Now that the Indian Trail Improvement District Board of Supervisors has divested itself of the incorporation process, the Citizens’ Committee for Incorporation held its first town hall-style meeting with about a dozen residents Wednesday, Oct. 7 at Hamlin House.
The committee is made up of residents Louis Colantuoni Jr., Elizabeth Accomando and Acreage Landowners’ Association President Bob Morgan, who clarified that he is on the board as a resident, and that the ALA has taken a neutral stance on incorporation.
Colantuoni said he favors incorporation to push back at development going on in the surrounding area, fight the threat of the district being annexed into surrounding municipalities, protect The Acreage’s agricultural lifestyle and gain tax revenue he feels that area residents are not receiving.
Amid the din of residents talking among themselves, he answered a question from a resident about Rustic Lakes, which was annexed into Palm Beach Gardens several years ago and then sued the city to get out over concerns of losing their property rights.
“Rustic Lakes is the perfect example,” Colantuoni said. “There’s a rural community that has been taken over by Palm Beach Gardens, which I would not consider to be rural in any way. And now it’s their code enforcement, their rules.”
He said that incorporation will give Indian trail residents the power to govern themselves.
“If we become incorporated, we get to decide how we’re going to shape the future of the community, how code enforcement is going to act, whose police department we want to use, or are we going to have our own,” Colantuoni said. “This is really important. The area outside of us that’s being grabbed up by these land developers that want to put all those high-density houses in there and flood our roads with traffic, they’re either going to have to pay because we will hold them accountable to expand and improve the roads, or they’re not going to be able to access them.”
He pointed out that Minto/Westlake wants access to ITID roads, and ITID has taken action to make that difficult for the developer.
“They became their own city,” Colantuoni said. “Gee, I wonder why they did that? They have home rule powers and laws on their side. That’s all I’m asking us to have.”
He said incorporation papers had been turned over to the committee by ITID, which had been authorized by the state legislature to do an incorporation feasibility study and draft a proposed charter.
A resident asked what the next step is to continue the incorporation process, and Colantuoni said the committee has presented an incorporation packet to the state legislature that is going through committees. The packet will go before the Palm Beach County Legislative Delegation on Thursday, Oct. 28 at the Clayton E. Hutchinson Building on Military Trail in West Palm Beach, where it will be introduced by State Rep. Rick Roth (R-District 85).
“If that goes through, all it does is give us the right as a community to hold a referendum to vote on incorporation,” Colantuoni said.
If the local bill is approved in Tallahassee during the 2022 session, residents will have the right to vote on incorporation within a year.
Colantuoni said incorporation would give The Acreage the power to do things with fire, police and other public services, and use its power to annex land and stop overdevelopment.
“What it does is it gives us the equal power that Palm Beach Gardens or Westlake has, or Wellington has, or West Palm Beach has,” he said.
Colantuoni also pointed out the advantages of additional tax revenue that would come to a municipality.
“We pay taxes out, and we hardly get anything back,” he said. “If we get incorporated, we will get 20 to 30 percent of all the property tax that now stays with the county.”
Morgan said that a web site has been set up at www.votelox2022.com, where a petition is available under the “Take Action” tab, as well as more information about the incorporation process.
Dates for future incorporation committee meetings have not yet been set.