Once again, a landowner and Century Village residents in suburban West Palm Beach are wrangling over the future development of a defunct golf course immediately south of the sprawling retirement community.
Vehement objections were par for the course previously. But what a difference a decade makes.
The Palm Beach Zoning Commission unanimously recommended Thursday that the County Commission allow revisions to a plan it approved for the Turtle Bay Country Club golf course site years ago following a hearing that lasted only an hour and was notable for its decorum.
“I think there’s a recognition that there is a need for development,” said Donald Foster, property manager at the United Civic Organization of Century Village, an umbrella organization for the numerous condominium associations within the 7,854-unit complex on Haverhill Road north of Okeechobee Boulevard.
“We have concerns that will be addressed,” Foster said. “It’s a process.”
It’s been a long process that may have an end in sight. At a series of public hearings from 2011 to 2013, residents vociferously objected to plans for a mixed-use development that included 689 housing units, plus an assisted-living facility, a civic center and 84,500 square feet of shops and offices on the 70-acre site.
Hundreds of people packed the governmental center in downtown West Palm Beach in 2013 as a divided County Commission ultimately approved the proposal. Residents sued in vain to stop the project.
Since then, the landowner, Fairways LLC, has abandoned many aspects of that plan and sought the zoning commission’s approval Thursday for the latest version. Four to five dozen Century Village residents showed up too, but only a handful spoke. Another 27 people wrote to oppose the plan, and 11 wrote in support.
The Turtle Bay Golf Course adjacent to Century Village closed in 2009. Today it is an expanse of sabal palms, pine trees, live oaks, red maple, strangler figs, and overgrown grasses and weeds.
The latest iteration of the proposed development, called Reflection Bay, is for 707 townhouse units on 57 acres, with 4 acres set aside for recreation and a neighborhood park of a little more than a half-acre. It will be built by D.R. Horton Inc. if green-lighted. The range of prices is wide going from roughly $166,000 to $308,000, depending on the unit.
The roughly 13-acre plot not included from the earlier approved plan is on a parallel but slower regulatory path, A lake and a passive park are envisioned there.
The development approved earlier included homes, townhomes and apartments. Now the landowner proposes only townhomes. Senior site planner Ryan Vandenburg recommended that the zoning commission require at least one other housing type be included to avoid a “cookie-cutter design.”
The commission didn’t require that, and the project’s representative, Jeff Brophy, said afterward that only townhouses will be built. He noted that the plan approved years ago allowed building heights of five stories, and nothing will exceed two stories now.
The townhomes will include 31 units designated as workforce housing for households having 60 percent to 140 percent of the area’s median family income. The 2020 area median family income for a family of four was $79,100, according to county planners.
How many trees will remain standing on the site if the townhouses are built is an open question. The county’s Environmental Resource Management department says two in particular are worth saving — a live oak thought to be more than 100 years old, and a large ficus.
Among Century Village residents’ other concerns are traffic and the need for a buffer from a development west of the condominiums.
The planned changes are projected to result in 5,175 net vehicle trips, compared to 10,238 under the old plan, Brophy said.
The amended plan also calls for a 6-foot opaque wall or fence along the west property line, and an additional 80 feet beyond this buffer as open space.
“With the reduction in traffic by half and the height reduction … I can see why there is not the level of opposition it had,” Brophy said after Thursday’s hearing. The goal now, he added, is to meet with Century Village residents and present the revised project to the County Commission on July 22.