The Minto West project, a proposal to build up to 6,500 homes on the old Callery-Judge Grove site in The Acreage, is no stranger to controversy, with residents and elected officials raising concerns — sometimes vehemently — over potential drainage and traffic problems.
Some of that heated debate played out on a smaller scale at last week’s village council meeting after the council rejected presenting the Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners with a resolution drafted by Mayor Matty Mattioli that opposes the development, proposed for 3,800 acres off Seminole Pratt Whitney Road.
Instead, the council opted to place the resolution, which was on the consent agenda, as a regular agenda item for the council’s second meeting in July to generate more discussion among the public and council members. The vote was unanimous, with Mattioli voting to postpone his own resolution.
“I’m concerned we have such an important topic to all the western communities (and) this needs to be discussed,” said Vice Mayor David Swift. “We need to support a regional planning approach to solve the traffic and drainage problems. The mayor’s resolution does not do this.”
Swift recommended drafting a resolution similar to the one recently adopted by the Indian Trail Improvement District, which governs The Acreage. That resolution proposes several municipalities (Royal Palm Beach, Wellington, Loxahatchee Groves, West Palm Beach, Palm Beach Gardens) work together to determine what kind of impact Minto West would have on drainage, traffic and roads and how those issues can be addressed.
Swift also said that someone from Minto Communities Florida should be invited to speak to the council and residents about the project.
“(Residents) need to know does this project serve the best interests of our (community)?” Swift said. “They need to know how it affects roads, transportation and drainage systems and what benefits, if any, (Minto West) can provide. Minto can help address a number of the major deficiencies.”
John Carter, a vice president with Minto Communities Florida, was at the meeting and said the company would welcome the opportunity to meet with council and citizens.
“Everybody gets frightened by these large numbers,” Carter said. “But there’s a tremendous amount of misinformation out there. We’ve made substantial revisions to our plans.”
The plan has approvals for up to 2,996 homes (single-family, townhomes and apartments) and up to 235,000 square feet for commercial/retail uses.
Michelle Damone, board supervisor with the Indian Trail Improvement District and whom Swift invited to the meeting, said the district wants a collective western communities effort to tackle Minto West instead of each community dealing with the project individually.
“We’re not just looking at Minto, but for all developments,” Damone said. “Whatever occurs at Minto will set a precedent for whoever else wants to develop.”
Loxahatchee Groves recently passed a resolution opposing the project.
Mattioli, who was uncharacteristically silent during most of the discussion, said he has heard everything he needed to hear from the developer.
“This is a whole town,” Mattioli said. “It’s bigger than Royal Palm Beach. Where are you going to put the water and traffic?”
Councilman Richard Valuntas said he didn’t have a problem with the mayor’s resolution, but added it should be a regular agenda item so residents could discuss it. Councilman Jeff Hmara said if the council took a firm position and opposed the project in a resolution, that wouldn’t preclude the council from continuing the discussion and working with other municipalities.
“That doesn’t prohibit a collaborative effort,” Hmara said. “Many road improvements will have to be made to minimize and reduce the adverse impact of those additional cars on the road. There isn’t much more (road) widening we can do.”
Swift said pushing back the resolution and potentially changing its language is the village’s best play.
“I’ve had people who live outside the village who have had more discussion (on the project) than I’ve had before this council,” Swift said. “And that concerns me.”