Land designated for preservation may shrink
Hotel, retail, apartments could be built on land
On Friday, the Palm Beach County Planning Commission endorsed an $84 million development that could place a hotel, assisted-living facility, restaurants and price-capped apartments in the 21,000-acre Agricultural Reserve, whose mission is to preserve farming in South Florida.
A hotel, assisted-living facility, restaurants and price-capped apartments could be built in a farming region west of Delray Beach.
The Palm Beach County Planning Commission endorsed the $84 million project in a 5-4 vote Friday, despite concerns from county planners that it could undermine the 21,000-acre Agricultural Reserve’s mission to preserve farming in South Florida.
County commissioners on July 26 are expected to consider whether to waive some rules on building in the region, allowing developers to preserve less land in exchange for the construction of pricecapped apartments geared toward teachers, police officers and other moderateincome workers.
The development would be on 51 acres on the northeast corner of Atlantic Avenue and Starkey Road, west of Florida’s Turnpike.
Developers are proposing a 130-room hotel, a 115-bed assisted-living center, 75,000 square feet of retail space and a 360-unit apartment building, including 144 price-capped units. They are pledging to preserve 15 acres in the Ag Reserve, which is less than the 30 acres that would traditionally need to be preserved for such a project.
The project addresses pressing needs for additional assisted-living facilities and affordable housing, said Neil Schiller, an attorney representing Morningside Partners
VI, an affiliate of the developer Millenia Partners.
“This is a solution to help address the workforce housing crisis in Palm Beach County,” he said.
The county through the years has used a mix of taxpayer money and tougher building rules to balance farming with development in the Ag Reserve, which is nestled between Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge and Florida’s Turnpike, west of Boynton Beach and Delray Beach.
Voters in 1999 approved $100 million for land buying, which the county used to preserve about 2,400 acres of the region for farming.
Also, tougher building rules in the Agricultural Reserve require developers to set aside privately owned land to be preserved for agricultural use to go along with the new construction. That has set aside another 7,000 acres of privately owned parcels for agriculture. About 7,000 homes have been built in the region, and 3,000 more are approved.
As more homes have been built, demand has increased for more restaurants and shopping, Schiller said. The nearest hotel is a 15-minute drive for many people living in the Ag Reserve, he said.
But some neighbors fear the project will further erode agriculture in the area.
“The congestion … interacting with large farm equipment will choke off agriculture activity,” said Joseph O’Donnell, who owns a 60-acre horse farm near the site.
GL Homes, a Sunrisebased developer, is proposing to build more than 2,000 homes in the Ag Reserve in exchange for preserving land farther north in the county in rural Loxahatchee. The Planning Commission will review that proposal in December.