Article Courtesy of The
By Randy Schultz
Published April 22, 2021
new county commissioner represents the Agricultural Reserve Area, but the
perceived threats to the reserve remain.
In November, former
State Sen. Maria Sachs succeeded Mary Lou Berger, who had
been term-limited. The District 5 seat includes almost all
of the roughly 20,000-acre reserve, which runs from Clint
Moore Road to Lantana Road west of Florida’s Turnpike.
Those who want to preserve farming and limit added
development face two new issues. One is the project we will
discuss today. The other is a land swap involving the Lake
Worth Drainage District and GL Homes, the largest developer
in the reserve. We will discuss that later.
Kushner Companies wants to build a one million-square-foot
distribution warehouse on 51 acres just west of the turnpike
on the north side of Atlantic Avenue. That’s Kushner
Companies as in Charles Kushner, father of Trump son-in-law
Morningstar Nursery owns the land, which is just east of the
Delray Marketplace. Kushner seeks a rezoning from
agricultural to industrial. A representative of Urban Design
Studio, Kushner’s agent, said the company is “working out a
few matters on the site plan/zoning.” He does not know when
the project might go before the county planning commission,
the advisory review board.
Critics—and there will be many—will argue that allowing an Amazon-like
facility would go against the wishes of voters who in 1999 approved $100
million in bonds to retain as much farming as possible. No one from the
county sought this change. The request comes from Kushner and Morningstar.
In addition, critics will argue that the warehouse would be the latest in a
series of changes that threaten to tip the reserve inexorably toward
suburban development. Proponents have called each change a small one, yet
the effect has been significant.
Indeed, Kushner’s application notes this history. Since the adoption of the
reserve’s master plan, the company states, “a number of amendments have been
made to allow for planned residential development, multiple use planned
development, and traditional marketplace developments. These amendments have
resulted in a significant increase in the number of people living and
working within the Ag Reserve.”
Kushner also notes that planners envisioned industrial use within the
reserve. Mostly, though, Kushner says that its project would be compatible
because of all the other exceptions the county commission has allowed.
Planners did always envision some residential development and two centers of
commercial development, one of which is Delray Marketplace. They assumed,
though, that any industrial projects would be farm-related. Perhaps that’s
why planners didn’t put a cap on industrial development within the reserve.
According to its website, Kushner Companies is involved with other projects
in South Florida, though Star Key is the only industrial development.
Michelle Damone is Sachs’ chief of staff. On Monday, she said the office had
received “about 200 emails” opposing the project.
In addition, the Delray Alliance–composed of homeowner associations in West
Delray–said the group could not support the project as currently designed.
On March 18, the Coalition of Boynton West Residential Associations sent a
letter to Sachs and her colleagues opposing the warehouse.
The project, COBWRA wrote, “is contrary to the very rules designed to
protect (the Agricultural Reserve Area) and ensure its preservation for
generations to come.” COBWRA President Beth Rappaport told me, “No one is
clamoring for industrial warehouses in the reserve. We strongly oppose the