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Kushner's Proposed 1M SF Industrial Project Could Impact Florida Agricultural Reserve

Palm Beach County, Florida, commissioners in 1980 set aside 21,000 acres in the western part of the county as an agricultural preserve for farmland, wetlands, water resources and open space.

Now, New York-based Kushner Cos. intends to build a massive, 1M SF industrial warehouse on 51 acres that had long been the site of a plant nursery. To proceed, Kushner would need the zoning to be changed from agricultural to industrial, but it is facing some opposition from local residents, The Palm Beach Post reported.

Palm Beach County's Agricultural Reserve, in red border, abuts Ronald Reagan Turnpike on the east and the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge on the west.

According to a 2000 master plan, more than 80 types of vegetables and 12 fruits have been grown in the Ag Reserve. Development has chipped away at the original boundaries and is supposed to be restricted to agriculture, conservation, low-density residential development, and non-residential uses that serve the needs of farmworkers and residents.

"The Ag Reserve has a cap on commercial development along with rules that restrict the density of residential development, but there are no restrictions on industrial projects. The county is encouraging industrial development along West Atlantic [Avenue]," The Post reported in January. 

The project, located near the Florida Turnpike west of Delray Beach, is being called Star Key. Two neighborhood groups — the Delray Alliance of Residential Associations and the Coalition of Boynton West Residential Associations — are expected to testify against it when the project goes for approvals before the planning commission, and then the county commission, the Post reported.

A traffic consultant for Kushner Cos. has acknowledged roadwork would be required. A spokesperson for the Delray Alliance suggested in January that the group could be amenable to the project if some concerns about traffic were alleviated.

Beth Rappaport, president of the Boynton group, wrote a letter to Maria Sachs, the county commissioner who represents the region, stating that the Kushner project will not directly benefit residents.

"It will, however, bring disruption in the form of increased traffic, mainly consisting of heavy-duty trucks and tractor-trailers," she wrote. "Local agricultural and equine businesses will be adversely impacted, causing potential job losses, as well as irreparable harm to the many families who own these operations. Lastly, the environmental impacts would be severe and too vast to enumerate in this correspondence."

Asked for comment, Kushner President Laurent Morali told Bisnow the same thing he told the Post: "We are more and more enthusiastic about our development project in Delray. Similar to our experience with other markets, including seven other ongoing projects in South Florida, we are always committed to delivering a best-in-class project that benefits the entire community."

Kushner broke ground in March on a multifamily project in Miami's Wynwood arts district and owns more property there. The company is also developing projects in the Edgewater neighborhood of Miami, in Fort Lauderdale and in Lake Worth.