The Indian Trail Improvement District Board of Supervisors is taking steps to help residents of the Dellwood, Las Flores and Learwood communities after a recent workshop meeting exploring whether to make the areas activated ITID units.
The meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 25 was in response to residents who expressed interest in activation, primarily to maintain and/or improve roads.
All three units are in the northwest part of ITID’s M-2 Basin. The workshop was attended by six residents of Dellwood and two from Las Flores.
ITID Attorney Frank Palin explained that ITID is a special district with limited powers under state statutes.
“The purpose of a special district is to provide public facilities and public services,” Palin said. “We’re not a municipality. We do not have zoning power. We are only in the business of providing those services. That includes constructing them, maintaining them and financing them. Indian Trail has the power to provide drainage, roads and park services.”
He explained that ITID’s legislative boundaries are much larger than what people think of as The Acreage.
“Some of the units on our agenda tonight, Dellwood, Las Flores, are within the legislative boundaries, but are not currently what are called units of development, although certain services are being provided, like for drainage purposes only,” Palin said.
ITID was created by Royal Palm Beach Colony, a private company that developed The Acreage and the Village of Royal Palm Beach, beginning in the 1960s.
“They developed the roads and the drainage system for Indian Trail systematically, section by section, large areas in Indian Trail, so we have units that were all numbered,” Palin said. “Within each one of those units there are lots that are served by the roads and the drainage structures.”
The cost of maintaining those facilities is allocated on a lot-by-lot basis paid annually. Activation of a unit begins with approval by the ITID Board of Supervisors, which determines the level of services that the unit will receive, based on the desires of the property owners there.
“There are a number of opportunities for public notice,” Palin said. “Public hearings have to be advertised. Individual notices will be sent out to landowners. The actual creation of the unit and the establishment of an assessment would not be done without a substantial amount of public notice and opportunity for the public to participate.”
He added that ITID’s engineer would play a role in determining the scope of costs in activating a unit.
Las Flores Homeowners’ Association Secretary Kim Bolser-Aumen said ITID has graded Las Flores roads in the past. The HOA sometimes paid for the service, and depending on staff direction, were not charged, but pointed out that Las Flores residents do not have ITID voting rights, and at some point, the grading was stopped.
Palin pointed out that ITID once provided contract maintenance to un-activated roads, but it was determined by the state that the district was not authorized to provide services outside of activated units.
Palin said the easements for both Las Flores and Dellwood have been transferred from the developer to ITID. “All that means is that Indian Trail has the right to maintain, but does not have the duty to maintain,” he said, adding that the residents of those units pay for drainage, but not road maintenance or parks.
Bolser-Aumen said that the HOA has money to provide road maintenance, but it cannot find a contractor that will provide maintenance to the two roads in Las Flores. She added that she felt Las Flores residents do not desire more intensive canal maintenance than is currently provided but would like more road maintenance.
“We’re paying somebody to grade with a box blade, and it’s just not working,” she said. “I think we all would love to see some sort of agreement to make the roads work.”
ITID President Betty Argue said the only way the district could provide road maintenance services is if the units were activated.
“In order for you to be able to vote, you have to activate,” she said, adding that Las Flores is currently included in ITID’s water control plan.
Bolser-Aumen pointed out that Las Flores already pays for water control and felt it was unfair that they had no voting rights if they reached an impasse with ITID.
ITID Engineer Jay Foy said there are many drainage structures outside of Las Flores that it receives benefits from.
Bolser-Aumen said residents of Las Flores receive adequate drainage. “We have a problem with our roads,” she said.
Foy said a plan could be developed that could address road maintenance only.
“If you only wanted roads and the board directed the engineer to just do roads, you could keep your drainage exactly as it is, and we wouldn’t touch your canals if that’s what the board directs,” he said.
Bolser-Aumen said Las Flores has not had problems with drainage, except during catastrophic events such as Tropical Storm Isaac. “ITID has always ultimately come through for us,” she said. “It might have taken a couple of days if the system was overwhelmed… Our biggest concern is the roads.”
She said she was personally willing to have Las Flores activated, although she did not know the disposition of other homeowners there.
Argue said that ITID might be able to help the residents by underwriting long-term bonds that they could pay off over time.
“From what I’m hearing, what you want is just to limit it to road improvement and road maintenance on an ongoing basis,” she said. “The cost would be the cost of activating the unit and the engineering costs. We can build that in and spread it out. If there is an amount that needs to be financed or bonded, we can talk about that.”
Argue said the next step would be for the board to meet with as many residents as possible to get input and see if all they want is to get the roads maintained.
“In my opinion, it’s better to look at the whole system,” she said. “That’s what we’re doing with Santa Rosa Groves. We’re going to clean up the whole system and restore it to what it was designed under the water control plan to do.”
ITID Assistant Executive Director Rob Robinson offered cost estimates for Las Flores, Dellwood and Learwood based on research done for Santa Rosa Groves.
“I know we have talked about this problem for a while,” Robinson said. “We have been working with the residents of Santa Rosa Groves on a similar problem that they have had. I took some linear footage data as a tentative estimate. This is not based on any engineering report.”
Based on a rough estimate, refurbishing roads in Dellwood and Learwood with shell rock only, reestablishing the swales, evaluating what culverts need replacing and sodding, the cost would be about $275,000, he said. Asphalt paving would add about $171,000, which would eliminate the need for grading.
Las Flores roads, at about 3,200 linear feet each, would cost more, considering swales that need to be cut and culverts to be installed.
“For both of those roads combined, it would be roughly $450,000 — $225,000 a leg,” he said, adding that asphalt paving for those roads would add about $283,000.