Sunday, March 3

Property owners disenfranchised from Palm Beach Gardens’ annexation election

Some property owners, who have property within the five areas that the city of Palm Beach Gardens is trying to annex, won’t have the opportunity to vote in the upcoming annexation election.

Amid an overwhelming majority of criticism about the plan at Wednesday’s regular scheduled council meeting, a plurality of council members moved the plan forward because a vote would allow people to voice their opinions. Their decision means 5,400 voters in Palm Beach County will decide if they want to join the city of Palm Beach Gardens.

Charlie Hollings, who is against the proposal and owns property in Zone 1, said his tenant will get the opportunity to vote for annexation rather than himself. He said he’s warned his tenant about the outcome affecting his rent moving forward.

The most frustrating part about that is not having a say or control over my own property,” Hollings said. “I dont understand how this system works.

Ary Sehayik, who represented the owners of a commercial property, said the ownership group was frustrated because it felt like Palm Beach Garden’s City Council was taking their property rights away.

As a commercial property owner, I feel like my property rights are being violated because we truly don’t get to vote,” Sehayik said.

A different person, who represented the ownership group, asked the council Wednesday to “grandfather” their building into the existing city code.

Candice Temple, who is a spokeswoman for the city of Palm Beach Gardens, said the registered address for voting determines what is on your ballot at the polls after WPTV reached out to the city about their concerns in an email.

WPTV reached out to members of Palm Beach Gardens City Council on Monday afternoon. We haven’t received a statement from a council member as of Monday night.

According to data, which WPTV requested from the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections, the most amount of voters and properties are in Zone 1. It also has the biggest difference between the number of registered voters compared to the number of properties in each zone.

Each zone gets its own election to join the city, which will likely be held March 19, 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.

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.

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.

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