Construction is booming in Palm Beach County with new housing developments, shopping and entertainment districts.
However, what some may see as progress others may call a broken promise.
One area seeing pressure to develop is known as the Agricultural Reserve, 20,000 acres that stretch for miles in areas west of Florida’s Turnpike, including near Delray Beach. That is the dilemma facing commissioners. There is a proposal to build housing in an area where development seems to be swelling up all around it.
Opponents to the change for the land just argued that it was the voters’ decision in 1999 and allowing development might lead to taking more reserved land.
“Over 70% of the county voted to say they wanted agriculture and sensitive lands preserved, and you’re here to make sure that continues to happen,” Gate said at the Palm Beach County Commission meeting.
“I don’t think that we should go that route,” Commissioner Mack Bernard said. “I think we should bar that completely and just leave it alone.”
During the public input portion of the meeting, the owner of the land parcel located just north of the Delray Marketplace at Atlantic and Lyons Road shared his thoughts.
“Right now, there’s a thousand people that work at Delray Marketplace,” the property owner Richard Bowman said. “The average commute is 15 miles, so they don’t live in the Ag Reserve. They need a place to live.”
That land in question is known as the Brookside property. Attorney Marty Perry, representing the landowner, objected to not even being allowed to present the formal proposal for the development.
“This is the wrong way to do it,” Perry said. “We are frankly being deprived of our constitutional right to due process and a fair hearing.”
Opponents include former Palm Beach County Commissioner Karen Marcus, who was in office when the land was bought and set aside.
“The big issue that needs to be resolved is, not just for the Ag Reserve but for the entire county, is conservation easements and what they mean,” Marcus said.
The process has frustrated landowners and developers who said they haven’t even been able to present their proposals. Commissioners for the most part said they are not in favor of allowing the land designation to change but will sit down with both sides in March for a workshop to talk it over, knowing the pressure to develop more in the county won’t let up.