The long-planned $14 million R3 road program is one step away from final implementation after the Indian Trail Improvement District Board of Supervisors on Wednesday, April 27 told staff to move forward with seeking a bond underwriter for the project.
Including underwriting and associated fees, the overall project is expected to cost approximately $15 million, ITID Executive Director Burgess Hanson said. That means an assessment of some $50 to $60 per acre for the average ITID property owner, he said, although the exact numbers will not be available until the underwriter is selected.
The 20-year bond will begin repayment in fiscal year 2023, which starts with the property tax bill on Oct. 1, 2022.
Activated ITID units in Palm Beach Gardens, Royal Palm Beach and Santa Rosa Groves are not included in the bond issue. A final vote is scheduled for the Wednesday, May 18 board meeting.
The R3 road improvement plan, first approved in October 2019, has the goal of paving or placing millings on certain roads that the district has deemed to benefit all residents of The Acreage, with a specific focus of improving access to schools, parks, impoundment areas, ITID facilities and Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue facilities.
The project also will add or improve 75 or more speed tables throughout The Acreage in an effort to control “cut-through traffic speeding through,” and especially heavy construction traffic, Hanson said.
“Speeding already is a problem on many of these roads, especially the larger ones,” he said, noting that the speed limit on most is 25 to 40 miles per hour.
As expansion of roads under county control continues, district officials are concerned about people getting frustrated and using ITID roads to try to get around it.
“We want to make sure the roads in the district stay safe for our residents — for people walking or riding their bikes or their horses, and just for people pulling out of their own driveways,” he said.
In other business, the supervisors heard a presentation from the South Florida Water Management District’s Jennifer Reynolds, director of the Ecosystem Restoration and Capital Projects Division.
Improvements to the half-finished levee that separates the J.W. Corbett Wildlife Management Area from The Acreage is “at the top of the list of things we are working diligently to make happen,” she told the board.
The levee was breached in 2012 after Tropical Storm Isaac dumped about 19 inches of rain over the community, creating street flooding and pushing water into some homes. In 2015, the western half of the levee was completed at a cost of approximately $4 million with the understanding that another $4 million from the state would follow in the next fiscal year. That never happened.
The money needed to complete the levee and improve the M-O Canal outfall, which allows ITID to move water during a storm event, was once again not funded during the recent session of the Florida Legislature.
“We’re just doing what we can to keep the ball rolling,” Hanson said.
During the meeting, ITID Vice President Betty Argue noted that most ITID residents are on well water and septic systems and sought assurance that the community’s rights to water usage at current levels would not be affected by SFWMD projects or increasing growth along the coast.
The SFWMD “has a water supply planning department that looks out 20 years,” Reynolds told the supervisors, adding that it will be up to West Palm Beach to deal with its own water needs.
Argue also pressed Reynolds about SFWMD projects and how they impact the area’s equestrians. “This is very important to us,” she said. “We’re a dedicated equestrian community, and we have less and less places to ride.”
Reynolds said that horses can’t ride on levees, but other options may be available.
“Levees are not very compatible with equestrian activities because of the damage horses can do on the levees,” Reynolds said. “But that doesn’t mean we can’t come up with a way to make equestrian trails compatible with project features.”