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Palm Beach County Farmers Want To Sell Land To Developers

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Palm Beach County
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Palm Beach County held its second roundtable Tuesday, discussing development options for the county’s Agricultural Reserve -- a 22,000-acre piece of land west of Boynton Beach and Delray Beach, just between Florida’s Turnpike and the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. Farmers want to sell their land to developers because business is bad.

The Ag Reserve was established in the ‘80s. Zoning laws that came with it stated that property owners could sell their land for development if they owned at least 120 acres, or lived next to a wetlands area.

But for smaller landowners like nurseryman Daniel Vincent, it’s a struggle. He can’t sell his land like many larger farmers already have, and he says the nursery business is "history." On top of that, he says it’s hard to farm because he’s now surrounded by small communities.

"Right now, I have problems spraying my crops 'cause every time I look across at the kindergarten on the other side of the canal from me, I have to check to see which way the wind's blowing," said Vincent.

He says he can legally spray, but morally he won't. Vincent wants zoning laws to change -- three houses per acre in areas that are surrounded by development already, he says.

Chris Lockhart is a field biologist in South Florida. She’s been following the Ag Reserve development issue for about a year.

"There are other counties to the south of Palm Beach County that have very little agriculture left," says Lockhart. "We don't want to end up having the county built out where we can't be a sustainable county."

However, struggling small farmers like Daniel Vincent say new zoning laws would bail them out.

All comments from the public roundtable were recorded for the county’s board of commissioners who will meet in March to workshop the issue.

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Credit Jessica Meszaros / WLRN
Nine incentive groups elected three people each to speak for the kind of development they want on Palm Beach County's Agricultural Reserve at Tuesday's roundtable.
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Credit Jessica Meszaros / WLRN
Members of the public voted on specific issues with green, yellow or red stickers. Green meant "yes," yellow meant "unsure" and red meant "no."