- Sarah Peters Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
A developer is reworking plans to build 300 apartments in place of a mostly vacant shopping center on U.S. 1, amid objections from Juno Beach residents about the size of the project.
The North Beach Plaza property, about a half-mile north of PGA Boulevard, is technically in an unincorporated pocket of Palm Beach County — which means the County Commission has the final say in any redevelopment plans. But it’s in an area that could be annexed by Juno Beach in the future, which means the town gets to weigh in.
The commercial plaza is home to Anthony’s Ladies Apparel, a nail salon, a pizza place, a cigar and tobacco store and a liquor store.
The Town Council panned the project Wednesday, saying the developer is trying to squeeze too many apartments onto the 11-acre site.
“This is way too much, way too fast,” Councilman Bill Greene said.
No one from either the town council or the public spoke in favor of the project.
“My position always is they have to be acceptable to the neighbors, and from what I understand, there’s a lot of opposition from practically every neighbor. They’re not there yet,” County Commissioner Hal Valeche said by phone Thursday.
The developer’s attorney told Juno Beach staff that there’s a total redesign in the works, Juno Planning & Zoning Director Ruben Cruz said. It’s not clear if there will be a reduction in the number of apartments, or just a change to how they’re laid out, he said.
The attorney, Martin Perry, was at the meeting but did not speak.
Fairway Investments LLC, wants to raze the strip mall and build a gated community of 300 luxury apartments, including some workforce housing. Thompson Development Co., which is based in Birmingham, Ala., manages Fairway Investments, state business records indicate. The developer could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday.
The developer is looking to take advantage of a county program that essentially allows property owners to buy the ability to build more than they would otherwise be allowed. As part of the exchange, the builders must include workforce housing.
The new community would be named Lenox North Beach, according to planning documents.
About 15 residents from the neighboring Pleasant Ridge community, along with a few from Captains Key, came to the meeting because they’re concerned about the planned development. The shopping center abuts Pleasant Ridge, a neighborhood of modest homes that are also in unincorporated Palm Beach County.
Three hundred apartments is simply too many for the parcel, said Nancy Silvio-Lodise, president of the Pleasant Ridge Property Owners Association. Neighbors are agreeable to a more reasonable, responsible development, she said.
They’re empathetic with people who are trying to find homes they can afford in the northern part of the county, she said, so they’re open to the workforce housing.
But, she said, the project’s original design doesn’t seem to provide enough parking spaces — which means residents will spill over into their community to find a spot, she surmised.
Vice Mayor Jim Lyons pointed out the proposed apartments are in the vicinity of the 88 yet-to-be-built luxury condos the County Commission approved on the former Panama Hattie’s property and just up the road from The Water Club. The Water Club is a Kolter project with about 170 condos in three high-rises, which are surrounded by another 20 villas.
Across the street from The Water Club, the Crystal Tree Plaza is getting an overhaul into a luxury retail, service and restaurant complex.
“The county and municipalities are approving all this new development, and nothing is being done to enhance the infrastructure,” Lyons said.
They’re bringing more traffic, and “it’s only going to get worse,” he said.