Indian Trail Improvement District supervisors did not hesitate to grill newly elected Palm Beach County Commissioner Sara Baxter when she came before them Wednesday, Jan. 25 in what was billed as “get-to-know-you session.”
Baxter, an Acreage resident and a newcomer to politics, was elected in November. In a PowerPoint presentation, she listed her priorities for the ITID area as: working with ITID to improve traffic conditions in The Acreage; cut red tape and regulations to help small businesses; work with ITID and the state legislature to secure funding and grants to improve infrastructure; and provide relief to residents negatively impacted by “improper code enforcement.”
Baxter said she is planning to host a town hall meeting on code enforcement issues, which has become a hot-button topic in the area, especially with big-rig truckers and owners of other large commercial vehicles who want to park them on their lots. The date, time and location of the meeting has not yet been set.
ITID Vice President Betty Argue, in particular, had pointed questions for Baxter about proposed changes to 60th Street North and Coconut Blvd. Argue also pressed Baxter about the long-delayed extension of State Road 7 from 60th Street to Northlake and beyond.
Argue said that an expanded 60th Street with safety buffers would “come right up to the front door” of many homeowners who “did not anticipate this being a main drag” serving as many as 20,000 cars per day.
While Baxter said she wants to be open to property owners’ concerns and that of the ITID board, the expansion of 60th Street “has to go through” because it is needed as an east-west traffic corridor.
Baxter said she is “100 percent fighting for State Road 7 to go through,” and that she is open to discussing whether Coconut should be three-laned or five-laned from Orange Blvd. to Northlake Blvd.
In turn, Baxter did an informal poll of the supervisors as to whether Northlake should be expanded to six or eight lanes. The consensus seemed to be six lanes, with enough right-of-way for the county to add more as needed.
Supervisor Elizabeth Accomando pressed Baxter about what she described as the excessive length of time it takes for approval of county building and renovation permits.
“The permitting process is one of the areas I want to look into,” said Baxter, suggesting it may be a staffing issue.
Accomando, who lives in rural Santa Rosa Groves, also urged Baxter to “keep in mind that every area of the district is unique” and to help push back against possible zoning changes that would allow aggressive commercialization. Such rezoning would “completely change the western part of the district,” she said.
Going into Wednesday’s meeting, Supervisor Keith Jordano said he was not acquainted with Baxter before her unexpected victory in November, and he was looking forward to seeing whether “she wants to work with us or not.”
Jordano said that, unfortunately, the interests of the district have been all but ignored by the county commission for more than a decade.
“It’ll be a chance for us to see where she is standing with the community,” Jordano said.
Baxter’s district includes most of the county west of State Road 7, including Royal Palm Beach, Wellington, Loxahatchee Groves and Westlake, all the way west the Glades communities.
Because of the district’s size, and the fact that most of its residents are in the central part of the county, Baxter said during the meeting that she plans to establish an office, probably in Royal Palm Beach, to go along with her office in the county commission building in downtown West Palm Beach and one in Belle Glade.
Also on Wednesday night’s agenda was a staff recommendation to accept a $3 million funding agreement with the county with the money going to pay for the Acreage Community Park South Expansion. The money is from the county’s sales surtax initiative.
“We paid our fair share,” Argue said. “We should be getting a lot more, but we’ll take it.”
The money was originally slated for the construction of a community center, but due to the rising cost of construction labor and material, the project became impractical, and ITID asked that it be allowed to use the money for the park expansion, according to background material provided by ITID staff.
The board was also slated to consider a revision to its millings notification policy. ITID staff recommended a more robust, multi-prong notification process that would include a mailed first-class letter to the property owner, a re-usable poster board notification at the intersection on the local service road, and a notification gate and/or door hanger on the property owner’s residence, according to the agenda. The cost would be approximately $2,250 annually.