Posts

The county zoning commission unanimously approved revised plans for an industrial-commercial project that will abut the Dakota Homes development west of Delray Beach despite strong opposition from area residents who fear the project will decimate their property values and destroy their quality of life.

Resident after resident told the zoning board they never would have bought in the 387-unit GL Homes development, currently under construction, had they known that the land adjacent to them was zoned industrial. Some of the homeowners paid as much as $600,000 for their homes.

“We knew something was going to be built there but not an industrial park,” said Monica Belisle, whose home on Salty Bay Drive is about 250 feet from the project.

At issue is whether West Delray Collision can move its operations across the street to a 10-acre site on the south side of Atlantic Avenue about .2 miles east of State Road 7. The 164,000-square foot project also calls for a 35-foot tall self-storage facility, a car wash, two warehouse buildings and a tire repair facility.

The Board of County Commissioners will decide the fate of the project Thursday, Aug. 22.

The Zoning Commission forced West Delray Collision to revise its plans so that its operations were farther away from Dakota Homes after residents pleaded for help at a July meeting. The revisions include:

  • Increasing the setback from 100 feet to 170 feet.
  • Increasing the buffer to 50 feet.
  • Reducing the size of the self-storage facility by 12,000 square feet.
  • Adding a second canopy of trees.
  • Building a 50-foot wall on the east side of the property next to Our Lady Queen of Peace Church.
  • Moving the dumpster from West Delray Collision farther away from Dakota.

But the concessions did nothing to appease the residents.

 “It’s like dying by cyanide or electrocution,” he said. “We feel like we are being bulldozed,” said Boca Raton cardiologist Steven Pollack, who like Belisle also lives on Salty Bay Drive:

Pollack and others claim traffic congestion is a nightmare on Atlantic Avenue, which is only one lane in each direction. The state has plans to widen the heavily traveled highway but that project is not expected to start until sometime in 2022 and may take two or more years to complete.

It is a big mistake to put more traffic on Atlantic Avenue before it is widened, he said, noting that people may not get to nearby hospitals in time for treatment because of the traffic congestion.

“Moving the auto repair operation 70 feet away won’t make a difference,” said Matthew Belisle.

He was concerned with the 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. operations Monday to Saturday as well as noise issues.

“This is fundamentally unfair,” Belisle said. “It will financially ruin us.”

But Greg DiMaria, the owner of West Delray Collision, said he is trying to be as neighborly as he can be. As for noise, he said all of the auto-body repair work will be done inside a concrete building.

The vacant land, which is in the Ag Reserve, had been zoned agricultural-residential but in 2017, at around the time GL began selling homes at Dakota, the county approved a zoning change to light industrial.

Donald Bryan said his family has owned the land for more than 50 years. He said future land use maps have designated the parcel as industrial ever since 1980.

“This property has right to be developed based on property rights,” Bryan said. “What is fair is fair.”

The opposition to the project is intense. Zoning staff received 66 comments in opposition; only 1 comment in support. Petitions with more than 515 signatures opposing the project were presented to the zoning board from parishioners at the nearby church and an on-line petition from 231 Dakota Homes’ residents.

Four Seasons HOA President Art Goldzweig testified against the project in July. He told The Post on that he was disappointed with the zoning commissioners. He said he can’t understand how the board could ignore the outcry of the residents and the parishioners of Our Lady Queen of Peace.

“This is shameful behavior,” Goldzweig said. “They should all resign.”

He was also disappointed with Alliance of Delray Residential Associations for supporting the project as long the concessions were made. This is not a project that the association should be supporting, he noted.

 

Source: Palm Beach Post

Palm Beach County has been a party for developers during the past couple years. Comprehensive plan changes, zoning changes, they’ve won steady approval from county commissioners.

But November’s elections brought two new commissioners to the dais. The mayor’s gavel has been passed to a different commissioner. And early indications are that the music has stopped. The party might not be over – lots of approved projects have not yet been built – but the cover charge appears to be on the rise.

That’s rare and welcome news for environmentalists and preservationists, who have spent much of the past two years wailing in vain that the county was growing too much and in the wrong areas.

“It seemed to me that everything automatically passed,” said Drew Martin, conservation chair of the Loxahatchee group of the Sierra Club.

The list of agreed-to, pro-development requests has grown over the past two years.

Minto

In 2014, Minto Communities wanted land use changes to accommodate a massive project: 4,500 homes and the development of 2.1 million square feet of non-residential space in The Acreage.

After months of packed meetings, protests and complaints from environmentalists and preservationists, the commission voted 5-2 in favor of the request.

The county and Minto agreed to several conditions of approval dealing with such things as land set-asides for drainage, schools and parks. Minto, however, flipped the script on the county, backing the area’s incorporation as the new city of Westlake in a move that bewildered and angered commissioners.

It is unclear whether Minto must adhere to the conditions it negotiated with the county.

The Agricultural Reserve

Last fall, some land owners in the Agricultural Reserve, a 22,000-acre farming zone west of Boynton Beach and Delray Beach, wanted the county to lift restrictions limiting the type of parcels that could be used for preservation.

The county requires that 60 acres be set aside for every 40 that’s developed in the reserve. But if the parcel a developer wanted to use to meet that preservation requirement was smaller than 150 acres, it had to be contiguous to another parcel already in preservation.

The goal was to allow for some development in the reserve while at the same time preserving much of it for agriculture.

But smaller landowners complained that the rules unfairly depressed the value of their land, forcing them to remain in unprofitable nursery or farming operations.

Those landowners pressed commissioners to scrap the so-called contiguity rule, and, with a vote of 5-2, that’s just what they did.

Indian Trails Grove

In September, GL Homes asked the county to change its comprehensive plan to accommodate a project including 3,900 homes and the development of 350,000 acres of non-residential space on 4,900 acres west of 180th Ave. N. and south of Hamlin Road.

Environmentalists and preservationists made familiar arguments — too much development, too much stress on roads. The commission voted 6-1 to grant GL Homes’ request.

Iota Carol (AKA Delray Linton Groves)

An affiliate of a Newport Beach, Calif. investment firm asked the county to change its comprehensive plan to accommodate a project including 1,030 homes on 1,288 acres west of The Acreage.

Again, environmentalists and preservationists asked commissioners to deny the request, and commissioners again refused.

Zoning changes for the Indian Trails Grove and Delray Linton Groves projects are expected to come before the commission this year.

 

That commission is different from the one that approved development requests over the past couple years.

Shelley Vana and Priscilla Taylor, consistent votes in favor of development projects, have been replaced on the commission by Dave Kerner and Mack Bernard.

And the mayor’s gavel has been passed from Mary Lou Berger, who has also favored development projects, to Paulette Burdick, who has been the commission’s most persistent critic of them.

The changes have had an immediate impact.

In December, the county debated whether it should agree to sell 571 acres in the Agricultural Reserve it owns jointly with the South Florida Water Management District.

The 571 acres are part of a larger tract the county purchased in 2000 using public money raised to acquire land for preservation or agriculture. Two years later, the water management district purchased a 61 percent stake in the 571 acres with plans to use it as the site of a reservoir.

The district no longer plans to have a reservoir built there and wants to sell the land. Because the land is jointly owned, the county would have to agree to the sale.

Environmentalists and preservationists said the sale could one day lead to more development in the reserve.

A majority of the commission — Burdick, Melissa McKinlay and the two new commissioners, Kerner and Bernard — said they weren’t prepared to vote in favor of a sale.

The commission eventually voted to conduct a joint meeting with the district’s board of governors to see if it’s possible to head off possible legal action over the land.

“They are showing they are being more moderate,” said Karen Marcus, a former commissioner. “These folks are more skeptical of projects.”

Burdick, denied the gavel in a rebuke two years ago, now has broad authority to set the terms of debate. As chairwoman of commission meetings, she can decide not to accept a motion and extend or restrict the time allotted to speakers.

In addition to zoning requests on big projects, commissioners this year are expected to conduct a workshop on the county’s workforce housing program, set up to require developers to include lower-cost housing in their projects.

Developers don’t like the requirement and have frequently exercised their right to pay a fee in lieu of building the less expensive housing. Burdick has argued that the buy-out costs should be scrapped or raised so the county gets more money to help provide affordable housing or developers are more inclined to build it.

When the program was discussed in the past, Burdick’s frustration with the buy outs would induce eye rolls from colleagues who argued that developers were merely exercising their rights under the program.

The new commission, however, has chosen her as mayor.

“That they selected Commissioner Burdick to be the mayor, that was thoughtful,” Marcus said.

Burdick said she does not believe she alone can make the commission more wary of development projects.

“I’m only one voice,” she said. “I am hopeful that my new colleagues will look at the economic impacts of some of these new projects.”

That some projects have already moved forward through comprehensive plan changes does not mean zoning changes will follow, Burdick said, adding that she does not believe the rejection of zoning requests will automatically prompt lawsuits from developers.

“We’re not taking away any of their current entitlements,” Burdick said.

 

Source:  Palm Beach Post