The Loxahatchee Groves Town Council took a large step forward last month in solving the long-running access issues at Little Turtle Creek. During a Tuesday, March 30 special meeting, the council voted 5-0 to accept a grant of land from the Larson family to build a road around the edge of their property that will give 43rd Road North residents access to 145th Avenue North.
The Larson family also agreed to commit a minimum of $59,000 and a maximum of $70,000 to the project, which will run alongside the eastern and southern boundaries of their 25-acre parcel.
Leaders of Loxahatchee Groves and the neighboring Indian Trail Improvement District are hoping this brings to a close the multi-year issue of unapproved crossovers to gain access to ITID’s 140th Avenue North.
ITID has been cracking down on unpermitted connections to the roadway, last year closing a popular cut-through from 140th Avenue North in The Acreage to North Road in Loxahatchee Groves. ITID is also battling with the City of Westlake and developer Minto over connections to the roadway.
The question before the council was, “how do we fix this problem to assure that our residents have ingress and egress through the town they pay taxes to,” Town Manager Jamie Titcomb said. “This [agreement] would provide unambiguous and permanent access to their property.”
Some 43rd Road North residents opposed the agreement, including former Councilman Jim Rockett, who came to the podium during the public comment portion of the meeting. He presented the council with several letters from neighbors who did not favor a change.
Rockett described the unpermitted crossover to ITID’s 140th Avenue North as “not just a road, but a lifeline.” He said forcing residents to use 145th Avenue North as an alternative would create a significant inconvenience for residents, adding to and sometimes doubling or tripling travel time to jobs, school and doctors’ offices.
“Removing access to 140th is not an option,” Rockett insisted, but that argument was moot, and even he knew it.
ITID Executive Director Burgess Hanson already had told the council that the district’s supervisors were not interested in extending the temporary interlocal agreement that had allowed the crossover to 140th to remain open.
While not confrontational, Hanson made it clear that he and ITID President Betty Argue were not there to negotiate, but to firmly share the district’s intention to remove the temporary gate and the crossover, installing a solid guardrail.
“This has nothing to do with any vendetta against Loxahatchee Groves,” Hanson said. “Our taxpayers… our roads have been severely impacted [by non-resident traffic]. We will protect our roads.”
That left the Loxahatchee Groves council with little choice but to accept the agreement with the Larson family. The only real question remaining was who will do the work?
Four proposals were put before the council ranging from $59,000 submitted by the town’s public works department to $139,775 by Wynn & Sons Environmental Construction. With the commitment from the Larson family in play, that meant if the public works proposal were accepted, the road might be built at no monetary cost to the town.
The ensuing discussion set off another of the frequent wrangles between Councilwoman Phillis Maniglia and Public Works Director Larry Peters, who assured the council that his crew could do the work for the price quoted.
Even if that proved that to be so, something Maniglia said was unlikely, she asserted it still was no bargain because it took the department’s sparse human resources away from maintaining other roads.
In the end, the council accepted the in-house proposal on a 3-2 vote after it was agreed that rather than a dirt topping, asphalt millings would be used. Councilwoman Laura Danowski joined Maniglia in voting against accepting the in-house proposal.