On Thursday, Feb. 18, the Royal Palm Beach Village Council took up the matter of the fully operational ProTek Automotive, a vehicle repair and performance shop on Business Parkway. The business needed a special exception request from the village before opening and was seeking to obtain the proper licensing, retroactively.
The matter appeared before the Royal Palm Beach Planning & Zoning Commission in January and was recommended for denial amid an array of complaints about the business from its neighbors.
However, during the ensuing three weeks, proprietor Amar Patel tuned-up his interpersonal skills and took the opportunity to meet with all his surrounding neighbors, many who had complained. This time around, they showed up to recommend approval of the request.
Patel stressed to the council that his business doesn’t use nitrous oxide fuel, a danger many speakers had worried about at the previous meeting. He also said that the noise and speeding are not from his business, and that all the cars they test are licensed for roadway use and only use the surrounding parking lot and Business Parkway to and from State Road 7 for test drives. “I spoke with all the neighbors and addressed their concerns,” he told the council.
Planning & Zoning Director Bradford O’Brien reaffirmed that the applicant meets the criteria for the special exemption use within the industrial park area.
Several speakers remarked that the situation has improved in the past few weeks and there was general support for allowing the business to remain.
“The speeding is terrifying. The noise is really loud, but my real concern is the speed,” said Kevin Gillum, owner of Buckeye Plumbing and president of the area’s business association. “It has gotten better since the [Planning & Zoning Commission] meeting. The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office went to some businesses and told them they would be looking into it. We are looking into the process to have speed bumps installed.”
Mayor Fred Pinto explored the possibility of adding conditions to the approval but did not want to shut down an existing business. “We like our small businesses in Royal Palm Beach,” he said.
Vice Mayor Jeff Hmara was also supportive but stressed that Patel must continue to build on the understanding he has reached with his neighbors. “Something must have changed in the past few weeks for all the people to say that things have gotten better,” he said.
For Patel, the key was communication. “Honestly, the only change that has been made so far is I went to all the neighbors and introduced myself and talked to them, and said if they had any problems, come see me,” he said.
Councilman Richard Valuntas was not happy that the approval was being sought retroactively. “They brought problems on themselves by not getting all the approvals before they moved in,” he said.
Hmara recommended that Patel get involved with the property owners’ association and stay involved. “That’s a good, healthy way of getting involved with your neighbors,” he said. “I’m not at all convinced that this business is at the heart of some of the complaints we’ve heard about traffic and speeding.”
The request was approved unanimously with Pinto recommending that in the future, the business follow the rules.
In other business:
• State Sen. Bobby Powell (D-District 30), whose district covers Royal Palm Beach, made a Zoom visit to the meeting with a brief PowerPoint presentation to update the village and to answer any questions about the upcoming session in Tallahassee.
Powell said that last year, funding for Royal Palm Beach Commons Park improvements were approved, but that the governor vetoed the measure. He said the effort would continue this session.
“For 2021, the major session issues are anti-protest, police reform, unemployment, education, mental health and COVID-19,” Powell said.
• Several public hearings were held with no members of the public offering comment and each passing unanimously with little council comment.
One is a measure adopting business tax, registration and regulations on food trucks in the village. The second adopted landscaping and vegetation management regulations. Village Manager Ray Liggins said that it was an effort to make landscaping more “do-it-yourselfer” friendly, adopting requirements for smaller replacement vegetation.
The final two public hearings were first readings regarding amending the administration of the village’s code of ordinances and the village’s building regulations.
• Finally, the council approved a proclamation declaring March as Royal Palm Beach Bicycle Month and invited residents to enjoy the village’s bike trails. It was also announced that the next council meeting, scheduled for Thursday, March 18, will begin earlier, at 6 p.m. with an organizational meeting.