Palm Beach Gardens negotiates fewer houses in Avenir development

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Ken Tuma, principal of Urban Design Kilday Studios, speaks on behalf of the Avenir development during a hearing before the City of Palm Beach Gardens Planning, Zoning and Appeals Board Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015 in Palm Beach Gardens. (Bill Ingram / The Palm Beach Post)

Ken Tuma, principal of Urban Design Kilday Studios, speaks on behalf of the Avenir development during a hearing before the City of Palm Beach Gardens Planning, Zoning and Appeals Board Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015 in Palm Beach Gardens. (Bill Ingram / The Palm Beach Post)

Years of give-and-take have gone into drafting plans for the proposed Avenir development on the city’s western edge, but the newest concession wasn’t revealed until late Wednesday night.

Just before the City Council vote about 11:15 p.m. to give early approval to changing the property’s land-use designation and moving an urban growth boundary, Mayor Eric Jablin announced he negotiated with the developer to once again reduce the number of houses in the project.

Jablin said he persuaded Avenir Holdings to plan for 3,250 homes instead of 3,985. Of those 3,250 homes, 250 homes are pledged for affordable/workforce housing. Plans at one time called for as many as 7,600 homes, which Jablin described as “totally unrealistic.”

One of the main concerns about Avenir has been traffic. Officials and the city’s planning staff said if Avenir isn’t developed, the trips it’s been allotted will be used by other projects that have no benefit to the city.

“That, by itself, does not justify my support,” he said.

What does is the concessions Avenir Holdings has made. In addition to workforce housing, the developer has pledged to dedicate more than 2,000 acres to conservation, provide up to 50 acres to land corporate headquarters and build a north-south connector road from Northlake Boulevard to the Beeline Highway.

Jablin’s announcement of the concession came after more than three hours of presentations from Avenir Holdings’ consultants, Palm Beach Gardens’ planning staff and the public. The last proposal before the most recent reduction in size called for 3,735 single-family homes and 250 multi-family ones.

Steve Mathison, an attorney for Avenir Holdings, said he has no doubt the developers will hold true to their word.

“In all these years of representing projects all the way from The Gardens Mall to BallenIsles to PGA Commons to Landmark at the Gardens, I have never encountered a developer more committed to do the right thing and honor their commitment to the city,” he said Thursday.

Councilwoman Marcie Tinsley said she preferred the Avenir plan to the alternative – “ranchettes” developed individually over time. She said Avenir is a good plan she’d be proud to see in the city and described it as “an environmental home run.”

City Council voted 5-0 to give initial approval to the land-use designation change, but officials postponed a vote on rezoning to tonight’s 7 p.m. meeting. They were up against an 11:30 curfew on conducting business. Once approved, both measures will be sent to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity for review.

Vice Mayor David Levy and Councilman Joe Russo said they’d like to see more communication between the developer, neighborhood associations and Sustainable Palm Beach County before the measures come up for final approval.

Officials will be able to take a final vote, likely in the spring, after the state review is complete.

from Northern Palm Beach County
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