Planning Commission Objects To GL Homes Land Swap Proposal

The Palm Beach County Planning Commission on Friday, Jan. 14 recommended against a plan to initiate several text amendments to the county’s comprehensive plan that would allow for fewer homes west of The Acreage and more homes in the Agricultural Reserve west of Delray Beach.

The “land swap” plan proposed by GL Homes involves land in two parts of the county — Indian Trails Grove west of The Acreage and Hyder West on State Road 7 north of Clint Moore Road.

Jennifer Morton, with JMorton Planning & Landscape Architecture, representing the applicants, noted that the Palm Beach County Commission in December had given direction that GL Homes should move forward with applications, providing a full detail of its proposals through the normal application process.

Morton presented a video reporting that Indian Trails Grove in The Acreage, slated to be a major development, is currently in agricultural production, producing green beans, corn, tomatoes, sugar cane and 27 kinds of Chinese vegetables.

The video added that GL Homes has dedicated thousands of acres to agricultural preservation in recent years, and there remains a significant resource available in agricultural production within its property west of The Acreage. In addition to being actively farmed, the property’s proximity to major canals presents a unique opportunity to alleviate water issues in the county.

Indian Trails Grove encompasses 4,872 acres west of The Acreage. In 2016, GL homes dedicated 640 acres of that property to the Indian Trail Improvement District for water retention. At the same time, GL Homes received approval from the county to build 3,897 homes there.

GL Homes proposes to deed 1,600 acres of Indian Trails Grove to the county, which would have the discretion to preserve the land for agriculture and/or water resources. In addition, GL Homes would reduce the number of homes it has permission to build from 3,897 to 2,647.

In exchange, the developer proposes to build 1,000 homes on 451 acres of the 682 privately owned acres in Hyder West, an area surrounded by residential developments. The balance of the land would be preserved for community benefit as a 100-acre passive park, a 26-acre preserve and 105 acres for civic uses. The plan includes 250 units of workforce housing.

The exchange offers the county almost three times the amount of land to further its objectives, Morton said, adding that county staff supports the proposal. “This proposal is worthy of further review and analysis,” she said.

Principal Planner Bryan Davis said that since the application was privately initiated, county staff did not yet have a full analysis to provide.

“Text amendments require board initiation,” Davis said. “This initiation would authorize staff to process the request, to accept associated land use amendments and begin the process and analysis that you are accustomed to seeing at your hearings.”

He emphasized that initiation does not indicate approval but is simply authorization for staff to begin work at board direction, explaining that the process would require numerous text amendments and hearings.

The application is expected to go to the county commission for initiation consideration on Wednesday, Feb. 2.

Several board members were critical of initiating the process, quoting staff who, although they supported transmittal, said it would be long and complicated.

Board Member Penny Pompei made a motion to recommend initiation of the proposed text amendments, which failed 9-4.

Board Member Cara Capp made a motion to deny the application, which carried 9-4 with board members John Carr, Penny Pompei, Sara Pardue and Angela Vann dissenting.