West Boca farmland slated for mixed-use development

Farmland (Credit: Pam Brophy)
Farmland (Credit: Pam Brophy)

The owners of one of the last agricultural properties in Palm Beach County, located west of Boca Raton, are about to take the first step in the governmental approval process to develop a 38-acre piece of land.

If the land owners are successful, the property on 95th Avenue, just east of State Road 7, may soon sprout apartments and retail stores, instead of winter vegetables.

The property, known as Johns Glades West, is not in Palm Beach County’s Agricultural Reserve, and is surrounded by shopping centers and luxury housing developments.

But environmentalists, like Drew Martin, conservation chair for the Sierra Club for Palm Beach, Martin and St. Lucie Counties, bemoans the loss of more farmland. “Open space can hold flood waters in a big storm,” he told The Real Deal. “The water percolates into the ground and recharges the aquifer.”

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Although he acknowledges that there is already a lot of development in the area, he believes that any new development should be low density, so as to limit the strain on drainage systems designed to keep low-lying areas such as the Johns Glades West property, which is near the Everglades and which, at one time, was in the Everglades dry. But the plan being devised by the developers is relatively high-density.   

The Giles Capital Group, Rosemurgy Properties and the Schmier Property Group, entities that make up Glades 95th LLC, a development group that has a contract on the land, disagree with Martin. The principals say that they will be governed by drainage regulations that are adequate to mitigate the effects of urban development on low-lying land, such as the property they plan to buy.   

The approval process for the 38-acre property will begin on September 9th, when the current land owners will ask the county for a change in the property’s future land use — from LR-3 (low residential three, which allows three dwelling units per acre), to MLU (commercial high, with 8 units per acre), essentially changing the future land use designation from single family development to multifamily.

The developers are asking for 456 multifamily units, which is 152 units over what the new future land use designation would normally allow. But the group is hoping to get additional units under the county’s workforce housing/bonus density program. Also, the group wants to build approximately 217,000 square feet of retail space at the site. The Wantman Group, an engineering firm that specializes in infrastructure services, is also working with the developer, documents show.