Stoplight feud yields peaceful accord

After county caved, Gardens makes next move to allow installation of Bay Hill Estates stoplight.

While Palm Beach County and Palm Beach Gardens are heading to court over millions in developer fees, the saga of the Bay Hill Estates stoplight appears to be reaching a peaceful conclusion.

After getting city council permission May 6 to sue the county over its refusal to allow the stoplight, Palm Beach Gardens City Manager Ron Ferris sent the county an email late Tuesday accepting its conditions to move forward.

Ferris asked the county to grant the permit within 10 days of agreeing to terms, meaning installation could start soon. 

After disputing the need for the stoplight since at least 2019, the county caved on May 12. It agreed with City Attorney Max Lohman’s position that the county had ceded authority over the signal to the city in a 2016 agreement allowing the Ancient Tree community.

“We are constrained to follow” the 2016 agreement “which inadvertently” gave the city control, the letter from County Engineer David Ricks said. 

The county would move forward assuming the city met four conditions, all of which are part of the agreement Ferris sent Tuesday to the county. Once that agreement is final, Ferris asked that the county grant permits for the stoplight within 10 days.

Among the conditions: the city, as planned, pays for the stoplight installation; the city grants the county authority over all signals on county-maintained thoroughfares; and the county operates the  signal, which gives it final say over how often the light changes.

The cost will be about $550,000, paid with road impact fees collected from developers. The developers of Ancient Tree are scheduled to pay $288,000 in those fees.

Bay Hill Estates stoplight
A truck passes the entrance to Bay Hill Estates at Northlake Boulevard in Palm Beach Gardens. (Joel Engelhardt photo)

The light, about 7 miles west of Interstate 95, would not be alone. Already, a stoplight exists at the Ibis Publix 1.7 miles to the east and at Coconut Boulevard about a mile to the west. And the 4,000-home Avenir to the west is likely to merit more signals.

MORE DETAILS: A map of the communities

County officials had worried that the stoplight would back up already overwhelming rush hour traffic further into The Acreage, an unincorporated community of about 50,000 west of Bay Hill Estates and Ancient Tree.

While the city and county appear to have avoided the courtroom over the traffic signal, the county filed suit Tuesday against the city over its mobility fee program. The county claims the city take mobility fees and stop collecting county road impact fees. Since the mobility fee program began in January 2020, the county estimates it has lost  $1.7 million.
© 2021 Joel Engelhardt. All rights reserved.

Author: Joel Engelhardt

Joel Engelhardt is an award-winning newspaper reporter and editor based in Palm Beach Gardens. He spent more than 40 years in the newspaper business, including 28 years at The Palm Beach Post. As a reporter, he covered countywide growth, the 2000 election and the birth of Cityplace in West Palm Beach. As an editor, he oversaw probes into the opioid scourge, private prisons, police-involved shootings and more. For seven years, he worked on the paper’s editorial board. Joel left The Post in December 2020. He and his wife, Donna, have lived together in Palm Beach Gardens since 1992.

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