Rustic Lakes neighbors object to DR Horton’s townhouses in Palm Beach Gardens


Rustic Lakes neighbors raise horses, raise goats and raise sheep in their neighborhood 20 km from the center of Palm Beach Gardens.

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PALM BEACH GARDENS – South of Northlake Boulevard in Palm Beach Gardens is a neighborhood of 64 homes that locals call a “rural gem.”

They herd horses, raise goats and tend sheep on lots that start at 2.5 acres and go up to 15 in the community of Rustic Lakes, just 12 miles from downtown.

But now residents are nervous as builders have submitted an application to rezone a neighboring property for more than 140 townhouses.

A DR Horton townhouse project would bring more residents, lighting and traffic to an area of ​​West Northlake that is no stranger to construction crews. More than 3,000 homes are being built just across the street in the community of Avenir, and the Sandhill Crane public golf course is expanding.

But for Rustic Lakes and neighbors Bay Hill Estates, the townhouse project is not just a threat to their way of life, but an example of what they call “approve now, ask more questions” planning. later » who breaking up the western part of the city in a place marked by traffic congestion but few commercial areas.

“As a community, we are not opposed to change,” Rustic Lakes POA President Renee-Marie Stephano told the Palm Beach Post. “But it seems like we’re moving too fast, approving too much without looking at the impact of what’s already been approved.”

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Proposed townhouses could replace old doctor’s office plan

Between the homes on Rustic Lakes and Northlake Boulevard sits a cluster of properties totaling 18 acres that homebuilder DR Horton is targeting for 148 townhouses in a neighborhood he plans to call Vintage Oaks.

The land, which owner Northlake 20 LLC purchased for $1 million in 2004, is currently zoned to allow residential and commercial agricultural uses.

Residents of Rustic Lakes signed the agreement to license the offices in 2009 in hopes the company would build doctors’ offices on the site, according to Stephano and Scott Lee, a land-use attorney representing the neighborhood. .

“We didn’t object to the rezoning at the time. We felt that several uses, and in particular medical offices, would be useful and would keep people from the western Northlake area here for services instead of having to go all the way east,” said Stephano, who has lived in Rustic Lakes since 2004.

In 2018, the property and rustic lakes were annexed to the city of Palm Beach Gardens.

Now DR Horton has submitted plans to the city to rezone the property to allow for the 148 townhouses off the 112th North Terrace. City staff released a 171-point response to the company’s request to resolve the issues and communicate with Rustic Oaks and surrounding neighborhoods.

According to the city’s website, the project has not yet been submitted for development review board or review by the city’s planning, zoning and appeals board.

City planner Martin Fitts has not commented on the project beyond providing the Palm Beach Post with his official letter to DR Horton representatives, where he says city staff do not support the land use change. to accommodate high density residential development.

Northlake 20 LLC recently filed an extension to its application with the city to keep it active, according to Matthew Barnes, the project officer at WGI Engineering.

Rustic Lakes residents and their attorney have pledged to oppose the project at the city level, and Lee said the owners may consider legal action to enforce the 2009 agreement that paved the way for medical offices on site.

“It’s a two-headed monster,” Lee said.

As Gardens grows, where are people going?

As Palm Beach Gardens grows and pushes its boundaries west, planners and elected officials say smart planning, workforce housing and car-free transportation options are central to the success of the city.

In 2019, it passed a transit-oriented development and mobility plan that aims to connect real estate developers to the “urban core” of Palm Beach Gardens without requiring residents to drive.

Outside of this urban core, luxury housing developments in Avenir are expected to increase the number of households in the city by 16%. This development includes opportunities for approximately 250 multi-family units – which could be apartments, condominiums or townhouses.

DR Horton points to a housing shortage in his justification for the Vintage Oaks project, saying the nearest multi-family units for sale are five miles east on Northlake Boulevard in the Montecito development or nine miles northeast located in PGA National.

The company does not list possible prices for proposed townhouses, but similar townhouses it has built in the Town Commons neighborhood of West Lake Worth Beach. start at $450,000.

The homebuilder argues that the Vintage Oaks project “offers an alternative style of housing from the predominant single-family housing stock in the western part of the city while providing a pathway to home ownership that does not come with no multi-family rental units“.

But single-family neighborhoods are exactly what the city planned west of the Beeline Expressway.

The city one zoning map for future use shows that there is no land planned for high-density residential construction west of Beeline. The closest property is a 10-acre parcel across Northlake of the proposed DR Horton project, which would allow up to seven units per acre.

This property is currently owned by a funeral service company.

Katherine Kokal is a reporter covering northern Palm Beach County at the Palm Beach Post. You can reach her at [email protected]. Help support our work. Subscribe today!

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