You have questions about incorporation. We have answers.
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THIS IS NOT ABOUT LOXAHATCHEE. Its About The Acreage!
The Town of Loxahatchee Groves isn't even involved.
Proponents want to incorporate ALL of The Acreage into a city.
The WOLF is at our door. Do nothing and the entirety of The Acreage will be
made into a CITY and the CITY will be called The Village Of Loxahatchee.
The Acreage will be no more.
A group of people are attempting to change The Acreage
into a city. They are SUCCEEDING! On January 12, 2023, their incorporation bill was
approved by the local delegation. If the Governor approves it, there will
be a referendum on November 7, 2023.
If more than half of the voters vote yes, that is, if not enough people vote NO,
The Acreage will become a city and will be renamed "The Village of Loxahatchee".
Quick Facts (Click on a fact for more details)
Incorporation will make all parts of The Acreage into a city called The Village of Loxahatchee.
Incorporation is the legal process required to make a new city. Every city must have a charter and that charter must explicitly define the boundaries of the city. According to the proposed charter, the new city would envelop all parts of The Acreage, not just properties in the 33470 "Loxahatchee" zip code.
The Town of Loxahatchee Groves is not involved.
Loxahatchee incorporated into a city back in 2006 as The Town of Loxahatchee Groves. They are already a city and are not attempting to annex any portion of The Acreage.
Some people refer to the 33470 zip code as being "Loxahatchee" or the "Loxahatchee Area", but this is incorrect except for people who live in the incorporated city called Loxahatchee Groves. Because The Acreage is unincorporated, there is no actual city to put on their mailing address. When this happens, the post office uses the name of the post office instead. So most people who live in the 33470 zip code will have "Loxahatchee" as their mailing address city. If the 33470 post office had been named "New York City" instead, then Acreage residents in the 33470 zip code would have "New York City, FL 33470" as their address. Westlake, which is also 33470, has recently been given permission to use their city name instead of Loxahatchee. People in other parts of The Acreage have "West Palm Beach" or "Royal Palm Beach" in the "city" field of their address because those are the post offices that deliver their mail.
To drive from the Northern tip of the proposed city to the Southern tip requires driving through at least one other city.
The most direct North-South route is going down Seminole Pratt Whitney which passes through the middle of the City of Westlake. Other routes, such as using Royal Palm Beach Blvd require going through multiple cities. While it might be possible to make the trip without going through another city by using a 4WD pickup or a swamp buggy, those methods are simply not practical.
Another city cannot annex The Acreage without us voting on it.
Florida Statutes require that in order for a city to annex unincorporated properties, they must first hold a referendum whereby the people being annexed must vote over 50% in favor of annexation. So a city cannot just simply take over unincorporated homes at will. In some cases, a second referendum of the people already living in the city must also be over 50% in favor of annexing the unincorporated area. For more information on annexation, click here to see a list of articles about incorporation.
The City Name and the Incorporation Process:
Voters in our area chose "Acreage Pines" not "Loxahatchee" to be our city name.
The committee for incorporation spent a whole Saturday with members of the public creating a list of potential names for the new city. The top 6 names selected by the committee were:
1. The Town of Indian Trail Ranches
2. The Town of Acreage Pines
3. The Village of Loxahatchee Ranches
4. The Town of Acreage Farms
5. The Village of Loxahatchee Trails
6. The Town of Loxahatchee Acres
The top 3 were the presented to the voters and they picked Acreage Pines. At the last committee meeting, the chair overruled the vote and changed the name to Village of Loxahatchee which was not even a choice on the ballot.
If approved by the state, incorporation will be decided by a referendum on November 7, 2023.
On January 12, 2023, the local delegation unanimously approved the bill for incorporation. However, the bill must now pass both houses and be signed by the governor. The charter specifies the date of the referendum if approved. If more than 50% of the voters in The Acreage vote YES, or if not enough voters show up to vote NO, then we will become a new city.
Although the governor and state legislature have not approved the incorporation bill yet, there is a 95% chance that they will. The bill will first go through committees which could either pass, reject or modify the bill. If the bill does pass, it will likely be modified from its original form.
Indian Trail spent $50,000 of taxpayer money supporting incorporation
A public records request returned the following:
All Other Vendors
GateHouse West Palm Beach - Adv
CALDWELL PACETTI EDWARDS SCHOECH & VIATOR LLP
SEMINOLE RIDGE COMMUNITY HIGH SCHOOL
The Mailing Experts, Inc.
CITY OF PALM BEACH GARDENS
Palm Beach County Sheriffs Office
Incorporation only requires a 50% + 1 total vote to pass, not 60%.
Some people have been misinforming the public about the number of votes required to pass. The proposed charter says:
The referendum election called for by this action shall be held on November 7, 2023 ballot:
"Shall the Village of Loxahatchee be created and its Charter adopted? YES / NO?"
In the event this question is answered affirmatively by a majority of voters voting in the referendum, the Charter will take effect as provided herein.
The term "majority of voters" means 50% + 1 vote.
Residents in The Acreage showed favor towards incorporation by voting out all ITID board members who opposed incorporation in 2022.
Quotes from winners of three ITID seats in 2022:
Elizabeth Accomando - "As for incorporation ... as a resident, I believe that our community is entitled to their right to vote."
Patricia Farrell - "I believe in incorporation. It would allow us to control how it's done, and give us the ability to regulate the laws we live under".
Michael Johnson - "...residents deserve a chance to vote on incorporation."
Later, all 5 ITID board members officially endorsed Incorporation. Quotes are from the Town Crier newspaper.
The proposed city limits do not include all of ITID.
Indian Trail encompasses about 110 square miles.
The city, as defined in the proposed charter, only consumes about 42 square miles.
All of the proposed city will fit inside ITID's boundaries.
A city will impose new taxes that we currently do not pay.
Here are a few of the new taxes listed in the Feasibility Study:
Utility Service Tax
Local Option Gas Taxes
Communications Services Tax
Other Licenses, Permits & Other Taxes
Code Enforcement Fines
Speeding Tickets / Parking Fines
Ad-Valorem Taxes (3 mills)
This adds up to $14,005,877 in additional taxes. fees or fines.
The number of millage points determines how much you pay in ad-valorem taxes.
A millage point is a percentage based on 1000 not 100. As such, you will pay $1 for every thousand dollars of assessed home value for each millage point. This sounds deceptively low, but if the final assessed value of your home after exemptions is $500K, you would pay $500 for every millage point. If the city assesses 4 millage points, then you would owe $2,000 in taxes. You can also use our tax calculator to see how different millage rates affect what you owe.
Indian Trail will remain independent and is not likely to reduce their tax rate.
From the Feasibility Study Addendum: "... many of the responsibilities as well as resources [of ITID] can be turned over to the municipality while Indian Trail Improvement District will remain an independent district until 2032 ..."
Even though the city might take on ITID roads and parks, ITID is not obligated to lower their taxes. When governments realize a fiscal surplus, they can't resist the temptation to spend it rather than lowering taxes.
We would still pay county property tax in addition to city taxes.
County taxes are countywide so even people living in cities have to pay them. The current 2023 county tax rate is 4.715 mills. If we incorporate, we still have to pay that. For some reason, there is a lot of misinformation out there claiming that we wouldn't pay county tax if we incorporate, but a quick call to a friend who lives in the city or a visit to the county tax collector's website will verify that city residents pay this tax as well. More info here (tax collector PDF).
The city will tax our electric, cable TV and phone bills.
The Feasibility Study lists these new taxes:
Cable TV, Telephone, Electric
6% of bill
Cellular, Long Distance Calls
7% of bill
Electric and Telephone
10% of bill
Residents will pay an extra 3 to 4 millage points on their property taxes.
According to the original Feasibility Study, the city was projected to have to pay 3 extra millage points over unincorporated tax rates. In the Addendum to the feasibility study, millage rates and their projected incomes are listed out to 10 millage points. However, the most probable millage rate for the new municipality is only 4 millage points. If the city does not assume control of the roads and parks from ITID, an increase of only 3 millage points is possible. If we incorporate, on June 30, 2024 the city will be sending the actual millage rate to the tax collectors office.
A city will get handouts from the county and state that will help offset the cost of the city, but it will not be enough.
The city will likely receive intergovernmental handouts in the amount of about $5,000,000. Many of these handouts are usual and expected, but not required. For example, the county gets some revenues from the state, and as normal policy, divides that revenue with the cities, but the county is not required to do so and may stop at any time. Without the handouts, the city would be forced to charge approximately 2 additional millage points over the 4 we would already owe.
Agriculture, Equestrian and other Rights:
Agricultural rights specified in the Charter have a negating clause that makes them ineffective.
The proposed charter states that agricultural rights shall not be infringed, but on line 57, it allows the town council to create regulations against agricultural activities at will.
... any public health, safety and welfare regulations as may be adopted by Ordinance by the Village council.
Elizabeth Accomando, who is one of the incorporation proponents, stated on Facebook that this was put there to prevent "Garcia's" from operating all over the town. The reference to "Garcia" is the name of a local farmer that processed his own meat animals who was arrested and wrongfully convicted of animal abuse according to many who knew him.
Residents will lose state Homestead protection from creditors wanting to force the sale of their homes.
In Article 10, section 3 of the Florida Constitution, we are given homestead rights that prevent creditors from forcing the sale of our homes in order to settle a judgment. The law, however, explicitly exempts homesteads over half an acre in municipalities. Since lots in The Acreage are all bigger than one acre, that means that if we become a city, creditors with judgments can force the sale of our homes.
So quite literally, if the paperboy got a judgment for an unpaid bill, he could force the sale of your home if you didn't pay it. Even though you might be a person who always pays their bills, you cannot predict an unexpected illness of a child or an at-fault traffic accident.
Courts have created a grandfather clause that continues to grant homestead rights to big lot homeowners who owned the property when it was incorporated, but this grandfathering does not extend to subsequent owners. Also, the Homestead Exemption on your property taxes is a different law and is not affected by incorporation.
The city will still have Code enforcement officers.
According to the Feasibility study, the city will hire 2 full time code enforcement officers at an expense of $88,000 each. In addition, the city will hire a Planning Director, a Development Review Coordinator, 2 Administrative Assistants, a building official, a building inspector, a plumbing inspector, a mechanical inspector, an electrical inspector, a building permit supervisor, and a code compliance officer.
This represents 13 new employees at a cost of $1,021,368. It is unlikely that the city would hire 2 code enforcement officers if they weren't going to use them.
As a general rule cities try to match the cost of operating their building and code department with the fines and fees they take in.
City proponents refused to add language to the charter that restricts ordinances based on the appearance of your home.
Although it wasn't commonly known, there was a second pro-incorporation citizen's group that I led consisting of about a dozen people who were tasked with providing a set of rights to be added to the charter. Below is what was finally recommended to the main 3 person citizen's group. Although the charter does contain a bastardized version of agricultural rights, none of the following proposed rights appear in the charter.
1. Subject to state and federal laws, the town shall be prohibited from infringing on the
right of the people to farm, including the guaranteed right to keep and raise
domesticated mammals, fish or birds in accordance with generally accepted Best
Management Practices based on modern animal science and research, on any property
they own; and
2. The town shall be prohibited from enacting or enforcing ordinances, based on
aesthetic reasons, regulating the appearance, age, color, size or shape of anything on
private property that is otherwise permitted; and
3. The town shall be prohibited from declaring any improvement unlawful based on
permit status or lack thereof, if it existed on, and has not been substantially altered
since, the date of municipal incorporation.
The first section was the agricultural rights section. It would have given the people reasonable rights to farm provided they do so humanely. Section 2 would have prohibited ordinances based on appearance such as the height of your grass, the age of your pickup truck or the size of your RV. The last section created a grandfather clause for any unpermitted structures existing at the time of incorporation.
We will have to pay millions for sheriff patrols which we now get free from the county.
Currently, as an unincorporated area, the county pays for police patrols in our area. The county pays for them out of a county tax that is collected from all areas of the county, not just unincorporated areas. Once we incorporate, The Acreage is no longer the county's responsibility and the county is no longer required to provide sheriff patrols at no charge. According to the Feasibility Study, the city would contract with the sheriff at a cost of $6,500,000 a year. Although we would still pay county taxes, we would no longer get police patrols for free.
We will not have any more clout to fight SR7 delays.
The issue with SR7 is a lawsuit between the City of West Palm Beach and the state. Indian Trail and our city, if we incorporate, are not part of that lawsuit. So we will have no more influence if we become a city. Since the state is already on our side, any influence the city has would be for nothing and essentially preaching to the choir. As a city, we would have no say in the affairs of another city and the most we could do is to engage in a frivolous and costly lawsuit against West Palm Beach.
State law could force city speed limits to be reduced to 30mph like other cities.
State law mandates in the first line of F.S. 316.189 (1) that "The maximum speed within any municipality is 30 miles per hour." If you look around at the various cities around the area, you'll see that speed limit is quite common. Many older cities actually have 25 mph speed limits. The statute later provides a mechanism for cities to vary that speed limit from 20 mph to 60 mph.
While the county has already gone through the process of setting the speeds on interior roads to 40 mph, the city is not obligated to accept that and could revert the speed to 30 mph at any time.
Some people are in favor of slower speed limits while others are not. To drive the North-South length of The Acreage would take half and hour at 25 mph. This is not popular among people that need to get somewhere.
The city could force us to connect to city water and sewer.
Under Florida statute 381.00655, if the city builds a city sewer system, homeowners are mandated to connect to it. The city itself can mandate connections to city water.
As a result of a lawsuit between Indian Trail and the county, the county now has exclusive water utility rights in The Acreage. Thankfully, ITID insisted on the requirement that the county would not be able to force anybody to connect unless the pipe was already in front of their property. If a majority of homeowners in an area vote to extend the pipes into their area, then all of them can be forced to connect. Because the fees to connect to city water run about $16,000 per homeowner, the vast majority of homeowners have opted for $100 under sink Reverse Osmosis units or bottled water instead. Some have opted for whole house reverse osmosis units that usually cost less than $10,000. Others are content with plain softened water. And a few tough guys drink it right out of the well.
Since the agreement with Indian Trail was with the county, that means nobody else, including a city, is bound by it. So if we incorporate, the city could mandate that everyone connect to city water. However, this is not really likely because there would be no money in it for the city.
If the charter says you can do something, then its a right, but if any other document says you can do something, its a privilege.
Several people have said that the "rights" I have proposed (such as the right to farm) should go in other city documents. However, if they are in other documents, then they are not rights, but rather privileges. Once the charter gets voter approval, only voter approval can change it. With other documents, the town council can change them at the next regular meeting without voter approval.
The city cannot stop the County from widening Coconut and Orange or opening 60th street through Westlake.
Years ago, after Indian Trail paved many of the roads in The Acreage, it was decided to transfer rights to certain roads to the county. The idea was that the county could better afford to maintain them than Indian Trail. On those roads, neither Indian Trail nor a city would have any say in how they were operated. Interior roads that were not signed over to the county would be under city rule.
The city does not really cover 110 square miles.
I don't know why, but several people have been pushing the false fact that the city would cover 110 square miles. Indian Trail does, in fact, encompass about 110 square miles, however, Indian Trail and The Acreage are two different things. Parts of ITID are within other cities like Palm Beach Gardens and Royal Palm Beach. Our city, as defined in the proposed charter, is only about 42 square miles and is wholly inside ITID boundaries.
Do you have other questions? Click CONTACT US at the top of the page and send them to us.
Incorporation proponents think The Acreage is broken and making it into a city will "FIX" it.
THE ACREAGE ISN'T BROKE AND THERE IS NO REASON TO "FIX" IT.
They say they want to preserve The Acreage lifestyle - By changing it.
They are not doing this to benefit The Acreage,
they are doing it to Take Over The Acreage.
Remember, the REAL "Loxahatchee" became a city in 2006 called
"The Town of Loxahatchee Groves" with just a few votes.
Many Loxahatchee residents have regretted not voting ever since.
We can't let that happen here!
Please vote early and vote NO.
Early voting will be at the library behind Publix as well as other areas around the county.
If you wait until election day, the odds that something will come up and prevent you from voting is higher.