How should the western areas grow? County commissioner wants to hear from residents

With new development projects in the works for Palm Beach County’s central western communities, County Commissioner Paulette Burdick says it’s time for a town hall meeting.

Burdick will host a meeting Jan. 7 focusing on land-use issues that will determine the future of communities such as The Acreage, Loxahatchee Groves and Deer Run.

The hour-long meeting with county planning staff will be at 6:30 p.m. at Vista Center on Jog Road in suburban West Palm Beach.

Burdick said she envisions the meeting as an informal continuation of issues debated 10 years ago in discussions over a “sector plan,’’ which was a growth blueprint for more than 50,000 acres in and around The Acreage.

County commissioners repealed that plan in November 2007, and some residents at the time felt their opinions didn’t factor into decisions about the area.

But Burdick said it’s at least time for a historical overview of the area since it could see change in the coming years with residential developments such as Minto West and Highland Dunes.

The meeting will allow comment from residents “who are concerned about preserving the rural characteristics of these communities,’’ said Burdick, whose district goes as far west as State Road 7.

“What’s the potential for what is going to be happening in what was once a sector plan?’’ Burdick said.

“It’s pertinent information for the entire county as we become built out,” she added. “How do we look at some of these large open spaces and the areas between the turnpike and Military Trail from 45th Street south?’’

Water issues and the Agricultural Reserve will also be part of the meeting.

Dennis Lipp, the former vice mayor of Loxahatchee Groves, said Burdick should be applauded for hosting the town meeting.

“I appreciate Commissioner Burdick for wanting to do something because the commissioners really do need to have local input,’’ Lipp said.

“People want a choice in development, and in the western communities we can give them that choice. If we turn everything into 6,000 homes on 3,000 acres, that’s not what the surrounding land is all about.’’

The central and western communities also will be the topic of other meetings early in 2014.

All seven county commissioners are scheduled in January to accompany the county planning staff on individual bus tours with stops including the old Callery-Judge Grove land and the Highland Dunes project west of Wellington.

Homebuilder Minto Communities hopes to build 6,500 homes on the 3,800-acre Callery-Judge Grove land.

Two public hearings for the Minto West project are also scheduled. The Planning Commission will consider text changes to the comprehensive plan at 9 a.m. Feb. 14 at the Vista Center. The county commission will consider the planning commission’s recommendation March 27 at the Governmental Center in downtown West Palm Beach.

Commissioners in October approved a rezoning request for Highland Dunes, allowing 2,000 homes on 1,200 acres owned by Palm Beach Aggregates.

Commissioners also are tentatively scheduled to hold an extensive workshop on the future of the Ag Reserve at 9:30 a.m. March 25. A key question will be whether to allow more commercial development in the reserve.

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