The Loxahatchee Groves Town Council gave the go-ahead Tuesday, April 6 to continue plans for development of the Groves Town Center shopping plaza at the northeast corner of Southern Blvd. and B Road.
The decision came on a 5-0 vote after the developers — Solar Sportsystems and Brightwork — satisfied the council’s concerns about a 2.8-acre retention pond being constructed behind the plaza as a buffer between the commercial project and the nearby residents of Collecting Canal Road.
During a presentation to the council, Matthew Barnes, representing the developers, pointed out that more trees had been added to the plan, including numerous oaks and palms, and that an equestrian/pedestrian trail around the perimeter of the lake will be provided as promised.
“I just want to make sure they retain the water on their property,” Councilwoman Phillis Maniglia said after the meeting. “Otherwise, I hope the horse trail is something everyone will be able to use and enjoy.”
Besides its value as a buffer and recreational element, Barnes said, the pond, which is connected to the area’s canal system, “does have real benefit, in terms of water storage and water filtration.”
An Aldi’s supermarket is the first business to open on the 90-acre parcel. A Wawa market with a gas station is planned nearby, and a number of other uses have been discussed for the rest of the parcel, including an assisted living facility.
Thinking ahead to further development along Southern Blvd., Councilwoman Marianne Miles said, “I hope other businesses will want to put in trails throughout the area.”
Mayor Robert Shorr and Maniglia expressed concern that by giving the developers the overall move-forward in their project, the council might have missed an opportunity to apply pressure regarding a promised bridge from Collecting Canal Road across the canal to the recreational trail. Using relief granted by the state as part of the COVID-19 emergency declaration, the developers postponed the construction of the bridge, Maniglia said.
Also approved unanimously at the meeting was the initial construction plan for an indoor storage facility on the north side of Southern Blvd. between the Shell gas station and the Loxahatchee AG Market.
James Lockhart of Lockhart Storage Centers and Bradley Miller of Urban Design Studio were on hand to describe the project, which would be a single three-story building — designed to look like a two-story structure — on 2.5 acres.
“It will look like an office building from the outside,” Miller told the council.
Both men assured the council that all of the storage units would be internal with no outside units or other types of storage planned. However, before approving the plan, the council instructed town staff to add the word “indoor” before all references to the storage facility.
The plan also would leave a natural buffer of native plants behind the facility, retain the large live oak on the property and establish an equestrian trail on the north side.
Shorr expressed concerns about how the proposed trail would be accessed and the need for a planned gated emergency entrance to the property off of Tangerine Drive. He said he would be looking for more details before voting for final approval.
Others, including at least one member of the public, shared concerns that the facility would generate crime in the area. However, Lockhart said that because all the storage is indoors, and the extensive use of cameras and recording equipment, crime has never been a problem at any of the facilities operated by his company.
Maniglia said she hoped the new facility would actually help cut down on loitering, public drinking and public intoxication, which she said is a problem in the area.
“I hope it can help clean-up the face of Southern Blvd.,” Maniglia said.
In the end, Maniglia said she supported the project because, “it’s on Southern Blvd., which is our commercial area. It’s a low-impact business, and the storage is needed.”
Lockhart has significant experience in the self-storage market, according to his company web site. A map on the site pinpoints some 17 projects in which the company is involved, predominately in Florida, but also in Tennessee, Oklahoma and Arizona.