After years of discussion, the Royal Palm Beach Village Council gave approval on Thursday, June 15 for developer D.R. Horton to move forward with its Lakeside Landing townhome community.
The 12.28-acre parcel in question is located behind the Village Royale shopping plaza at the northwest quadrant of Okeechobee and Royal Palm Beach boulevards. Lakeside Landing will repurpose mostly undeveloped land into a new multi-family housing community of 100 townhomes. The project eliminates 125,520 square feet of approved but unbuilt commercial space.
The project was first introduced in November 2019 and last appeared before the council in June 2022, when the approval process stalled due to changes requested by the council. The top issue was creating a larger buffer for homes across the canal to the west in Madison Green.
“We went back to the drawing board in July 2022, prior to coming before you to address some concerns from potential views from the west, where we had the zero [foot] buffer,” explained Doug Murray of WGI, representing the developer. “We tried working with Indian Trail, and that didn’t work out for us. We spoke with staff and made shifts to the plan. We are about three and a half years into this project.”
The first two requests, a site plan modification and plat approval, were approved by the council with staff support. With its new design, Lakeside Landing now includes 100 townhome units, instead of the originally presented 120-plus units. The next request, a parking variance, did not go as smoothly.
The applicant requested a variance in order to use tandem parking spaces for the townhomes.
“This is a common request for townhomes,” Planning & Zoning Director Bradford O’Brien said. “Staff is not in support of this variance because we believe that the argument of the applicant that the property is bound by waterways is not sufficient justification for approving the variance request.”
The Planning & Zoning Commission last month recommended approval on a divided 3-2 vote, and village staff recommended denial.
After a presentation from Murray, Councilwoman Selena Samios expressed concerns over residents parking in front of their neighbors’ homes.
Royal Palm Beach resident Steve Feiertag also addressed the council to share some of the issues he saw with the project and the many requested variances.
“I wanted to comment on the car parking and the garages. I’ve lived in Madison Green for almost 22 years. Don’t be naïve. There is a very large percentage of homeowners, very large, who don’t use their garages for parking cars. They use it for storage, so please don’t allow yourselves to be fooled,” Feiertag said. “I’m in favor of the residential building on the land request, but there are issues. Let’s discuss variances. Variances are not asking for changes to guidelines, variances are asking for changes to rules. According to your language, and planning and zoning, variances are asking for changes to requirements. When the company entered into a tentative contract to buy this land, they knew the requirements. As you vote tonight, please remember that your requirements were put together for serious reasons.”
Feiertag was also present at the Planning & Zoning Commission meeting on the project. He added that the simplest solution to avoid so many variance requests would be to create smaller or fewer units.
Mayor Fred Pinto addressed Feiertag’s concerns to assure him that the council does its best to adhere to the village’s desired aesthetic.
“You’re right when we set up our requirements and ordinances, they are not willy-nilly, but the reality of living in the real world is there are projects that will come before you, and there is a process of adjudication, where property owners have the opportunity to come and ask for some modifications so they can make a project work,” Pinto said. “You are going to have projects come before you where you have to look at what you can allow and modify that, and still have something come out that fits the motif of what we are looking to do in the village.”
A motion to approve the parking variance, made by Vice Mayor Jan Rodusky and seconded by Councilman Richard Valuntas, passed 5-0.
The next request to reduce landscape setbacks was also not supported by village staff, but with the argument that the canal serves as an additional buffer, the council approved the request without public comment.
All items requested by D.R. Horton for the modified Lakeside Landing proposal were eventually approved by the council, all unanimously. These included the rights-of-way being reduced from the 60-foot requirement to 50 feet and 45 feet, a reduction in the landscape buffer at the entrance to the development, and the acceptance of fees in lieu of private recreation space and the removal of trees.
Since 1.31 acres — or 52 percent of the recreation obligation — is provided, the applicant will pay the village $518,444.62 for the rest of the recreation requirement. The expected fee to offset the preservation of specimen trees, in the form of a contribution to the village’s tree bank, is $644,981.90.
Aside from the Lakeside Landing project, the council also reviewed and approved a site plan modification and architectural approval to add nearly 14,000 square feet to the Royal Palm Beach Recreation Center at Preservation Park (100 Sweet Bay Lane).
The approval is part of a long-planned expansion of the recreation center.
O’Brien explained that the addition will accommodate a new office, education space for a pre-K program and a new gym behind the existing gymnasium.
“This project is the vision started in 2021 based on the space and needs for the future of Royal Palm Beach,” he said.
Village Manager Ray Liggins said that the most significant change to the parking is that the connection is no longer only accessible to the soccer fields, and a restroom will be added near the pickleball courts. The latter is based on requests by both pickleball players and skate boarders who use the facility.
“We look to complete the design and bid out, hopefully starting construction next year,” Village Engineer Chris Marsh said. “The main building will be in operation during construction.”
The goal is to open the expansion in 2026.
Pinto noted that the council is looking forward to the project, which was approved unanimously.
In other business:
- The council approved a special event permit for the Palm Beach Shakespeare Festival to stage its annual performance at Royal Palm Beach Commons Park, which will take place July 20 through July 23. This year’s performance will be of Shakespeare’s play Measure for Measure. The gates open at 6:30 p.m. with performances starting at 8 p.m. each evening.
- The council approved an amendment to the village’s parking ordinance that requires a neighbor’s permission before parking on their property for more than two hours, and there is no longer permission to park in public swales.
- The council approved the first reading of an ordinance to move the 2024 municipal elections to Tuesday, March 19, 2024, in conjunction with Florida’s Presidential Preference Primary.
- Recently hired Finance Director Shernett Lee was formally appointed village treasurer, in accordance with the village charter.
- Kamar Williams was appointed to a vacant alternate seat on the Planning & Zoning Commission for a term ending in March 2025.
- Village representative William O. Nuss will retain his spot on the Palm Beach County Water Utilities Advisory Board for another term, after his current term expires on Sept. 30.