Westlake Water Bill Hike Funds Improvements To Irrigation System

Water bills will be going up an average of nine percent in the City of Westlake to pay off a $12 million water bond passed recently by the Seminole Improvement District (SID), which provides water and sewer services to the municipality.

The bonds will pay for a two-million-gallon irrigation tank, piping and other necessary equipment, as well as operation of the project. A 500,000-gallon tank already exists supplying recycled water to public properties, SID rights-of-way and Westlake residents.

Residents will see the increase in their November bills.

Kenneth Cassel, who manages both the City of Westlake and SID, said that the expansion of the system “was always coming as the city grew” but was implemented sooner than planned because “we’ve grown a lot faster than expected.”

Westlake was incorporated in 2016 as Palm Beach County’s 39th municipality and has become its fastest-growing community.

The bonds will be paid off over 15 years. The new and existing tanks are expected to remain sufficient through buildout of the community.

Construction of the system additions are expected to begin in early 2023 and be completed by midyear.

Cassel shared the update with Westlake City Council members at their Nov. 1 meeting.

In other business:

• The council heard from Cassel that code enforcement is being stepped up for homeowners who are improperly planting on or dumping runoff water onto SID rights-of-way without proper permits.

“It’s not a lot of people,” he said. “But we want to make sure everyone’s on the same page before it becomes a real problem.”

The first step will be documenting the problem areas and notifying the property owners that they are in violation, along with a general information campaign to inform citizens about what is permissible and what is not.

If the property owner refuses to comply, fines will be imposed. Disputes will be settled by a special master, whom Cassel is now seeking to hire.

The issue is important, he said, because if too much freelancing is allowed by homeowners, “It can change the drainage characteristics of the entire community… and create flooding problems that [violators] don’t realize.”

• The council approved the first reading of a sign change for the upcoming Pines and Oaks developments on the east side of the community. In the process, they heard more about the multimodal path that will run beside a long lake and allow Westlake parents to drop off children at Golden Grove Elementary School and Western Pines Middle School without circling around outside of Westlake.

The path can be used by golf carts, bicycles, walkers and runners, Cassel said later. A turnaround circle will be constructed at an entrance on the southeast side of the school grounds that the Palm Beach County School District has agreed to provide, he said.

The path project is expected to be completed in mid-2024.

• The council approved the second reading of Ordinance 2022-12 on “Pedestrian Safety and Public Lodging,” which among other things, makes it illegal for anyone to sleep or camp in public rights-of-way, parks, pavilions, lobbies, entranceways, plazas, parking lots, common areas or under bridges, or on private property without the permission of the owner.

The ordinance also restricts begging, panhandling and individuals selling items in a way that could create a public safety issue for pedestrians or vehicular traffic.