Photo by: Palm Beach Post
The feelings of joy and anger were recorded after the approval of a deal that will stop the plans to extend the State Road 7 which is located next to the Grassy Waters Preserve.
The preserve is the city’s main source of water and is also depended by the nearby wildlife sanctuary. The signing of the deal means that no permit will be issued to allow the runoff to flow into the water preserve. This highly anticipated deal was signed in two different meetings between the city and the Northern Palm Beach County Improvement District.
In the deal, the city agreed to settle the payments for Northern’s cleanup expenses. The aim of this cleanup is to get rid of all the phosphorus chemicals that are released from Ibis Golf and Country Club fertilizer.
On its part, the Northern agreed to not to issue any permits for the four-mile road extension that both the state and the county wanted to pass through the road preserve. In short, the agreement means that no road will run through the highly-valued preserve.
West Palm Beach could have borne the brunt of the deal especially after paying millions of shillings to cater for the legal fees. The approval of the deal was quite a reprieve.
The signing of the deal is also good news to people who were against the water pollution coming from Ibis Golf Course Lake into the water preserve. This is because it reduces the amount of fertilizer chemical that is released into the water by half.
Keith James, who is the city’s commissioner and one of the most prominent opponents of the road project could not hide his joy after the approval of the deal. On the one hand, the city agreed to cater for 85% of the cleanup cost. On the other hand, Northern decided to pay for the remaining 15%.
The deal sends the county and the state back to the drawing board. These two governing bodies have been pushing for the construction of the road to reduce the perennial congestion menace. This problem is mainly caused by the rapid development of residential homes on the western side of this city.
In fact, both the state and the federal governments had approved the construction of this road which was set to begin in July. As it was expected, the proponents of the road construction are not a happy lot.
State Representative Matt White could not hide his disappointment over the deal. Matt, whose districts include Haverhill, some areas in West Palm, Wellington, and Royal Palm Beach said that the deal could mean an indefinite end to a major road project that had been planned for the past four decades. He says that the only remaining option is to reroute the road so that it passes through the residential areas, an idea that he strongly opposes.
On the other side, Palm Beach County mayor Melissa McKinlay laments that the deal breaks the promise that was made several years ago. The initial agreement was to allow the construction of the SR7 extension, something that is vehemently opposed in the deal.
The mayor goes ahead to equate the deal to some kind of bribe that is disguising itself as a strong binding legal statement. It is clear that McKinlay is irked by all aspects of the deal starting from the halting of road construction to the cleanup of the water preserve. The mayor says that the regulators blamed the West Palm Beach for contaminating their water.
As a matter of fact, an immediate cleanup was ordered by the South Florida Water Management District.What irks her is the idea that West Palm Beach blamed the Northern Palm Beach County Improvement District for the pollution. She claims that they did this while being aware of the fact that NCPDCID is in possession of the drainage permit for State Road 7 and the cost of the assessment will be paid by the Northern taxpayers.
West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio expects the state and the county to litigate the deal. She also says that she will fully support the Florida Department of Transportation to come up with alternative routes.
In a joint press conference, both the city and the Northern promised to clean up the pollution from the Ibis.