The Royal Palm Beach Village Council voted last week to spend $5,000 to hire a lobbyist to promote the State Road 7 extension. It was good move that other western communities are poised to follow in their effort to quash objections to the project by West Palm Beach.
For years, the city has played bully to the smaller municipalities insisting that the wants of its residents outweigh the needs of theirs.
The Western Communities Council — which includes Royal Palm Beach, Wellington, Loxahatchee Groves, The Acreage and Greenacres — passed a resolution asking each of its members to contribute money to hire a lobbyist to persuade federal legislators to pay for the $80 million project that would relieve traffic congestion in their towns.
The project would extend SR 7, which goes north from Okeechobee Boulevard about halfway to Northlake Boulevard, about 4 miles the rest of the way. The proposed path goes along the east side of Ibis, a gated community of about 1,750 homes within West Palm Beach’s northwestern boundary. The new road would lie between Ibis and the Grassy Waters Preserve, a 20-square-mile marsh that captures rainwater for the city’s drinking supply. Mayor Jeri Muoio claims it would damage the city’s water. Ibis residents, a force in city elections, object to the noise and traffic the road would bring and are concerned it would become a truck route.
The project has been on state plans for decades, and the Florida Department of Transportation held a final public hearing last year. Since then, FDOT has been “coordinating with the permitting agencies on minimizing the project footprint and impacts.”
That means the agency is considering the concerns that West Palm Beach residents expressed at that hearing. Mayor Muoio, an Ibis resident, is among the opponents. The city paid $2,000 to bus those opposed to the road extension to the hearing.
Given the muscle West Palm Beach is flexing, it makes sense for the western communities to invest in protecting their interests.
There would be no need for the extension if Ibis didn’t exist. West Palm Beach agreed to the road extension when the city annexed Ibis two decades ago. The city has since reneged on that support.
State engineers have called the SR 7 extension a “critical priority.”
Loxahatchee Groves already has agreed to contribute money to hire a lobbyist. Royal Palm Beach voted to do so provided other western communities agree. “We have to think of the good of the many,” said Councilman Fred Pinto, “not just the wishes of the few.”
Indeed. The project benefits the whole western corridor. The priority should not be a single gated community.
for The Post Editorial Board