The Palm Beach County Legislative Delegation on Thursday, Oct. 28 supported a bill for legislative approval that would limit the use of fireworks in parts of the Town of Loxahatchee Groves zoned agricultural-residential, as well as a request to fund the completion of the J.W. Corbett Wildlife Management Area levee.
The fireworks bill is modeled after a bill covering the Village of Wellington’s equestrian areas that passed in the legislature earlier this year.
“The Town of Loxahatchee Groves is probably 90 percent agricultural-residential,” said State Rep. Matt Willhite (D-District 86), who sponsored the bill. “It is a community of hardworking people who have a lot of equestrian activities, farming activities, so they have the same interest as a bill I passed last year for the Village of Wellington to put some minor restrictions on the use of fireworks. They are asking for the same protection.”
He said that anything the legislature could do to help an important industry in the county thrive would be beneficial.
Town consultant Mary McNicholas said the bill would provide a partial exemption to provisions of the statutes recently put in place.
“The difference is that the designated holidays of New Year’s Day, New Year’s Eve and Independence Day are the three days that we are preempted by the newly adopted section,” McNicholas said. “Those are the days that the Town of Loxahatchee Groves would like to provide some regulations on. We are following in the footsteps of our sister city to the south, the Village of Wellington, and we appreciate their help as far as the legal and the forethought that they have gone through with this.”
Loxahatchee Groves Mayor Robert Shorr thanked Willhite for sponsoring the bill.
“Every year, a lot of our residents are putting pressure on us to put signs out and do everything we can as a town to inform people of the impact that fireworks can have on not just the equestrians, but all of the animals,” Shorr said. “The animals far outnumber the residents.”
A motion to support the bill carried unanimously.
The delegation also heard speakers advocate for state funding of $9 million to complete the levee separating Corbett from residential areas of the Indian Trail Improvement District.
“This bill that we’re talking about is the Cornett wildlife area berm,” State Rep. Rick Roth (R-District 85) said. “This was on my agenda since I first got elected. This is the perfect poster child of government ineptitude.”
Half of the levee was rebuilt in 2015 for $4 million by the South Florida Water Management District after Tropical Storm Isaac in 2012 delivered more than 18 inches of rain over 24 hours that flooded The Acreage and caused a breach in the berm that was contained by emergency measures from the SFWMD, which is requesting the funding.
McNicholas, who also represented ITID regarding the Corbett funding, said representatives from the SFWMD, the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, Palm Beach County and ITID were present to join in the request for the delegation’s support in fully funding the project.
“It has been incomplete for almost a decade,” she said. “Half a levee is no levee at all.”
SFWMD Executive Director Drew Bartlett said the project is beneficial to both humans and wildlife.
“It sounds like a berm, but it is really to rehydrate the Corbett area and fits right in within our resiliency plan,” Bartlett said. “When you deal with resiliency, you’ve got to match your natural areas with your human areas. This is a natural area that needs more water, and we can put it in with a new berm. Water in our natural area keeps it out of our flood control system and keeps it out of the Lake Worth Lagoon. It’s easy for all of us to rally around this. Usually, I’m here asking you for $100 million; this time I’m asking [the Department of Environmental Protection] for $9 million.”
Roth made a motion to send a letter to the Palm Beach County Commission asking for $2 million to help with the project, which carried unanimously.