Saturday, July 15, 2017

About housing in City of Lake Worth: Relevant, newsworthy news not reported in The Palm Beach Post.

At “First Reading”, an item on the City Commission agenda next Tuesday, July 18th:

Item 12C. Ordinance No. 2017-16 - First Reading - A request for a Rezoning from Single Family Residential (SFR) to a Residential Planned Development District (RPDD) for the property located at 1728, 1730, 1732 and 1734 19th Avenue North and schedule the second reading and public hearing for August 1, 2017.

Leadership on our City Commission — and no mixed messages — will be a high priority. Considering the financial state of this City this is no time to hear that old, tired tune,
“I’m not opposed to all development. Just this development.”
Read more about that below. Please take note: a very important part of this equation are the Millennials. For what to expect in just 8 years, read a recent article titled, “Millennials on the rise in snowbird [Palm Beach] county”.

Following a self-imposed delay of a month last May, Meritage Homes went before the Planning and Zoning Board on June 6th with their request for a “Residential Planned Development District” recommendation and the site plan approval. This was for a 59-unit, single-family detached subdivision.

[As an aside, one of the surprise revelations from that meetings is this: There are some homes in the City of Lake Worth still on septic tanks east of I-95! This surprised a lot of people but will be remedied when sewer and road projects begin in that area of the City. Those properties will be hooked up to City sewer.]  

The delay allowed the developer to address some important aspects of the project in relation to the neighbors and the City. The site consists of ±12.85 acres and is located north of 19th Ave. North, south of the Vernon Heights subdivision and east of I-95. It is roughly shaped in a triangle as shown below on the site plan.

Although The Palm Beach Post has yet to report this news, hopefully this will spur the editor to praise a developer’s work creating more housing and not contributing to Urban Sprawl in our County.

The project is notable in that it is one of the few “raw land” development opportunities — particularly for residential units — east of I-95 that are detached units and not in a townhouse configuration. If you do the math, the density is still under the maximum of 7 units/acre for the City’s single family zoning at just under 4.6 units/acre.

However, due to the odd shape of the site and responding to current market trends, certain concessions on lot size and width were needed. Those are shown below and are allowed through the Planned Development District.

The biggest issue surrounding the project was access and traffic. It was apparent from neighbors in Vernon Heights that attended the meeting last month efforts were made on the part of the developer to address their concerns. It was also clear nearby residents wanted to be at the table going forward when traffic calming is addressed in a holistic way. An overall study is being done now and some ideas are speed bumps or traffic tables to mitigate speed and flow of traffic.

A key component of the plan was the addition of an access point from 19th Ave. North. According to the traffic engineer approximately 70% of the traffic will come through that access and not through the Vernon Heights neighborhood.

The access points are highlighted on this graphic from the PowerPoint presentation.
It should be noted the existing Vernon Heights subdivision has excessively wide roads that were part of its original plan when developed. Wide roads encourage higher traffic speeds.

The wide roads in the Vernon Heights neighborhood have encouraged speeding that narrower roads would have helped to prevent. For some perspective:

Paved areas in Vernon Heights are about equal to the four lane pavement area found on Dixie Hwy. and parts of I-95.

In addition, construction traffic will be almost 100% through the 19th Ave. access point during the two–three year anticipated build-out of the project.

The crowd was larger than usual for a Planning and Zoning meeting as you can see below:

I arrived late for this meeting last month. The parking lot was full. A rare sight for a P&Z meeting.

The Planning and Zoning Board approved the site plan unanimously and recommended the rezoning request be approved by the City Commission. These approvals were made with conditions which addressed many of the issues which had been discussed between the developer, the City and the neighborhood beforehand.

There were some items related to specific locations and the amount of traffic calming. That will be worked on between now and the Commission meeting with all the parties involved.

From my point of view:

It was good to see a unanimous decision on the P&Z for both requests that will increase and improve the residential choices one has east of I-95 in Palm Beach County. Market prices are expected to be in the mid-$300K range.

This project will have many benefits for the City of Lake Worth and for places like Dixie Hwy. as well: both north and south of the C-51 Canal. Hopefully our City leaders will not succumb to the trouble-making that is certain to come, or already begun.

Leadership is in order at the City Commission.

Anything less than a unanimous vote next Tuesday — and at “Second Reading” two weeks afterwards on August 1st — will be a huge disappointment and send the wrong message going forward.