Sunday, March 30, 2014

Palm Beach County development surge targets farmland - Sun Sentinel

This Sun Sentinel article points to all the new development that will be taking place west of the already urbanized area of the county. And it also points out about the pressure to develop more of the Ag Reserve, which the Palm Beach County Commission addressed this week and will continue to address in the coming months. The article touts people in economic development positions within Palm Beach County as saying that green field development is the best. WRONG.

What if Lake Worth were to cleave off 5% of the new commercial and residential development expected in the county over the next five years? Since 2007, Lake Worth had a de facto moratorium on development due to land development regulations that were "in flux" for eight years. Banks and investors don't like things "in flux", but it didn't seem to bother the elected and appointed officials we had at the time. We paid a heavy price for that as a city. We lost more property than any other municipality during that period and, as a result, only $5 million of our city's budget comes from property tax. By building a wall around Lake Worth and posting "Go away, we don't want you" signs (Which isn't far from the truth. Then Commissioner Jennings wanted big signs placed at our major entrances proclaiming LAKE WORTH WATER CRISIS - ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK.). Far from being environmentally sound, that attitude pushes development to "green fields" far from transit, dependent on the automobile and in need of infrastructure to serve it. Were that development to occur in Lake Worth, it would likely improve upon the infrastructure that is already here and help spread the tax base burden more evenly, not so dependent on residential properties as it is now.

The good news is that we do have a set of land development regulations in place, that will be tweaked over time as issues arise, but they lay a firm regulatory groundwork that we didn't have before. This should make Lake Worth more attractive to the investment and development community. It would also prove to be less adverse to our environment and ecology in the long run. The city has set up an open house at the Casino Building that will explain our new regulations to a group of people made up of land use attorneys and, of all things, urban planners next Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. Invitations have already gone out. If we are to survive and be sustainable, we need to attract new investment and help explode the myth that it is easier and cheaper to develop green fields that to have urban in-fill.
"There certainly is an upswing in activity," said Skeet Jernigan, of the
Community and Economic Development Council, which represents South
Florida builders. "Raw land, green land is the raw material of the
development industry."
And this...
While county guidelines are supposed to encourage redevelopment near existing roads, schools and other infrastructure, developers often prefer to target farmland or other undeveloped property, which can cost less and provide more room to build.

"It is infinitely easier to develop on green fields than it is on previously developed parcels," Jernigan said. "There is pent up demand."

Much of the demand for land is getting directed at citrus groves, pastures and other agricultural property in Loxahatchee.

The County Commission in October approved revived plans to build 2,000 homes on 1,200 acres once planned for rock mining at Palm Beach Aggregates, west of Royal Palm Beach.


WalkableWPB said...

Just discovered your great blog. Keep up the writing about Lake Worth issues.

I'm the founder of a similar blog, focusing on land use, development, and urban design issues in WPB (

Agree with you on the land use regulations and need for investment in LW. I'm not too familiar with what Lake Worth has done -- have you adopted a form-based code? WPB has seen a lot of success since the adoption of the 1994 DPZ form based code and subsequent changes that have kept the overall vision intact. Lots of good development coming down the pike.

lwbulldog said...

Great. Sunday is supposed to be a day of rest. Then you bring up Cara Jennings. As if Jennings ever had any intention of making Lake Worth a functioning city, friendly to business and investors. CARA JENNINGS IS/WAS AN AVOWED ANARCHIST. She and her monkeywrenching friends did their best to stall progress, so angered our municipal neighbors we're still repairing these relationships, and on and on it goes. Have a nice day.

JeffM said...

Very good argument. Evil developers are an easy target. They would never had the success they enjoy were it not for a fragmented opposition. Bogeyman Big Sugar has run its course. When you have ten thousand environmental groups that can't agree on what's for lunch the rest is cake.