Hobe Grove, Harmony pressured to merge

The members of the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council, the first agency to review the Hobe Grove and Harmony Ranch DRI applications, acknowledged the need at its June 17 meeting to consider the cumulative impact of both developments, even though they currently are two separate applications.

Council Executive Director Michael Busha said the council is required to review the applications separately, unless the property owners agree to submit one plan for both developments.

Each is similar in size, more than 2,000 acres with approximately 4,000 units, and both are located along Bridge Road west of Florida’s Turnpike.

Both plan to complete the projects over a 20- to 25-year span, both intend to attract major corporate or “Fortune 500” companies to their site, and both plan extensive restoration of environmental sensitive areas, particularly regarding water flows and wetlands.

The Harmony Ranch project would tap into the county’s current urban services district; the Hobe Grove project would not.

“I have been kicking this around myself trying to get both the owners in a room together,” Busha remarked, “to see if there can’t be some way to have one plan.”

A similar comment was made by Commissioner Patrick Hayes at the May 12 meeting of the Hobe Sound Neighborhood Advisory Committee.

“I just wish we could lock them all (developers) in a room together,” Hayes said, so they could “…hash out one plan, something reasonable…”

Hobe Grove, owned by Becker Groves of Vero Beach, is farther along in the approval process, having submitted its plan to the regional planning council in early May. The council is mandated by law to have its review completed within 50 days, and the period for written public comments to the council already is closed.

Harmony Ranch, owned by Otto “Buz” Divosta of Palm Beach, submitted its application a week after that of Hobe Grove’s, and its public comment period ends on June 27.

Its application for a Planned Unit Development was found by county staff to be insufficient; therefore, it must be resubmitted.

With the governor’s dismantlement of the state Department of Community Affairs, however, development applications should move more quickly through the approval process. It’s conceivable that the Board of County Commissioners will receive both applications at nearly the same time.

Commissioner Hayes, also a member of the regional planning council, told his fellow members that “it would be a mistake” to consider these applications as “distinct and different.”

“This really begs for a meaningful sector plan for the county,” he said, one that would look at agriculture, environmental restoration, industrial and residential areas.

He also said that these developments, though some elements of which he likes, fall squarely in the most rural area of the county. “It is my belief that the residents want it to remain rural,” he added.