Sometimes cities grow up. Sometimes, out. West Palm Beach is doing both.

Along with billions of dollars of development in the works, a new study identifies more than 100 acres on the city’s fringes ripe for annexation from unincorporated parts of the county. Officials say annexing strategic parcels along its jagged border, West Palm can square off its frontiers, make police and fire coverage less confused and build a healthier property tax base to support community needs.

“Annexing also helps the city because state money often is divvied out based on city population,” Development Services Director Rick Greene said at a mayor-commission work session.

In the past six months, Greene’s staff, in a team with representatives of the engineering, fire, police and other departments, studied 559 parcels in six key parts of the city for their annexation potential.

“City staff wants to pursue 38 of the parcels, with 125 acres in all, as priorities for annexation, Greene said. “Another 108 parcels are worth adding, if adding the initial 38 make the others contiguous to city borders. The remaining 413 are not worth pursuing for now, for various reasons. Some might require an arduous rezoning process, for example. For each parcel, they evaluated whether annexing would be politically, technically or economically feasible,”

They asked, would the city be able to deliver utility, police and services there, for example, and did the property have the potential to bring in more tax revenue than it would cost to serve it?

Starting in 1988, when a West Palm visioning report identified future areas for annexation, the city annexed 52 properties, totaling 6,463 acres. The big tracts are mostly gobbled up by now. In contrast to 1988-89, when the city added 2,692 acres in 14 annexations (the Ibis community land was the biggest, at 1,876 acres), in all of the 2010s the city processed half that many annexations, for a total of 22 acres.

The six priority areas the new report identifies for future annexations are:

  • On the south side of Okeechobee Boulevard west of the turnpike. This includes the 25-acre Grace Fellowship site at 8304 and 8350 Okeechobee, whose application is in the works. The site is opposite the Andros Isle community.
  • A multi-family property on the west side of North Haverhill Road, diagonally across from the MorseLife senior care residences
  • North Haverhill’s northeast corner with 45th Street, and a small daycare site on the west side of North Haverhill just south of the Riviera Beach city line.
  • North Military Trail near its intersection with Community Drive. This area includes Oxbridge Academy and several commercial sites on both sides of Military. An Oxbridge annexation would not contribute to the tax base because it’s a nonprofit school exempt from property tax. But since state law only allows annexations adjacent to existing city borders, so if West Palm were to annex Oxbridge, other parcels abutting the school would be within the city’s reach, Greene said.
  • Parcels scattered near the northeast corner of North Military and Okeechobee.
  • A triangular parcel, currently within the Town of Mangonia Park, an extension of the 45th Street Flea Market, which is already within West Palm’s borders.

Properties can be annexed voluntarily or involuntarily. The voluntary ones take place when a property owner applies for them. The sites must be contiguous to the city, “reasonably compact” and not create enclaves — islands of unincorporated parcels surrounded by city land. For involuntary annexations, a city has to schedule a referendum or get consent from more than half of the owners on land covering more than half the total.

“There are reasons why a property owner might want its land to be brought within West Palm’s boundaries but there are disincentives as well,” Greene said.

The big disincentive is that the city’s property tax rate is higher than the unincorporated county’s. The city charges nearly $22 per $1,000 of a property’s value annually; In the unincorporated county, it’s about $17.

“To overcome that disincentive, the city could charge annexed properties less, over three or four years, to make up the difference,” Greene said.

“The incentive for property owners, in addition to access to city services, is that city development rules and procedures can be easier to navigate than the county’s and allow projects of higher density,” said Alex Hansen, comprehensive planner for the city.

City Commissioner Richard Ryles asked whether, by annexing parcels and adding residents, the city risked diluting the votes of its existing African American community. Hansen responded that most of the priority parcels are commercial sites and several are vacant.

Each property to be considered for annexation would have to have the city commission’s approval.

Source: Palm Beach Post

Will the potential economic slowdown have a significant effect on the commercial real estate market in South Florida? Not really, says Nathan Perlmutter, vice president in commercial lending at TD Bank, in this podcast.

Listen to the podcast for more insights on:

  • Projections for the multifamily sector.
  • Miami office sector trends that CRE experts are watching in 2020.
  • The impact of the global trade war on the industrial sector’s growth.
  • How landlords are adjusting to major changes in the retail landscape.
  • The effect millennial preferences are having on the multifamily market.
  • The biggest CRE trend in South Florida in 2020.



Source:  SFBJ

Slashing taxes and taking a hands-off approach to governance attracted thousands of residents to places like in Lake Wylie, South Carolina. But politicians neglected to spend money on critical infrastructure, and now the Republican-led county council has placed a 16-month moratorium on all new development.

The York County Council said that the town, where the population has tripled since 2000, needs to get a better handle on growth, the Wall Street Journal reported. Several years of outsized development has strained Lake Wylie’s water system, schools, and roads.

The moratorium affects commercial and residential rezoning requests as well as considerations of new apartment complexes and subdivisions.

“New development in the town isn’t of the kind the town needs,” said Council member Allison Love. “For example, there are seven car washes and six self-storage facilities on the town’s main drag but few restaurants and doctors’ offices. Many residential subdivisions look almost identical.”

Love and her colleagues said they gathered thousands of signatures supporting the moratorium from residents of the town who are tired of overly long commutes caused by clogged roadways and water main breaks. Three mile drives across town can take up to 45 minutes in some cases and residents have seen a dozen boil-water advisories in the last two years.

Other towns in the Sunbelt region have struggled with similar issues related to development. Development firms like the Related Group have expanded into small towns across the region in search of returns.

The moratorium may be too late to relieve near-term pressure on Lake Wylie, though — there are currently around 3,000 new homes and apartments approved and in various stages of construction in the town.


Source: The Real Deal

Florida’s grand plan for a multibillion-dollar hemp industry that would make the state an emerging leader in the nation’s latest green rush could be at risk, some industry advocates say.

A federal proposed rule for stringent testing would result in less “CBD content” in hemp crops, making them less attractive to buyers. That’s according to the Hemp Industries Association of Florida, which has complained to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which is developing regulations to oversee hemp production.

As the rules stand, they would have a “serious chilling effect on the amount of acres planted” and would “increase prices for the consumer significantly,” according to the association’s letter to the USDA.

“The plants will be in field less time, meaning they’ll have less CBD content, and farmers will not have a good marketable product,” said Ray Mazzie, executive director of the Tallahassee-based trade association.

The most lucrative product to make with hemp is CBD oil, which some people use for anxiety and pain, but which doesn’t give users the “high” that marijuana does.

“If the USDA rules become final, most hemp farming in Florida would become cost-prohibitive,” Mazzie said.

The result would be Florida consumers having to continue to buy out-of-state CBD oil, instead of potentially lower-priced alternatives from Florida growers. The state’s rules for CBD product quality and safety went into effect Jan. 1.

The Florida Department of Agriculture, headed by Nikki Fried, said the department “remains optimistic that our hemp rules, crafted with public input and to closely align with federal laws, will allow farmers and entrepreneurs to succeed in this emerging industry,” according to Max Flugrath, the department’s press secretary. Fried, a Democrat, has been championing hemp as making Florida “a national leader in this emerging new economy.”

Hemp became legal in Florida on July 1, 2019, and the state is now seeking federal compliance to launch hemp farming, to produce “Fresh from Florida” CBD oil and other hemp products. Hemp could be a new, multibillion-dollar industry for the state.

States must submit their hemp farming rules to the USDA to comply with federal regulations, being developed after the 2018 Farm Bill made U.S. hemp farming legal. The USDA’s deadline for comments on its interim rules was Jan. 30th. The final rules are expected in 2021.

“Commissioner Fried is obligated to follow the law, including the USDA’s rules, and the state hemp rules must adhere to those guidelines,” Flugrath said.

“The issues may slow down Florida’s hemp industry, but he believes the state will come up with solutions,” said Jeff Greene, co-founder of the Florida Hemp Council.  “For now, the testing problem “resets the playing field. Most of the hemp that is grown nationally has too high of hemp to meet federal law.”

The federal rules call for testing of the flower of the hemp plant 15 days before harvest. If it does not comply, the crop would be disposed of. That will put farmers at risk of losing their investment in the crop, critics say.

“With the current USDA rules, farmers would need to produce twice as much material to arrive at hemp that is marketable for CBD oil and related products,” Greene said.

The federal government considers cannabis with scant amounts of THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol — 0.3 percent or less — to be hemp. But any level above that is marijuana and illegal under federal law.

“Higher THC levels can be taken out of the crop by processors before products are made,” Greene said.

Mazzie said some Florida farmers are already scaling back hemp-growing plans because the proposed rules would make hemp production cost-prohibitive. Other states including South Carolina and Indiana, as well as national farmers’ groups, are asking the USDA to make changes to the interim rules, with trade publication Progressive Farmer calling the rules unworkable for farmers and a marketable industry.

“Florida wants to avoid issues such as those in Kentucky, the first state to enter the hemp industry after the 2018 Farm Bill, where hemp farmers blame over-regulation for cash-flow problems,” Mazzie said

Andrew Strickland, a cattle rancher near Starke who had hoped to farm hemp, said his plans are now on hold until Florida and the USDA work out the obstacles. Growing hemp for CBD is more lucrative, but he may end up “cutting out the aggravation” and producing industrial hemp for textiles or other non-CBD products.

“If farmers are able to process the whole hemp plant — no matter what the THC level is — there are more product possibilities, such as cosmetics or lotions,” Strickland said. “If you buy a whole chicken from a store, there’s so much more you can do with it than a bunch of chicken legs.”


Source: SunSentinel