Royal Palm Beach Council Approves Corridor Study For SR 7

The Royal Palm Beach Village Council held its annual reorganizational meeting on Thursday, March 18. At the meeting, council members Jan Rodusky and Richard Valuntas, who were returned to the council without opposition, were sworn-in for new two-year terms, with Valuntas being immediately tapped for the largely ceremonial role of vice mayor.

A number of key staff positions were reappointed before the council adjourned and then reconvened for its regular meeting, during which Mayor Fred Pinto suggested that the council work with the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council to develop a State Road 7 Corridor Study.

Village Manager Ray Liggins said that working with the TCRPC on the nearly one-year-long project would cost about $110,000, which could be covered out of the existing budget. The council may need to revisit the future topic of adjusting the budget to provide money to replace the expenditure. “This could be brought before the council later,” he said.

Liggins explained that the marketplace has been changing, even more so due to the year-long pandemic. “If retail is changing, we want to look at if we need any more big-box stores,” he mentioned as one example.

Liggins said that if Royal Palm Beach didn’t establish a plan, the corridor would be “planned” by developers. “The study will help us decide if there will be any changes to [current] property from what we had originally approved,” he said.

Pinto explained that the TCRPC proposal would allow the village to move forward immediately. “We can alleviate a lot of the pain that could come with continued growth on the corridor,” he said. “I think the proposal is a good way to start.”

Councilwoman Selena Samios verified that there would be public meetings to give residents an opportunity to comment on the plan.

Pinto said that there would be several meetings but conveyed a sense of urgency.

“The marketplace is literally shifting under our feet,” he said. “America is rewriting their plan, but their business models are telling them they need to move in a different direction to maintain a highest and best use of their property, and the clock is moving,” he said.

The corridor is centered around the intersection of SR 7 and Southern Blvd., one of the busiest in Palm Beach County.

“We need guidance and assistance to make decisions as a council, so the sooner we can move forward, the sooner we can have the plan completed,” Pinto said.

The consensus was that development of the plan is a good idea and, after some additional discussion, the measure was approved unanimously.

“The entire shift of the commercial realm has changed,” Valuntas said. “And some of the commercial in the corridor is aging.”

In other business:

• The council received a presentation of its most recent independent audit, which yielded the highest rating. The audit for fiscal year 2019-20’s $81 million budget was shown to have used good-quality investments that will mature within five years, and the village is in good shape. It was pointed out that without any new revenues, Royal Palm Beach could continue to operate and cover all its bills for years into the future. The audit revealed no problems or material issues.

• The Feeding South Florida food distribution at Royal Palm Beach Commons Park has served more than 35,000 families since its inception. “It is a great effort, and we have every reason to be proud of it,” Councilman Jeff Hmara said. “It’s supposed to continue for the foreseeable future.”

• The Royal Palm Beach Writers Group visited to thank the council for a funding loan the first year they prepared their book, Spectrum, an anthology of local writers’ work. The club repaid the loan after the first year, and the current year’s edition has funded the book’s annual publishing ever since.

• There was a second reading and public hearing for the village’s code enforcement fee schedule. No one showed up to comment, and the measure passed unanimously.