Royal Palm Council delays RaceTrac decision for second time

For the second consecutive meeting, Royal Palm Beach’s village council didn’t make a decision on whether to allow a RaceTrac gas station be built along Royal Palm Beach and Southern boulevards.

On Thursday night, the council asked for more traffic information, more about potential impacts to a nearby school and a study of possible crime impact. The issue was postponed until the Dec. 3 council meeting.

Councilman David Swift said he heard the complaints of the opposition, and he’s not ready to make a final decision.

“This concerns me,” he said. “There are a lot of people who have come up who are concerned about their properties.”

More than 200 people packed the Royal Palm Beach Cultural Center to speak for or against the plan.

The people in white “No” shirts said the gas station wouldn’t fit into the fabric of the community and the people in green “Yes” shirts said it would provide more options and bring revenue to the village. More than 100 people submitted cards citing opposition to the project and nearly 60 people said they support it.

The special meeting was held two weeks after the decision was delayed in a contentious meeting where people yelled out of turn and an attorney raised Sunshine Law violations. Thursday’s meeting was more civil, with only one anti-RaceTrac resident yelling out of turn. She was removed from the room after a warning.

Council members were asked to make a decision based on 10 criteria, including not having negative environmental impacts, not negatively affecting traffic, not creating significant noise and not devaluing nearby properties.

Brian Terry, a Wantman group engineer representing RaceTrac, said the nearly 6,000 square-foot gas station would fit with the surrounding area. The two tracts of land are zoned for commercial use and surrounded by other businesses.

He said the building would be surrounded with trees and plants so it won’t stick out or feel out-of-place. The building would feature more muted colors instead of bright reds.

“What we’re doing is beautifying the corner,” he said.

Terry brought up five speakers, including experts on traffic, property values and environmental impacts, who said the project would satisfy all local and state criteria. RaceTrac plans to make traffic changes on the corner, including adding another left-turn lane on Royal Palm Beach Boulevard and a right-turn lane on Southern Boulevard into the building.

Village staff recommended that the council approve the project and the planning and zoning board also unanimously voted in favor.

But many people who live near the site don’t want another business in that area.

Jana Wright-Springfield, who lives about half-a-mile from the site said she would rather see a natural area close to her house than a 24-hour gas station.

“I am embarrassed and outraged that you would put this in my front yard,” she said.

David Markarian, an attorney representing the opposing group, said the large number of people coming out to speak should be taken seriously. He said it doesn’t fit into the fabric of the community if the majority of the people don’t want it.

Others worry that a gas station and convenience store would add to to crime in the area, and that it would add to the already existing traffic problems in the area.

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