County Commission votes on GL Homes swap


A controversial land swap that would enable the development of 1,000 luxury homes in Palm Beach County’s Agricultural Reserve received initial support from the Board of Commissioners Wednesday night.

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The 5-2 vote was a major victory for GL Homes, one of the leading residential developers in Palm Beach County. It also signals a major change to the Ag Reserve, which county voters overwhelmingly agreed in 1999 to keep mostly rural. The approval now goes to the state for review and will come back to the commission Aug. 30 for final adoption.

“We are pleased the Palm Beach County Commission saw merit in our proposal and look forward to returning in the fall to present our final plans,” GL Homes President Misha Ezratti said after the meeting.

The deal involves GL Homes giving the county a 1,600-acre parcel of land it owns in the Loxahatchee area in exchange for being able to develop 682 acres of restricted land in the Ag Reserve.

County commissioners Maria Sachs, whose district includes much of the Ag Reserve, and fellow south county Commissioner Marci Woodward opposed the measure.

Sachs said the move violated the will of residents who voted in a 1999 referendum to raise their taxes to buy land to preserve the Ag Reserve.

“As far as I’m concerned people have spoken, and the most important thing is that this is our word. This is our bond,” Sachs said. “And we have to follow what we’ve always said. We’re going to keep this preserved.”

The proposal was strongly opposed by environmental groups and voted down by the county’s Planning Commission. County planners recommended against it as well, saying it was a major land use change that was inconsistent with the county plan for the 22,000-acre swath of land in the western part of the county.

“This is a significant departure of some from some fundamental concepts,” of the county’s Ag Reserve plan, said Bryan Davis, a Palm Beach County planner.

Several commissioners said they were torn, but liked the sweeteners added by GL Homes. In addition to 1,000 GL Homes said it will donate for upscale housing for seniors aged 55 and up, they also plan to build 277 moderately priced workforce housing units as well as a $150 million water treatment plan in the West Palm Beach area.

They are also offering acres for farming, a public park, a synagogue,  a Jewish school and housing for seniors with disabilities.


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