JUPITER – A dispute between a developer and residents of a historically black neighborhood in Jupiter has sparked a charge of “environmental racism” over a proposed new road.
But the attorney for the developer says residents are wrong in believing the road would run through their Limestone Creek community.
The two-lane road would lead to an 82-acre site in northern Palm Beach County which is slated to include a biotech development. Opposition has come from several people, including businessman Dan Liftman, who said through the years the people of Limestone Creek have been treated with neglect.
“This proposed project is nothing short of environmental racism,” Liftman said. “Once again we have a poor black neighborhood that they are trying to force this project on. There’s a playground there. The children might be hurt (by the increased traffic).”
Allen Ciklin, attorney for the developer, Hawkeye Unlimited, rejects that claim.
He said the road would not run through Limestone Creek but would be built adjacent to Kennedy Estates — also a black community — on the south side of Indiantown Road.
He added that no homes would be displaced.
A final vote on the road is scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 16, when the Palm Beach County Commission meets in West Palm Beach.
County Commissioner Burt Aaronson got a postponement of the vote at the Sept. 12 meeting, agreeing with the residents who argued they had not been given sufficient time to review the proposal.
Shelly Williams, a resident of Limestone Creek since 1957, who is among opponents of the road, said he had not had enough notice prior to the scheduled final vote.
“It has been very underhanded the way this has been approached,” he said. “We were notified at the very last minute this process was taking place and that a road was being proposed to go through our community.”
According to resident Verline Smith, another meeting was held on Sept. 21 that included the developer, Jupiter officials and Palm Beach County Commissioner Jess Santamaria.
She said residents attended because they were told if they did not try to work out a compromise the road project would move forward without their consent.
Residents said they asked the developer for certain concessions in negotiating an agreement regarding the path the road would take, including building a new park and offering biotech scholarships worth $50,000 annually for the children of Limestone Creek but their request was denied.
Ciklin said the developer met with residents in an effort to be a good neighbor and because county commissioners asked for the meeting.
He said Hawkeye Unlimited is proposing to buffer and landscape the road alignment so any impact on nearby communities would be mitigated.
He acknowledged that increased traffic was expected.
“The discussion was how to mitigate the impact of the road alignment on the adjacent community when the development of the Hawkeye community occurs,” Ciklin said.
According to Ciklin, the development project would be an employment center with possible biotech businesses and was projected to create 3,000 jobs.
Possible jobs would be available to everyone but there was no guarantee, he said.
Job training and creation was discussed at the Sept. 21 meeting attended by residents of Kennedy Estates and Limestone Creek, he said.
Smith said another meeting was being planned in order to reach some sort of resolution before the final vote on Oct. 16.
Despite such assurances, Smith said she was still worried about possible toxic waste being towed back and forth and how it might affect the children.
“Our children live here. They have to walk to school on Central Boulevard, a four-lane highway,” Smith said.
“Nobody is gonna tell me that this is not going to bring more traffic. We asked for a traffic light there. They said, ‘No.’ How do you put a price on a child’s life?”
County Commissioner Priscilla A. Taylor said at the Sept. 12 meeting that residents had legitimate concerns about the road, which is projected to begin construction in 2016.
“If there is a way to make this happen and use an alternative [plan], then that’s what we should be doing,” she said.
“I don’t think we should be impacting communities, especially minority communities. When you first started, you looked at a different area and said the residents did not want it there. So now you still have a situation where the residents do not want it,” Taylor said.
*Pictured above is Dan Liftman and Priscilla A. Taylor