The City of Westlake’s primary developer and landowner, Minto Communities USA, is in talks with Palm Beach County to construct 60th Street North from 140th Avenue North to Seminole Pratt Whitney Road.
If constructed, it would give Westlake a direct east-west outlet all the way to State Road 7, more connections to Northlake Blvd. and access to 140th Avenue North.
“It’s a real plan,” District 6 Commissioner Sara Baxter said this week. “[Minto] is in negotiations with the county.”
John Carter, Minto’s senior vice president in charge of the Westlake project, could not be reached for comment.
District Engineer Jay Foy shared with the Indian Trail Improvement District Board of Supervisors at their Wednesday, Jan. 17 meeting that the county has approached him for input on the plan. Although 60th Street North is a county road running alongside the south side of the West Palm Beach-owned M Canal, many of the north-south streets connected to 60th are maintained by ITID.
The widening and extending of 60th Street North has been on the radar of local and county officials for years, Baxter said.
“What we’ve been asking for is for the county to five-lane [60th] from State Road 7 to Seminole Pratt,” ITID Executive Director Burgess Hanson said this week.
However, because of other projects already planned, even if 60th Street were funded by the county today, it would be years before construction begins, Hanson said.
Minto, on the other hand, believes it can rapidly begin construction if county approval is gained and build the 2.7-mile road for approximately $10 million, Baxter said. County estimates have put the likely cost at $40 million.
If Minto is allowed to take on the project, Hanson said that ITID’s major concern would be for a 1.5-mile section of 60th that is dirt between Avocado Blvd. and 120th Avenue North. Increased traffic to and from Westlake could damage the gravel surface and inconvenience residents, he said.
Hanson said that ITID would push for the county to add millings — aka, crushed asphalt — to that section to accommodate the heavier traffic volume.
All of this is happening against the backdrop of a planned Palm Beach County Commission zoning meeting Thursday, Jan. 25 that was set to hear the first reading of a change to The Acreage’s agricultural-residential status that would allow big-rig truckers to park up to two 18-wheelers on their property.
Hanson and at least two ITID supervisors were expected to be on hand at the county hearing room in downtown West Palm Beach to oppose the change. The issue has become so contentious that Hanson was provided a police escort when leaving a recent commission meeting.
ITID officials contend that the trucks already are damaging area roads not designed to handle their weight, which often exceeds 80,000 pounds, and that the zoning change would encourage more truckers to move into the area, forcing ITID residents to pay for excessive road repairs and extensive construction.
Baxter, who has supported the “Save Our Truckers” group in The Acreage, said at her Thursday, Jan. 18 town hall that tractor-trailer drivers have been parking their rigs at their homes “for decades without any problems.”
“Our infrastructure has huge problems, and not just in The Acreage,” Baxter told the crowd at the Royal Palm Beach Cultural Center. “It’s bad everywhere… [and] we should not be singling out large trucks when we talk about infrastructure.”
However, Baxter said this week that she planned to propose at Thursday’s meeting a $2,500 fee for each new truck that comes into The Acreage in an effort to mitigate whatever damage an influx might cause.
Meanwhile, Minto’s proposal to build the stretch of 60th Street North within Westlake could save the developer millions in a proportionate share agreement it entered into with the county regarding east-west roads when Westlake was approved.
It also would provide frustrated Westlake parents with a much quicker route to Golden Grove Elementary School and Western Pines Middle School.
At present, many Westlake parents must drive miles out of the way to take their children to school, even though the schools may be visible from their home.
Minto and the Seminole Improvement District (SID), which provides roads and other infrastructure for Westlake, sued ITID in 2020 in an effort to connect to 140th Avenue North near Persimmon Blvd., which stretches east to Royal Palm Beach Blvd. and SR 7.
In October, Circuit Court Judge Richard L. Oftedal issued a partial judgment ruling that Minto and SID have no inherent right to access ITID roads. ITID’s attorney, J. Michael Burman, said he’ll be responding to a request from Oftedal by Feb. 1 and seeking a final judgment. If the ruling is in favor of ITID, it is likely that Minto/SID will appeal.