A letter to the Palm Beach County Commission opposing a proposed off-highway vehicle (OHV) park and campground in The Acreage was pulled at the Wednesday, Aug. 16 meeting of the Indian Trail Improvement District Board of Supervisors.
The supervisors voted 4-1 against sending the letter that ITID Vice President Betty Argue had pressed for at the July meeting.
Instead, they placed Supervisor Elizabeth Accomando in the role of factfinder and liaison to District 6 County Commissioner Sara Baxter related to the issue — much to Argue’s consternation.
“It should not be in our community at all,” Argue said. “So, negotiating and getting details, we shouldn’t care. We should care about the impact on the district infrastructure, which is roads and drainage.”
The property in question is a 200-acre parcel in the sprawling Indian Trails Grove area owned by GL Homes in the northwest section of ITID.
GL Homes held permits to build 3,897 homes, 300,000 square feet of commercial space and 50,000 square feet of office space on the property. But under a land swap tentatively agreed to by the county commission, the number of units will be reduced to 2,612, commercial development will be limited to 200,000 square feet and office space to 33,500 square feet.
Lands dedicated for agricultural and water resources are to be increased by 980 acres, and publicly dedicated land will be increased from 640 acres to more than 1,600 acres. A 740-acre water storage area featuring three pump stations will be constructed by GL Homes. For Acreage residents, the changes could mean some 13,000 fewer daily vehicle trips on the area’s already overstressed roads, local officials have said.
In return, the developer gets the right to build a 1,000-unit adult community on 477 acres of the 681-acre Hyder West property in the Ag Reserve off State Road 7 just north of the Stonebridge Country Club. At the same time, the company would build 277 workforce housing units on 104 acres of the property.
As part of the deal, Baxter got GL Homes to agree to build an OHV park and campground at Indian Trails Grove.
Baxter said this week that she plans to hold a town hall meeting on the issue when more details are worked out. No date has been set.
“Most of the feedback I’ve gotten is that people in the area love the idea of an [OHV] park going there,” she said. “The community wants it there without it causing any nuisances.”
In fact, Baxter said she believes the park would help reduce the unlawful and dangerous use of OHVs on ITID roads by creating a safe and legal place for riders to enjoy their vehicles.
Critics have suggested that it is doubtful local riders will pay to use the park and that it will draw traffic from all over South Florida onto the area’s already congested roads.
Tentative plans for the park would include 80 overnight recreational vehicle parking slots, plus areas for tent camping, Baxter said, noting that the site plan calls for noise mitigation efforts to minimize the impact on the nearby Santa Rosa Groves, Tall Pines and Sunny Urban Meadows neighborhoods.
The board’s strong support of the GL Homes swap was based on the idea that it would help cut traffic from the development, Argue said, but “with the [OHV] park thrown in at the last minute — that’s a contradiction of why we supported GL.”
Argue said that any money being spent by GL to create the park could be better used building out the water storage area that the company promised.
“That’s what it always should have been, and [Baxter] should be supporting that,” she said.
Accomando, a Santa Rosa Groves resident, said she does not believe that the Indian Trails Grove location is the right one for an OHV park but that the board sometimes is too quick to fire off letters of opposition.
“Just saying ‘no’ does not always work,” she said, noting that the county commission has the final say regarding the park. “I think our relationship with the county is critical… It is better and more appropriate to work with the county so that we have a seat at the table.”
Otherwise, Accomando told her fellow supervisors, ITID residents “are going to get something shoved down our throats that we don’t like.”
In other business:
- The supervisors expressed frustration with a lack of success in getting ITID items through the Florida Legislature.
“All of the right things are there, yet nothing seems to be happening,” said Argue. “Maybe it’s time for a change [of lobbyists]. Maybe a fresh perspective to change it up might help.”
The district currently pays the Tallahassee lobbying firm of David Ramba & Associates $48,000 a year.
The board asked ITID Executive Director Burgess Hanson to provide the names of several qualified alternative firms and request Ramba’s attendance at their Sept. 20 meeting.
Meanwhile, Hanson presented a list of four possible priorities that ITID might wish to push for during the 2024 legislative session.
They are: the M-0 Canal outfall appropriation of $500,000, which received legislative approval this year but was vetoed by Gov. Ron DeSantis; the M-0 Canal west spoil mound mitigation of $250,000; equestrian trail motorist education and signage of $10,000; and the expansion of property rights protection for small hobby farms and other agricultural uses that are not large-scale agri-commercial businesses.
The supervisors voted 5-0 to accept the list, with the equestrian trail request upped to $25,000.
“I’m tired of us groveling,” Argue said. “I’m tired of the district not getting our fair share. I’m tired of Tallahassee in general.”
- Hanson reported that county traffic officials may be open to the so-called “traffic inconvenience plan” that would create a number of one-way streets in an effort to curtail cut-through traffic between Northlake Blvd. and 60th Street North, especially along 120th Avenue North.
Hanson said he plans to set up a meeting with homeowners in the area to discuss what he called a “pilot program.”
“It’s certainly going to be an inconvenience for those residents, but it also may cut down on the cut-through traffic,” he said.
In a related issue, Hanson said that a quick traffic study of 120th Avenue North showed the average speed of all traffic on the road is only 29 miles per hour. But on Friday and Saturday nights, it becomes “a drag strip” with some vehicles flying along the two-mile stretch of residential two-lane at speeds up to 114 miles per hour.
- Argue noted that the Western Equestrian Shows & Trails committee of the Acreage Landowners’ Association is planning a Halloween horse event tentatively set for Oct. 21. Riders are encouraged to dress in costume.
- The supervisors approved the purchase of one John Deere 620G Motor Grader ($282,791) and one John Deere 333G Skid Steer ($555,793); and the lease of one John Deere 620G Motor Grader ($72,834 per year for three years) and one John Deere 672GP Motor Grader ($101,193 per year for three years).