RPB Council OKs Major Canal Dredging Project

The Royal Palm Beach Village Council.

The Royal Palm Beach Village Council unanimously approved a large-scale canal improvement project on Thursday, Sept. 15, at a meeting that also included the final approval of the village’s budget for the upcoming year and a discussion of whether to annex a small, residential enclave.

The multimillion-dollar project will begin to improve the canals in Royal Palm Beach. Village Engineer Chris Marsh explained that the nearly $3 million needed to fund the project will come from four different grants totaling $1.1 million, $1.252 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds from the federal government, and $660,000 from the village using its sales surtax money.

“A tremendous amount of grant dollars will be utilized for this project,” Marsh said. “The benefit will improve water quality in the canal system by removing the decomposed material that has accumulated over the last 50 years. When we did a survey of the canal bottoms, we were finding muck approximately 12 to 18 inches deep on the bottom. So, there’s a substantial amount of decomposed material in there, which hurts oxygen levels within the canals.”

Removing the organic material will also remove nutrients and reduce the vegetation while improving oxygen levels for fish and other wildlife. Less aquatic vegetation will save money for the village in the future, he said.

Another portion of the project will dig a dry detention pond within the easement adjacent to La Mancha Avenue just south of Galicia Street.

This is similar to a project done in the past, where the excavated material will be left in the FPL easement area for no more than 14 days to dry out before removal. The detention pond will create a three-acre floodplain in the basin. In total, 1.9 miles of canals will be cleaned.

The council expressed concerns about the smell and length of time the project would take. Marsh estimated the total project will take up to nine months. In addition, signage will be placed on site to allow residents to see updates on the project and contact staff if needed. The project and its bid award were approved unanimously.

In other business:

• The council held its final budget public hearing on the $85.6 million budget for the new fiscal year. The budget will be funded by a property tax rate of 1.92 mills, which is unchanged from the current year, but is above the rollback rate.

“We’ll open the public hearing with the announcement that the proposed operating millage rate necessary to fund the budget is 12.14 percent above the rolled back millage rate of 1.716 mills. The proposed operating millage rate is 1.92 for the general fund,” Mayor Fred Pinto said.

After clarifying that no changes to the budget had occurred since the last hearing, the council unanimously approved the budget. The new fiscal year starts Oct. 1

• During his report, Pinto brought up the possible annexation of an enclave called Sunset Isles, a residential community on Fox Trail Road South that is not part of the Village of Royal Palm Beach, but it is completely surrounded by the village.

Village Manager Ray Liggins explained that currently, the condo residents in that area are receiving some services from the village, but not the discounts for special programs.

“They have a sheriff’s contract, and they are not receiving their share of services that are right here right now, which does cause a problem for them, because another district has to respond,” Liggins said. “Or we respond inadvertently, as we have done in years past. It’s confusion. I don’t think delay of emergency and public services is a good thing.”

He explained that there are three types of annexations. Involuntary annexations are voted on by the municipality and the residents outside of the municipality, with the majority ruling. Voluntary annexation requires all the owners of a property to voluntarily agree and sign annexation documents. The final type is by interlocal agreement. Since the property is surrounded by the village on all four sides, the Florida Legislature has provided the option of the municipality and the county agreeing on the property’s annexation.

While Councilwoman Selena Samios was not pleased with the idea of the residents being annexed without having a say, Liggins assured the council this was only the beginning of the process and there would ultimately be a council vote on the matter.

“Most of those residents probably think they are in the village anyway,” Liggins said. “It’ll get rid of the confusion for everybody.”

• The council approved the repurposing of property located at 1001 N. State Road 7 into a Dirty Dogs Car Wash from its current use a long-vacant restaurant location. The site will have heavy landscaping to buffer noise, and the owners have invested in silencing technology to further reduce disruption. The design includes triple lanes to avoid stacking along the entrance at SR 7.

When asked if they had conducted a market analysis in the area, attorney Matthew Scott was prepared. “Yes, there is another car wash a mile or so south. This corridor is experiencing rapid growth, and there’s clearly a demand for a higher end of this,” Scott said. “There’s, of course, car washes around town that are not meeting the more premium side of the market. My client is ready to go, looking to get under construction as soon as possible. They are hoping to open next year.”

The request was approved 5-0.

• On another car wash matter, the El Motor Car Wash, located at 135 S. State Road 7, sent representative Brian Cheguis to discuss upgrades to the existing facility. Improvements range from fresh paint to the installation of vacuum and pay stations. Since the space is limited and already developed, the request included removal of a few trees.

“It’s internal has no impact off site. It helps with the modified operation of this existing car wash. What they’re doing is retooling the inside of the site to accommodate vacuum extensions so you can self-vacuum,” Cheguis explained. “This car wash is an older car wash. It was a full-service car wash. We are now in the 2020s, after the pandemic. The market has changed where people may not want service personnel inside their cars, so the option of self-vacuuming is critical.”

All requests associated with the upgrades were approved unanimously.