ITID Attorney: Proposed Road Changes An ‘End Run’ Around Court’s Ruling

A request to add two streets in The Acreage to Palm Beach County’s Thoroughfare Identification Map (TIM) is an attempt to circumvent a judge’s ruling concerning access to Indian Trail Improvement District roads, ITID’s attorney in the matter said at a Tuesday, March 12 special meeting of the ITID Board of Supervisors.

District 6 County Commissioner Sara Baxter has asked county staff to add 140th Avenue North and 40th Street North to the TIM and remove Persimmon Blvd. The TIM is a long-term planning map designed to identify roads that the county may need to take over for future expansion.

West Palm Beach attorney J. Michael Burman called it “an attempt to do an end run around the trial court’s [preliminary] ruling” denying Minto Communities USA access to ITID roads.

In a letter sent Wednesday to all members of the Palm Beach County Commission, Burman wrote that Baxter “is attempting to start a private crusade against ITID for the benefit of SID [the Seminole Improvement District] and Minto.”

Minto is the primary developer and property owner in the City of Westlake, a booming enclave surrounded by the semi-rural Acreage, governed by ITID. John Carter, the Minto senior vice president in charge of the Westlake project, and Kenneth Cassel, who manages both Westlake and SID, could not be reached for comment.

The letter went on to say that ITID supports a plan to fully pave, expand and extend 60th Street North — a county road — east-west along the M Canal from State Road 7 to Seminole Pratt Whitney Road. Burman wrote that if that is done, studies commissioned by ITID show that 60th Street will be able to handle all the east-west traffic necessary without 140th, 40th or Persimmon.

Baxter, who represents the area, has scheduled a roads-focused town hall meeting for Tuesday, March 26 at 6:30 p.m. at the Acreage branch library (15801 Orange Blvd.).

“Despite the spread of misinformation and scare tactics from others in [ITID], I am dedicated to hearing the concerns of the residents and coming up with solutions together,” Baxter wrote this week in an e-mail to constituents.

Though not invited to the March 12 special meeting at Acreage Pines Elementary School, Baxter said she was prepared to share a presentation then about the TIM but was limited to only three minutes as one of many attendees speaking during public comments.

The proposed TIM changes were scheduled to go before the seven-member Palm Beach County Commission on Thursday, March 28. A majority of the commissioners must approve the changes.

Minto has been in negotiations with county staff regarding construction of the 60th Street North extension from 140th Avenue North some two miles to Seminole Pratt Whitney Road. That street currently offers multiple access points to Persimmon Blvd. over ITID roads. Parts of 60th Street still are dirt, while Persimmon is paved to ITID’s rural/agricultural standards to SR 7.

“Persimmon was not built to serve a city,” ITID Supervisor Betty Argue said Wednesday. “Our roads are not for developer traffic. 60th Street should be designed so that traffic can’t cut through onto ITID roads. But the county isn’t talking to us.”

Westlake, which incorporated in 2016, has since become one of the fastest-growing communities in Florida. However, it has no east-west traffic access, a fact that could cost Minto as much as $18 million as part of a proportional share agreement with the county if the situation is not soon remedied.

The only major access to Westlake is north and south via Seminole Pratt Whitney Road.

While understanding that “many people will not be extremely happy” with changes to the TIM, Baxter said this week there was no ulterior motive in the request. Instead, she said, it is an attempt to find a compromise that in the long run will allow better and smoother traffic flow through the area with “a minimum of hardships on the residents.”

Baxter said she relied on the guidance from the county’s professional staff in making the TIM request.

In Tuesday’s e-mail, Baxter pointed to a finding from Palm Beach County’s engineering and public works departments stating that: “Without this TIM amendment for additional roadway connectivity, traffic dispersal options in the area will be limited, likely leading to traffic congestion, driver frustration, increased crash potential and longer emergency response times.”

“As a resident [of The Acreage who] appreciates our rural area and freedoms we enjoy,” she wrote, “I am dedicated to finding a solution that preserves our rural lifestyles and still accommodates an increasing flow of traffic.”

One of the biggest concerns expressed by residents has been the possibility that the county could turn their two-lane streets into heavily traveled four-lane roads requiring 80 feet of right-of-way — something that would eat up current swales and parts of many driveways and yards.

“Residents are rightly concerned about increased traffic near their homes, and I share this concern,” Baxter wrote.

She also said this week she would not support widening 140th or 40th to more than three lanes with a 60-foot right-of-way, nor using eminent domain to seize property.

Meanwhile, 60th Street needs to be five lanes, said Baxter, and pointed out that widening and extending it is not all about giving Westlake residents easier access to the east. It also would give drivers coming west from The Acreage greater access to restaurants, shops, supermarkets, healthcare and the new Palm Beach County Tax Collector’s Office in Westlake, she said.

Minto and SID, which provides much of the infrastructure for the community, sued ITID in 2020 seeking to connect a Westlake road to 140th near Persimmon. Circuit Court Judge Richard Oftedal issued a preliminary judgment in October rejecting the request. A final hearing is set for April 1, attorney Burman said.

“The court was very clear… It affirmed that these roads are ITID roads, that ITID has sovereignty over them,” he told residents at the March 12 meeting. “The developers do not own your roads.”

Besides the proposed TIM changes, Baxter plans to update attendees at her March 26 town hall meeting on issues related to the widening of Northlake Blvd., the extension of Seminole Pratt Whitney Road to the Beeline Highway/State Road 710, and the extension of State Road 7 to Northlake.


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