After an hour of heated discussion, a divided Loxahatchee Groves Town Council approved drainage projects on North B Road last week to help preserve tons of rock that have been placed on the road in recent months.
The 3-2 vote at the Tuesday, Jan. 7 council meeting was regarding four projects at 3056, 3120, 3254 and 3276 B Road, but the address that received the most discussion was at 3056 B Road, where the property owner has requested rerouting the proposed easement around trees and reinstalling irrigation and fences. The total cost for the four properties is estimated at $85,800. More than a dozen other drainage projects not on B Road were listed but have not yet been evaluated for cost.
At the meeting, Town Engineer Larry Peters said drainage is the most important part of improving all roads in the town.
“If we can’t drain the roadways, we’re going to continue to have problems,” Peters said, explaining that he was having problems with some property owners on B Road who were reluctant to give up strips of easement along the road to allow for drainage projects.
“In the past, you’ve approved several drainage structures,” he said. “At this time, we’re requesting two additional addresses. The first one is at 3056 B Road, and the cost estimate is $20,237. The circumstances here are that the resident agreed to give us an easement for drainage, but she said, ‘You’re going to have to guarantee that my trees don’t die.’ We couldn’t do that.”
The proposed easement runs the 330-foot length of the property.
“She suggested that she get her landscaper to do the pruning of the trees and to put in irrigation to save the trees, and she would expect that the amount of monies that were in the original cost would be taken out, and we would share the cost of that,” Peters explained. “Unfortunately, we don’t know exactly what the cost is at this point in time. At the very bottom of the proposal, it states that it’s not to exceed $10,000.”
Councilwoman Phillis Maniglia was reluctant for the town to engage in cost sharing with residents to improve their property when it did not contribute to improving the road, especially in light of many other easements that are needed in town to improve road drainage. She suggested installing several 10-foot-by-10-foot drainage areas in lieu of making an easement along the whole length of the property.
“I don’t want to put in people’s fences. We’re just pulling out of having zero funds,” Maniglia said. “This is setting a precedent.”
Mayor Robert Shorr said installing smaller drains will not accomplish the water retention that has been discussed, and Peters agreed.
“The design is to allow the entire roadway for the length of the property to drain into a swale and filter through the swale to a catch basin,” Peters said.
Town Attorney Brian Shutt said writing a document guaranteeing that the property owner would not lose her trees would be difficult, and Peters said that was not what staff wants. Shorr explained that the property owner would be hiring the landscaper to trim and irrigate the trees, and she would accept responsibility. “We just need that in writing if we move forward,” he said.
Peters reiterated that the roads would not stand up if the drainage projects are not completed to specifications.
Drainage contractor George Perez said that all the projects are site specific and have unique problems to overcome.
“On this one, the original estimate was $26,000 because we had to deal with some fencing,” Perez said. “We normally remove any trees, and we remove and relocate any fencing. I took that out of the amount to get to the $20,000… We were going to reroute this swale to try to save some trees. In the past, we have been just removing trees, and these were far enough back and large enough where we might be able to sink a swale through there.”
He added that since the original contract was agreed to, the property owner has pressed for more conditions, including new fencing rather than relocating the existing fence, and installing irrigation to preserve the existing trees.
“I don’t know what these extras are,” Perez said. “I gave you a drainage price just to dry that area out, which includes one basin and 330 feet of swale.”
Town Manager Jamie Titcomb said this job is one of the final drainage projects for B Road, and it had been delayed because it had special conditions to satisfy.
Councilwoman Laura Danowski said she agreed that the council should pay the original cost estimate and let the property owner do the other modifications, and the town would pay half the cost. However, Peters said the town does not have a final agreement, and he had referred it to the council for direction.
Shorr agreed with Danowski on paying the basic cost, but there were other costs that had not been finalized.
“There’s so many other variables that we don’t even really see,” he said. “So, I think if we do approve the $20,237 for the catch basin, we’re sending a message to her that we want to invest in that part of it, because we don’t have an easement agreement. I guess she’s waiting to see if we even approve it.”
Peters also pointed out that the other three properties, owned by the same resident who owns a nursery, must be re-fenced for the owner to maintain security. He was willing to pay for half of the cost.
Maniglia made a motion to table the proposal to the February meeting for other options, but the motion failed 3-2.
Shorr made a motion to approve $74,353, with provisions for the town to share the cost of fencing on the nursery property, which carried 3-2 with Councilwoman Lisa El-Ramey and Maniglia opposed.