Habitat for Humanity wants to build homes on Boynton Beach-owned scrub

Feb 19, 2018
A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held at Galaxy E3 Elementary for a scrub area created with the help of students Wednesday, December 2, 2015 in Boynton Beach. Students in the school’s Scrub Club took classes about the scrub, created eco-art stepping stones, and planted native tree seedlings in raised bed planters. “They planted myrtle oak, sand oak, and gopher apple,” said Glenda Hall, City of Boynton Beach Forestry and Grounds Manager. “The students are really learning a lot about nature,” said Boynton Beach Mayor Jerry Taylor. “I am really excited about this project.” (Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post)

Habitat for Humanity of South Palm Beach wants to build 22 single-family affordable houses on land that the city and an elementary school have worked to preserve as scrub.

The Palm Beach County School District deeded the land to the city in 2012 in a land-transfer program to build Galaxy Elementary School. The land — now called Galaxy Scrub — is deed-restricted for public park use. The school board would have to release that restriction for Habitat to build homes.

But school staff says the school board has no plan to do so, according to city documents.

The City Commission is expected to discuss the land — and decide whether to push school officials — at Tuesday’s public meeting.

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Habitat wants to build the homes on 5.8 acres of the 10-acre site, which is at the north side of the school campus on Northwest Fourth Avenue, just east of Interstate 95 and north of Boynton Beach Boulevard. The homes would be three-to-four bedrooms.

Members of the Sierra Club and city residents have spoken publicly against Habitat’s proposal. Former Boynton City Commissioner Mike Fitzpatrick played in the scrub as a boy and has always feared it would be developed as many other pieces of land have been.

But just a couple years ago, he thought the land was in the clear — for good.

In 2015, the city, Galaxy students and Boynton’s garden club came together to celebrate the official opening of the Galaxy Scrub. It was a $47,000 project paid for through grants from the Florida Forest Service’s Urban and Community Forestry Grant Program and the Bachelor Foundation via the Education Foundation of Palm Beach County. Also, money from the city’s Capital Improvement Program went to the scrub.

The long-range plan for it was to make it a teaching area and part of the city’s greenways path.

“It’s very disappointing to see it back on the table for people who can’t remember three years of history,” Fitzpatrick said.

This is the second piece of green space Habitat has approached the city on recently. The nonprofit wanted to build 11 single-family homes on Boynton-owned land beside the Palm Beach Leisureville community. Leisureville wanted to use the land for a park and recreation. The commissioners voted earlier this month to sell the land, valued at about $271,000, to Leisureville for $24,999.

Officials said they thought Leisureville needed the open space and the land was intended for a similar use. But still, some commissioners were torn. Vice Mayor Justin Katz said a perfect situation would be to have houses built on a portion of the land and Commissioner Christina Romelus said she is usually an advocate for affordable housing but saw the majority of the board lean toward Leisureville.