Lox Council Rejects Taking Developer Cash In Lieu Of Roadwork

The Loxahatchee Groves Town Council rejected a proposal Tuesday, Jan. 17 to take a payment of $90,000 from the developer of a new self-storage facility in lieu of promised roadway improvements to nearby Tangerine Drive.

Instead, the council agreed to change the requirement of when the improvements needed to be completed to tie the work to the certificate of occupancy (CO), instead of a certain point in the construction process that the developer said was slowing down the work.

At issue was the Lockhart Storage project, located on Southern Blvd. between C Road and D Road, next door to the Loxahatchee AG Supermarket.

When the development was approved in March 2021, the town approved a resolution requiring the property owners to construct certain improvements to a portion of Tangerine Drive, which includes paving, as well as proper drainage, a bridle path and a fire hydrant.

The developer requested that the council consider approving a payment in lieu of construction, allowing the town to construct and install the improvements to Tangerine, in exchange for a payment of $90,000, which is estimated to be 125 percent of the cost of the anticipated work.

Attending the meeting was James Lockhart of Lockhart Management Group and his consultant, Robert Sherman of MBA Development.

At the start of the discussion, the council congratulated Lockhart on the very visible progress at the site over the past few weeks, which has seen the walls of the new facility lifted into place. If all goes well, they hope to be open by September.

Sherman said that it might be better to have the town do the work on Tangerine, rather than the developer just do the work on a small portion of the roadway.

“I feel it is better that the town has the money to develop this entire road, as opposed to having parts of the road,” Sherman said, adding that the project is working on getting its necessary public works permits and cross-access agreement in place.

During public comment, resident Cassie Suchy noted that government moves slowly, and the costs today might not be the costs for tomorrow. “The residents should get the part of the road that was destroyed fixed,” she said.

While everyone acknowledged that Tangerine is in need of repairs, Sherman disputed the idea that the road was harmed by the development project, since the council directed them to work off of Southern and not use Tangerine. “The road really has not been touched by us,” he said. “We haven’t been back there at all.”

Councilwoman Phillis Maniglia said she doesn’t like the idea of taking the money from the developers, since the project might never get done. Town Manager Francine Ramaglia said that the money would have to be designated for the project and could not be used for anything else.

Mayor Robert Shorr was also dubious about the idea, since paving is only a part of the improvements.

“There is much more to this than just paving a small section,” he said, adding that proper drainage, a bridle path and a fire hydrant are key parts of the work that the town might not be able to do on its own.

Digging deeper, Sherman said that the key factor for them is a necessary public works permit to continue the project, which is contingent on either finalizing the road plans or setting up an alternate agreement with the town.

Public Works Director Larry Peters was not in favor of taking the check. “I am not in agreement with them not doing it,” he said.

Shorr made a proposal to change the item to allow the construction work to proceed, and make the roadwork contingent on a certificate of occupancy instead. The council agreed unanimously to make the change, which would need to be finalized at a meeting in February.

Also at the meeting, following a request for proposals (RFP) process, the council approved a series of resolutions for a variety of engineering services with five different firms on a non-exclusive basis as follows:

• CivilSurv Design Group for traffic engineering services and planning development review services.

• Engenuity Group for roadway, stormwater, drainage and water quality engineering services; land surveying services; and engineering development review services.

• Keshavarz & Associates for roadway, stormwater, drainage and water quality engineering services, as well as land surveying services.

• SEPI, a division of TranSystems Corp., for traffic engineering services; engineering development review services; planning development review services; and long-range planning services.

• Whidden Surveying & Mapping for land surveying services.