More development could be coming to a booming section of west-central Palm Beach County already dotted with large-scale building projects.
Iota Carol LLC, an affiliate of a Newport Beach, Calif., financial investment firm, has submitted an application that would allow 1,030 homes to be built on a 1,288-acre tract west of the Acreage.
A mile west of Seminole Pratt Whitney Road and just north of 60th Street North, Iota is the fifth major development project planned or approved in a cluster west of Royal Beach Boulevard stretching from Beeline Highway south to Southern Boulevard. Combined, the projects — Avenir, Indian Trails Grove, Westlake, Arden and now the Iota proposal — would add 14,723 houses to an exurban area where residents have fought to preserve a slower, quieter lifestyle.
The project, scheduled to be discussed by the County Commission in late August, is likely to extend the ongoing debate between those who believe the county is growing too rapidly and in the wrong places and those who believe development projects should be approved to accommodate population growth that they say is inevitable.
Iota is also likely to increase concerns about road capacity in an area where roads are already having to be widened and extended to accommodate the 4,500-home Westlake project, formerly known as Minto West.
“This is just ridiculous,” said Lisa Interlandi, senior attorney for the Everglades Law Center. “The roads out there are already going to be significantly over capacity.”
The county’s development application process requires builders to estimate how many additional daily trips their project will generate. Developers used to be required to pay for all road improvements necessary to accommodate their projects, but state law now requires that they pay only for a portion of those changes.
Precisely how much Iota would pay the county for road improvements has not been determined.
In its 119-page application for a land use change that would permit greater housing density, Iota says the project would generate 14,665 daily trips, 13,375 more than would be generated if development took place at current density limits. The density allowed under current land use rules allows for one home per 10 acres, which would be 129 houses. Iota wants one home per 1.25 acres, which would be 1,030 houses.
Iota’s traffic analysis had to account for projects that have already been approved, most notably Westlake, which is southeast of Iota.
It’s not clear, however, exactly what will happen at Westlake. After getting county approval to build 4,546 housing units and develop 2.2 million square feet of non-residential space, Minto Communities supported the incorporation of the area.
That incorporation could open the door to more development, which would be considered by the new city’s council as opposed to county commissioners. Minto would have to increase its proportionate share payments to the county if it increases the size of its Westlake project and puts additional strains on area roads.
Bryan Davis, principal planner and urban designer for the county, said Iota wasn’t required to guess at Westlake’s plans in conducting its traffic analysis.
“It’s a look at where the world is when they apply,” he said.
In addition to a traffic analysis, the county’s application process requires that a developer get feedback on how its project would affect other services, such as water, fire rescue and schools.
Details from Iota’s application packet underscore how far it is from commercial and residential structures that have already been built.
The project is 2 miles from the nearest water line, which would have to be extended.
Jill Gregory, senior planner for Palm Beach County Fire Rescue, said the closest station is 7½ miles away. Because response time from that station would be about 17 minutes, Gregory said a new station would have to be built to accommodate Iota.
The Palm Beach County School District said the project would increase its student population by 300 — 155 who would be elementary school students, 83 who would be high school students and 62 who would be middle school students.
The district said it wants $2.5 million to offset the cost of those additional students.
Those who have opposed development projects in the county frequently argue that growth does not fully pay for itself.
That argument has not deterred commissioners from approving development projects, but county staff members often push for a wide range of conditions to address roads, drainage and environmental concerns. And, as they did with Minto, commissioners often force developers to scale back their projects.
Ultimately, though, the projects are usually approved.
Rejecting Iota’s request would seem unlikely, given its position near Westlake and the fact that it would be surrounded by the huge Indian Trails Grove project, which includes 3,897 homes and the development of 350,000 square feet of non-residential space.
Still, Commissioner Melissa McKinlay, whose district includes the Iota project area, said she has some concerns.
“I am growing concerned with the number of proposals in the area,” she said. “I’ve got to carefully consider this project. I share the concerns of the residents (in The Acreage).”