanted to give a level set as to where we are going, and then to ask for help in a couple areas,” Tuttle said. “The total taxable value on this property will be approximately $650 million. That’s a big number. You’re going to get almost 2 percent of that, which is almost a $1.2 million budget increase, which will help for the future.”

Tuttle expressed a desire to get the venture moving to combat the perception that the project is stalled. After working on the property for six and half years, he emphasized the planned charter school being key to the project’s success.

“The big issue for the project is we need to get the charter school going so it can be open by next August,” Tuttle said. “To do that, we have to work together. We need help from you to get Erica

Blvd. going under construction and to get the charter school under construction. I’d like to have a brainstorming session with the staff where we can look through the code and figure out how we can get the permits issued.”

His goal is to have the charter school break ground by January.

Village Manager Ray Liggins explained the criteria needed to get the project moving.

“[Tuttle] needs to get the preliminary plat. He needs to get construction drawings and permits in place, and he needs to get a final plat with a guarantee,” Liggins said. “He’s going to need a conditional building permit. He’s going to need permission from the council.”

Liggins added that one piece of land still requires proof of ownership. The option to remove that section, Pod 2, from the plat is still available if needed.

Tuttle replied that the ownership is being clarified, but that his office has been waiting on the Palm Beach County Property Appraiser’s Office to get the paperwork finished. He expects to have that by Oct. 3.

“We want to work together to get it done, too,” Mayor Fred Pinto said. “Put our best brains to this project.”

Liggins explained how meetings could be scheduled through the Planning & Zoning Department to set up a timeline.

Also related to Tuttle’s project was the next agenda item regarding a variance request by RD Royal Palm Beach regarding signage at the Town Southern luxury apartment building complex, one of the completed phases at the western end of the project.

The Royal Palm Beach Planning & Zoning Commission had recommended denial of the requested variances, which included the retroactive approval of a sign that had already been put up.

The council approved variances for the height of signage and a reduction in the setback of a tower structure. Since the Planning & Zoning meeting on Aug. 27, the owner had made adjustments to the variance request and removed the sign located on the 21-foot-tall tower.

“I understand that the applicant would be willing to reduce [the sign height] to seven feet,” Liggins said.

Planning & Zoning Director Bradford O’Brien explained staff’s position on the 10.5-foot height of the sign.

“They still wouldn’t meet the criteria that is spelled out in the code, but the position as far as the strong denial shifts from a strong denial to a reasonable idea that this sign could look worse if you made it code compliant,” O’Brien said

Liggins stressed the willingness of the applicant to make the changes to remain within the code, but he admitted that it was clear that the two entrance signs would better match the rest of the project’s design if the architectural feature remained at 10.5 feet.

The council approved the amended requests unanimously.

Also at last week’s meeting, the council discussed an updated village tree trimming ordinance in order to come into state compliance.

“This ordinance is based on a state law passed during the last session that restricts local governments’ ability to require permits on residential property that have to do with tree pruning and removal. This comes right out of the state law that was passed,” Village Attorney Keith Davis said.

Pinto expressed concerns about the change on existing Royal Palm Beach rules.

“This pretty much guts what we put in our tree trimming ordinance,” he said. “We have an ordinance that says one thing, and the state says something different. We can’t have an ordinance on the books that is not compliant.”

Councilman Richard Valuntas also weighed-in on the verbiage provided, particularly in relation to a tree planting program that the village is about to launch.

“The statute doesn’t care who owns the tree. It just says if you are a residential property owner, you don’t have to comply with this stuff,” Valuntas said. “It says any tree on [private] property. If we put government trees on private property, that’s exactly what this statute gutted. It gutted our ability to regulate these things.”

After discussions regarding how to alter the ordinance language to allow the village to move forward with its treescape program while still complying with the state mandate, Davis agreed to make some changes and return with them for the next reading on Thursday, Oct. 17.

In other business:

• Before the regular meeting, the council held its final public budget hearing. Both the tax rate of 1.92 mills and the proposed budget of $45.1 million for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 were approved 5-0.

• The council unanimously approved the final reading of a new 30-year agreement with the Florida Power & Light Company to be the village’s provider of electrical services, including new provisions and conditions and the payment of a monthly franchise fee to the village.

• Pinto discussed several transportation issues that came up at a recent meeting of the Palm Beach Transportation Planning Agency.

He reported on a discussion regarding the five-year long-range transportation plan (LRTP). Opposition remains for the extension of State Road 7 to Northlake Blvd., with Pinto noting that new County Commissioner Gregg Weiss (District 2) also opposes the project, along with the City of West Palm Beach.

The LRTP includes new Tri-Rail management objectives.

“They must establish a plan regarding water levels, bridge heights and condition ratings for bridges within Palm Beach County,” Pinto said. “We are now being given direction at the federal level to address these types of infrastructure issues, and we need to include water level rising in our strategic planning process.”

Pinto asked Liggins to research the new TPA guidelines for bus shelters and return with a presentation at a future meeting.

“I think bus shelters are more important now than they were 10 years ago,” Pinto said. “We get a lot of traffic, and it’s not getting better because all we do is build more roads. The real answer is to come up with solutions for you to get from point A to point B without taking your car.”

Pinto explained that taking the bus could be more palatable by having better bus shelters.

• Councilman Jeff Hmara shared about the Literacy Coalition of Palm Beach County’s yearly Read for the Record program.

“It gives us a chance to really get into a book that is selected. This year’s book is Thank You, Omu!, and it’s a community building thing,” Hmara said. “On Nov. 7, we’ll all be engaging again and reading for the record.”

Councilwoman Jan Rodusky followed up with information on the 11th year of Read Together Palm Beach County.

“The book is The One in a Million Boy by Monica Wood,” Rodusky said. “It looks like a really fun book. They will do the final Read Together finale on Nov. 21.”

• The council supported staff’s recommendation to appoint one member and one alternate to the Issues Forum of IPARC (Intergovernmental Plan Amendment Review Committee). The forum is expected to meet four times each year. Councilwoman Selena Samios volunteered for the appointment, and Valuntas volunteered for the alternate spot.

• The Education Advisory Board also received a new appointee. Pamela Shetka was moved from her alternate spot to a vacant regular seat. Lisa Ryan, a teacher at Cardinal Newman High School, was unanimously granted the alternate seat.