On Tuesday, May 5, a divided Loxahatchee Groves Town Council decided not to allow the appointment of one non-resident landowner to the town’s Planning & Zoning Committee
When the ordinance allowing the change came up for its second and final reading, the council voted against it on a 3-2 vote. The ordinance had passed unanimously at its preliminary reading.
Councilman Robert Shorr made a motion to approve the ordinance, adding that he had acquired information from the property appraiser’s tax rolls showing that of 1,560 properties in town, 1,079 had the owners living there and 484 had owners living elsewhere.
“This allows one seat on a committee of seven to represent these property owners who don’t live here, and in my opinion, it should be diverse,” Shorr said. “There should be a merger of different people from different points of view to come together and discuss different options.”
Shorr reminded council members that the committee’s votes are advisory in nature. “The council makes the final decision,” he said.
Councilwoman Phillis Maniglia said putting a persuasive person on a board of lay persons could be unbalanced.
“Our residents are basically lay people,” Maniglia said. “I feel this is opening up the door to a developer on our committees,” she said.
Councilwoman Laura Danowski said she felt the purpose of the advisory boards are for the presentation of ideas, pointing out that she had been shown plans and homes by property owners who have their legal residences listed elsewhere that enhanced the appearance and value of Loxahatchee Groves.
“We’re not handing over the keys to the town to a developer,” she said, adding that she has also seen presentations from developers that usurped the tenets of the town.
Vice Mayor Marge Herzog said she saw nothing wrong with having non-resident landowners attend and participate in the meetings, but she did not feel they needed to sit on the advisory boards.
Mayor Lisa El-Ramey said she was concerned that the 31 percent of landowners who do not live in Loxahatchee Groves own 41 percent of the property.
“I think that we’ve already moved forward on committees that we are allowing non-resident landowners to sit on,” El-Ramey said. “I think perhaps this year, we wait it out and see how that performance goes.”
In an e-mail to the council, Roadways, Equestrian, Trails & Greenway Committee Member Paul Coleman reiterated his comments at the first reading that he objected to having a non-resident on any board.
“If the council approves the revision of this ordinance to allow non-citizens of the Town of Loxahatchee Groves to reside on any committee, let alone the P&Z committee, it is opening the flood gates, enabling developers and/or their staff to help form the fabric of our town,” Coleman wrote.
Shorr’s motion failed 3-2 with Maniglia, El-Ramey and Herzog opposed.
In other business, the council approved the preliminary reading of an ordinance increasing the amount of procurement allowed by the town manager, but requiring that he provide a monthly report to the council of items between $10,000 and $25,000.