The Palm Beach County Planning Commission recommended approval Friday, Oct. 1 of a privately initiated amendment that would increase the allowed density for the Fleming property, located just east of Arden near 20-Mile Bend on Southern Blvd.
Ken Tuma with Urban Design Studio, representing the applicant, said that initiation of a land use change is the first step in the process for the Palm Beach County Commission ultimately to consider a request for 892 residential units on the 446-acre Fleming property.
“Ultimately, our request will be to come back and ask for two dwelling units an acre as an age-restricted community,” Tuma said, explaining that the amendment would allow the Fleming property to become part of the adjacent Arden community. “The program that’s proposed today is to allow for it to be a residential development at exactly the same density that Arden has.”
Palm Beach County Planner Bryce Van Horn explained that the Arden zoning was the result of the county’s preventing the Village of Wellington from annexing any property north of Southern Blvd. in order to protect the Everglades Agricultural Area to the west and prevent encroachment by urban or suburban uses.
“This request would be for a text amendment to revise the Glades protection overlay to expand eastward to incorporate the subject site,” Van Horn said. “Also, concurrently, they are proposing a zoning change from the current agricultural residential zoning district to either a planned unit development, which is similar to what Arden has, or residential single family.”
The applicant also produced a thoroughfare improvement map with a connector road between the future Okeechobee Blvd. extension and Southern Blvd. to run concurrent with the applicant’s proposed amendment, Van Horn said.
“This doesn’t propose any new policy concepts,” he explained. “It’s confined to the Glades Area Protection Overlay… and also provides an opportunity for the board to consider the connector road concurrently with the proposed amendment.”
Van Horn said that county staff recommends initiation of the text amendment.
Commissioner Dagmar Brahs asked why the proposed connector road is needed. “I’m not familiar with the history,” Brahs said.
Palm Beach County Principal Planner Khurshid Moh said the connector road proposal had been brought to the planning commission earlier this year, which it had approved, but was later turned down by the county commission.
“We believe that this is an important link that needs to be added, which would help everybody around in that area,” Moh said. “We feel that this is the right time to for us to try to bring it back for consideration.”
He added that the Okeechobee Blvd. extension westward from Seminole Pratt Whitney Road that would connect the proposed connector road to Southern Blvd. does not exist currently, but it is on the county thoroughfare identification map (TIM) for future improvements.
Van Horn said he felt the reliever road was appropriate with the introduction of the applicant’s private text amendment.
“If the board initiates it, they would come back with their land use amendment, if it’s appropriate for them to consider their connector at this time,” he said. “Of course, it would be up to the county commission.”
Several commissioners voiced their support of the amendments, including the proposed reliever road, considering intense development in the area, having seen that previous reluctance to street development in other areas of the county had resulted in gridlock.
Commissioner Kylie Harper-Larsen said she had seen the results of development with a lack of infrastructure support in other parts of the county.
“We have continually encroaching development, and we’re going to cause more traffic congestion,” Harper-Larsen said. “I’m extremely familiar, not just with the current uses of this area, but also having been part of a gridlock traffic jam on multiple occasions. This is something that this area proactively needs if we are going to build more housing in this area.”
Commission Chair Dr. Lori Vinikoor said that people on Okeechobee Blvd. must drive down to Southern Blvd. to get to Belle Glade.
“I’m very familiar with this area because the South County Mental Health Center now has a facility in Belle Glade, and I travel out there and have to take Southern Blvd.,” Vinikoor said. “I can see that this really could help there.”