The Loxahatchee Groves Planning & Zoning Board recommended approval Monday, Sept. 16 of a revision to Groves Town Center’s master plan that deletes a large roundabout intended for community functions and moves it northward to what developers said would be a more user-friendly location.
The recommendation was made by three members attending the meeting — Chairman William Bell and board members William Ford and Neil O’Neal III.
“We’re not really changing the footprint,” Ford said.
The project is at the northeast corner of Southern Blvd. and B Road.
Matthew Barnes, representing the developer, said the 7.2 acres of the southwest portion of the 90-acre property had been approved in 2018 for a Wawa convenience store and gas station, an Aldi grocery store and a Chase Bank location, as well as a 128-bed assisted living facility to the north of the commercial pod.
“We’re here now to reconfigure the internal configuration of the master plan,” Barnes said. “It’s the same exact uses in terms of the overall square feet of retail, office and assisted living.”
Bradley Miller with Miller Land Planning said ingress and egress on Southern Blvd. and B Road is mandated by the Florida Department of Transportation, while the commercial uses approved in 2018 had not changed.
“All of this is internal to the site,” Miller said. “As we were looking at getting further interest in the site from other users, we started relooking at the town center component of the plan and the efficiency of that. We quickly realized that the little circle looks great on a plan, but it may not be the most efficient way to lay out the property.”
Miller explained that trying to lay out the property for other components results in pockets that are not usable. “When we combined all that together, we looked at the town commons area and reconfigured that,” he said, explaining that more users will be announced as the project progresses.
He added that the northwestern portion of the development has a 100-foot buffer. The 300-foot buffer with an equestrian trail also has not changed. The reconfigured town commons area will be about 1.3 acres larger than the original circle.
“It’s a bigger parcel. It’s off of Southern Blvd., so it’s a little more town friendly, from our perspective, to be able to have events there, whether it’s a farmers’ market, a car show or activities like that,” he said.
Miller added that the plan also provides for a wetlands area. “We’re actually working with engineers on an overall drainage plan,” he said.
Town Planning Consultant Jim Fleischmann said that the developer has also provided for a horse trail connection to property to the north owned by Seth Brier, who is expected to put in a request for a mixed-use development on his 14.74-acre residential property on B Road in the near future.
Miller said that efforts were made to wind the equestrian trail between as many of the estimated 2,200 trees in the buffer in order to avoid removing them.
Fleischmann added that some original 50-foot buffers had been adjusted to 25 feet with a berm in accordance with recent code changes by the town, and that site plans specific to particular pods would be coming before the board for recommendations at future meetings.
O’Neal asked about preservation of the designated wetland on the plan, calling to attention a recent request to remove some wetland areas near the Mall at Wellington Green. “I want to make sure that 20 years from now, we’re not having the same issue,” he said.
Miller said that such a change would be difficult.
“We haven’t taken that yet to the agencies,” Miller said. “There’s steps involved in the permitting process. Before there’s any development in that area, we’ll have to go to South Florida Water Management District for a permit.”
Bell asked what the original intent was of the town center area, and Miller explained that it was related to the floor-area ratio that the developer was allotted by the town, as well as a giving back to the town to allow activities there.
“Not only would the town be able to benefit from it, but the users around that area would be able to benefit, whether it’s a Saturday car show to attract people there for their businesses. The use of it really doesn’t change,” Miller said, explaining that the City of West Palm Beach has a common area where green markets and other functions are held.
The newly configured common area for Loxahatchee Groves Plaza would have convenient parking without the necessity for participants to cross roadways to access the area, he added.
Bell also asked if maintenance of the common area would be a town responsibility.
“At present, I think it’s still in our court,” Miller replied.
Fleischmann said that town staff is in the process of negotiating an improvements agreement and who would bear the costs.
“Maintenance and development of that parcel is not part of that improvement agreement at this point, but it might be something that we could suggest be included,” he said.
Barnes said that it has been the intent of the owner to retain ownership and responsibility of the common area. “It’s considered a common element, and our client would be responsible to maintain it,” he said.
Bell said his main concern was the possible consequence of giving equestrian access to the Brier property, since consideration of that application had not yet come before the board, and there is a good chance it would be denied, since access is to B Road rather than Southern Blvd.
“I feel personally that access into the Brier property gives some sort of insinuation that that approval is slam dunk or done or finished,” Bell said. “I have an opinion that that should be excluded at this time. I don’t feel that the Brier ingress/egress should be part of this consideration.”
Ford made a motion to recommend approval of the site plan modification with the condition that the approval of the equestrian access to the Brier property does not indicate future approval of the Brier application. The motion carried 3-0.