More Housing in AG Reserve?

By Kathy Panko, Environmental Issues Group

More Housing in Ag ReserveFlorida homebuilder, GL Homes, wants to increase the number of homes they can build in Palm Beach County’s Agricultural Reserve, a 22,000-acre farming and conservation zone west of Boynton Beach and Delray Beach.  Instead of proceeding with their already approved plan to build 3,900 homes in Indian Trails Grove, a 4,900-acre site west of the Acreage, GL now wants to change the rules.

Currently, the rule reads:

The County requires that developers conserve 60 acres in the reserve for every 40 acres they develop.  Land outside of the Agricultural Reserve cannot be used to meet preservation requirements for development in the reserve.

GL Homes is trying to change the County’s comprehensive plan so they can develop more of the property they own in the AG Reserve, and use Indian Trails Grove land (outside the reserve) to meet preservation guidelines.  They are looking for support from the Agricultural Enhancement Council and Indian Trail Improvement District before taking their plan to the County in December and then to the county commissioners in January.

Although the plan is in its infancy, the Improvement District already voted to send a supporting letter to the County, while the Agricultural Council has not yet voted.

Environmentalists and preservationists contend that the Ag Reserve is already under too much pressure from developments. Its unique soil and climate make it especially suited for winter crop production. The County should make sure it can remain a major producer of agriculture in the years ahead as climate change threatens other sources of production.

The Coalition of Boynton West Residential Associations (COBWRA) has, also, expressed concern because homeowners were sold on the expectation that density would be controlled.

GL Homes has already made its mark in the Ag Reserve with large-scale housing developments, such as Valencia Cove in Boynton Beach and Seven Bridges in Delray Beach.

GL Vice President Larry Portnoy says GL wants to continue building where they have established a footprint.  He explained the proposed plan expands the land available for preservation and reduces stress on the Acreage infrastructure.  It will also offer some farmers an opportunity to move away from operations in areas where they must co-exist with residential developments.

Nearly everything about the reserve stimulates intense debate, and GL’s idea is certain to do the same. The proposal is a long way from formal consideration and approval, and the LWVPBC will continue to track this hot topic.

Palm Beach Post                 05/18/17, 05/23/17

The Real Deal                       05/27/17

Builder Magazine               05/31/17