Baxter Proposes Palm Beach County Grandfather In Some ITID Truckers

County Commissioner Sara Baxter

The Indian Trail Improvement District could become a haven for long-haul truckers and others pulling heavy loads under a plan proposed by District 6 Palm Beach County Commissioner Sara Baxter.

The Acreage area “is one of the few places where [these] small businesses are still allowed,” Baxter said last week, referring to family-owned hauling and lawn maintenance businesses and other enterprises that use trucks and trailers. “I want to preserve at least one area in Palm Beach County where that’s allowed.”

Baxter hopes to find a solution that works for all parties involved.

“There are plenty of areas where that’s not appropriate,” said Baxter, who lives in The Acreage. “[But] I’m in favor of finding a place for them. A space for them to go.”

Baxter’s comments came following a Wednesday, Aug. 30, county commission meeting at which commissioners directed Palm Beach County Planning, Zoning & Building staff to revamp code regulations for the area to allow two commercial vehicles on property of one-and-a-quarter acres or more. The vehicles can range from “light duty” — defined as 16,000 pounds or less — up to 18-wheel tractor-trailer rigs that often weigh 80,000 pounds or more.

PZB staff is expected to come back to the commission at its November meeting with a proposal, Baxter said.

For now, the proposal would cover only individuals who have been in the ITID area prior to 2019 when, according to Baxter, the code was updated and “misinterpreted,” creating a ban on heavy trucks in the area. Since then, big-rig owners such as Natalia Melian and her husband Ricardo Alonso have faced tens of thousands of dollars in fines.

Under Baxter’s proposal, those fines would be dismissed for residents who are grandfathered in, since they moved to the area believing, correctly, that such trucks were allowed.

“It’s not everything I wanted, but I’ll take it,” said Melian, who has been a leader in the fight against big-rig code enforcement. “It’s a huge victory that will help those who’ve been suffering.”

Melian said she intends to go before the ITID Board of Supervisors at their Sept. 20 meeting seeking a letter of support for Baxter’s proposal. Though the truckers have sought the support of the board over the last couple years, supervisors have previously declined to get involved.

ITID Vice President Betty Argue said this week that grandfathering in pre-2019 heavy-haulers and capping the number of vehicles allowed per residence at two may be a “reasonable solution.”

The notion of expanding the exemption for post-2019 and incoming residents with big-rigs and thus turning the ITID area into a truckers’ haven is a different matter, she said.

“I have concerns about how that would change our community,” Argue said. “Our roads are not

designed for use by [a large number of] tractor-trailer rigs. It could make it dangerous for children… and especially for equestrians.”

Argue pointed out that most of ITID is currently zoned agricultural-residential. She fears allowing a major influx of heavy trucks and trailers would open the door for the district to be rezoned for more commercial uses.

“I don’t think many people have a problem with a long-haul trucker coming in off a two-week run and parking his truck at his house until he heads out again,” Argue said. “It’s when people start running a commercial trucking operation from their residential property that it becomes a problem.”

“Truckers are an essential part of our economy,” Baxter has said. “They perform an essential service. They need to know they’re appreciated and supported.”

In related matters:

  • Baxter said she has reached out to the Federal Aviation Administration about using part of the Palm Beach County Glades Airport in Pahokee as a temporary dragstrip while working out details for construction of a permanent raceway on county property near 20-Mile Bend off State Road 80.

Other small airports with lightly used runways have been used for similar purposes, she said. “It would fill a temporary need,” Baxter said.

The county is seeking information from anyone wishing to design, construct, manage or maintain the proposed raceway at 20-Mile Bend. The deadline has been extended to Oct. 20. For more information, visit https://discover.pbcgov.org and search “racetrack.”

  • Argue said she knows of no one who thinks an off-highway vehicle (OHV) park and campground near the Santa Rosa Groves section of the district “is a good idea for the community.”

The park has been pushed by Baxter, who got a commitment for the 200-acre facility as a last-minute sweetener for the land swap deal that allows GL Homes 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. In return, GL will cut the amount of residential and commercial space planned for property it owns at Indian Trails Grove, plus add water control structures in the northwest section of ITID.

The park would “exacerbate traffic problems in the area,” Argue said. She suggested that many non-residents drawn to the location likely would use ITID’s numerous dirt roads as “their playground” instead of paying to ride in the park.

Putting an OHV track and RV and tent camping areas in a residential neighborhood would be another step in commercializing the district and shifting it away from its current agricultural-residential designation, Argue said.

Argue’s comments came just ahead of the town hall meeting Baxter planned for Wednesday, Sept. 6 at Seminole Ridge High School on the topic of roads and the proposed OHV park.

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