With the possibility of competing annexation plans in the works for 258 acres at the intersection of Southern Blvd. and Seminole Pratt Whitney Road, the Indian Trail Improvement District Board of Supervisors took no official position at their Wednesday, Dec. 6 meeting. However, supervisors expressed concern over both plans, with the push by the Village of Wellington to cross Southern drawing the most fire.
“There has always been a natural divide with Southern Blvd.,” Supervisor Keith Jordano said following a presentation by Wellington Village Manager Jim Barnes. “You guys are just rushing in. Just coming over to take what y’all want to take. I’m not for you guys coming over and doing that.”
Minutes later, Loxahatchee Groves Mayor Laura Danowski did not receive a much warmer reception after discussing her town’s possible plan to put a competing involuntary annexation referendum on the March ballot.
Supervisor Betty Argue pointed out that Loxahatchee Groves has long coveted the same underdeveloped but commercially valuable, thus commercially taxable, property. “It would be disingenuous for you to say that you want to protect the rural character of these properties, when you’re already on record saying you would change them to commercial,” Argue said.
Danowski acknowledged that properties along Southern likely would be rezoned by the town as commercial. However, she insisted that interior properties stretching north to Harlena Drive would not be rezoned to allow increased density.
Under Wellington’s proposal, those lots could be rezoned to allow as many as eight units per acre.
“To jam-pack in eight units on one acre is obscene. It’s ludicrous,” said Danowski, who focused on the overall goal of maintaining the mostly semi-rural, agricultural and equestrian lifestyle of the thousands of acres north of Southern Blvd.
When Argue pressed Barnes on whether the possible residential density change would be spelled out in Wellington’s referendum question, he said, “No. [But] it will be part of the public notice process. All residents will be given access to the information.”
Since Palm Beach County Commissioner Sara Baxter was in the audience, supervisors invited her to share her thoughts. Baxter represents all of the areas in question. Some of the proposed areas of annexation are technically within ITID’s boundaries.
“If annexed by Wellington, it will allow a million square feet of commercial space and three to eight units per acre, and the rural lifestyle in that area goes away,” Baxter said. “And the infrastructure can’t handle it.”
Newly chosen ITID President Elizabeth Accomando also expressed concern about infrastructure, especially in terms of roads. She said that at times, traffic in that area already is “unbearable.”
Baxter suggested that Loxahatchee Groves consider annexing a larger area to put more voters in the referendum pool, making it harder for builders and developers to apply influence.
“The only way to even the battle is to add more actual residents who will be impacted,” she said.
If Wellington moves forward, the county commission will oppose it through legal action, Baxter said. “We’ll [also] work with the legislature to prevent what happened with Palm Beach Gardens along Northlake Blvd.,” she added.
For several years, the City of Palm Beach Gardens has been annexing property along Northlake Blvd., including some acreage that is technically within ITID’s boundaries.
“I can’t support either one,” Argue said of the two proposals. “But I do support and have always supported our residents having a choice.”