About 5,400 voters in Palm Beach County will decide if they want to join the city of Palm Beach Gardens.
Palm Beach Gardens City Council on Wednesday night approved five different annexation plans, bringing about 3,500 pieces of property into city limits. The city still needs a majority of registered voters in each zone to approve the plan in five different elections likely scheduled for March 2024.
City staff said the plan would allow the town to increase its tax base, which could potentially allow it to lower the city’s millage rate while being able to maintain services for the town.
But dozens of people spoke out against the plan to annex an area called “Zone 1” at Palm Beach Garden’s regularly scheduled council meeting. A smaller group protested against the plan before the meeting.
Nancy Lodise, who was one of the protesters, said she is concerned Palm Beach Gardens will eventually force her home to switch from a septic tank to a sewer system. She estimates the expenses could create a financial hardship.
“I’m on a fixed income. I’m retired,” Lodise said. “$30,000 to $50,000 would be a financial burden.”
Joe Deangelo said he doesn’t see the benefit from joining the city of Palm Beach Gardens. He said he believes the city is doing this to help themselves.
“They are trying to take our tax dollars,” Deangelo said. “That’s the only thing they want”
To fight against the proposal, some people in the Hidden Key community hired a lawyer named Nicholas Gieseler. He said Zone 1 is illegal because the city engineered a zone to dilute the voices of other areas, similar to a political gerrymander.
“The only reason they did this is because they know the communities they really want in their city aren’t going to vote for this annexation,” Gieseler said. “So they had to lump them in.”
The city disagrees because a consultant, whom it hired to conduct a required feasibility study, found the area to meet the compactness definition. Multiple council members approved the annexation plan because they said a vote would allow all people to make an opinion on the issue.
Palm Beach Gardens’ website describes the plan as a “win-win” proposition for property owners. It estimated people’s taxes would lower if their home’s assessed value is at or lower than $411,250, which it said applies to 70% of properties in the five areas.
WPTV received the city’s data from a records request and found the percentage differs based on the zone. Specifically, a higher percentage of properties seeing their taxes increase are within Zone 2 and Zone 3.
Amid Palm Beach Gardens’ plan to annex several areas, North Palm Beach is trying to annex some of the same properties.
Celeste Colliton, who owns one of those homes in a community called Hidden Key with her husband, has a sign outside her home urging people to vote against annexation. She said shes frustrated council sent the issue to the ballot box after an overwhelming majority spoke against the project tonight.
“I’m not surprised they passed the referendum to be on the ballot,” Colliton said. They listen to us, they say. But they dont care what we say.
WPTV reached out to North Palm Beach Village Manager Chuck Huff, who said he had nothing further to add.
Peter Banting, who also lives in Palm Beach County, said in October he supports the project because his property in Zone Five is completely enclosed by Palm Beach Gardens. He said he’s looking forward to receiving assistance to fix roads, which his neighborhood is currently performing rather than a local government.
“We went out and poured asphalt into the potholes,” Banting said. “It was the only way we could get maintenance of any kind.”
A vote would determine the outcome for each zone, which will likely occur on March 19, 2024.