Tuttle Returns To RPB With Additional Charter School Request

The Royal Palm Beach Village Council thanks Village Manager Ray Liggins for his 20 years of service. (L-R) Councilman Richard Valuntas, Councilwoman Selena Samios, Liggins, Mayor Fred Pinto, Vice Mayor Jan Rodusky and Councilman Jeff Hmara.

Developer Brian Tuttle returned to the Royal Palm Beach Village Council on Thursday, Oct. 17 with new information and requests regarding his Tuttle Royale project on the south side of Southern Blvd. just west of State Road 7.

“Last month, I expressed some concerns about scheduling and getting some of the projects moving along in the Tuttle Royale project, and I’m here with what I consider very good news. We had a meeting that [Village Manager] Ray [Liggins] set up,” Tuttle said. “[Village Engineer] Chris Marsh did a very good job. He presented a complete, very detailed schedule of what we needed to do to get all the roads going.”

Tuttle was pleased overall but asked for a change related to the planned charter school at the site.

“The charter school is very committed to this site,” Tuttle said, adding a potential challenge of moving forward while the roads were unfinished, since the charter school is zoned as commercial property. “You can’t get your building permit until the roads are done. The charter school won’t be able to get a building permit and being construction for almost two years. That presents a problem.”

Tuttle noted that several schools in the area are overcapacity or nearing capacity and that getting the charter school up and running quickly is important.

“We would propose a very minor code modification that would be a laser point to a PCD [planned commercial district], which would say for charter schools or schools, you can get a building permit the same time you can as in residential units. In theory, when the residential units are done, the charter school is done,” he said.

Village Manager Ray Liggins responded with a clarification on the expected schedule.

“There is good news that the schedule we worked out with [Tuttle] has the infrastructure being completed by November 2020. The opening for the school is scheduled for August 2021,” Liggins said. “That gives them 10 months to get the school built and be open in time to get the kids there. I don’t think this is time to talk about changing the rules.”

Councilman Jeff Hmara did not believe that school capacity is as pressing an issue as Tuttle suggested. “I haven’t seen the numbers this year, but last year, our elementary schools were between 90 and 100 percent capacity. The middle schools were around 60 percent. The high schools usually fluctuate between 100 and 104 percent of capacity,” Hmara said, adding that the school district does not consider adjusting boundaries or making changes until capacity is around 140 percent.

“I respect that, but we deal in certainties,” Tuttle replied. “We have a bird in the hand, and he’s ready to go. If the charter school can’t get a permit until November or December of next year, they’re not going to close until there’s certainty. If the schedule gets delayed, we have more problems, and they could miss that next school year. I’m trying to bring certainty to a process.”

Liggins voiced concerns of a school being built, and then remaining empty or needing to be torn down. “I will do everything I can to keep the council out of that position,” he said.

Councilman Richard Valuntas also noted that residential projects have been delayed before, such as with Cypress Key, which was approved and sat unbuilt for 15 years.

“I can’t see why the village would go down a path where it doesn’t create any certainty for the village,” Valuntas said. “I don’t think what you have here is going to create a better situation for the village. We are taking the risk, and it doesn’t make sense to change the rules.”

Councilwoman Selena Samios concurred with other members of the council in that the schedule appeared to provide a solid timeline with several months to spare for issues.

“We are with you. We all agree with how important this is to the village,” Mayor Fred Pinto said. “In terms of your partner being nervous, have them come talk to us to get a better comfort level.”

Tuttle advised the council that the charter school would be giving a presentation in the future about the council being in violation of state law if they do not issue the permit.

“We should sit down and talk about those issues before there is any grandstanding,” Pinto replied.

In other business:

• The council took a moment to recognize a key employee for reaching the milestone of 20 years with the village.

“It’s not just any employee, it’s the head of the team. It’s to recognize Ray Liggins for being with the village for the fastest 20 years I’ve ever seen. He started on Oct. 18, 1999 as the village engineer, the day after Hurricane Irene,” Pinto said. “They were looking for someone who had the expertise in implementing stormwater management solutions. We had flooding problems in those days. Since then, we have implemented a very capable stormwater management system. In 2010, Ray became village manager. We thank you for your work over the last 20 years.”

Liggins said that it has been a great 20 years. “It was a great community when I got here, and we had a lot of goals,” he said. “The financial foundation was put in place, and we only made that stronger. We have a few more key projects to finish, and I’m looking forward to getting those done.”

• The council approved the rezoning of two tracts of land that are part of the Tuttle Royale project to be used for a park. The only public comment came from Donna Mays, who lives nearby and expressed concerns over development and lighting of the space.

Liggins said that the land will be used for a future park.

“The village will build the park. We have it currently five years from now and will go through a public process and get input from Victoria Grove and build something that you’ll be proud of,” he said.

• The council voted to approve a variance application by Michael Feoli to allow for reduced side and rear setbacks on three shade structures built at his home on Westmont Lane with only HOA approval, not village approval.

Feoli explained they had no idea of the need for additional approval and put up the structures for the benefit of their son with special needs.

“The mitigating circumstance was not of their making,” Pinto said. “The neighbors are fine with it. Let’s follow the recommendation and approve the application as submitted.”

• The council also approved a variance to allow a pool with an 8.18-foot rear setback in lieu of the required 13-foot setback for a home in the Huntington Woods area, provided the owner accepted a special condition not to build an enclosure over the pool. The purpose is to avoid having any structure higher than the privacy fence in place.

• The council also approved a variance application for a shed at a home on Misty Lane in Counterpoint Estates. Randall Ives asked for the reduced setback for a shed he is using to house a golf cart as part of the neighborhood watch program.