GL Homes mounts email campaign for its Ag Reserve development plan

Updated Oct 20, 2017
Madeline Gray
Bedner’s Farm Fresh Market is in the Palm Beach County Agricultural Reserve west of Boynton Beach.

Palm Beach County commissioners are getting an earful — actually, an email in-box full — from backers of a controversial GL Homes development plan.

The developer has asked county residents to let county commissioners know they support the builder’s plan to preserve 4,900 acres in The Acreage/Loxahatchee area in exchange for a rule change that would allow it to build more on land it owns in the Agricultural Reserve.

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Backers have stuffed commissioners’ in-boxes, telling them in a form email that they “believe that the GL Homes plan is beneficial for the entire County.”

Some of those who sent the emails have addresses indicating they are connected to businesses that could be vendors of GL. The Palm Beach Post reached out for comment from a half-dozen of those who sent the emails. None responded to requests for comment.

The GL Homes email campaign is the flip side to one launched earlier this year by the Coalition of Boynton West Residential Associations, which opposes the plan.

GL Homes Vice President Kevin Ratterree said the developer’s campaign is in response to COBWRA’s efforts.

“Due to the onslaught of misinformation from COBWRA, we are being very proactive to get residents of Palm Beach County accurate information about our Agricultural Preservation Plan,” Ratterree said. “GL Homes has reached out to community groups, local farmers, residents, the construction industry, restaurants and many other businesses. We have set up informational websites and encouraged these groups to visit the sites for additional information on our plan, with the goal that we can gain their support.”

Ratterree did not specify how COWBRA is misinforming the public, but GL officials have bristled at suggestions by opponents of their plan that the developer is “dismantling the Ag Reserve.”

COBWRA President Myrna Rosoff said her organization has not peddled misinformation.

“We totally disagree with that characterization,” she said. “We are trying to inform the public in this part of Palm Beach County.”

The pro-GL emails sent to commissioners note some of the sweeteners the developer has incorporated into its plan. GL said those public benefits include:

State laws mandate that developers like GL Homes pay for their share of road improvements required by increases in traffic from their new communities, but GL Homes said the roadwork it is proposing in this case goes far beyond those requirements.

County Mayor Paulette Burdick, who, along with her colleagues on the County Commission will make the final call on GL’s plan, agreed that GL Homes has offered more in this proposal than other developers who want rule changes generally do. But she said the sweeteners don’t go far enough.

Burdick, a former Palm Beach School Board County member, said the money GL has offered for school construction, for example, is only a fraction of what building the schools would cost.

“Where’s the other $50-60-70 million going to come from for the schools of the children who will be moving into these homes?” she asked. “The public is going to have to pay the balance.”