RPB Council Reviews Additional Plans For Tuttle Royale Project

Guardian Ad Litem Visitor: Councilman Richard Valuntas, Councilwoman Selena Samios, Guardian Ad Litem program volunteer recruiter Christie Geltz, Mayor Fred Pinto, Vice Mayor Jan Rodusky and Councilman Jeff Hmara.

The Royal Palm Beach Village Council agenda on Thursday, Nov. 21 included four items associated with the continuing Tuttle Royale development on the south side of Southern Blvd., just west of State Road 7. Over the past year, items related to Tuttle Royale have dominated the council’s time.

The council began by approving Tuttle’s request to rezone two tracts of land for Royal Palm Beach public ownership. Totaling 13.44 acres, the land is designated for future recreational use.

The next item was a request to allow smaller unit sizes, offset by additional amenities offered to residents, at a 401-unit multifamily parcel on just over 29 acres.

Similar to what happened when the request was discussed at the Planning & Zoning Commission meeting, it included a presentation that led to both comments and questions from the council. Developer Brian Tuttle’s argument was that the market is not demanding the apartment sizes called for in the village’s code.

Councilman Jeff Hmara noted they have already approved similar requests twice.

“Because I dissented both times on those, I will do it again, because the units are so small,” Councilwoman Selena Samios said.

Mayor Fred Pinto also weighed-in to provide context on the issue.

“We’ve had other projects and units like this developed in the village. The marketplace is driving the size thing,” Pinto said. “These projects have been very successful. Amenities that come with that not only enrich the sub-area, but overall it really enriches the community.”

The request to allow the 401-unit plan, including smaller unit sizes, was ultimately approved 4-1, with Samios dissenting.

Also approved were variances for parking and a site plan reducing a landscape buffer requirement of 15 feet to 5 feet, due to there being a separation of a total of 25 feet when the easement space is included.

Tuttle addressed the council noting plans to open the recreation space to the general public for events.

“We are potentially buying out 1.8 acres of the recreation site. One of the options we will present is in the activity center, we are thinking of putting one to two acres of recreation space in the middle of that site. That would be open to the public,” Tuttle said. “We may have concerts or yoga, or different types of events for them to come and enjoy.”

Also at the meeting, the council heard volunteer recruiter Christie Geltz give a passionate presentation on behalf of the Guardian Ad Litem program. The program is designed to provide volunteer advocates for children who are separated from their home environment because of abuse, neglect or abandonment.

“I wanted to come out and introduce what we do and what we hope to accomplish,” Geltz said. “There are more than 1,700 children in foster care in Palm Beach County. We are the advocate and the voice for that child through the court system.”

Geltz further explained that volunteers sign up to be personal advocates for individual children. These volunteers become a stable presence in representing kids at school and with physicians, in addition to supporting them in court.

“Volunteer commitment is about 10 or 12 hours a month. I am hoping the community hears this and wants to jump in full blast. I would love to see you all get involved. We have 630 volunteers and more than 1,700 kids in foster care,” Geltz said. “Everything in [the child’s] life has been uprooted. Children are going through school and graduating because they have someone watching out for them.”

Samios mentioned that another way the community can help is to select the option to turn over the fees for attending jury duty to the program instead of receiving a personal payment.

“That’s a blessing for us,” Geltz said. “We are state funded. We don’t have the budget to go out and hire people to go out for funding, so we have a nonprofit called Speak Up for Kids. We are always looking for charitable donations, whether they are toys or books or games or sneakers, because these children are leaving their home a lot of times with nothing.”

For more information on the Guardian Ad Litem program, visit www.galpbc.org.

In other business:

• Pinto shared information on the Palm Beach Transportation Planning Agency’s transportation plan, which looks out to 2025.

“There was a spirited discussion that went on. The bottom line is by Dec. 12, the TPA must submit its updated plan, otherwise we are going to be defunded for certain projects,” Pinto said. “Our strategic planning really needs to be strategic. We don’t want folks 20 years from now to look back and say, ‘What were they thinking?’”

• The council also discussed a public request to post information about underage drinking. It was decided not to present an ordinance, since both the state and county already have ordinances regarding the sale of alcohol to underage buyers. Ultimately, the council opted to have staff draft a resolution to be presented at a later meeting so the council could show its support for local groups to reach out into the community on the issue.