Lox Council Priorities Workshop Focuses On Roads And Canals

The Loxahatchee Groves Town Council held a workshop discussion on Tuesday, July 19 regarding its priorities for the future.

The discussion was based on a list provided by Town Manager Francine Ramaglia, which was put together after conversations with individual council members and previous workshop sessions. She called the list a “work in progress” that has been and will continue to be updated frequently.

“In April, each council member provided a list of priorities and possible projects, as did staff,” Ramaglia wrote in her report. “A condensed version of that list is attached but is not yet based on ranking and/or timing.”

Ramaglia noted several areas of common interest, including:

• A drainage plan, including a maintenance plan restoring canals, re-sloping canal banks and replacing culverts.

• A road plan, including paving and rock plans, a maintenance plan, as well as consistent and visible signage placement and painted speed humps.

• Defining maintenance limits and using maintenance easements to keep things clean and clear, with a focus on safety along rights-of-way.

• Obtaining additional easements for roads, recreation trails and drainage.

• Developing a five-year capital improvements plan, including designating use of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds.

• Improve the town’s communications, web site and social media.

The list will be used as a starting point for building the town’s budget and strategic plan for the next three to five years.

The workshop included a Public Works Department update with a focus on achievements over the past year from Public Works Director Larry Peters and Assistant Public Works Director Mario Matos.

“The canals are clean,” Peters said. “A year ago, we got a lot of comments about the canals being in really bad shape. Right now, the canal water is clean, and the vegetation control is doing an excellent job maintaining it.”

He added that work is underway to clean additional trash and debris from the canals. The town is also working to clean all drainage ditches they can get to, but easements are needed to get to some areas, Peters said.

Other priorities include working to fix broken guardrails and failed culverts. Some culverts have been fixed, with several more to come, Peters said.

He also went over the list of roads set for repair over the next year, based on the list previously approved by the council.

“We are trying to create swales where we have easements to get water away from the asphalt,” Peters said. “We are also working to repair all canal washouts.”

Councilwoman Phillis Maniglia noted algae present in some canals and asked for third-party testing of the algae. “I would like to see another company verifying what they are supposed to be doing,” she said. “I’ve seen more wildlife in our town, and I think keeping the canals safe is key to that.”

There was a discussion of keeping “sight triangles” clear at intersections, and the town will be working with residents to cut down and pick up debris. Letters are going out asking residents to participate in the process.

An annexation item on the list provoked concern from several council members. Ramaglia said that it was in reference to discussions regarding annexation to the west along Southern Blvd. That would be based on requests from property owners, not action by the town, she said.

Maniglia opposed any annexation, but other council members said they would consider looking at annexation requests, but only if they benefit the town and conform to the town’s underlying land use of one unit per five acres. “We are one unit for five acres,” Mayor Robert Shorr said. “That’s our zoning.”

There was one project that inquired about annexation for a multi-family project, Ramaglia said, but that did not go any further once the town’s land use and zoning provisions were explained.

Maniglia said she wanted all references to multi-family use removed from the town’s uniform land development code. Councilwoman Marge Herzog noted that there is a senior living facility included as part of the Solar Sportsystems project on Southern Blvd., but the town has been working with them to change that to another use, such as a hotel.

Ramaglia said that the projects on the priorities list would be spread out over three years, and she will continue with individual conversations and group conversations at meetings.

“We got a lot of good direction so far tonight,” she said. “If we pick at this a little each time, and the conversation goes a little bit further, I think that is a pretty good thing.”