By Mike S Payton, Contributing Reporter
DELRAY BEACH, FLORIDA – Yesterday, June 29th, the Palm Beach County Commission voted unanimously to reject the request to rewrite the Agricultural Reserve rules to allow for a major development at Acme Dairy Road and Boynton Beach Boulevard west of Boynton Beach.
Out of three projects that were overwhelmingly voted against by the Zoning Commission on June 12th, it was the only group to not withdraw before the County Commission meeting yesterday. At the last minute the developer requested a postponement, but the commission refused, and voted 7-0 against the project.
The Palm Beach Post reported that the proposed ‘Jade Boynton Beach’ development included 261,300 square feet of commercial space that would have featured a day care center, roof-top restaurants, a fitness center, an upscale theater, a comedy club, a farmers market and 432 apartments, all on a 40-acre tract of land.
During the meeting the Coral Gables developer Larry Suchman said the postponement was to continue productive discussions with Agriculture Reserve Committee for Coalition of Boynton West Residential Associations (COBWRA).
However a representative for COBWRA spoke and took issue that the organization was anything but opposed to the development or text changes to the Agricultural Reserve rules.
“This should send a strong signal to our community that you must work with our residents and embrace their vision,” said County Mayor David Kerner.
Pressing the issue he said, “I personally don’t appreciate getting a letter like this, after all this work has gone on. During a very difficult time period in the chapter of this county […] I’m in favor of voting on this application today.”
There was representation from land owners that have been aiming to sell and develop property, and would like the county to remove some restrictions of the Agricultural Reserve.
Mayor David Kerner responded, “[rule changes] needs to emanate from the farming community, and COBRA and Delray Alliance, and the folks that live out there. That’s the organic way that I would like to see it happen if I may be so blunt with you.”
County Commissioner Mack Bernard said, “I’m hearing your concern regarding farming,[…] I believe that we need to have a larger dialogue with the farming community, with COBRA and with Delray Alliance, because you know we’re getting pretty much bombarded on a monthly basis in terms of chipping away at the Ag Reserve.”
“I would hope that in the future, that we’re able to have this discussion, and for it to be driven by the farming community. To see what can we do to help the farming community out there, the Ag Reserve, with COBWRA’s help and also with Delray Alliance,” Commissioner Bernard said.
To that end, and to address the Agriculture Reserve preservation against the relentless and well-funded developers, Beth Rappaport, president of COBWRA, shared that they have retained the professional services of Cotleur & Hearing who do landscape architecture, land planning and environmental consulting.
Ms. Rappaport explained the firm will “conduct research and perform data collection in order to provide us guidance so we can most effectively address the area in its entirety.”
“We desire to work collaboratively with all stakeholders on a holistic vision for the Ag Reserve,” she said. “Instead of working on a piecemeal, case by case basis, to best meet the long term needs of the residents of the Ag Reserve.”