Palm Beach Gardens pitches massive annexation

City could grow by more than 10 percent if neighboring residents agree in March referendum.

Pleasant Ridge

Palm Beach Gardens rolled out a massive and ambitious effort Tuesday to annex more than 1,350 acres containing more than 8,300 residents, a move that ultimately would be decided by voters after a potentially divisive campaign.

The city has sliced the properties, all east of Interstate 95, into five zones. A majority of residents in each zone would have to vote yes on the March 19 ballot for their respective zone to enter the city.

While the city continues to grow through new construction, it has turned to voter-backed annexation to expand its boundaries before but never to this extent. 

The annexation would include diverse long-standing communities along U.S. 1, Ellison Wilson and Prosperity Farms roads, some with gates, manicured landscaping and waterfront property, others with throwback Florida homes and curbless streets.

The new boundaries would stretch north nearly as far as the NextEra Energy plant east of the Intracoastal Waterway and to Donald Ross Road along Prosperity Farms. 

The city would absorb the 1960s-era Cabana Colony neighborhood, wedged between two major contributors to the city’s tax base — the Gardens Mall and Frenchman’s Reserve — and also the old Monet neighborhoods along RCA Boulevard. 

Palm Beach Gardens annexation
The blue Zone 1 is by far the largest of the five zones in the 1,350 acres the city is proposing annexing. (Palm Beach Gardens map)

For the city, growth means a higher tax base while squaring off its borders within easy reach of existing police and fire coverage areas.

For residents, it means a restructuring of tax payments that the city says would be lower for owners of homes valued at $411,250 or less. It also means stricter city code enforcement, with limits, for instance, on front-lawn boats.

The City Council gave its initial blessing to the concept Tuesday, the first time it has publicly heard the proposal from city staff, but many steps remain before the question reaches the ballot.

Frenchman's Landing
Frenchman’s Landing on Prosperity Farms Road is within the area Palm Beach Gardens wishes to annex. (Joel Engelhardt photo)

What lies ahead

A feasibility study has to be completed and sent to Palm Beach County officials by Oct. 18, Deputy City Manager Lori Laverriere told the council. Laverriere, the former Boynton Beach city manager, made her first presentation to the council although she has been on staff for more than a year.

Residents in the annexation areas would be invited to their first face-to-face meeting with city officials at an informal open house Oct. 26. 

The city posted a web page Wednesday dedicated to the annexation here, with an interactive map of the annexation area, here.

Under the heading “Annexation could save money,” the website says property owners with a taxable value below $411,250 would pay less overall if they annex. While they would have to pay the city’s property tax rate, they would be relieved of paying a utility tax, and would face lower telecommunications taxes and garbage pickup costs, the city said.

Non-city residents also pay higher fees for city recreation services, another potential savings for new residents. 

If the city is to move forward with the plan, the City Council must vote in favor of the ballot question twice with meetings scheduled for Nov. 2 and Dec. 6. 

If the plan is approved, it will appear on the March 19 ballot in the affected communities, the same day as the presidential primary.

Cabana Colony
A boat is parked in front of a home in Cabana Colony. (Joel Engelhardt photo)

Social media already weighs in

It’s a far more ambitious undertaking than the last time the city asked neighbors to vote on annexation. 

That March 2018 election brought in 500 homes in three communities — Bay Hill Estates, Rustic Lakes and The Preserve at Bay Hill Estates — on west Northlake Boulevard.

Many residents of Rustic Lakes complained that their tiny community opposed annexation but they were forced to enter the city as support from their larger neighbors proved decisive.

The city recently took in 300 acres of mostly commercial land along western Northlake without a referendum.

The campaign already has begun on the social media platform Nextdoor, where a Cabana Colony resident posted information about the annexation on Tuesday, prompting sharp exchanges between residents in favor and against.  

With 60,675 residents, Gardens is listed as the state’s 49th largest city by the University of Florida as of April 2022. The city would grow by more than 10 percent with the annexation in all five zones.

Among slightly larger cities in Palm Beach County that Gardens would surpass are Jupiter, Wellington and Delray Beach. Only West Palm Beach, Boca Raton and Boynton Beach would have more people.

Ritz-Carlton Residences
A neighborhood south of the Ritz-Carlton Residences under construction at PGA Boulevard and Ellison Wilson Road would be annexed under the city’s plan. (Joel Engelhardt photo)

From Cabana Colony to Captain’s Key

While Gardens also continues to grow the old-fashioned way, through new construction mostly in the rapidly rising Alton and Avenir communities, the annexation would focus on homes that have been under no municipal control on the outskirts of Palm Beach Gardens for decades.

Captain's Key
Captain’s Key, east of U.S. 1 and north of PGA Boulevard, is a gated community in the city’s annexation path. (Joel Engelhardt photo)

Zone 1, the largest zone, includes Cabana Colony, as well as several communities to the east along Prosperity Farms Road, including Frenchman’s Landing. Zone 1 crosses the Intracoastal Waterway to reach communities along U.S. 1, including Captain’s Key, Pleasant Ridge and Hidden Key. All told, it would be the most diverse area economically, with 7,670 residents in 3,607 homes across 1,244 acres, city officials said.

The second zone, with just 157 residents in 74 homes, also is east of the Intracoastal. It includes the homes south of the Ritz-Carlton Residences and west of the Benjamin School along Ellison Wilson Road south of PGA Boulevard.

Zone 3 is Pirates Cove, the neighborhood behind the Waterway Cafe between Prosperity Farms Road and the Intracoastal. It has 134 residents in 63 homes. 

In Zone 4, the city would add 151 residents and 71 dwelling units from Monet Acres and Monet Heights, both north of RCA Boulevard and east of Palm Beach State College. 

Zone 5 is the Monet Gardens neighborhood, just east of Legacy Place and north of RCA. Its three long blocks have 240 residents in 113 homes.

Shows how many people live in each of the five annexation zones.

© 2023 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.

14 thoughts on “Palm Beach Gardens pitches massive annexation”

  1. Well they aren’t in the country anymore, and they use all city services, which means they’re using them for free while others have to pay their share. Yes annex them it’s the right thing to do. Imagine the luxury if only city tax payers were using the roads, the parks and utilities. Nope, annex them for sure. Thank you for fairness!

    1. Not all (or many) of these areas to be annexed use “city” services. PBG states that we would save on taxes, no thank you. Our “paid for” refuse teams excel over those used by PBG, our County Services provide faster response and are always available and just around the corner. The author has not chosen the average street off Ellison-Wilson but rather one of the single lane dead-end sort of streets that are the exception rather than the rule. We may be a “working-person” neighborhood but the majority of my neighbors, like myself, take pride and keep our homes and landscaping pristine, yet individual. You don’t need us to be the far outreaches of your community and we certainly don’t want to be a part of your community. Keep this part of unincorporated Juno Ridge/North Palm just the way it is – THANK YOU!

      1. PBG should not be on the east side of the Intercoastal, that only confuses emergency responders, etc. PBG is simply after a tax grab due to the property values of homes running along both sides of the waterway. Vote no.

  2. Thank you for another’s in-depth story. I will be interested in seeing how residents of areas that might speak up at council meetings. I wonder how the city’s tax bas will be affected.

  3. Looks like a money grab. As a resident of Hidden Key I have no interest in being annexed. We pay for all the services we need. What happens in an emergency when the bridge is up. The county has done a fine job in providing services. Feels like Russia and Ukraine on a neighborhood scale.  By the way there aren’t many home under $466K in the proposed annexed areas. Why should we pay for your overdevelopment.

  4. Mileage rate will increase  from approx 16.4 to 18.2 per 1000 of assessed value. Thus if you add in approx 3% yearly tax increase plus 8% increase in our taxes, then taxes will climb approx 11% in one year. In zone 4, our street of 20 homes mostly 1.25 acre lots is lumped with mobile home park of 87 tiny lots. Several of us on the acre lots pay ~11000-25000/year in property taxes compared to approx $600/year for the mobile homes. This is a very unfair vote.  Even if every single homeowner on Monet lane votes no, the mobile home park is going to seal our fate with there vote. In our small enclave, local government officials are abridging our right to vote by proportionally reducing our street representation in the vote. This is a 14th constitutional amendment violation. I’m looking forward to serving city of palm beach gardens with a federal lawsuit.

    1. Lumping Cabana Colony with the other majority communities is unfair. It dilutes the individual vote of all the Zone one inhabitants. Cabana Colony is about 1/3 of Zone one. Already a 2/3 disadvantage if other communities are in favor. This has been done on purpose to sway the decision.

  5. First and foremost, PBG needs to stay east of the ICW to avoid significant confusion with the areas now in the hands of NPB and Juno Beach and PBC. If those entities desire to annex further on the east side of ICW that makes some logical sense.

    Second, PBG has for decades exhibited significant delays with permitting and employed strong arm tactics with specific demands regarding zoning and types/specie of trees, etc.

    Lastly, the requirements, as provided to me, for many existing residents to be served by PBG/Seacoast Utilities new sewer service (if installed) means a very hap-hazzard assembly of two-inch sewer lines (not typical size), individual home sewer lift stations and a dedicated emergency generator at each home to pump the stuff to a sewer main located along Prosperity Farms Road, for example.

    We are very satisfied with our garbage/sewer/water utilities and don’t need to be included within a city with enough problems. I say vote NO.

  6. Th city only wants the tax money and is not interested in the areas proposed in the annex. The county has paved the roads here in the colony, electric is now underground and we have managed years without their services. Yes code enforcement would be welcomed but I can live with a boat in the front yard if I do not have to pay more taxes palm beach county is already to expensive to live in now. I would hope that all residents in the proposed areas feel the same way what do we really have to gain.


      1. Having lived on very nice paved, county accepted, road running off of PFR now for decades I can assure the reader that the PBSO rarely, if ever, patrols. Patrols could be a visual deterrent to b&e, vandalism, home invasion, etc. However, PBSO does respond quickly after the crime is committed. PBSO activity is confirmed by 24/7 recordrd security cameras in the neighborhood.

        PBG may say their police would patrol more often however, that would likely be an empty promise to swing the vote and they would continue to lean toward the existing compact PBG community. Also, which department has the broader details of active area crime and potential criminal activity? I simply see this move by PBG as self-serving. Seems like the choice is ours.

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