Jupiter fixing a not-so-secret issue: Homeless campground near school

12:06 p.m Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017 Local
This campground is within the two vacant acres recently purchased by Jupiter. Land clearing starts Monday. (Photo/Bill DiPaolo)

A campground for the homeless in Jupiter — a football field away from the town’s Community Center — likely will vanish next week when workers start clearing two vacant acres along Indiantown Road.

A mattress, three plastic tables and two chairs were scattered together Monday afternoon near the middle of the property surrounded by tall Australian pines.

Pants, jackets, sneakers, work boots, plastic bottles and bags, soda and alcohol containers, books, food containers, a deck of cards and empty packs of cigarettes were among the items scattered in the spot near Jupiter High School.

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This is no secret in Jupiter.

“There’s the homeless problem back there,” Councilman Ron Delaney said. “There’s drug activity. Syringes have been found on the ground. The police can’t see in there because the brush is so thick.”

The town purchased the land in April for $2.8 million. Preliminary plans call for building a roundabout on Indiantown Road at Daniels Way.

Daniels Way could be diverted with an opening at Philadelphia Drive. That would reduce the need for u-turns onto Indiantown Road by motorists going west. Adding a traffic light with signalized crosswalks would make the area safer.

The crash that killed to paramedics on June 1 happened at the intersection of Indiantown Road and Philadelphia Drive.

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Lahiri Garcia, 51, and Paul Besaw, 36, had just dropped a patient at nearby Jupiter Medical Center. Both were killed as they were driving west on Indiantown Road at about 3 a.m. They were struck by a Chrysler Sebring driven by Genaro delacruz Ajqui, according to Jupiter Police.

Ajqui has been charged with driving under the influence, vehicular homicide and driving without a license. Ajqui, 39, is awaiting trial and is being held without bond at the Palm Beach County Jail. His next hearing is Nov. 17.

Using the land for recreation and municipal services is another consideration.

Trash and homeless people are problems on the two acres, code officials told the council during the April discussion about buying the property.

Stolen bikes, furniture and trash also are dumped there, they told the council.

There have been 27 crashes since 2012 adjacent to the property, including three involving bicycles and one involving a pedestrian. Most crashes happened during peak high school traffic periods, according the town.

The town is paying Wantman Group Inc. from West Palm Beach $18,350 to clear the property. The weekday clearing, which starts Monday, is expected to take about 30 days.

Trucks will not be hauling debris between 6:30-7 :30 a.m. and 2:15-2:45 p.m. to avoid interfering with traffic to and from Jupiter High School. Traffic is not expected to be closed along Indiantown Road while the work is being done, according to Jupiter records.