Groves Council Delays Approval Of Okeechobee Overlay To Sept. 21

After a year’s work, the Loxahatchee Groves Town Council on Tuesday, Aug. 3 postponed the final reading of the planned Okeechobee Blvd. overlay ordinance to add details that were discussed at the meeting. The final reading will now be held Tuesday, Sept. 21.

The ordinance also strengthens transportation plan policies that the town has fought for in the past, including opposition to the four-laning of Okeechobee Blvd., removal of the E Road/140th Avenue thoroughfare from the county’s thoroughfare map and support for the completion of the State Road 7 extension to Northlake Blvd. 

“So, this is a second reading,” Mayor Robert Shorr said. “First reading was about a year ago.”

During that time, the ordinance was discussed before the town’s Local Planning Agency; joint meetings of the Planning & Zoning Committee and Uniform Land Development Committee; the Roadway, Equestrian, Trails & Greenways Advisory Committee; and other public meetings.

Town Planning Consultant Jim Fleischmann said the ordinance is commonly known as the “Okeechobee Blvd. overlay” but addresses more issues than that.

“Also included are amendments to the transportation element and the future land use element related to Southern Blvd.,” Fleischmann said. “The project was initially funded by a grant from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.”

Fleischmann noted that in compliance with the grant, the council must submit the final ordinance to the state by Oct. 1.

The Local Planning Agency recommended approval of the transportation element but recommended that a joint meeting be held between the ULDC and the Planning & Zoning Committee to further review the Okeechobee Blvd. component.

“The joint committee met seven times… focusing principally on the Okeechobee Blvd. overlay land uses,” Fleischmann said. “The joint committee recommended approval of the future land use element proposed revisions.”

Staff recommended final approval of the ordinance and recommended transmittal to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity and other required agencies for review.

Fleischmann noted that the traffic map included a change on Okeechobee Blvd. from “urban collector” to “minor collector.” The map further describes different transportation categories in the town. He added that the ordinance increases the floor area ratio (FAR) in the commercial district from .1 to .15.

“It creates the Okeechobee overlay land use category and gets into specific intensity requirements for self-storages,” Fleischmann said, pointing out that the ordinance was generated by a review of historical documents, public involvement activities and numerous joint committee meetings, and has been tailored to preserve the Loxahatchee Groves rural character and prevent big box uses and strip malls on both Okeechobee and Southern boulevards.

Fleischmann also noted provisions in the town’s transportation policy that are a compilation of policies that have been written in the past where the town has had to pass a resolution either in support or opposition to an activity favored by the county.

“Rather than have to enact a resolution every time one of these activities comes up, we created a policy that the town can refer to,” he said.

Policies include the removal of the E Road/140th Avenue thoroughfare from the county thoroughfare map, exclusion of that portion of Okeechobee Blvd. from Folsom Road to West A Road from consideration of expansion to four lanes from the county’s five-year road program, support for the expansion of Seminole Pratt Whitney Road north to State Road 710 and the Beeline Highway, opposition to the extension of Okeechobee Blvd. to State Road 80 and support for the extension of State Road 7 from Okeechobee Blvd. to Northlake Blvd.

Vice Mayor Laura Danowski made a motion to continue consideration of the ordinance at the Sept. 21 meeting, which carried unanimously.