The Indian Trail Improvement District Board of Supervisors ratified a local legislative bill last month that would authorize ITID to conduct an incorporation study.
ITID President Betty Argue presented the proposed bill to the Palm Beach County Legislative Delegation on Oct. 3. The delegation asked for some changes and approved the local bill subject to those changes, and the board approved the final version on Oct. 23.
The bill authorizes ITID to study the potential conversion of the district to a municipality, Argue told the Town-Crier on Wednesday.
“We specifically want to look at the feasibility of converting the district to a municipality,” she said. “This bill will allow us to do that, and it will allow us to do a charter and hold community meetings. If the electorate wishes, it can then petition the district to hold a referendum on incorporation, but we would have to have that petition before we could call a referendum.”
Argue said that the ITID board had approved a preliminary reading of the local bill before it took it to the legislative delegation for approval, which put it on the legislative agenda for approval.
“There were some minor changes during the whole process, so [Oct. 23] was a second reading with the changes that were presented to the local delegation, in which we had unanimous support,” she said.
The bill still needs to go through the legislative process in Tallahassee and be passed by the legislature and signed by the governor.
Previous efforts to explore Acreage incorporation by private entities have failed, but Argue pointed out that this study would convert ITID into a municipality.
“What we’re proposing is different than what has been done in the past. The past efforts have been private efforts, not necessarily ones sanctioned that had Indian Trail on board for,” she said. “In particular, the efforts from the PLAN [Preserve the Lifestyle of The Acreage Now] organization two or three years ago. Indian Trail is 110 square miles. They were only trying to incorporate 38 square miles of The Acreage proper, and they were trying to make Indian Trail dependent on them.”
Argue said that proposal left out a huge portion of the district.
“How do you deal with that? And the legislature had a problem with that, because we’re authorized, and we do provide services to people outside of what’s considered The Acreage,” Argue explained. “This proposal would convert the special district to a municipality, if it were passed in a referendum. It would convert the district into a municipality just like Minto did [with Westlake], and we would be required to have a sunset date of the district. So, the special district would cease to exist by a date certain that would be set out in the charter, and that would all be part of the feasibility and the charter discussion when we go through that.”
She pointed out that The Acreage has at least 45,000 residents who do not currently have a voice in the land planning and zoning that affects the community, other than through Palm Beach County.
“We have a unique community identity, and the best way to protect it is through incorporation,” Argue said, adding that potential new non-assessed income, such as gas tax revenue and state revenue sharing, would help fund a municipality. “All of those things are added benefits that would help us to do the things that we need to do.”
On the other hand, a feasibility study might show that incorporation is not a good idea, she stressed.
“The board would vote on that after the feasibility study is done, and we’d decide whether or not it’s feasible,” Argue said. “Then it would be up to the residents to decide. We’ve never had a referendum, and the people should have that opportunity to speak at the ballot.”
Argue noted that the proposed bill removes overlapping boundaries of surrounding municipalities, which will be assessed separately for services that ITID supplies.
“Rather than them being within the boundaries of the district, it will be through an interlocal service agreement with their governments,” Argue said.
During the Oct. 23 board meeting, resident Alex Larson submitted a comment card indicating that she felt Indian Trail should not be looking at incorporation.
“This item was looked into years ago,” Larson wrote. “We just have to look at the problems around us. Also, I do not think everyone sees the cost to the taxpayers. We will have to have commercial and ULDC problems, which will screw us up even more than we ever could imagine.”
During the meeting, Argue said that she would speak to Larson on the subject.
“I will talk with her so that she understands that this is not the same as before, but everyone is entitled to their opinions,” she said. “And one of the things that I do know is that I have an open mind, and all this is doing is allowing us to do a feasibility study.”