ITID Plans Special Meeting About GL Homes Swap

A graphic of the proposed ATV park used during the GL Homes presentation.

The Indian Trail Improvement District Board of Supervisors will hold a special meeting Tuesday, Oct. 10 to decide whether they will continue to support a GL Homes land rights swap that is scheduled to go before the Palm Beach County Commission for a final vote later this month.

The supervisors set the session after hearing plans for a controversial 200-acre ATV park at the Wednesday, Sept. 20 regular meeting. Supervisors have previously expressed concerns that the park — a last-minute addition to the plan pushed by County Commissioner Sara Baxter — would create noise issues for residents of nearby Santa Rosa Groves and add traffic to already over-stressed ITID roads and busy Seminole Pratt Whitney Road.

“We never in a million years thought we’d have to deal with an ATV park in our community,” ITID Vice President Betty Argue said prior to a presentation by GL Homes Vice President Larry Portnoy. “I fully object to it being built.”

Portnoy said that GL is doing everything possible to mitigate concerns about noise and traffic as it goes through the design process for the sake of existing residents and GL’s bottom line — noting that his company plans to build 900 homes on the Cowan property just south of the proposed ATV park.

“That property will be directly impacted by everyone who comes to this park,” he said. “So, we share the same concerns on minimizing the impact.”

“It may not be the most appropriate place [for an ATV park]. At least our concerns are being addressed,” said Supervisor Elizabeth Accomando, who lives in nearby Santa Rosa Groves.

“I think we’re going to have something that is actually going to be an amenity, when we go to sell homes out here,” Portnoy said. “We’re finding a lot of positives in this situation as time goes on.”

A key Palm Beach County Planning & Zoning Commission hearing was set for Thursday, Oct. 5 with the final Palm Beach County Commission vote scheduled for Oct. 24. On Monday, Oct. 16 at 6:30 p.m., Baxter will host a town hall at the Royal Palm Beach Cultural Center to discuss plans for the park and for a possible racetrack at 20-Mile Bend off State Road 80.

Meanwhile, Santa Rosa Groves (SRG) resident William Derks, who is part of the effort to stop the ATV park on the GL Homes parcel, called the entire issue a “real debacle.”

Derks, and his wife Young, gathered 17 letters opposing the park from the owners of the 99 lots in SRG. They sent them to the supervisors and the county commissioners, citing concerns over noise and destruction of wildlife habitat, possible reduced property values and the increased likelihood of rogue ATV riders using the area’s dirt roads rather than paying to ride in the park.

“My neighbors and I have endured flooding and bad roads here in exchange for peace and quiet,” Derks wrote in an opinion piece sent to local media outlets. “That is why we moved here. This park will cause continuous noise and attract more riders to SRG, which is already a big problem [with illegal riders].”

Also of major concern to supervisors is the 640 acres that GL has promised ITID for water storage but is holding in escrow until the district comes up with the $20 to $24 million it will take to build out the basics of the project, ITID Executive Director Burgess Hanson said.

“Drainage is our priority, our biggest need and the most expensive thing to the district,” Argue said. “I would like to see GL pay to build the 640 acres. I think that is more beneficial to the residents of our community [than an ATV park].”

Hanson said the money to build the levees and other structures needed for what would be a shallow, 640-acre lake would be sought from the state legislature, federal funds, grants and perhaps a bond issue.

“The original intent was to create a water resources infrastructure that would be of regional benefit,” Hanson said. “It would help with the Lake Worth Lagoon, the Loxahatchee River and potentially with moving water into West Palm Beach’s Grassy Waters Preserve.”

Supervisors also worried that once built, ITID would have little control of the use of the water under guidelines set forth under the county’s proposed agreement with GL. “It’s like we’re being totally cut out of the picture,” Supervisor Keith Jordano said.

Argue said she’s tired of hearing developer promises.

“Every [developer] starts out with Indian Trail being a partner, and we’re going to get some benefit from it,” she said. “By the time we’re done, we’re left out and not getting any benefit. I’m very concerned that we’re going to end up in the same place here.”

GL Homes holds county permits to build 3,897 housing units, 300,000 square feet of commercial space and 50,000 square feet of office space on their Indian Trails Grove property northwest of The Acreage.

Under the swap, the number of units built there would be reduced to 2,612, commercial development would 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.

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 west of Boca Raton and Delray Beach. The company also would build 277 workforce housing units on 104 acres of the property.

For Acreage residents, the changes could mean some 13,000 fewer daily vehicle trips on area roads, local officials have said.