Loxahatchee Groves residents say ‘no way’ to big development pitched

Jan 17, 2018
A developer presented conceptual plans for a 94-home neighborhood in Loxahatchee Groves to the town council during a workshop Tuesday night. This rendering shown to the council provides a general look at what the landowner could apply for. (Provided)

A developer’s plans for a 94-home neighborhood on 47 acres in Loxahatchee Groves was rejected by the town residents and council during a preliminary presentation Tuesday night.

The project known as Loxahatchee Farms West would be at the southeast corner of C and Collecting Canal roads and would have required changes to the town’s development master plan.

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Feedback from residents and the council was blunt: We don’t want this here.

The Loxahatchee Groves comprehensive plan requires that for residential land uses, there can only be one home per five acres of land, with some homes on smaller lots grandfathered in when the town incorporated in 2006.

To make the project a reality, the town would have a new residential land use and zoning to allow a higher density, said Joe Lelonek with Atlantic Land Development, representing the land owners of the four parcels that make up the 47-acre property.

Lelonek argued the town history included in the comprehensive plan outlines historic differences in how the land south of Collecting Canal Road is used.

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“You find a whole patchwork of smaller lots that have been existing since the town incorporated,” Lelonek said, pointing to the mix of commercial, residential and agricultural uses on the south end of Loxahatchee Groves between Collecting Canal and Southern Boulevard.

But residents said the project would be out of character with the rural nature of the surrounding community. It could bring more traffic and crime, they said.

It also potentially could bring more than 200 new residents, some of whom would be voters.

“Those are residents who don’t share the same rural values as the rest of our community,” said Loxahatchee Groves resident Neil O’Neal III, who is running for Seat 1 on the town council.

Phillis Maniglia — also running for Seat 1 — said that as a Realtor in the area, suggested the land could be used for equestrian facilities. “We don’t need this,” she said. “We’ll change our voting structure.”

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Lelonek addressed some of the concerns:

- Traffic. The benefit he said would be that C Road does not connect north over the canal to Collecting Canal. “A big benefit of this development in this location … is that our development is going to funnel traffic straight down C Road to Southern Boulevard,” he said.

- More urban-minded people. “You are going to have different people moving into the town, whether this development moves forward or not,” Lelonek said.

Residents also expressed concern that approving the plans would set the stage for another developer to make a similar request for a higher-density neighborhood. While Lelonek said that could happen whether or not the project is approved, the council seemed reluctant to take that chance.

“It doesn’t comply with our charter,” said Councilman Ron Jarriel. Councilman Todd McLendon agreed, saying the project “is completely opposite” the comprehensive plan.

Mayor Dave Browning said that as when the town was working to incorporate “we fought hard to get the county to approve one per five,” referring to the number of homes allowed per acre. “And all of a sudden we’re talking about two per acre? No, I don’t think so,” he said.

Lelonek thanked the council and residents for listening to the presentation and “being so civil.”

“I have taken your points head-on and we’ll deal with them accordingly,” he said.