The Acreage Landowners’ Association agreed Tuesday, March 10 to arrange a joint meeting with the Indian Trail Improvement District Board of Supervisors regarding the question of incorporation.
The decision was in the wake of the state legislature letting a proposed ITID charter amendment die in subcommittee recently that would have allowed the district to research the feasibility of incorporation.
“That will be on the ITID agenda for Wednesday, March 18, and the purpose of it would be for the ALA and Indian Trail to discuss the parameters and arrange a workshop to discuss what ITID would support,” ITID President Betty Argue told the Town-Crier on Wednesday.
At the Tuesday ALA meeting, President Bob Morgan said the ALA has a poll up on its Facebook group regarding having a feasibility study done on incorporation, which he said would be a step toward the possible incorporation of The Acreage community.
“It seems like we’re getting a lot of positives,” Morgan said. “We do have a few people who are against it. The problem is it’s quite expensive.”
He added that the web site questionnaire asks residents if they would be interested in donating toward a study on incorporation.
“Whether we get some crazy amount of $20,000, $30,000 or $40,000 is probably a pipe dream, but it’s out there,” Morgan said. “We’ll see what the consensus says. If it comes where people aren’t interested, we’ll drop the subject, and 10 years down the road we’ll try again.”
ITID Supervisor Tim Sayre, who was attending the meeting, said that 10 years would probably be too late to consider incorporation.
ALA Board Member Dixie Thiery said she would like to see some facts about incorporation, especially the financials.
“Let us know financially if it’s going to go,” Thiery said. “I would love to see what’s really going to happen… keep our own rules, keep our rural atmosphere — everybody seems to be arguing on Facebook about it.”
Argue, who was also at the Tuesday ALA meeting, said she had sent ALA members the results of a study done in 2016 by PLAN (Preserve the Lifestyle of The Acreage Now), a group that was originally created by the ALA at the time to study incorporation.
Sayre said the 2016 feasibility study would give all the numbers as far as how much tax base The Acreage would be entitled to.
“The census is going to help because it’s based on population,” he said, adding that a municipality also receives gas taxes based on miles of roads, franchise fees and other shared revenue.
Argue pointed out that there is an enormous amount of money just from the half-cent sales surtax approved by county voters in 2016 that ITID receives none of but municipalities do.
She added that the feasibility study done in 2016 is too old to be considered.
“A feasibility study has to be newer than two years old, so it needs to be updated,” Argue said. “There’s new data available.”
She said one problem with the 2016 study was that it considered only the 38 square miles that make up The Acreage, not the entirety of the Indian Trail Improvement District.
“It does not include outside of what they referred to as The Acreage census area,” Argue said. “There are other developed areas outside of that, that we’re currently working on bringing in as active units to Indian Trail. There’s also GL Homes west of 180th [Avenue North]. There’s many things to consider in terms of becoming a municipality.”
She noted that ITID’s total area is 110 square miles, but some of it is within other municipalities, which would have to be excluded. It also has vast areas that are not developed that she believes should be included.
“Your best possibility, in my opinion, to be sustainable long-term is to have the larger area, not the small area,” Argue said, explaining that some of that undeveloped area could be commercial, which she said is necessary for a sustainable municipality. “You need to have some commercial. That’s the thing that Loxahatchee Grove is struggling with — they don’t have enough commercial base.”
There are many other issues to be resolved, but none of them are insurmountable, Argue said, adding that the 2016 study might be a starting point at less cost if the study just needs updating.
Thiery said that Acreage residents often complain that they have no control over what the county approves, and Argue added that ITID also has no control over county planning or code enforcement policy. That could be solved through incorporation.
Argue said the bottom line on incorporation is that a municipality has home rule authority.
“That means that within the first year, you have the ability to set your own comprehensive plan,” she said. “What our community wants is a level of protection that we’re going to stay the way we are.”
The four ALA board members attending the meeting agreed by consensus to participate in a joint meeting with the ITID board when it is set.
The ITID board will consider potential dates at the March 18 meeting, if the board agrees.