Lox Committee Supports Land Use Change For B Road Property

The Loxahatchee Groves Planning & Zoning Committee, meeting as the Local Planning Agency, recommended approval Tuesday, Dec. 10 of a land use amendment that would change the land use of almost 15 acres on the east side of B Road from agricultural residential to mixed-use commercial. The change would allow a feed store fronting on B Road to operate once again.

The land, owned by resident Seth Brier, is surrounded on three sides by commercial uses: Loxahatchee Groves Commons to the west; the Groves Town Center that has been approved for a future Wawa convenience store, Aldi grocery store and bank to the south; and a future senior living facility to the east.

Planning consultant Jim Fleischmann explained that the item before the committee was a proposed large-scale land use map amendment and three special policies to add to the future land use element of the comprehensive plan.

“The project’s name is 444/556 B Road LLC, and it encompasses two parcels of land on the east side of B Road directly across from Palm Beach State College and 1,000 feet north of Southern Blvd.,” Fleischmann said.

Attorney Al Malefatto said the applicant is looking to change the use of the property from rural residential to commercial.

“I’m here to tell you why you should support our request,” Malefatto said. “It’s a matter of fairness, really — fairness to the property owner and respect for the property owner’s property rights. The subject property is now surrounded on three sides either built or approved and coming.”

He said the entire area was rural residential at one time, but more than 200 acres has since been approved for commercial development. “Now it’s all commercial or institutional except for my client’s property and the Red Clover Nursery immediately to his north,” Malefatto said.

He noted that in July 2017, the town passed a special policy that allowed Brier to ask for the land use and zoning amendment, even though his property fronts B Road rather than Southern or Okeechobee boulevards, as required by the town for commercial operations.

“With this special policy, we’re permitted now to have this property also rezoned,” Malefatto said. “That was done because of the fact that the property is surrounded by development. That was the correct first step. It has been a while. It has been two years for us to get here, but now we’re asking you to complete the job and recommend approval of our request, consistent with the surrounding land uses.”

Planner Josh Nichols, representing Brier, said they did not want to set a precedent with any other part of the town.

“What’s unique about this is that Mr. Brier’s site is an anomaly,” Nichols said, explaining that the special policy approved by the council provides that commercial development cannot creep farther north on B Road. “From a precedent-setting standpoint, this would not do that.”

He described the existing uses on the Brier property, with commercial stables on the east side that fit in with rural residential uses, a wholesale nursery, an equestrian riding ring, several residential units, a wholesale/retail nursery and general retail sales on the west side of the property, explaining that the retail sales was the impetus for the request for the land use change.

Nichols added that the applicant has reduced his square footage from the original request for a mixed commercial land use.

“We took a step back, and we said we’ll do the entire property as commercial low,” he said. “The commercial low takes up the entire 14.74 acres, and what we did instead of having a conservation land use at the north end, we did an equestrian trail easement.”

Brier said the basis for his application was to be able to run an equestrian feed store in an equestrian-oriented town. His store was shut down for noncompliance with the town policy prohibiting the operation of retail businesses that do not front on Southern or Okeechobee boulevards, although he has business licenses from the county. If approved, he plans to open other equestrian-oriented stores.

The committee spent almost two hours discussing the details of the request, but Committee Alternate Veronica Close finally made a motion to approve the application, but restrict commercial low uses to the southwest quadrant, allowing 30,000 square feet of space, of which no more than 7,500 square feet can be retail space, with the remainder be allowed for retail storage space. The balance of the property would remain agricultural residential and conservation. Any nonconforming or illegal uses would remain in place until the property is rezoned and developed. Her motion carried 4-1 with Chair William Bell dissenting over concern for additional potential commercial uses on the property.

The application will now go before the Loxahatchee Groves Town Council for consideration and, if approved, to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity for its opinion, and then back to the council for final approval.