Charter School Plan Approved By Royal Palm Beach Council

At the Royal Palm Beach Village Council’s final meeting of the year, council members received a new presentation on the Tuttle Royale project, including both master plan and preliminary plat approvals, as well as approvals for a new charter school in the area.

The first of several applications regarding Tuttle Royale was for preliminary plat approval regarding a 156-acre parcel that is part of the larger development located along the south side of Southern Blvd., west of State Road 7.

Prior to the vote, the owners of the nearby Caruthers outparcel voiced concerns about retaining access to their property during and after construction. The parcel is in the process of being sold and developed into an assisted living facility. Caruthers representative Chip Carlson explained they have issues with the easement.

“The regulations of the village require that access be provided to outparcels,” Carlson said. “We have legitimate concerns with the nature and the quality of that access.”

Developer Brian Tuttle followed up with an explanation that, according to the village staff, including the village attorney, access was already guaranteed in writing.

“Voting on this plat tonight, that client [Caruthers] has access. There’s no question,” Mayor Fred Pinto said. “We don’t want disputes down the road, but what is clear to us is that you have access.”

The preliminary plat approval moved forward on a 5-0 vote.

The master plan for the 156-acre property will include six pods. Two are designated for commercial use, one for single-family residences, one will be deeded to the village for development into a public park and the final two pods are slated to become multi-family residential units. The plan includes an internal roadway.

Village staff and the Royal Palm Beach Planning & Zoning Commission recommended approval, and the request passed unanimously.

Details for the plan to build the charter school were presented to the council as a three-phase process. Phase one will build a 40,000-square-foot, two-story building to house students in kindergarten through eighth grade. The second phase will be the construction of a 37,000-square-foot high school, to be followed by a nearly 10,000-square-foot gymnasium.

Staff recommended approval of the plan with the condition the gym begin construction within 24 months of the school reaching an enrollment of 1,200 students. The capacity for the K-12 charter school will be 1,500 in total.

Councilwoman Selena Samios voiced concerns about a sports-themed school lacking a proper gymnasium.

“I understand the phasing, but if you have to wait for that capacity [1,200 students], you almost have to have the school at capacity. That’s my concern. Why you are not starting it earlier?” Samios asked.

Josh Nichols of the planning firm Schmidt Nichols provided details to the plan. “In phase one, where the gym is located, that’s a recreational area. We have two basketball courts and a soccer field. The cafeteria would be available at certain points of the day for other things,” he said.

Mark Rodberg, the developer behind the chain of Maverick charter schools in Florida, addressed the council’s concerns and explained the request for flexibility during building phases.

“It’s our desire to build out the whole campus upon demand. The 1,200 is just to be prudent if the FTE [full-time enrollment] drops, and if conditions with funding for public school changes. We would commit that it would commence within 12 months of reaching the 1,200 threshold. At most of the models, that all works. I agree there is nothing that drives enrollment like a beautiful, new gymnasium,” Rodberg said.

Councilwoman Jan Rodusky requested clarification on the theme of the school, having heard it is a “sports school,” a SLAM (sports leadership and management) school, as well as a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) or STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) school. Kendall Artusi stepped up to provide insight.

“The K-to-8 program is a Somerset Academy program, and it is a STEM or STEAM-based program, so the emphasis is on science and engineering, and we have a robotics component,” Artusi said. “The high school program would then go into the sports leadership management, a SLAM school. This is currently what we have at Somerset Lakes in West Palm Beach off of Summit Blvd. That’s a similar model. We have done the same situation there, and we used the multi-purpose cafeteria.”

The concept behind the phasing is to allow student enrollment to stabilize prior to taking on the cost of building the gym. Artusi explained that this strategy has worked across the country at other charter schools with great success.

Keith Davis spoke on behalf of the project.

“Early in her career, Kendall taught my children in a charter school. They are both success stories,” Davis said. “I can do nothing but vouch for Kendall, and I think any project she’s involved with, based on my experience, would be successful.”

There were also several comment cards from the public in support of the school. The council approved the application 5-0.

In other business:

• La Mancha resident Roger Moraitis addressed the council with concerns about speeding in the area.

“I’ve been here two years, and I can tell you the amount of speeding coming down my street going from where Okeechobee is to the roundabout is significant,” he said. “You have folks running the stop sign, definitely over 35 mph. I see kids riding their bikes, and I say a prayer for them, because if one of those folks blows that stop sign and there is a kid crossing the street, I cannot imagine what’s going to happen.”

Pinto noted that speeding in the area is not a new issue.

“We have the spurts of people not behaving traffic-wise,” Pinto said. “We rachet up traffic enforcement, and there is a momentary correction, and then is comes back again. There is a remedy in place that the community can come together and petition us for an analysis, and if the analysis is correct and we need to do something, we’ll make a design and present it to the community to vote on. You have to get a 50 percent plus one in favor.”

He recommended Moraitis contact the village manager for details.

• The council granted the village manager authority to enter into an agreement with REG Architects to provide design services for a new Village Hall building. The cost for design services should not exceed $448,139.

• The council approved variance requests for an existing shed and approved two other variance requests for existing pergolas.

• A resolution to amend the construction timeline for a recreation site in Lennar’s Bella Sera single-family development off Crestwood Blvd. was also approved.