The Loxahatchee Groves Town Council gave frank feedback to a new proposal by Southern Crossings that was abandoned in 2008 and now proposes to add commercial retail uses to the previously approved professional office project.
Southern Crossings is a largely vacant parcel that stretches from Southern Blvd. to Tangerine Drive between E Road and Loxahatchee Avenue. The applicant received approval for a 28,000-square-foot commercial project in 2006, but that fell by the wayside when the recession hit in 2008.
Bradley Miller with Urban Design Studio said agreements had been reached with the owners of two parcels on Tangerine to become part of the project. However, one agricultural residential owner at the northeast corner of the parcel did not cooperate.
“We do this as a planned development, which your code allows for, where it can be platted into several parcels, but can have several different ownerships,” Miller said. “We’re planning this as a planned unit development for commercial development, and it requires a master plan. It requires us to have a workshop with you, which is why I am here tonight.”
The new proposal includes an expanded water retention area and ecological area on the north side of the property, as well as a 25-foot buffer on Tangerine opposite residences on the north side of Tangerine.
It includes a continuation of the horse trail on Tangerine from the west to Loxahatchee Groves Park to the east. Access is proposed as a right-in only from Southern Blvd. with exits to E Road as a right turn only, and ingress/egress on Loxahatchee Avenue.
The plan calls for five 4,000-square-foot buildings connected by one roofline to the front of the property that would be available for small business owners, similar to another line of buildings to the north. Parking would be in the middle of the site.
The planned unit development allows the applicant to request waivers, Miller said, in this case to ask that a portion of the parking spaces be reduced to the size of many other municipalities, rather than the oversize parking the town requires to allow large trucks.
Councilwoman Phillis Maniglia said she would prefer a 100-foot buffer to the north separating the project from the nearby homes.
“This is a neighborhood,” she said. “There are people living on the other side of this. “You’re part of Groves Town Center, and you’ve been very accommodating, but this is a 25-foot buffer.”
Maniglia added that there is a section of the site that would remain zoned agricultural residential.
“There is a house there that obviously he has held out and not sold to you guys,” she said, adding that she was concerned that the planned retention pond next to him would turn into a mosquito pit.
Maniglia said she believes there is still a need for office buildings, rather than retail.
Miller said the project is marketing for office uses, but a mixed use would open it to other uses, although they would be willing to strike through any undesirable uses.
Mayor Lisa El-Ramey said she was concerned about the right-turn in only from Southern Blvd., which she said would intensify traffic on Loxahatchee Avenue and E Road, and that the new application adds almost 7,000 square feet to the application.
Planning Consultant Jim Fleischmann said the applicant had asked for more commercial uses because there was not much of a demand for office space currently.
El-Ramey felt it was not the town’s responsibility to grant more retail space because there was not a current demand for office use, and the council had granted a lot of retail uses on Southern Blvd. “You’re just going to be looking at another Military Trail,” she said.
Town Manager Jamie Titcomb said the message he was hearing from the discussion that evening was that the applicant and other commercial applicants fronting Tangerine Drive should include a 100-foot buffer along Tangerine.