Growth was the overarching subject of the Loxahatchee Groves Town Council meeting Tuesday, May 4, as the council approved three construction projects along Southern Blvd., something that did not please all in attendance.
In a process that began in August 2019, Lockhart Storage Centers was given final approval to move forward with its facility, which will be located on 2.5 acres between the Shell gas station and the Loxahatchee AG Market.
“These folks are in business to make money. I get that,” said Paul Coleman of nearby Tangerine Drive during the public comments. “But we have to live here.”
Bradley Miller of Urban Design Studio, representing Lockhart, countered that “the project offers good value for the town and the developer, and with very little impact.”
Also approved were two projects in the Groves Town Center plaza at the northeast corner of Southern Blvd. and B Road. Both are on the south, or Southern Blvd., side of the plaza.
Southern Palms Car Wash will be located in the parcel next to the planned Wawa gas station and convenience store on the southwest corner, and the Heartland Dental office will be two parcels farther east.
Councilwoman Phillis Maniglia expressed frustration that bays large enough for horse trailers and larger pickups were not included in the design. “That’s what we really need, what would really do well out here,” she said.
Maniglia was the only council member to vote against approval of the car wash.
Before final approval of Lockhart’s 710-unit indoor storage facility, the council requested two more concessions.
At the request of the council, Lockhart agreed to add a fire hydrant on the back, or north side, of the property near Tangerine Drive, where a secondary entrance will be constructed for use by emergency vehicles only and secured by a locked gate.
The council also added to its approval agreement a clause that requires Lockhart to provide private security to the location for a period of six months if the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office is called to the property more than 12 times in a month. The PBSO provides law enforcement services for the town.
James Lockhart, who owns storage facilities in several states, was on hand for the session and agreed readily to the first stipulation. He negotiated with council members — particularly Maniglia — as to the exact language of the security rider.
The discussion arose out of longstanding problems with homeless and intoxicated individuals using the property as a refuge. The concern is that they will continue to attempt to do so, forcing Lockhart employees to call law enforcement, and thus drive up the town’s contract with the PBSO, which already tops $600,000 annually, Maniglia explained.
“I live in that neighborhood, and it has been a nightmare,” she said, suggesting the clause become a standard part of all commercial construction project approvals in the town.
Attorney Martin Perry of the Palm Beach Gardens firm of Perry & Taylor rose to object to inclusion in the approval of a restriction banning similar storage facilities within two miles of Lockhart’s Southern Blvd. location.
Perry pointed out that the town has only three miles of frontage along the busy highway, thus the inclusion of the restriction would effectively deny his client, real estate broker and longtime Loxahatchee Groves resident Nancy Drysdale, use or sale of her property at the corner of Southern Blvd. and Loxahatchee Avenue for another storage facility.
Lockhart said he was ready to move forward without the restriction, but the council held firm.
Perry called the decision “unconstitutional.”
Mayor Robert Shorr said that the restriction applied only to a very specific type of indoor facility and would not preclude other types of storage facilities.
“We’re facing some hard times, and people are going to need storage,” Drysdale said after the meeting. “I love Loxahatchee Groves… [but this] was crushing for me. I’ve paid taxes on that property for 34 years… I can’t live in a town that doesn’t take care of their own.”
In one other piece of growth-related business, on a 3-2 vote, the council approved variances for the Aldi supermarket already operating in the Groves Town Center plaza allowing it to increase the size of its signs.
The variance will allow the primary wall sign facing Southern to go from a maximum of 36 square feet to a maximum of 75 square feet, and the secondary wall sign facing B Road to go from a maximum of 18 square feet to a maximum of 75 square feet.
In other business, the council honored Town Clerk Lakisha Q. Burch during Municipal Clerks Week, May 2-8. Burch was recognized for receiving her Master Municipal Clerks designation from the International Institute of Municipal Clerks. Lanelda Gaskins, southeast district director of the Florida Association of City Clerks, presented Burch with her MMC plaque and pin during the council meeting. Gaskins noted that there are 629 members of the FACC, but only 149 are designated as Master Municipal Clerks by the IIMC. Burch has 25 years of experience as a clerk and has been with Loxahatchee Groves since 2019.