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CELEBRATING 40 YEARS

Together In The Western Communities

Quite a bit has changed in the western communities since the Town-Crier published its first issue back in May 1980. Covering Wellington, Royal Palm Beach, Loxahatchee and The Acreage, the Town-Crier has recorded the phenomenal growth of the western communities every step of the way. We’ve reported on the growing pains that go hand-in-hand whenever a community is in flux and changing, and we have worked on the progress and growth together because we are a community, and the Town-Crier is an integral part of the western communities. In this special Town-Crier 40th Anniversary Souvenir Magazine, we celebrate the past four decades, saluting the history of our newspaper, as well as the history of the communities we cover. Originally, we had planned this souvenir magazine to arrive in time for the newspaper’s 40th birthday in the beginning of May, but, well, 2020 did not go as expected for anyone. Nevertheless, we have pushed forward and are thrilled to present this keepsake magazine, filled with a wonderful look back, during this, our 40th anniversary year. We thank all the people who worked hard on this publication, including former staff members who shared their memories, current writers who researched the history of our western communities, and advertising and production staff members who went above and beyond to make this unique project a reality. Thanks as well to the many advertisers who got behind this project, including longtime Town-Crier friend Jess Santamaria, who supported this project, along with many others over the past 40 years. Please join us as we take a look back over the past four decades. Barry Manning Joshua Manning Dawn Rivera Publisher Executive Editor General Manager

TOWN-CRIER 40TH ANNIVERSARY SOUVENIR MAGAZINE Published by Newspaper Publishers Inc. 12794 W. Forest Hill Blvd., Suite 33 Wellington, FL 33414 (561) 793-7606 BARRY S. MANNING Publisher JOSHUA I. MANNING Executive Editor DAWN RIVERA General Manager STEPHANIE RODRIGUEZ Art & Production Manager RON BUKLEY M. DENNIS TAYLOR DEBORAH WELKY BARBARA YORESH Featured Writers STAFF: Betty Buglio, Yolanda Cernicky, Shanta Daibee, Evie Edwards, Denise Fleischman, Jill Kaskel and Joetta Palumbo SPECIAL THANKS The Town-Crier thanks all the current and former staff members who came together to create this special souvenir magazine despite the many difficulties this year has brought. We also thank the many advertisers who enthusiastically supported this project and made it possible. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED TO CONTENT HEREIN. COPYRIGHT 2020, NEWSPAPER PUBLISHERS INC.

FEATURED CONTENT HISTORY OF THE TOWN-CRIER

6

The Early Years...............................................2 Through The Years..........................................6 Founding Publisher........................................ 12 Gone But Not Forgotten................................. 14 Meet Our Publisher........................................ 16 Town-Crier In The Community........................ 18

16

HISTORY OF OUR COMMUNITIES

22

26

Wellington History & Timeline........................ 22 Royal Palm Beach History & Timeline.............. 26 Loxahatchee Groves History & Timeline.......... 32 Acreage/Indian Trail History & Timeline.......... 36 Westlake History........................................... 38

32

36

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1980 - 2020 • TOWN-CRIER 40TH ANNIVERSARY SOUVENIR MAGAZINE • PAGE 1

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Town-Crier Newspaper

THE EARLY YEARS

A Family-Owned Newspaper Where Everyone Was Part Of A Big Family

BY BARBARA YORESH

More than three decades after my initial tenure as a staff writer at the Town-Crier, the recollection of time spent might seem a bit like yesterday’s news. Yet for me and more than a few of my 1980s-era Town-Crier colleagues, the memories remain fresh and relevant. The young newspaper and its editions within the western communities were invaluable informational sources in a part of the county that was exploding with growth and development. While the newspaper mattered greatly to area residents, we who helped produce it coalesced into something of a family, whose ties to each other still lovingly bind.

PAGE 2 • TOWN-CRIER 40TH ANNIVERSARY SOUVENIR MAGAZINE • 1980 - 2020

CUTTING MY TEETH I came on board under my previous surname of McNeely via an unsolicited piece I had submitted in December 1985 about rock star David Crosby’s incarceration in the Palm Beach County jail. That piece led to an offer of employment as a full-time staff writer, and I joined the newspaper’s team the same week in January 1986 that NASA’s space shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after its launch at Cape Canaveral. I was 36 years old, and Miz ’Neely — publisher Bob Markey Sr.’s handle for me — had become a “cub” reporter and was senior in age to most of my writing colleagues by at least 10 years. Thus began a reporter’s career, which to date has spanned more than 34 years. The depth and breadth of subjects was infinite and, for someone like me who hated the hum-drum boredom of a typical 9-to-5 desk job, being out there covering everything and everyone was remarkably stimulating.

VARIETY WAS THE SPICE OF LIFE The Royal Palm Beach Village Council, and the Indian Trail and Loxahatchee Groves water control districts, were my main “beats,” but I also enjoyed writing countless feature articles about the people and entities of the western communities. I even wrote a cooking column for a time. I’ve interviewed the famous and John Q. Public; covered local governments; written countless columns, editorials and feature articles; and became, now, at age 70, a “specialist” in covering arts and entertainment who still writes for Vero Beach’s Riverside Theatre. Those mid-1980s days at the newspaper’s previous offices at Wellington’s Commerce Park on Pierson Road were filled with a sense of urgency to report about the quickly developing western communities. So many issues to explore, so many key players to meet with and build rapport, so much to write about and deadlines were always looming. More than 30 years later, there are more than a few former staff writers who continue to write or edit newspapers. Ron Dupont Jr. — who began writing for the Town-Crier while still in high school — is an editor with Sun Coast Media in Venice, Fla., while former Sports Editor Larry Hobbs currently writes for the Brunswick News in Georgia and is the author of two books available on Amazon about Georgia’s Golden Isle coastal region. Former writer Laura Farrell (now Laura Lemmon) is an editor with Gannett’s Treasure Coast Newspapers group. SPELL CHECK OR DIE Less-than-reliable electric service to our offices in the 1980s rendered the newspaper nearly dead-in-the-water when shortly

Barbara Yoresh, then Barbara McNeely, wrote for the Town-Crier during the Markey family era for about six years starting in 1986. She has remained a friend of the newspaper, occasionally working on special projects. She was thrilled to be able to catch up with old friends while working on this project.

Early Town-Crier staff members with one of several awards the newspaper won from the Florida Press Association. (Front row, L-R) Larry Hobbs, Jennifer Daniel, Bonnie O. Goldberg, Bob Markey Sr., Bob Markey II, Barbara McNeely (now Yoresh) and Ron Dupont Jr. Our apologies to the unidentified staff member in the back.

before final deadline and printing, a brief electrical outage zapped all our computer files, and most of us writers hadn’t remembered to “back up our files” (given as an

edict by Editor Bob Markey II) on the floppy disks used at the time. Boy, did we scramble to do our best to quickly re-write from memory our respective copy for the week’s

edition, which in the end published on time. If Bob II’s threat of “spell check or die” didn’t really carry a lethal penalty, we reporters nonetheless learned the journalistic rules of the road via repeated references to the Associated Press Stylebook, which is a newspaperman’s “bible.” WE ARE FAMILY There was an esprit de corps among all departments of the newspaper that collectively made it all come together by deadline. We were, to be sure, co-workers. But I and others of that 1980s era also remember a sense of family that extended from the newspaper’s owner to all employees. We were the Town-Crier family, and many long-time friendships and (Left) A Town-Crier holiday season photo from the early 1980s. (Front row) Eunice Cromey, Peter Ressegue, Teri Bensinger and Karen Wiggan; (middle row) Audrey Radin, Sue Ceynowa, Pat Markey and Jim Cromey; and (back row) Romy Silvester, Ray Plockelman, Bob Markey Sr., Gunda Caldwell, Joe Cromey and Tom Sawyer.


associations were forged that never became “yesterday’s news.” The Town-Crier was literally a family business comprised of the Markey family of Bob Sr., his wife Pat, sons Bob II and Brian, and daughter Patricia. Joining the former New Yorkers in their enterprise were members of the Warren Essner and Walter Rosenthal families. FAMILY MEMBERS REMINISCE Back in the early days of the newspaper, production duties were manually done, and typesetting and layout were time-consuming and hands-on. Without the high-level skills of chief typesetter Jean Firpo

and lead graphic layout artist Peter Ressegue, there would not have been an edition. Back then, the newspaper was laid out for printing on Wednesday nights, and often the process stretched into the wee hours of the next morning as late-arriving copy was set, proofread and pages laid out. Firpo, now 86 and a resident of Century Village in West Palm Beach, vividly remembers her work and the public’s response to the local newspaper — particularly since the regional daily newspaper pretty much ignored coverage of the western communities in those days. “I worked 13 years there — often 65 to 70 hours a week. I met a lot

of nice people and loved the job, but the hours got to me as I got older. People really looked forward to the newspaper, and I learned a tremendous amount while working there. They had a good newspaper,” Firpo said. Ressegue, now 61 and a Broward County resident, has vivid memories of his 15-year Town-Crier stint, which began shortly after the newspaper was founded. “I’ll always be grateful to Bob [Markey] Sr. He told me I was a great artist, and he taught me so much. Everything back then was manual cut and paste. It was a whole different world from what it has become through technology,” Ressegue recalled.

Palm Beach County celebrities Greg and John Rice reading the Town-Crier, as featured in the newspaper back in 1981.

Graphic artist Peter Ressegue works in the production room.

Romy Sylvester and Anne Elstad.

Special thanks to Peter Ressegue for sharing his collection of staff photos from the early years of the Town-Crier.

Sue Nethercote and Sue Harris worked as sales representatives.

Jean Firpo worked as the chief typesetter.

Marge Essner worked in classified ad sales.

1980 - 2020 • TOWN-CRIER 40TH ANNIVERSARY SOUVENIR MAGAZINE • PAGE 3

Staff writer Kevin McGlinchy.


Town-Crier Newspaper

THE EARLY YEARS

He stills stays in touch with many of his former co-workers through social media. “It was a family,” he said. Hobbs started at the newspaper as a paid intern shortly after graduating from Troy University in Alabama, where he had met Bob Markey II. “After my internship, Mr. Markey hired me full-time. It was a family environment, and I’ve never seen another environment like that in any place else I’ve worked,” Hobbs recalled. “I became a better writer there, and we all encouraged each other.”

and opportunities to get the story written correctly and in the hands of readers, who eagerly awaited each new edition. I know my time at the Town-Crier changed and enriched my life in ways I am still experiencing, and it opened the door to other writing opportunities far from our old Commerce Park offices. By the time the Manning family, the current owners of the newspaper, purchased the Town-Crier from the Markey family in 1998, I had

moved on. However, I established a great working relationship with the new owners and even returned to write for the occasional special feature section, such as the Royal Palm Beach anniversary magazines and, of course, this special 40th anniversary retrospective. As the Town-Crier celebrates its 40th anniversary, I wish the current owners and staff continued success in their endeavors to inform and enlighten these amazing communities.

40 YEARS & COUNTING

PAGE 4 • TOWN-CRIER 40TH ANNIVERSARY SOUVENIR MAGAZINE • 1980 - 2020

It was literally thrilling to be a part of the Town-Crier’s early years in a growing community. And for me, as well as several of my former colleagues, the love of getting a “scoop” on some breaking story has endured. I think we all ended up with ink in our veins, and for that we can thank the late Bob Markey Sr. for his vision and willingness to let a bunch of young and mainly unseasoned reporters take chances

(Above) Always looking to serve the community, and a good sport, Bob Markey Sr. took part in a roast to support the Wellington Education Committee back in 1991. (Left) Peter Ressegue worked in production and often drew cartoons. Here he is working in the production room with Amy Hanna.

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Saluting The Town-Crier On Its 40th Anniversar y

Congratulations to the Town-Crier for 40 years serving the western communities of Wellington, Royal Palm Beach, The Acreage, Loxahatchee, Loxahatchee Gr oves and the surrounding areas. The Town-Crier, as our very ow n community newspaper, is more important to us than much bigger county newspapers or even national newspapers because we can depend on a local community newspaper to keep us inform ed on more familiar, local, neighborhood events and activities.

As our own community newspaper, the Town-Crier has kept us informed of our local governments’ reg ular activities and decisions that affect our daily lives, such as taxes, new developments, safety issues, crime, etc. Our Town-Crier kee ps us regularly informed on our schools (both public and private), and their performance on our children (academics, sports, safety, extrac urricular activities, etc.). It also keeps us inform ed on local businesses, hospitals, divers e houses of worship, civic organizations and mo re, while also letting us know about ou tstanding accomplishments of local residents tha t improve the quality of life in our com munity.

The western communities needs to sup port the Town-Crier community new spaper to continue informing the residents for the next 40 years. Jess R. Santamaria Royal Palm Beach

Mr. Santamaria is a longtime leader in the western communities and a longtime supporter of the Town-Crier newspaper. Aside from community activism, he is regularly engaged in many charitable efforts. He served on the Palm Beach County Commission from 2006 to 2014.

1980 - 2020 • TOWN-CRIER 40TH ANNIVERSARY SOUVENIR MAGAZINE • PAGE 5

Town-Crier reporters are often local reside nts who are familiar with the western com munities, and, therefore, more accurately descri be current events that appeal to all ou r residents, including our seniors, young families and students.


Town-Crier Newspaper

THROUGH THE YEARS

PAGE 6 • TOWN-CRIER 40TH ANNIVERSARY SOUVENIR MAGAZINE • 1980 - 2020

The Town-Crier was launched by Bob Markey Sr. in May 1980 in Wellington. It quickly found a strong readership and launched a Royal Palm Beach edition the next year. The 1980s were a golden age in local newspapers as the advent of personal computers and new software made it easier to give small newspapers a more professional look.

The late 1980s were the boom years in Royal Palm Beach, with the community among the fastest growing in the nation, and the Town-Crier was there to cover it all. One special edition came out on June 29, 1989 to celebrate the community’s 30th anniversary with a special souvenir edition. This has become a 40-year Town-Crier tradition.

By the early 1990s, the Town-Crier had become one of the largest independent publishing companies in Palm Beach County, with several zoned editions, even publishing twice a week for a while with a midweek edition and a weekend edition. Meanwhile, the newspaper closely followed the burgeoning Acreage/Loxahatchee community.


During the mid-1990s, the Town-Crier was a huge supporter of Wellington’s ultimately successful incorporation effort, as well as closely tracking the growth of the rapidly expanding community, including the years of planning that went into what became the Mall at Wellington Green.

The Town-Crier shared the shock of 9/11 with its readers back in 2001, and 2002 saw the launch the newspaper’s first-ever mailed edition with the debut of The Acreage/Loxahatchee Town-Crier. As times changed, the newspaper was there to document it and present it to readers in a concise and credible format.

1980 - 2020 • TOWN-CRIER 40TH ANNIVERSARY SOUVENIR MAGAZINE • PAGE 7

The late 1990s saw a major shift for the Town-Crier with an ownership change from the Markey family, which founded the newspaper, to the Manning family, which has owned the newspaper for the past 22 years. The first two newspapers in this row show the first issue with Barry Manning as publisher and the first with Joshua Manning as editor.


Town-Crier Newspaper

THROUGH THE YEARS

PAGE 8 • TOWN-CRIER 40TH ANNIVERSARY SOUVENIR MAGAZINE • 1980 - 2020

During the boom years, the Town-Crier produced three different editions covering local events, such as the birth of the Town of Loxahatchee Groves and Wellington’s equestrian drama. When the Great Recession shifted demand, the Town-Crier merged editions into a redesigned broadsheet format in 2008, converting to free mailed subscription in 2009.

Local elections have always been covered as completely as possible by the Town-Crier, including the changes brought by those elections and the occasional times when elections went awry, such as the disputed 2012 election in the Village of Wellington when a computer error showed incorrect winners on election night.

The mission of the Town-Crier is to provide news that is interesting to local readers and not available elsewhere. This includes a heavy focus on local politics and local government in the western communities, along with school news, personality features, and coverage of local happenings through event previews and social photography.


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1980 - 2020 • TOWN-CRIER 40TH ANNIVERSARY SOUVENIR MAGAZINE • PAGE 9

Happy 40th! Town-Crier Thanks for bringing us the best of the Western Communities.


PAGE 10 • TOWN-CRIER 40TH ANNIVERSARY SOUVENIR MAGAZINE • 1980 - 2020

Since 1986

“Congratulations Town-Crier Newspaper on your 40th Anniversary”!

11199 Polo Club Road | Suite 1 | Wellington, FL 33414 | (561) 578-8900


Town-Crier Newspaper

THROUGH THE YEARS

In recent years, the Town-Crier has worked to keep up with a rapidly shifting news industry to stay relevant in changing times. Nothing has put this more in focus than the 2020 virus crisis. After briefly halting its print edition when the crisis began, the Town-Crier returned a few weeks later with a slimmed down print edition and digital-first news format.

SPECIAL PROJECTS

For the newspaper’s 20th anniversary, the Town-Crier celebrated community leaders and gave them awards. For many years, the newspaper produced the annual Palms West Almanac, often covered with unique art. In 2004, the Town-Crier’s sister publication Wellington The Magazine launched. Shown here is the first issue and the most recent issue.

1980 - 2020 • TOWN-CRIER 40TH ANNIVERSARY SOUVENIR MAGAZINE • PAGE 11

Starting with a newsprint special section in 1989 (see page 6), the Town-Crier has a longstanding tradition of celebrating the Village of Royal Palm Beach with a glossy-wrapped souvenir magazine every 10 years. A similar publication was produced for the Village of Wellington’s fifth anniversary back in 2001.


Town-Crier Newspaper

FOUNDING PUBLISHER

A 40-Year Newspaper Legacy Began With The Late Robert C. Markey Sr.

BY BARBARA YORESH

PAGE 12 • TOWN-CRIER 40TH ANNIVERSARY SOUVENIR MAGAZINE • 1980 - 2020

The Town-Crier newspaper’s 40-year legacy as the leading source of printed news for the greater western communities area began through the vision and entrepreneurship of its founder, Robert C. “Bob” Markey Sr., who died in 2013 at age 80.

If ever there were an instance of the right person being in the right place at the right time, then perhaps Markey is a prime example of such happenstance. The former New Yorker, Korean War veteran and greater New York City metro-area newspaperman left Uniondale on New York’s Long Island for Florida in 1973 with his wife Patricia and young family. A former advertising executive for The New York Times, Markey’s career included earlier stints at The Brooklyn Eagle and the New York World Telegram and Sun. The family initially lived in Sanford, where Markey became advertising director of that community’s Evening Herald and also worked for The Florida Catholic newspaper, based in Orlando. Markey subsequently became an advertising director for The Palm Beach Post, and in 1977, the family moved to a newly developing Wellington community, which was then a 10,000-acre planned unit development governed by the Acme Improvement District. As the western communities began the developmental boom of the 1980s and 1990s, the Town-Crier matched pace with its weekly zoned editions in Wellington, Royal Palm Beach, Loxahatchee Groves and The Acreage, as well as Greenacres and Lake Worth. At its height, the Markeys employed as many as 60 people to write and produce the newspaper, including business and

advertising employees and pressmen. At one time, the newspaper published twice weekly and a Palm Beach Gardens edition was tried. A FAMILY AFFAIR All Markey family members were involved in the operation. Elder son Bob Markey II served as editor, and son Brian Markey oversaw newspaper distribution and delivery. Wife Pat was busy with business office duties, and daughter Patricia also assisted. As publisher, Bob Markey Sr. wrote stories and editorials, but his “Stray Thoughts” opinion columns were eagerly anticipated by readers and often debated. One didn’t have to be a blood relation to become part of the growing Town-Crier family. Markey family friends Warren Essner and Walter Rosenthal of New York, and their wives Marge and Joan, respectively, also relocated to the Wellington area and became involved in the Town-Crier operation. Employees, too, found a “family” and camaraderie at the newspaper that decades later were described as the best in their entire working careers. I am among those who felt that warmth of belonging to a group who cared about and enjoyed each other. MEMORIES OF MR. MARKEY Since I’m writing this, I’ll kickoff the walk down memory lane regarding the newspaper and, specifically, Bob Markey Sr. Mr. Markey — I always called him that, and I’ll do so here — wasn’t exactly looking for another staff writer when I wrote him a long note late in 1985 in response to one of his Stray Thoughts columns. Shortly thereafter, I had an encounter with rock star David Crosby of Crosby, Stills & Nash fame, who was at the time incarcerated at the Palm Beach County Jail on drug and weapons charges. I wrote a piece about that meeting and sent it

Barbara Yoresh, then Barbara McNeely, wrote for the Town-Crier during the Markey family era for about six years starting in 1986. She has remained a friend of the newspaper, occasionally working on special projects. She was thrilled to be able to catch up with old friends while working on this project.

Bob Markey Sr. with his family in the early 1980s. (L-R) Bob Markey II, Bob Markey Sr., Pat Markey, Brian Markey and Patricia Markey (now Bachi).

Robert C. “Bob” Markey Sr. (above) was added to the Wellington Founder’s Plaque (right) on Aug. 8. 2006, the same day as the village’s namesake, C. Oliver Wellington.

to Mr. Markey. He printed the piece in the Town-Crier and subsequently offered me a job. At 36, I was the oldest staff writer on the roster, not including Mr. Markey himself. But despite the age gap with my fellow staffers, we worked uncommonly well together. If there is one main aspect of Mr. Markey that stands out for me (and many of my cohorts, I learned) it was his genial, supportive demeanor. Mr. Markey taught us about the world of community newspapers and journalism in general. And he did so with all the enthusiasm and support of a cheerleader. He encouraged his “team” to explore all aspects of community journalism, and we had the opportunity to journalistically spread our wings. While I primarily wrote about local governmental entities and feature articles, I was also encouraged to write a cooking column and business features. I frequently wrote editorials for my Royal Palm Beach edition. Mr. Markey was like a father

who teaches, supports and encourages his children to be the best they can be. Every day was a new adventure, and one morning I came into the office and he asked if I’d like to accompany him on a drug bust with the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office. That hair-raising adventure in The Acreage turned into a jointly written article. Mr. Markey was a crusader for good. He was unquestionably a “founding father” of Wellington and an early, vocal advocate of the community’s municipal incorporation. As a man of his convictions, Mr. Markey often took strong stands against what he perceived to be injustices and boldly wrote articles that at times were criticized. His willingness to give me a chance to become a writer literally changed my life and has to this day afforded me opportunities I would not have had otherwise. I loved him then, and I love him now. OTHERS RECALL MR. MARKEY Larry Hobbs met Bob Markey

II while the two were students at Troy University in Alabama. In late 1984, Hobbs was offered a oneyear, modestly paid internship at the Town-Crier followed by being hired full time. His sports and feature writing for the newspaper added depth and breadth to the community newspapers, and like several of his other writing colleagues there, Hobbs has continued to write for newspapers. He presently works for the Brunswick News in Brunswick, Ga., and he is also the author of two books about that coastal region. “He was like a father figure to me,” Hobbs recalled. “Bob was an easy-going guy, and the newspaper had a family environment. And I’ve never seen another environment like that anywhere else I’ve worked.” Working for Mr. Markey put him on a path he continues today. “I became a better writer there, and we encouraged each other. It was a really good weekly newspaper. I later became managing editor,


lington, there were fewer than 100 homes built, she recalled. “We were watching things grow. We were fighting for police, fire and schools, and we watched it all happen,” Bachi said. “My father was officially named one of the forefathers of Wellington, and he’s part of the fabric of Wellington. He was part of bringing to fruition the incorporation of Wellington, and it was the pinnacle of his career.” She said her father’s cheery demeanor was matched by his equally strong convictions. “He lived by his principles,” Bachi said. “He was not afraid, and he shined light into dark corners. He really was an old newspaperman. I think the newspaper was such an important legacy for him. It was his baby and one of the greatest joys of his life.” THE LEGACY LIVES ON Aside from being an early and

key supporter of Wellington’s incorporation both through the newspaper and through his leadership in a civic group called Residents of Wellington, Bob Markey Sr. was also one of the founding members of the Palms West Chamber of Commerce, now known as the Central Palm Beach County Chamber of Commerce. Markey also helped found St. Rita Catholic Church in Wellington and supported a wide array of charitable causes. His importance in the community led him to be enshrined on the Village of Wellington’s Founder’s Plaque in August 2006. Ever the writer, he wrote a book about his exploits in the newspaper business and also enjoyed oil painting. After exiting the local newspaper business, Markey worked in the local real estate industry. “Having launched several news-

Bob Markey Sr. was one of the founding members of the Palms West Chamber of Commerce, now the Central Palm Beach County Chamber of Commerce. He is shown above (back row, far left) with other founding members.

papers from scratch, I know how difficult it is to successfully accomplish,” current Town-Crier Publisher Barry Manning said. “Bob Markey Sr. handled the

STRAY THOUGHTS

difficulties with the support of his family and was hugely successful here in the western communities. We are proud to have continued this legacy over the past 22 years.”

Through his long-running column “Stray Thoughts,” Bob Markey Sr. gave his opinions on many of the key issues of the day, notably calling for Wellington incorporation. Here is a just a small sample of the more than 1,000 columns he wrote for the Town-Crier:

1980 - 2020 • TOWN-CRIER 40TH ANNIVERSARY SOUVENIR MAGAZINE • PAGE 13

and that was cool,” Hobbs said. If I was the oldest writer on staff, then Ron Dupont Jr. was surely the youngest. Dupont, who presently is digital news editor for the Sun Coast Media Group on Florida’s west coast, began at the Town-Crier in 1982 as a part-time writer when he was a freshman in high school. The eldest of nine children from a Loxahatchee Groves family, Dupont began writing for school newspapers in middle schools. He subsequently wrote a few columns for the now-defunct Sun Press and later sent his résumé and clips to Bob Markey Sr. “He called me to come in for an interview in his jovial style, and I drove from the dirt roads of Loxahatchee to the paved roads of Wellington on a noisy motor scooter wearing a three-piece polyester suit,” DuPont recalled. “Bob had this way of making you feel good — as if he knew you forever. He always encouraged you.” He recalled that at the beginning, he was paid 25 cents per inch of copy. “Bob is the reason why Wellington is an incorporated village today,” Dupont said. “The newspaper brought the community together, and a closeness that led to incorporation. He loved his communities and wanted them covered by newspapers. And a lot of what I do today is based on those experiences.” Head typesetter Jean Firpo and lead graphic artist Peter Ressegue lovingly recall Bob Markey Sr. “I like Bob and his wife Pat. He was an easy-going guy, and a very nice man,” Firpo said. Ressegue called his old boss “a cool guy and a good boss.” “He was like my second dad and so nice to me,” Ressegue said. “We had a good work environment there, and it was a family within a family business. “I’ll always be grateful to Bob Sr. He taught me so much.” Ressegue wrote movie reviews for the newspaper and has long been a horror film buff. In the 1980s, Ressegue filmed Wellington’s first horror movie, called “Heathens.” It was filmed in 8mm sound film and is still available to view via installments on YouTube. “Bob gave me a full-page ad to promote the movie,” Ressegue said. “We were so lucky to have those opportunities.” A FAMILY LEGACY Daughter Patricia Markey Bachi recalls that her father was a truly happy man who loved people. When the family came to Wel-


Town-Crier Newspaper

GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN

Town-Crier Columnist ‘Johnny The Stroller’ Helped Create The Wellington Community

BY JOSHUA MANNING

While Town-Crier founder Bob Markey Sr.’s hard-hitting “Stray Thoughts” opinion columns were foundational during the early years of the newspaper, there was another columnist with a softer touch who served as a must-read in each new edition — Father John Mangrum, known by his pseudonym “Johnny The Stroller.”

PAGE 14 • TOWN-CRIER 40TH ANNIVERSARY SOUVENIR MAGAZINE • 1980 - 2020

Mangrum, founder of St. David’s-in-the-Pines Episcopal Church, arrived in the young Wellington community in 1979, and throughout the 1980s, he presided over the growth of the young community — both spiritually and politically. As a spiritual leader, he grew St. David’s into a large, thriving

congregation, and along the way provided a meeting place for other religious groups just starting out in the community. When Wellington needed a trusted voice to serve on the mostly developer-driven Acme Improvement District Board of Supervisors, Wellington’s pre-incorporation government, he became Supervisor John Mangrum as well. But around the community and beyond Wellington’s borders, he was perhaps most well-known for his long-running column in the Town-Crier. Often his columns would focus on a single person or a single event, especially if he felt it helped build a sense of community. Along the way, he lobbied for local schools and hospitals, while also supporting the fledgling business community. In this way, “Johnny The Stroller” was key to Wellington’s formative years. Mangrum used it as

John Mangrum in 2000 with his wife Shirley, who died in 2001.

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a way to offer a weekly snapshot of life, writing about what he saw — anything that would further develop the idea that Wellington is a living, breathing community. Mangrum was known as a witty, affable and humorous personality, who along the way also helped bring Rotary, a Boys & Girls Club and a chamber of commerce to the community he loved. When we spoke to Mangrum in 2000, as the Town-Crier celebrated its 20th anniversary, he was humble in his accomplishments. “It was the great Henry Pitt Van Dusen who said that the minister is the duly accredited friend of the whole community,” he explained. “That idea has governed my whole life. In Wellington, that is what I was, and that is why you are here talking to me today.” He gave much credit to the newspaper’s founder, Bob Markey Sr., for allowing him a completely uncensored forum — even on the rare occasions when the two men disagreed. “Whatever impact I had in Wellington, I owe to the Town-Crier for allowing me to write my ‘Johnny The Stroller’ column,” he added. Recognized on Wellington’s Founders Plaque in 2003, Mangrum passed away on March 18, 2010. Yet he remains beloved by all who got to enjoy his witty writing style that helped stitch a growing community together. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be part of the soul of a whole group of people,” Mangrum said long after his retirement. To this day, he is missed by the Town-Crier family.

John Mangrum’s columns ran the gamut from people he knew to events he attended to his thoughts on the community to even a 10-year-old’s birthday party he stumbled upon while out for dinner.

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We Recall Lost Friends Who Brightened Our Pages BY JOSHUA MANNING

Over the past 40 years, the Town-Crier has been home to many colorful people, including a good number who became well-known throughout the community through their work with the newspaper. And as to be expected, some have since left us. Those names include our founder Bob Markey Sr. and columnist Rev. John Mangrum, who helped shape our communities through their words and deeds. We’ve featured them elsewhere in this special edition. However, we would be remiss not to note a few others who have left us.

DON BROWN After retiring to the western communities from New Orleans in the early 1990s, Don Brown quickly developed a unique knack for understanding the pulse of local politics. In the early 2000s, he joined the Town-Crier as a writer and political commentator, bringing his unique wit and voice to our pages. Sadly, his time with the newspaper was cut short by a long battle with leukemia. He passed away in May 2009.

ELLEN ROSENBERG Equestrian columnist Ellen Rosenberg first joined the Town-Crier family writing for one of our sister publications, the Florida Horsemen. She later became a columnist on equestrian human-interest stories for the Town-Crier. Very popular with the yearround horse community, it ran weekly for more than a decade, ending in early 2018, just as she was beginning her battle with stage-four metastatic breast cancer. The column was called “Tales from the Trails,” and a final farewell edition of the column was published the day after Rosenberg died in April 2019.

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BONNIE O. GOLDBERG Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, Bonnie O. Goldberg became known far and wide for her unique school features and business profiles that filled the early days of the Town-Crier. She was honored with a Town-Crier Community Service Award in 2000. A community treasure also known for her many years of service to Royal Palm Beach, Bonnie died in 2006 after a long life of service. She is missed to this day.

JASON BUDJINSKI Jason Budjinski was a true son of the western communities. He grew up in The Acreage and Wellington, developing a love for writing and music. He joined the Town-Crier shortly after graduating from Florida Atlantic University, cutting his teeth as a government reporter. After a few years away, he returned to the Town-Crier as one of the newspaper’s key editors, eventually being in charge of all assignments, most page layouts, e-mails and web maintenance. He continued to work for the newspaper all through his debilitating battle with the rare liver disease primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC), talking hopefully about returning to work full time just days before he passed away. His death in June 2015 at age 38 was a terrible blow to the newspaper.


Town-Crier Newspaper

MEET OUR PUBLISHER

Town-Crier Publisher Barry Manning Keeps Newspaper Focused On The Community

BY DEBORAH WELKY

PAGE 16 • TOWN-CRIER 40TH ANNIVERSARY SOUVENIR MAGAZINE • 1980 - 2020

For the past 22 years, the Town-Crier has been led by Publisher Barry Manning, a community leader and mentor with more than 50 years of experience in the publishing industry.

Manning grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., and served in the U.S. Navy, working on aviation safety equipment for fighter jets. He earned a bachelor’s degree in communication and an advanced degree in speech pathology from Brooklyn College before teaching English as a second language in the New York City school system, as well as operating a speech clinic. “I taught from 1969 to 1975. It was a six-year stretch during which the nation underwent some very dramatic changes,” Manning recalled. “It was a challenging time. I had some friends who went to Vietnam and didn’t return. I underwent some personal changes at the time when the size of my family doubled, and I recognized that there would be a great need for additional income.” Manning got into the publishing industry at first to earn money selling advertising in shopper publications while he was in school. Eventually, he transitioned into advertising sales full time, becoming sales manager for a chain of shopper publications before buying the local newspaper serving the Long Island community where he lived. “The year was 1982 when I purchased the Rockville Centre News & Owl,” he said. “It was the first of several newspapers that I purchased over several years, transitioning from solely shopper-oriented publications to community newspapers.” Over the next two decades, he grew that one newspaper into a chain of more than a dozen weekly newspapers and shopper publications in Nassau County on Long Island. But after raising his family, which includes his wife Phyllis and sons Joshua and Robert, it was time for a change — and Long Island’s loss was South Florida’s gain. “I had sold my interests in the Nassau County publications to a public company in the mid-1990s,

(Above) Barry Manning with his wife Phyllis and sons Joshua and Robert before he moved from New York to Florida in the 1990s. (Below) Barry and Phyllis Manning at a more recent event in Wellington.

Town-Crier Publisher Barry Manning at the start of his career in publishing industry, in New York back in the 1970s.

but had stayed on, working on contract, to help the new owners where I could,” Manning recalled. “I did that for several years, and then my wife Phyllis, whom I love dearly, strapped me to the roof of the car and dragged me down here to Florida, kicking and screaming. She had already bought a house here and told me, ‘You’ll love it.’” Manning, of course, had known about the purchase. They coordinated the closing long distance. What he didn’t know was what lay in store for him. It was the spring of 1998, and they were looking forward to quiet retirement. “The house we bought was not new,” he recalled. “We wanted to spruce it up, and I worked alongside Phyllis, painting and decorating, for six weeks. Then she asked me if I could please go find something to do. I guess, I’m difficult.” It was a friend of a friend who told Manning about the Town-Cri-

er, hinting that it may possibly be for sale. He was intrigued. “I formed a corporation and put some money into it,” Manning said. “I reached an agreement with the owner, who was then Bob Markey II, son of the original owner, Bob Markey Sr.” The rest, as they say, is history. For the past 22 years, Manning has stood at the helm of what remains one of the largest independent newspapers in Palm Beach County. It has stood the test of time, covering many tumultuous eras serving the western communities of Wellington, Royal Palm Beach, Loxahatchee Groves and The Acreage. The Town-Crier continues to persevere, rolling with the punches, whether they be political or economic, remaining to this day the defining local news source for the residents it serves. It has been a difficult two decades for the publishing industry,

with many newspapers folding up shop and others being snapped up by huge national companies. The Town-Crier has survived and thrived by staying ahead of the changes — it has had a web presence since the mid-1990s — and keeping its focus local. Manning has also diversified, spearheading the creation of Wellington The Magazine, the Town-Crier’s sister publication. The popular monthly lifestyle magazine is run through a separate company but is also privately held by Manning and his family.

Through it all, Barry Manning has kept things humming along. You seldom see his picture in the newspaper. He never has a byline. His philosophy is, “simply this — a newspaper is supposed to report the news and not make the news.” If asked to define his day-to-day role at the newspaper, he downplays the truth. “My job is, after a long day’s activity at the office, to empty the wastebaskets,” he said. “Yet when I come in the next morning, they’re full! Seriously, though, the credit for keeping things rolling along goes to Gen-


dormant for years before it was recreated as an independent entity. “The foundation’s initial role was to accept private donations and use them to help enhance the village,” he said. “This was, however, something the council itself could not do because it would appear to be currying favor. Everything had to be kosher, especially after new, stricter ethics rules were put in place. In short, the foundation had originally been established in 2009, but nothing happened with it until 2016. It needed a focus. We decided it would be to help Wellington veterans, children and seniors in need.” This mission has turned out to be a particularly good fit, Manning said. Young couples who moved to the area to start families are now members of senior groups. Their children have bought houses here. Their grandchildren attend the same schools where those “young couples” once founded the PTA or started a flag football team or campaigned for a hospital with an obstetrics unit. Many veterans also call Wellington home. As publisher of the Town-Crier, Manning has made many connections. As part of the Wellington Community Foundation, he uses these connections to help those in need. The Town-Crier and Barry Manning have been there for it all — covering the meetings (many thousands of them), the sports (is

there any local business left that has not sponsored a team?) and the groundbreakings (not that there’s much ground left to break). Hundreds of thousands of photos have been published over the years — many sent to relatives around the world, many currently posted on refrigerators. “You’re in the Town-Crier!” is music to any child’s (and parent’s) ears. And at the Town-Crier, community photographs from local events remain a key focus of its coverage. And Manning loves people. “They’re very interesting,” he smiled. “Some are even outrageous. There are so many great stories about Royal Palm Beach and Wellington. And, after being involved with a dozen years of Loxahatchee Groves’ quest for incorporation, and the astounding growth of The Acreage, there are another 4,000 stories there.” One particular story stands out for him. “We were working on a special edition for the fifth anniversary of Wellington’s incorporation, just three years after we’d acquired the Town-Crier,” Manning said. “Paul Fotorny was one of the founding members of the Wellington Rotary Club, and I asked him if he would give me a paragraph for the special publication. He told me that somebody had originally told him about Wellington, and that it was going to be a fabulous community and was worth driving through to see what’s there. So, he drove through, down Forest Hill Blvd., and couldn’t find anything. Then,

Barry Manning presents an award on behalf of the Wellington Community Foundation to former Palm Beach County Commissioner Ken Adams, a Wellington pioneer and philanthropist.

at the end of a street, he saw three houses that had recently been built. One of them had a sheriff’s office cruiser sitting in the driveway. He thought, ‘Well, talk about security! You have three houses and one police officer. I’d buy here!’ We both laughed, and I remember that story to this day.” Today, in 2020, Forest Hill Blvd. is no longer off the beaten path. There are businesses up and down its length. There are many more houses than three, because

more than 64,000 people have chosen to call Wellington home — and 100,000 more in the neighboring communities. And today, the company is publishing this 40th anniversary souvenir edition of the Town-Crier. Despite Manning’s degree in speech pathology, the word “retirement” does not seem to be in his vocabulary. “It has really been fun,” he said. “It has been difficult at times, but it has been fun.”

(Above) Barry Manning (right) takes part in the Wellington Rotary Club ceremony as Dr. Carmine Priore presents the Frank T. Gladney Award to Tom Wenham. (Left) A good public speaker, Barry Manning is often called upon to help out a community event. Here is he peddling an auction item. He is, literally, pedaling it, since it is a bicycle donated by Wheels of Wellington.

1980 - 2020 • TOWN-CRIER 40TH ANNIVERSARY SOUVENIR MAGAZINE • PAGE 17

eral Manager Dawn Rivera and Executive Editor Joshua Manning, my son. They do a wonderful job. They are a terrific team. She keeps the wheels greased, and he gets the distance out of the machine. I’m mostly there in the office, hanging out.” Yet, whether or not he’ll admit it, the buck stops with him. The office is staffed, and the Town-Crier gets published. He’s also the face behind the newspaper, the man behind the newsprint. He knows what’s going on — and why — because he has met with the people, knows the key players and has served on the boards of countless nonprofits. In short, the man never rests. Immediately after taking over the Town-Crier, Manning joined the Wellington Rotary Club and became active in what was then the Palms West Chamber of Commerce, serving on both of their boards and, ultimately, as president of Wellington Rotary Club (2003-04). In 2016, he helped shape the Wellington Community Foundation, serving on its inaugural board of directors and helping to define its growing role in the community. “I was approached one day by Tom Wenham and Mickey Smith, who asked me to sit on the WCF board of directors and gave me very intelligent answers to all my questions,” Manning said. Originally created by the Village of Wellington, the foundation lay


Town-Crier Newspaper

IN THE COMMUNITY

Newspaper’s Mission Includes Supporting Local Nonprofits And Other Community Organizations

BY DEBORAH WELKY

One of the Town-Crier’s primary missions is supporting the communities it serves, and a key part of that is supporting the many amazing nonprofit organizations in the area.

PAGE 18 • TOWN-CRIER 40TH ANNIVERSARY SOUVENIR MAGAZINE • 1980 - 2020

Here in the western communities, residents are known for supporting numerous worthwhile organizations, as well as extending a helping hand to friends and neighbors in need. By supporting all the worthwhile causes championed by its readers, the Town-Crier has helped build — and continues to shape — the communities it serves.

From supporting incorporation efforts and helping in the creation of local houses of worship in its early days to joining in efforts to build up the western communities today, the Town-Crier has been a leading voice for the past four decades. “You can’t put a value on the kind of support that the Town-Crier provides,” pioneering area resident and longtime volunteer Maureen Budjinski said. “It’s absolutely priceless, especially if you go back over the last 40 years. They run feature stories on these organizations; they list their events; they publish photos with captions. You can’t even pay to get that kind of advertising. In addition, by offering that kind of

In 2010, when the Town-Crier marked its 30th anniversary, the newspaper was honored with the Wellington Chamber of Commerce’s annual Business Excellence Award.

support, the Town-Crier brings a sense of community to our area.” Budjinski ought to know. Over the years, she has asked for — and received — exposure for the Wellington Elementary School and H.L. Johnson Elementary School PTAs, the Wellington Youth Athletic Association, St. Rita Catholic Church events, the Wellington Boys & Girls Club, the American Cancer Society, the Wellington Rotary Club, the Palms West Chamber of Commerce (now the Central Palm Beach County Chamber of Commerce) and its holiday parade, the Wellington Chamber of Commerce, the Wellington Historical Society and the University of Miami’s UM Alliance, an agency supporting organ donation for which she is currently an ambassador. Because of her intense involvement in the community, Budjinski was asked to serve on the visioning board that was studying the pros and cons of Wellington’s incorporation. The Town-Crier was there for the entire incorporation effort, she recalled, following its twists and turns from the vision to the vote, and reporting on its progress weekly in easy-to-understand terminology. A staunch supporter of local chambers of commerce since their inception, the Town-Crier

stepped up its support of the retail community when it was struggling through the economic downturn that began in 2008. The paper’s Shop Local campaign supported the many mom-and-pop stores that had served the area in its early days and were not about to be forgotten. “Awareness is the number one thing,” Budjinski said. “If people didn’t read about these things, they wouldn’t be aware of them. You can be doing the best work in the world, but if no one knows about it, it’s hard to grow.” Currently, Budjinski is especially thankful for the Town-Crier’s support for the new Wellington Historical Society. “They do their best to help all the organizations in the western communities,” she said. Not an issue goes by when the Town-Crier doesn’t have a focus on one or more nonprofits featured on its pages. “The Town-Crier is a terrific hometown newspaper that reflects the vibrant spirit of our unique community,” said Leslie Pfeiffer, development chair of the Wellington Art Society. “The stories, articles and photos connect and inspire our residents. Its focus on the positive interaction and opportunities between community leaders, and the wonderful work of volunteer groups, highlights

the newspaper’s contribution to the quality of life that enriches people’s everyday lives.” The Town-Crier is a longstanding sponsor and community partner of the Wellington Art Society, providing support for the group’s events, outreach programs and scholarship awards. “This generous media coverage has helped us increase membership, grow and develop our programs, expand scholarship awards and opportunities, and brought greater awareness of local artists and support for the arts,” Pfeiffer said. “We are grateful for the Town-Crier’s shared commitment in supporting the visual arts and in helping the Wellington Art Society bring art and the community together. Dawn Rivera, Stephanie Rodriguez and all the staff are very supportive to work with, and we appreciate owners Barry and Josh Manning for keeping us connected, informed and uplifted.” The newspaper is also a founding supporter of the Wellington Community Foundation, where Publisher Barry Manning has held a seat on the board since it was created as an independent entity. In recent years, the foundation has been a leader in supporting Wellington children, seniors and veterans in need. “Barry Manning and the

The Town-Crier celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2000 by not putting the spotlight on the newspaper, but rather on the community volunteers and supporters who make the western communities great. These Town-Crier Community Service Award winners were honored at a special reception.


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Town-Crier Newspaper

PAGE 20 • TOWN-CRIER 40TH ANNIVERSARY SOUVENIR MAGAZINE • 1980 - 2020

IN THE COMMUNITY

Town-Crier are extremely, extremely supportive of what we are working to do,” said Tom Wenham, chair of the Wellington Community Foundation. “They cover all our events and have a very big impact on letting people know what we do, so that if others need our help, they know how to find us.” Whether it is providing school uniforms and backpacks for students who need them, paying for children to attend summer camp, helping local seniors and veterans with home repairs, or even just sending a much-appreciated birthday acknowledgement to area seniors, the Town-Crier has been there to support these and many more Wellington Community Foundation initiatives. “We’re giving grants to the schools,” Wenham said. “We started with the elementary and middle schools, asking each school principal to decide where the needs are in their particular school. Last year, we awarded our first scholarships — $2,500 each to two high school students heading off to college. We’re currently working with Palm Beach State College to establish a program that will help Wellington veterans with the cost of tuition or textbooks. And we’re working with Wellington Cares on a food pantry for seniors who need help.” Attorney Mickey Smith, who serves on the board of the foundation, credits the Town-Crier’s support for helping drive the growth of many different organizations. “The Town-Crier is truly the

‘wind beneath the wings’ of nonprofits in the western communities,” Smith said. “Whether it is the Neil S. Hirsch Family Boys & Girls Club, the Rotary Club of Wellington or the Wellington Community Foundation, every nonprofit that I am involved with benefits from all the Town-Crier does. Fundraising is obviously important to nonprofits, and that does not happen without community interest and awareness. The Town-Crier is there every step of the way. It graciously publicizes events and fundraising efforts. It also showcases what occurs at those events. There have been several times people have told me, after seeing photographs in the Town-Crier, ‘That looked like a lot of fun. I have to go next year.’ This is exactly how nonprofits build interest and momentum.” Smith also lauds the Town-Crier for its help in keeping the Wellington Community Foundation going. “Approximately four years ago, when the Wellington Community Foundation became an independent entity, the Town-Crier’s assistance was vital,” he said. “Some in the community mistakenly thought the foundation’s existence ended when the Village of Wellington ended its control of the charity. However, with strong leadership from Chair Tom Wenham, along with the willingness of the Town-Crier to help us spread the word, the foundation is now stronger than ever. Our Red, White & Blue Jeans fundraiser has been a huge hit, in no small measure due to the Town-Crier’s help in

publicizing it. Last year alone, the event raised approximately $100,000. That level of success would not have happened without the Town-Crier and, without those funds, worthy children, seniors and veterans in the community would not have been helped. The Town-Crier is unquestionably a community treasure.” Wellington Rotary Club 201920 President Don Gross agrees. “The Town-Crier has been extremely supportive of the Wellington Rotary Club,” Gross said. “Whenever we are doing a fundraiser, we can count on the Town-Crier to get the word out into the community. Not only does the publicity help raise funds, but it raises awareness in the community of what type of projects the Rotary accomplishes. This helps us attract new members. Barry Manning has been a member of the Wellington Rotary Club since 1998. He is a past-president and was a board member for many years. The support we get from him and the Town-Crier is priceless; we couldn’t recreate it on our own. Helping community organizations like ours get our story out to the community is so important. The Town-Crier is there to help all organizations, large or small. They are willing to help everyone grow to be successful.” Dan Splain of the Royal Palm Beach Rotary Club noted that his organization will be honoring the Town-Crier on its 40th anniversary specifically because of its service to the community. “The motto of the Rotary is

The Town-Crier is a key supporter of the Wellington Community Foundation, which helps Wellington’s children, seniors and veterans. Shown above are local veterans, including Town-Crier Publisher Barry Manning, at the 2019 Red, White & Blue Jeans “A Salute to Our Heroes” event.

The Town-Crier regularly organizes candidate forums for Village of Royal Palm Beach elections. They are usually hosted by local celebrity and longtime friend of the newspaper Jim Sackett. This photo is from the forum held before the 2018 municipal election.

‘Service Above Self,’ and Rotarians strive to emulate this high standard every day,” Splain said. “The Town-Crier recognizes the valuable role that organizations like Rotary provide in our community and is always there to spread the positive message. Whether it is publicizing a Valentine’s Day event for nursing home residents, visits to our schools with the Josh the Otter program or the Crystal Apple Award for teachers, the Town-Crier’s reporting validates the work that Rotary does and lets the broader community know that there are men and women in our community who serve others through their commitment to service.” Splain feels that the Town-Crier fills a unique niche in central Palm Beach County, particularly as it relates to voluntary associations. “One hundred years ago, every major daily in the country had a page or section devoted to organizational and fraternal news. There was a recognition by the media of the important role that voluntary associations played in the community,” he said. “Today, it’s nearly impossible to find much mention of local associations in the daily newspapers. Fortunately, the Town-Crier understands and values the importance of local organizations like Rotary. Every issue, the Town-Crier tells the story of men and women who have banded together voluntarily to improve their neighborhood, community, churches and schools, and to make life a little better for everyone in their reach. It is impossible to put a value on this type of contribution to the Rotary or to the community.” In early 2020, shortly before the pandemic, the Town-Crier attended and published an array of photos from a Royal Palm Beach

Rotary visit to a local nursing home. “The value of that is immeasurable,” Splain said. “I am sure every one of the seniors at the Royal Manor saw their picture in the paper and were thrilled. The Rotarian volunteers realize that the community, through the Town-Crier, values their contributions of time and talent. Most importantly, others who saw the photos may be moved to perform their own random acts of kindness or become involved in a voluntary association to leverage their contribution. The Town-Crier shines a light on our community and illuminates those who would otherwise be lost in the crowd.” This is precisely why Splain is helping to organize a tribute dinner for the Royal Palm Beach Rotary that will honor the Town-Crier for its 40 years of service. Originally scheduled for May 2020, it has been postponed due to the pandemic. By helping local nonprofits, the Town-Crier also garners a legion of community supporters and good will. “Without the Town-Crier, we wouldn’t be where we are today,” Wenham said. “That’s the one publication that does get the word out — that people see and read and then contact me here at our office. It has been a tremendous help, not only for us, but for the people we assist. Barry, Josh and Dawn — thank goodness for the three of them!” And for those who don’t already get the Town-Crier delivered to their mailbox, Budjinski urged them to get on the mailing list. “If you’re a news junkie like me, and you want to know what’s going on in the western communities, it’s important to subscribe to the Town-Crier,” she said. “And it’s free!”


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1980 - 2020 • TOWN-CRIER 40TH ANNIVERSARY SOUVENIR MAGAZINE • PAGE 21

Wellington


Wellington

HISTORY

A ‘Perfectly Planned Community’ Rises From A Huge Strawberry Patch

BY JOSHUA MANNING

BASED ON THE BOOK JUST CALL ME BINK AND TOWN-CRIER ARCHIVES

PAGE 22 • TOWN-CRIER 40TH ANNIVERSARY SOUVENIR MAGAZINE • 1980 - 2020

Wellington’s story is one of a few visionaries and a dream of the “perfectly planned community.” The story opens when Charles Oliver Wellington meets A.W. “Bink” Glisson, a Palm Beach County pioneer then working in real estate.

C. Oliver Wellington, a man of strong convictions and work ethic, was the head of a successful public accounting firm in New York City during the week, but when the workweek ended, he dropped all the trappings of his sophisticated lifestyle to savor the quiet, uncluttered days he could spend in the country. On weekends, he headed for the open countryside of Brookhaven, Long Island. During World War II, Wellington worked with U.S. Secretary of State Edward Stettinius. After Stettinius died, A.W. “Bink” Glisson assisted his widow in the sale of property in Hillsboro Beach, Florida to the Wellingtons. The Wellingtons came down for frequent visits. Wellington loved Florida and, being a man of vision, he soon realized that there was a promising future for South Florida. He also formed an enduring friendship with Glisson. In 1951, Wellington instructed Bink to look for investment prop-

erties. Glisson assembled a number of parcels, now most of today’s Wellington, and was authorized to purchase the entire tract. The Wellingtons made many happy visits to what they dubbed “the Flying C.O.W. Ranch” — named after Wellington’s initials. Legislation passed in 1953 organized the Acme Drainage District and marked the start of flood control to claim the property, making it available for agriculture. Bink was put in charge of the operations, as much of it was leased to farmers. They could boast that the world’s largest strawberry patch was situated within their boundaries — as were acres upon acres of flowers, such as gladioli. This created breathtakingly beautiful vistas. As thriving groves established that South Florida was suitable for growing citrus, many experimental crops and sod farms dealt in international markets, proving that the once water-logged lands were capable of great productivity. Bink was the Acme district’s first employee and general manager. He often took to the skies in his supervision of the gigantic, multi-faceted operations that were taking place at the “Flying C.O.W.” The first meeting of the Acme Drainage District was held in the Circuit Court of West Palm Beach on June 26, 1953. Wellington was elected its first chairman, and Bink was also named to the original board.

Wellington TIMELINE

June 26, 1953 — The Acme Drainage District is set up by Florida law to do the necessary drainage work to make C. Oliver Wellington’s property in western Palm Beach County usable for agriculture. The population, mostly farmers, totals about 100.

Corporation of Florida proposed the development of much of the Wellington land. ICOF reaches an agreement with the Acme Drainage District to do the drainage work and roads for the new development. Guerry Stribling is hired as the project manager.

1959 — A Plan of Reclamation is adopted, laying out a set of roads, canals and pumping stations in the area now called “Wellington.”

March 1972 — The huge “Wellington PUD” (Planned Unit Development) is unanimously approved by the Palm Beach County Commission. Alcoa Florida joins ICOF as one of Wellington’s original developers.

1960s — The land is used for agricultural purposes. At one point, more than 2,000 acres were devoted to growing strawberries. January 1971 — Investment

November 1972 — Work begins on the 150-acre Lake Wellington, centerpiece of the new community.

C. Oliver Wellington

A.W. “Bink” Glisson

Roger Wellington

At the time of C. Oliver Wellington’s death in 1959, his son Roger Wellington became a co-trustee to manage the family affairs. Estate taxes and increasing costs of retaining the large land holdings led to the decision by the trustees to sell and develop some of the property. This was the impetus that led to the birth of the community now known as “Wellington.” Wellington began as a small, well-planned bedroom community — and grew into a sprawling, upscale development, where royalty and the famous casually strolled through the shopping areas. Palm Beach residents drove from their oceanfront mansions to be seen and photographed, lunching in the clubs and spending afternoons at Palm Beach Polo. Polo matches held locally remain a magnet for

socialites and the glamorous. But before all that, there was a master plan. It was Roger Wellington and Bink Glisson who developed the plan. Bink worked day to day with Roger and Banker’s Trust as the first steps were formulated for creating a planned community. The key to their goals for development was the realization that at last it would be possible to control the water on the large piece of land because the federal government was in the process of building what is now the L-40 Canal and levee. Running across the southern border of what is now Wellington, it acts to seal the community off from the Everglades. Formerly, much of the land flooded seasonally — fine for farming, but not for homes. Roger never forgot his first

impression of the land. He came down after his father purchased the property, and they set out to look at it with Bink. They had gone out to look at the land, with their swamp buggy cutting through a sea of sawgrass. Roger recalled it was like being out in the ocean. There were no visible landmarks anywhere around them as they rode along. They were aware of a great silence. No man-made sounds except the motorized vehicle that carried them along... and their own voices. They watched birds idly coasting along overhead and heard the grasses and brush snapping noisily under them. They were enveloped in the vastness of the primitive land, far away from man and civilization. They speculated about changes that were bound to affect the lonely

March 16, 1973 — A groundbreaking held for the first phase of Wellington.

1977 — Gould Florida buys out Alcoa. In 1978, Gould buys out ICOF to become Wellington’s sole owner. William Ylvisaker, Gould’s polo-loving chairman, introduces Palm Beach Polo & Country Club to the project.

1979 — Groundbreaking for the Wellington Club East at the site of what is now the Wellington Community Center.

May 18, 1974 — 1,000 lots for immediate-build homes become available. 1975 — The Acme Drainage District becomes the Acme Improvement District, allowing for the maintenance of parks and recreational activities. Feb. 19, 1976 — Business comes to Wellington with the groundbreaking at Wellington Country Plaza, the community’s first shopping center. It is now known as the Wellington Plaza.

1978 — Palm Beach Point is begun immediately southwest of the original Wellington PUD.

1980 — The Town-Crier newspaper is founded by early Wellington resident Bob Markey Sr.

March 1979 — Palm Beach Polo opens.

1981 — The community’s first public school, Wellington Elementary School, opens on a 20-acre site at the intersection of Paddock Drive and Big Blue Trace.

1979 — In a further attempt to bolster Wellington’s image as a retreat for the wealthy, Gould breaks ground on the Aero Club, an aviation-themed community.

1985 — Cuban-born millionaire Alberto Vadia Sr. buys Gould’s undeveloped land and creates Corepoint, Wellington’s final master developer.


progress. Paperwork included legal documents, government reviews, environmental studies and public hearings. That month, Wellington received official, unanimous approval from the Palm Beach County Commission and the Palm Beach County Zoning Board. Later that year, a joint venture agreement between ICOF and Alcoa Aluminum Corporation was announced. The goal was to attract 37,000 residents to their planned, upscale community. This involved converting more than 11 square miles of undeveloped farmland into residences and estates. Their plans included developing two units per acre, which would leave about 25 percent of the land as open space. Roger Wellington and the trustees approved the plan as proposed. The agreement between ICOF and the Acme Drainage District was the start of “Unit of Development No. One,” that became Wellington. Bink continued to oversee the property. At the time, the engineering firm Gee & Jenson reported the following facts about the district: 18,200 acres; north portion, 7,375 acres to be Unit of Development No. One (Wellington); 1,694 acres west of Wellington for the Landings; and south (slightly west of the center of Wellington), 958 acres, which was designated for Country Place (planned for equestrian uses). In December 1972, the Central and South Florida Flood Control District (now the South Florida Water Management District) met to discuss the proposed water and sewer projects in Wellington — $4.8 million in bonds were issued to pay for the improvements. On March 16, 1973, ground was broken for the first phase of Wel-

lington. The first residential area, South Shore, was located adjacent to Lake Wellington. Work began in November 1972 on the creation of the 150-acre lake. Earth that was removed to form the lake was used to shape the first golf course. Almost 1,000 lots for the immediate building of homes were available on May 18, 1974. It wasn’t long before the people started coming. On June 25, 1972, the developers held a “Great Father’s Day Land Rush,” which resulted in $111,000 of land sold in one day. The young community experienced slow and steady growth during the years from 1972 to 1976. In August 1976, Alcoa exercised its option to either buy or sell out. They sold, and ICOF decided to buy, at a cost of $30 million. In April 1978, Gould Florida acquired all of ICOF’s interest in Wellington. Under Gould Chairman William Ylvisaker, Wellington’s reputation as an upscale luxury community was enhanced with the addition of Palm Beach Polo and unique subdivisions such as the Aero Club. Even as the developers continued to build and shape the young community, a rapidly growing number of residents began to make Wellington a home. By 1980, the community was home to 7,280 residents. It had its first shopping center — Wellington Country Plaza (now Wellington Plaza), started in 1976 — and several more shopping centers were on the way. It was that year, 1980, when public education came to Wellington with the opening of Wellington Elementary School. The first elementary school in the western communities as a whole, the school served students from

1986 — Wellington Regional Medical Center opens, as does the Wellington Boys & Girls Club.

narrowly fails with 53 percent voting “NO.” Residents in favor of the idea vow to keep the goal alive.

School opens on Lake Worth Road.

1987 — Wellington Landings Middle School opens on a 15-acre site in western Wellington.

1990 — The charter of the Acme Improvement District is changed to allow for popularly elected supervisors, rather than a vote by acreage.

1988 — Wellington High School and New Horizons Elementary School open. December 1989 — The Acme Improvement District Board of Supervisors votes unanimously to proceed with Wellington’s incorporation. November 6, 1990 — A first vote on incorporation is held. The idea

1990 — The “Town of Wellington” project is proposed for the area just west of Wellington. It is to be a self-contained commercial/residential community such as today’s Abacoa in Jupiter. An economic downturn, along with protests from Wellington residents, dooms the project. 1991 — Panther Run Elementary

1992 — Corepoint ceases operations. November 8, 1994 — A “straw poll” is held that for the first time shows a majority of Wellington voters (57 percent) favor incorporation. The vote leads to a full-scale state effort. May 11, 1995 — House Bill 1439 approves a charter for the “Village of Wellington.” November 7, 1995 — Residents vote to incorporate by a slim margin: 3,851 (51 percent) to 3,713 (49 percent).

(Above) An aerial view of Wellington from the 1970s shows the community’s oldest neighborhoods under construction. In the center is Forest Hill Blvd. Lake Wellington is complete, and development is underway in the South Shore area. (Right) To get people to move to the community, the early developers worked to change the image that Wellington was “far away.” PHOTOS COURTESY HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF PALM BEACH COUNTY

throughout the area. Wellington’s second school, Wellington Landings Middle School, opened in 1987, followed by Wellington High School and New Horizons Elementary School, both in 1988. The hearty Wellington pioneers were also quickly establishing new houses of worship and a wide array of community organizations. In the mid-1980s, Alberto Vadia Sr. purchased the remaining unsold acreage, including the Wellington Country Club (now the Wanderers Club) and its swimming pool, 18-hole golf course, tennis facilities and the administrative facility — but not Palm Beach Polo. The ownership of Palm Beach Polo was not resolved until Glenn Straub, a mining and

asphalt tycoon, bought the country club from a federal agency in July 1993. He then resumed sales in the development. Vadia came to America as a rich man just before the Cuban government fell to Castro. He was said to be among Miami’s richest Cubans — but quite reclusive. Before taking over Wellington, Vadia had already developed Palm Beach Point. Corepoint, Vadia’s corporation created to handle the purchase, was first headed by John Zielenbach, executive vice president and chief operations officer. There was a general belief that Corepoint would be the last developer, since only 10 percent of the lots were left unsold. Corepoint ended up doing a great deal

December 31, 1995 — Incorporation becomes official.

time. Kathy Foster is appointed the first mayor.

March 12, 1996 — Wellington’s first election is held as 27 people run for the five seats on the new Wellington Village Council.

December 1996 — After a nationwide search, Charles Lynn takes over as Wellington Village Manager.

March 26, 1996 — A runoff is held among the top vote-getters, electing Paul Adams, Kathy Foster, Mike McDonough, Dr. Carmine Priore and Tom Wenham to the first Wellington Village Council. Only Adams was not previously an Acme supervisor.

October 1998 — The council inks a deal to purchase the old Wellington Club East and turn it into the Wellington Community Center.

March 28, 1996 — Municipal operations begin as the Wellington Village Council meets for the first

February 1999 — Wellington annexes land along Forest Hill east of SR 7 to Florida’s Turnpike. The land, sought by both Wellington and Greenacres, will later become the Olympia, Buena Vida and Village Walk neighborhoods.

1980 - 2020 • TOWN-CRIER 40TH ANNIVERSARY SOUVENIR MAGAZINE • PAGE 23

wilderness when development began and tried to visualize what those changes would be. They realized soberly and cautiously that their decisions would forever change that land. There could be no turning back once they started. They resolved that whatever was to be done must be well-planned by a conscientious developer, carefully chosen to protect the remaining land from harm. While it was the senior Wellington who had taken the daring step of investing in land, it was Roger and Bink who developed a plan for the land. They knew that the northern portion was best suited for some type of development, so that was where they planned to begin. The Wellington trustees invited bids from major industrial firms with large real estate investments. The first bid proposal was not successful. Then, in 1971, Ralph McCormack, an Acme Drainage District board member, put James R. Nall, president of the Investment Corporation of Florida (ICOF), in touch with Bink as a potential candidate for developing the properties. Nall had a reputation for excellence in various other developments. He entered the bidding, which resulted in the ICOF purchase of 7,400 acres for almost $6 million — and the start of the community now called “Wellington.” Nall’s original Wellington staff included Vice President Guerry Stribling, Jenny Graf, Joan Sawyer, Bill Gregory and Serafin Leal. They were a high-caliber, dedicated and talented team that created Wellington. By March 1972, a great deal of the preliminary groundwork was in


Wellington

PAGE 24 • TOWN-CRIER 40TH ANNIVERSARY SOUVENIR MAGAZINE • 1980 - 2020

HISTORY

to beautify Wellington. It planted hundreds of trees to line major roadways and upgraded the entrances to the community. But the recession of the early 1990s hit the company hard. Corepoint had 600 to 700 remaining residential lots under a mortgage to Southeast Bank when the recession hit. Southeast Bank went under. First Union National Bank inherited Corepoint’s loan. Three years of litigation ended when L.C. Financial Corporation, connected to Lennar Homes, bought the real estate loans. Shortly thereafter, Lennar bought 541 lots in Binks Forest from federal banking regulators and began marketing that development. Lennar properties are generally in Lakefield South, North and West; the Aero Club; and Meadowood. More recently, Lennar built homes along Lake Worth Road. Major developments in the late 1990s included the “filling in” of central Wellington’s remaining undeveloped land — mostly townhomes and other multi-family housing zoned into the original plan but never built. Then the development of Wellington moved east to the State Road 7 corridor, where developers Minto and DiVosta built large residential communities along Forest Hill Blvd. As the developers wrapped up work in the original sections of Wellington, residents began gaining more control over the community. In 1982, the first representatives of the residents took seats on the Acme board. In 1990, the residents took full control of the now popularly elected Acme board. That same year, the first attempt to incorporate Wellington

took place. The fight over incorporation raged for five years until a vote on Nov. 7, 1995, which created the new village by a slim margin of 138 votes out of nearly 7,500 votes cast. The village came into existence on Dec. 31, 1995. The newly elected Wellington Village Council met for the first time on March 28, 1996. During its first decade, the new village spent time passing ordinances and developing a comprehensive plan. The old Wellington Club East was purchased in 1999 and turned into the original Wellington Community Center. After a four-year fight, the old master homeowners’ association First Wellington was disbanded in 2000 in favor of Wellington’s new Planning, Zoning & Building Department, created in 1999. On Oct. 5, 2001, Wellington passed a huge commercial milestone as the Mall at Wellington Green opened. New shopping centers around the mall development opened soon after. As the new millennium began, Wellington found itself in need of new schools. Binks Forest Elementary School and Polo Park Middle School opened in 2000. Two schools opened in 2003 along the fast-growing State Road 7 corridor — Equestrian Trails Elementary School and Palm Beach Central High School. Elbridge Gale Elementary School opened in 2006, while Emerald Cove Middle School opened in 2007. Also in 2008, an expanded Wellington library re-opened after major renovations. In more recent years, several large charter schools have opened in Wellington, as well as a Palm Beach State College campus right across

Southern Blvd. in Loxahatchee Groves. In 2002, Wellington voters amended the village’s charter for the first time, calling for a directly elected mayor. On March 11, 2003, Tom Wenham became the first directly elected mayor. He served until March 2008, when Bink Glisson protégé Darell Bowen was elected mayor. Bowen was followed by Bob Margolis in 2012 and current Mayor Anne Gerwig, who was elected in 2016. Moving beyond polo-watching celebrities, Wellington has become known as the winter home of U.S. equestrian sports. Long home to the Winter Equestrian Festival, Wellington hosted the National Horse Show from 2002 to 2007. The new International Polo Club Palm Beach began in 2002, with its main facility opening in 2004, revitalizing Wellington’s polo community. In 2008, Mark Bellissimo and his Wellington Equestrian Partners took over the Winter Equestrian Festival from founder Gene Mische, renovating and renaming its show grounds the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center. Working with the dressage community, Bellissimo added the Global Dressage Festival in 2011, along with a new, state-of-the-art facility for it at the site of the old Palm Beach Polo stadium. Bellissimo’s partnership purchased IPC in 2016, bringing all three major equestrian venues under common ownership for the first time. Wellington began the last decade grappling with local fallout from the Great Recession, which trimmed the municipal budget and created a foreclosure problem, particularly in newer neighbor-

Wellington TIMELINE continued February 2000 — Binks Forest tral High School and Equestrian Elementary School opens serving Trails Elementary School open. western Wellington. 2006 — Elbridge Gale Elementary August 2000 — Polo Park Middle School opens, and the nearby School opens. Master HOA First Wellington library gets a major Wellington Inc. is dissolved. expansion.

2008 — Paul Schofield replaces Charles Lynn as village manager. Bink Glisson protégé Darell Bowen becomes Wellington’s second popularly elected mayor.

October 5, 2001 — The Mall at Wellington Green opens; several nearby shopping plazas follow.

2007 — Emerald Cove Middle School opens on State Road 7 near Olympia.

2002 — Billionaire John Goodman, patron of the Isla Carroll polo team, builds the International Polo Club Palm Beach (IPC).

2007 — Mark Bellissimo and his Wellington Equestrian Partners purchase the Palm Beach Polo Equestrian Club and later reach an agreement with Winter Equestrian Festival founder Gene Mische to assume control of the show series. Renovations turn the facility into the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center.

March 11, 2003 — Tom Wenham becomes the village’s first popularly elected mayor. August 2003 — Palm Beach Cen-

2010 — Wellington undertakes a large building campaign with a focus on the first phase of what would become known as the Wellington Town Center with the new Wellington Municipal Complex, Wellington Amphitheater and Scott’s Place playground opening. Nov. 12, 2010 — The grand opening of the Wellington Environmental Preserve. 2011 — The Global Dressage Festival is founded and a new, state-of-the-art facility is built for it

The inaugural Wellington Village Council meets for the first time on March 28, 1996 at Wellington High School. (L-R) Paul Adams, Kathy Foster, Michael McDonough, Dr. Carmine Priore and Thomas Wenham.

hoods. The village, however, used the time for an aggressive series of capital improvements, with a particular emphasis on what became known as the Wellington Town Center. This included the opening of the new Wellington Municipal Complex, Scott’s Place Playground and the Wellington Amphitheater in 2010, followed by the Wellington Patriot Memorial in 2011. The old Wellington Community Center was torn down and completely rebuilt in 2016, and its old tennis facility was relocated to the new Wellington Tennis Center on Lyons Road, which opened in 2015. Other village projects included the opening of Wellington Green Park and the Wellington Environmental Preserve, both in 2010. The village purchased the Lake Wellington Professional Centre in 2013 from early Wellington pioneer Ken Adams. Discussions over whether to keep it a business facility or use it for another purpose have been ongoing ever since.

Approaching buildout, Wellington has set its focus on supporting redevelopment projects in its oldest areas and has also created a number of new programs focused on supporting its changing demographics, such as the Safe Neighborhoods program, the Community Services Department and a new focus on programming for senior citizens. Looking to the future, Wellington opened the new Wellington Town Center Promenade in 2020 and began a large renovation and expansion of its Water Treatment Plant and Water Reclamation Facility, with those projects set to come online in 2021. ••• This history of Wellington is adapted from the book Just Call Me Bink by Gunda P. Caldwell. Excerpted with permission from the Glisson family. Edited and updated by the Town-Crier. The entire book is available at the Bink Glisson Historical Museum in Yesteryear Village at the South Florida Fairgrounds.

at the site of the old Palm Beach Polo stadium.

Professional Centre from early Wellington pioneer Ken Adams.

Sept. 11, 2011 — The Wellington Patriot Memorial opens on the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

June 9, 2015 — The new Wellington Tennis Center opens.

March 13, 2012 — Bob Margolis is elected mayor in an election marred by a vote-counting glitch that saw the incorrect winners named for two council seats on election day. April 2013 — The new Neil S. Hirsch Family Boys & Girls Club opens on Wellington Trace, replacing the original facility on South Shore Blvd. December 2013 — The village purchases the Lake Wellington

March 15, 2016 — Anne Gerwig is elected mayor of Wellington. March 17, 2016 — Mark Bellissimo and his Wellington Equestrian Partners buy the International Polo Club to bring Wellington’s three largest horse show venues under common ownership. Aug. 6, 2016 — A completely rebuilt Wellington Community Center opens. 2020 — The new Wellington Town Center Promenade opens.


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Royal Palm Beach

HISTORY

Royal Palm Beach: A Family-Oriented Community 60 Years In The Making

BY M. DENNIS TAYLOR

BASED ON TOWN-CRIER ARCHIVES AND HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS

PAGE 26 • TOWN-CRIER 40TH ANNIVERSARY SOUVENIR MAGAZINE • 1980 - 2020

Landlocked, but with “Beach” in its name, Royal Palm Beach is the only municipality in Palm Beach County with such a shoreline designation that has no corresponding shoreline. It is many miles west of the coast. Why? For that, we have to go back to the community’s original developers. Once a Seminole tribe hunting ground, the area grew from a remote, mosquito-infested swamp into a sleepy retirement community. Today, the thriving village of more than 35,000 residents celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2019. In the 1950s, Philadelphia’s Food Fair supermarket magnates Sam and Hattie Friedland purchased 65,000 acres known as the Indian Trail Ranch for approximately $1.25 million in what is now Royal Palm Beach and The Acreage. It was a vast wilderness that was destined to become the nation’s fastest-growing community of its size in the 1980s. The original goal was to use the land to grow fruit for the supermarkets, but it did not work out as planned. The Friedlands subsequently sold the land to Miami developer Arthur Desser, founder

of the Lefcourt Realty Group. About 4,200 acres were earmarked for Desser’s Royal Palm Beach development. It was Desser’s vision that spurred the initial development of the area. A massive drainage project ensued, and in 1959, the state legislature granted a charter naming the development “Royal Palm Beach.” The seeming misnomer of “Beach” in the name was the brainchild of Desser, a multimillionaire much taken with the posh Town of Palm Beach many miles east of his fledgling development. According to a former Lefcourt engineer, Desser wanted the name “Palm Beach” to be included in the new community’s name. Obviously, there is only one Palm Beach, developed by Henry Flagler, not Arthur Desser, so it was decided that since Desser also liked the stately royal palms of Palm Beach, he would dub his new development “Royal Palm Beach.” On June 30, 1959, with Seminole tribe officials on hand for the festivities and to “renounce all former claims to the land,” a groundbreaking ceremony was held. The infant Village of Royal Palm Beach was born and began to grow. Engineering for the village’s waterways and a basic system of roads was started. A sales/recreational center was built with a motel facility in the area now occupied by the Royal Inn, and two-bedroom, one-bath model

Royal Palm Beach TIMELINE

1845 — Florida is granted statehood and Seminole Indians control the swampland that would later become Royal Palm Beach.

1850 — The Swamp and Overflowed Land Act is enacted, and the federal government gives wetlands over to the state. One of the wetlands given to the state was the Loxahatchee Wildlife Area, which includes what is now the communities of Royal Palm Beach, Wellington and Loxahatchee Groves. 1861 — The Civil War begins and some of the land is converted into the Indian River Ranch, a large cattle ranch that provided food

for the Confederate army. After the war, the ranch was abandoned. 1870s and 1880s — Feather merchants come to the area to slaughter egrets for their breeding plumage, which was fashionable in Europe at the time. Early 1950s — Sam and Hattie Friedland, of the Food Fair supermarket chain, purchase 65,000 acres of wetlands, including the land covering present day Royal Palm Beach. Several years later, they sold 4,200 acres of the land to the Lefcourt Realty Corporation. 1959 — Arthur Desser of Lefcourt Realty begins plans to drain the

homes were erected starting at $8,250. Village government — initially in the form of a developer-appointed council — later became popularly elected in 1974. Not until 1977 did the Royal Palm Beach Village Council find a permanent home at the site of the present Village Hall complex. To date, there have been 18 mayors who have served the village — some as single-term mayors; others, like Sam Lamstein (1982-1990), Tony Masilotti (1992-1998), David Lodwick (1998-2010), Matty Mattioli (2010-2016) and Fred Pinto (2016 to the present) won approval for multiple terms. The Village Hall complex has been expanded several times since the 1970s, and plans are currently in the works for a complete rebuild of the village government building to make it larger and more hurricane safe to allow operations to continue during major storms. Desser’s dream of a “nouveau” Palm Beach didn’t last long, as Lefcourt declared bankruptcy in 1961. His interest was bought back by Friedland, who then established Royal Palm Beach Colony Inc. to continue village development. While the grocery store magnate had no experience in the housing market, Friedland was nonetheless a savvy businessman who put together a team of professionals who set up a comprehensive land sales, development and building enterprise. With the late Herbert

land and develop the area. A charter from the state legislature declared that the land would be named Royal Palm Beach. June 30, 1959 — A groundbreaking ceremony is held. Chief Billy Bowlegs of the Seminole tribe and other Seminoles are present. 1959 - 1961 — Ewing Jones and/ or Roy Davenport serve as the first appointed mayors of Royal Palm Beach. June 6, 1960 — Debbra Louise Persson becomes the first child to be born in the community. On that same day, Joseph Klopp becomes RPB’s first police chief.

Sam Friedland (seated), owner of the Food Fair supermarket chain, with Arthur A. Desser, founder of Lefcourt Realty Corp.

Kaplan as RPB Colony CEO, the company and the village grew slowly from 1960 to 67 — first in the original “Colony” section of floral-named streets east and west of the southern end of Royal Palm Beach Blvd., and then expanding with vigor into the Willows and La Mancha subdivisions that are east of Royal Palm Beach Blvd. A marketing push began in 1979 to offer prospective builders vacant tracts of land west of Royal Palm Beach Blvd. in the present Saratoga, Madison Green and Crestwood subdivisions.

This building boom from 198088 is what made the village the fastest-growing community in its size category in the U.S. — and the hammers continued until more recent years as the village nears buildout. At present, the village’s final residential tracts in the central part of the community are built out, but the past decade has seen work being done on newer neighborhoods closer to the State Road 7 corridor. The swift village growth of the past four decades necessitated adding many services and amenities

1961 — Lefcourt Realty goes bankrupt and Desser’s interest is bought by Friedland, who subsequently establishes Royal Palm Beach Colony. “The Colony” continues the development of the community that Desser began.

Church begins holding services in RPB, the first religious services in the community.

November 1961 — Edward Vent is appointed mayor. He will serve until March 1964. At the end of his appointment, the next six mayors are also appointed, serving no longer than two years each. The mayors were, in chronological order, Leo Schloss, Lloyd McConnell, Leon Svirsky, Ann Hunter, Charles Deitel and Dr. Joseph Gayl. 1961 — The Evangelical Covenant

1962 — Lloyd and Edith McConnell open the first store in RPB, the Colony General Store, which features meats, dairy products, groceries, ice, beer and ice cream. 1963 — The Royal Palm Beach Country Club, designed by Mark Mahannah, opens on Royal Palm Beach Blvd. It will later be known as the Tradition Golf Course. 1965 — Herb Kaplan is installed as CEO of the Colony and president of the Indian Trail Board of Supervisors.


Palm Beach, and Palm Beach State College has a campus situated nearby in Loxahatchee Groves. In 1986, both Palms West Hospital and Wellington Regional Medical Center opened with 117 and 120 beds, respectively, and each have since added additional beds and services, and are continuing with expansion projects to meet the healthcare needs of local residents. With the hospitals came a building boom of medical office complexes on the campuses of both hospitals. Since the village’s inception, public safety has been foremost in the minds of residents and village officials. In June 1960, Joseph Klopp became the first Royal Palm Beach police chief. That first year, “Klopp the Cop” was the sole full-time officer with several auxiliary part-timers. Thirteen others followed Klopp as police chief, and in 2006 the accredited department boasted 57 sworn officers, plus dispatchers, school crossing guards, detectives, a captain and the chief based in a modern, computerized department in a building within the Village Hall complex. That all changed on Oct. 1, 2006 when the Royal Palm Beach Police Department was merged with the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office and became PBSO District 9 — part of one of the largest and most technologically advanced law enforcement services in the nation, as it remains today. Royal Palm Beach residents also appreciated the security of a local fire department since a volunteer force of eight individuals was recruited in a construction trailer in January 1963. The fledgling department’s first chief was Arthur Quigley, who served until

1969. Clarence Gollwitz followed until 1972 and was replaced by Karl Combs, who held the post as chief until his retirement in 1997. The village’s first “station house” was actually a shed-like structure behind Village Hall. Firefighting equipment consisted of a 1949 Dodge pickup truck fitted with a water tank and a portable pump. In 1976, the department moved into a building on Royal Palm Beach Blvd., which enabled it to expand manpower and equipment. At that time, the department shared the building with the police department. Village firefighters weren’t paid until 1972, and the two full-timers on staff made about $6,000 a year. The following year, three more full-time firefighters were hired, and in 1975, Combs became the first full-time chief at a salary of $13,500 a year. With a growing population, and thankfully few structural fires, the focus of the department expanded to include emergency medical treatment. Combs and a lieutenant were enrolled in the county’s first paramedic-rescue course and, less than a week later, answered a cardiac arrest call for a village resident who would have died had Combs not taken the course. Within the next four years, the department hired 18 additional paramedic/ EMT trained firefighters. A second station opened in 1991 at the entrance to Counterpoint Estates to cut response times to residents living in the State Road 7 area. In March 1999, following a council-authorized study by consultants, a much-debated decision was made to merge the previously independent village fire department with Palm Beach

1966 — RPB Colony and other investors unveil a plan to spend $100 million to develop 55,000 acres, which includes Royal Palm Beach and what is now The Acreage.

Palm Beach. He remains in the post until March 1978.

is elected mayor. He serves until March 1990 and focuses his time in office developing additional parks.

1970 — The extension and paving of Okeechobee Blvd. from State Road 7 to Royal Palm Beach Blvd. is finished. 1972 — RPB Colony builds a new sales center. The center would later serve as a library before becoming the Kevin M. Harvin Center. The building was torn down in 2018. 1974 — Herman Resnick becomes the first elected mayor of Royal

1978 — To stimulate growth, the La Mancha Country Club opens as the centerpiece of the La Mancha subdivision. The club would later be known as the Indian Trail Country Club, now the Village Golf Club. At the time, approximately half of the village’s 4,200 acres were developed. August 1981 — Mayor Milford Meyer, who became mayor in March 1978, is killed in a car accident. After his death, Harold Silverman takes office. March 1982 — Sam Lamstein

August 1983 — Classes in Royal Palm Beach’s first school, Crestwood Middle School, commence. August 1985 — H.L. Johnson Elementary School opens its doors to students. 1988 — Willows Park opens with one large field, two soccer fields and five baseball fields. December 6, 1988 — A referendum is approved annexing large sections along State Road 7.

(Above) RPB Police Chief Joseph Klopp and his “force” in 1960 as shown on the cover of an early Royal Palm Beach directory. (Below) Early Royal Palm Beach residents got basic supplies at McConnell’s Colony Food Market, the first store to open up in the village.

County Fire-Rescue. Most of the original Royal Palm Beach Fire Department staff made the switch to the county agency, and village leadership keeps close lines of communication with PBCFR personnel. Village recreation needs were not overlooked. An impressive array of parks gives Royal Palm Beach one of the highest parkland-per-capita ratios in South Florida. Since 1974, residents have enjoyed ever-increasing programs and improved park/ ballfield facilities. From its first tiny headquarters at Camellia Park to its present state-of-the-art facility located off Sparrow Drive,

the village’s recreation department now offers hundreds of programs, serving thousands of local children and adults. Under the department’s purview are more than 1,000 acres of parks and green space, as well as the village’s recently renovated 16,500-square-foot Cultural Center. The development of parks continued with the opening of Seminole Palms Park in 1998 and Veterans Park in 2003. The 160acre Royal Palm Beach Commons Park opened with great fanfare in 2013 on the site of a former golf course. Now that village residents had a government, schools for children, police and fire protection,

1989 — Cypress Trails Elementary School opens.

January 1998 — Seminole Palms Park, a large Palm Beach County facility, opens on Lamstein Lane off Southern Blvd. Several years later, Calypso Bay Waterpark is added.

March 1990 — Irving Shapiro is elected mayor. He serves one term. November 1990 — U.S. Census Bureau figures state that RPB’s population rose 247 percent from 1980 to 1988, making it the nation’s fastest-growing municipality. 1992 — Tony Masilotti is elected mayor. He focuses on recreation projects, such as the Cultural Center (opening in 1993) and the Recreation Center (opening in 1994). 1997 — Royal Palm Beach High School opens.

November 1998 — Tony Masilotti resigns as mayor after being elected to the Palm Beach County Commission. David Lodwick is appointed interim mayor. March 1999 — Interim Mayor David Lodwick narrowly defeats Vice Mayor Matty Mattioli in an election decided by just 13 votes. Lodwick went on to become the village’s longest-serving mayor, leaving office in 2010.

1980 - 2020 • TOWN-CRIER 40TH ANNIVERSARY SOUVENIR MAGAZINE • PAGE 27

for residents tired of driving east to meet daily needs. This included busing students out of town for their education. Residents joined together to lobby for community schools. In 1983, Crestwood Middle School opened as the first school in the community, followed in 1985 and 1989, respectively, by H.L. Johnson and Cypress Trails elementary schools. Royal Palm Beach High School opened its doors to 1,100 students a year late in 1997 following construction delays. Schools in the western communities continued to open in rapid succession during the boom years — often with student bodies at or near capacity the first year. The 2002 school year heralded the opening of the village’s third elementary school on Okeechobee Blvd., aptly named Royal Palm Beach Elementary School. Today, the Village of Royal Palm Beach keeps an active Education Advisory Board to stay on top of local school issues and help represent the needs of local residents. Aside from district schools, there are also several charter and private schools serving Royal Palm Beach. Among them is the Western Academy Charter School, opened in 2003. The Palms West Charter School, operated by Renaissance Charter Schools, opened at the site of a former supermarket in 2013. The Ideal Elementary School and Dream Middle School, as well as the Learning Foundation of Florida, are other private schools located within the village. Now, there are even local options for higher education with South University’s campus located at State Road 7 and Belvedere Road. The NRI Institute of Health Sciences is also located in Royal


Royal Palm Beach

HISTORY

leisure and healthcare, there was yet another need to be met, and retailers — albeit reluctantly at first — began to recognize the buying power of western residents. Unlike the dazzling array of shopping possibilities now a mere five-minute drive away for residents, early villagers needed a valid driver’s license and a full tank of gas to get to commercial centers located far to the east. The village’s pioneer residents’ first “mart” — a general store which opened in 1962 — carried

a meager list of necessities, and shoppers seeking a week’s worth of groceries drove eastward along narrow two-laned Southern Blvd. to West Palm Beach markets. In those days, the westernmost point of Okeechobee Blvd. was the intersection with State Road 7. The treks by shoppers to eastern grocers continued until 1981, when the second phase of the Royal Plaza in the village’s southernmost sector was completed by businessman Jess Santamaria, owner of the nearby Royal Inn. Included in the

Royal Palm Beach TIMELINE continued March 1999 — After more than Royal Palm Beach Blvd. A grounda year of negotiations, the Royal breaking ceremony is held in the Palm Beach Fire Department is fall of 2002. merged into Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue. 2002 — Royal Palm Beach Elementary School opens. 2000 — Work gets underway at Minto’s Madison Green residential 2003 — Royal Palm Beach conproject, the last large undevel- structs a new meeting facility next oped parcel in central Royal Palm to Village Hall. Also, Veterans Park Beach. opens. June 2001 — Royal Palm Beach unveils plans for the new Veterans Park, a $5.6 million project along

2005 — Royal Palm Beach buys the Tradition Golf Course. Plans are made to develop what is now

plaza was Miller’s Super Value, a locally owned supermarket. Officials of food giants Winn-Dixie and Publix had rejected Santamaria’s proposals to become the village’s first supermarket, citing the village’s small size (about 3,000 residents at the time) and slow pace of growth. By the mid-1980s, however, (Right) An aerial view of Royal Palm Beach High School under construction. Royal Palm Beach Commons Park.

March 2010 — Matty Mattioli is elected mayor, serving until 2016.

create the Tuttle Royale project on the site.

Oct. 1, 2006 — The Royal Palm Beach Police Department is merged into the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office.

2013 — Grocery chain Aldi breaks ground on a 650,000-square-foot distribution center in RPB.

March 2016 — Fred Pinto is elected mayor, serving until the present day.

March 2, 2013 — The 160-acre Royal Palm Beach Commons Park opens with a big celebration.

2019 — A newly renovated and expanded Cultural Center opens after a year of construction.

2015 — RPB annexes the Acme Ranches property along the south side of Southern Blvd. Developer Brian Tuttle later unveils plans to

2020 — Royal Palm Beach unveils plans to building a new Village Hall, including a complete redesign of the municipal campus.

2010 — Village Engineer Ray Liggins becomes acting village manager when longtime Village Manger David Farber falls ill, taking over as permanent village manager after Farber passes away in April.

PAGE 28 • TOWN-CRIER 40TH ANNIVERSARY SOUVENIR MAGAZINE • 1980 - 2020

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Royal Palm Beach

HISTORY

Winn-Dixie and Publix were clamoring to become the anchors of their own plazas. Winn-Dixie became the first chain supermarket to open in the Village Royale Plaza at the northwest corner of Royal Palm Beach Blvd. and Okeechobee Blvd., and following

lengthy village hearings and a controversial rezoning, Publix was granted approval to build a plaza directly across the street. The large chain supermarkets tolled the death knell for smaller Miller’s Super Value, and the store abruptly closed in 1988. Today, multiple

In 1970, the extension of Okeechobee Blvd. to Royal Palm Beach Blvd. paved the way for the continued development of the village.

Publix stores, a Winn-Dixie store, an Aldi, a Super Target and a Walmart Supercenter serve the grocery needs of the community. Strip centers and “big box” stores began to mushroom in Royal Palm Beach along the State Road 7 corridor, bringing Target, Walmart, Lowe’s, Home Depot and more. Commercial office and retail centers were built in profusion along Okeechobee Blvd. east of Royal Palm Beach Blvd. Two nationally known developers began a permitting race to bring to Royal Palm Beach or Wellington the area’s first regional mall of more than one million square feet of retail space. In 2001, the Mall at Wellington Green opened its doors. The land that could have been RPB’s mall project opened in 2006 as Southern Palm Crossing on Southern Blvd., anchored by a Costco store. Today, a person living in Royal Palm Beach can literally be born, raised, entertained, educated, fed, enjoy restaurants, be clothed, purchase a car, get medical treatment, enter a nursing home, die, have a funeral and then be buried all

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PAGE 30 • TOWN-CRIER 40TH ANNIVERSARY SOUVENIR MAGAZINE • 1980 - 2020

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1980 - 2020 • TOWN-CRIER 40TH ANNIVERSARY SOUVENIR MAGAZINE • PAGE 31

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Loxahatchee Groves

HISTORY

Century-Old Community Strives To Remain Unique Amid A Sea Of Development

BY RON BUKLEY

BASED ON TOWN-CRIER ARCHIVES AND LOXAHATCHEE GROVES’ YESTERYEARS BY ELLIE HOPE

PAGE 32 • TOWN-CRIER 40TH ANNIVERSARY SOUVENIR MAGAZINE • 1980 - 2020

Founded in 1917, Loxahatchee Groves is the oldest of the western communities. However, it did not incorporate to become the Town of Loxahatchee Groves until 2006, making it still a fairly young municipality. Comprised of 7,867 acres, just over 12 square miles, it gets its name from both a Native American dialect translation meaning “turtle creek” (Loxahatchee) and the acres of citrus groves that occupied the land prior to its settlement. The population is approximately 4,000 residents living on 1,600 parcels of land.

from the buying and selling of land. Among these transactions was the transfer of a large area from the Trustee of the Internal Improvement Fund to the Disston Land Company on March 21, 1850. Following several more transactions, two million acres of land, including all of Loxahatchee Groves, was eventually sold to New Orleans-based Southern States Land & Timber Company on July 19, 1902, at the bargain price of 25 cents an acre. Shortly after the sale, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers started work on the West Palm Beach (C51) Canal, opening it for travel in February 1917. As the West Palm Beach branch sales manager for Southern States, Bensel yearned to build a community along the route of the new waterway. The result of his dream was Loxahatchee Groves. Surveying of canals, including D Canal, which extended approximately four miles north from what would eventually become State Road 80/Southern Blvd., began in May 1917. Soon, nearly 30 miles of canals and roads had been constructed, all running parallel, with possible future roads to developments outside of the Groves. In August of that same year, Southern States engineer T.G. Thorgesen and his wife moved to the area. Thorgesen is credited with creating the first topographical survey map of Loxahatchee

The old fruit packing house of the Palm Beach-Loxahatchee Co. was up and running by 1931.

Groves. In local lore, he supposedly completed the map by walking the entire area. The map took him nearly three years to complete. He finished it on March 8, 1920. Development continued in the Groves with the establishment of a dairy farm on D Road north of Southern Blvd. and construction of a one-room schoolhouse in the area of Valencia Drive and Orange Avenue. Hoping to provide some stability and leadership to Loxahatchee Groves, a drainage district was

chartered by the Florida Legislature. The three supervisors of what became the Loxahatchee Groves Water Control District were elected by landowners based on the one-acre, one-vote rule with proxies accepted, a practice that continued for a century. The responsibility of the district was to reclaim flooded lands by draining off water, provide water control during storms and perform road maintenance, such as grading the dirt roads. Other than having five supervisors instead of three, and

many more residents, the powers and services provided by the Loxahatchee Groves Water Control District remained consistent until the town’s incorporation in 2006. Aside from drainage and roads, Bensel brought in a post office, a single-pump gas station and a tiny grocery store. All of this was located on Southern Blvd. near D Road, an area that is still a “commercial hub” of the largely rural community. Platting land in 10-acre and 20-acre tracts, with three acres dedicated exclusively to orange,

the first school is built at Valencia Drive and Orange Avenue. It would later be moved to the corner of D Road and Tangerine Trail. The school building was also used for church and Sunday school.

1931 — The Palm Beach-Loxahatchee Packing House is up and running.

volunteer community fire station.

1968 — The Florida Forestry Service comes to Palm Beach County.

1917 — The community of Loxahatchee Groves is founded by George Bensel.

1919 — A horse-and-buggy trail runs along the West Palm Beach Canal until the road is finally improved in 1924.

1936 — The old schoolhouse building (now at Yesteryear Village at the South Florida Fairgrounds) is built by Roy Burg.

April 4, 1917 — The Loxahatchee Sub-Drainage District is established. It is chartered under Florida Statutes in 1925.

1920 — Blydenstein’s Chicken Farm on D Road sells eggs in Palm Beach.

Late 1940s — After World War II, Southern States Land & Timber sells land to George Bensel. Electricity comes to Loxahatchee Groves.

Loxahatchee Groves was built on the vision of an ambitious and eager sales manager by the name of George Bensel, who founded the community in 1917 and stuck around until his death in 1961. After the U.S. Congress passed the Swamp Land Act of 1850, which allowed for the subsidized sale of swamps and overflow lands to private investors, prospective buyers flocked to South Florida with hopes of making large profits

Loxahatchee Groves TIMELINE

July 19, 1902 — Two million acres of land, including all of Loxahatchee Groves, is sold to New Orleans-based Southern States Land & Timber Company at the bargain price of 25 cents an acre.

1918 — Experimental Dairy is built on D Road. Also, Southern States Land & Timber is built, and

March 8, 1920 — Southern States engineer T.G. Thorgesen creates the first topographical survey map of Loxahatchee Groves.

1935 — A pump is installed at D Road and Southern Blvd.

1949 — Westside Baptist Church, built by volunteers, becomes a

1954 — Pappy’s guava jelly factory is built west of the packing house on Southern Blvd. It later became a grocery store run by the Jarriel family. Mid-1950s — Gas pumps arrive in Loxahatchee Groves. 1958 — Loxahatchee Groves is sold to Loxahatchee Investments. 1959 — The Village of Royal Palm Beach incorporates next door. 1965 — The old schoolhouse closes. Meanwhile, Sunsport Gardens naturist resort opens.

1969 — A fire tower is built at the Loxahatchee Forestry Station. The forerunner to the Loxahatchee Groves Landowners’ Association is formed by Erwin Swain. Home mail delivery starts in Loxahatchee Groves. June 1978 — Bob Pressler works to get the Okeechobee Blvd. bridge across the Folsom Canal opened. September 1978 — Jamie and Janie Udell introduce their popular “Loxahatchee: Love It and Leave It Alone” shirts and bumper stickers.


nal. The area to the north offered multi-acre homes with more privacy and the opportunity for farming. The area south of Collecting Canal was considered “downtown Loxahatchee.” It had smaller lots with the post office and stores within walking distance. At that point, there were perhaps 30 to 35 families living north of Collecting Canal. Much of the land was controlled by Royal Palm Beach Colony and (until its bankruptcy) Lefcourt Realty. Lefcourt attempted to market the land as “a spacious commuter retreat” with the “luxury of exclusiveness,” but very few lots were sold at the then-hefty price of $9,000 for 10 acres. After Lefcourt folded, RPB Colony marketed Loxahatchee Groves in five-acre tracts north of Collecting Canal for $3,750 each. By this time, the drainage district had been taken over by RPB Colony due to the huge number of proxy votes it held. The late Ellie Hope, a longtime Loxahatchee Groves resident and the community’s historian, moved to the area in March 1962 with her husband Bob to get away from the city. “We came out, I believe it was a Saturday, and looked at the property. We signed the papers that same day,” recalled Hope, who died in 2004. She also remembered just how rural life used to be. “The place was very simple,” she said. “To get in and out of town was a trek. Okeechobee Blvd. was one lane with grass going down the middle of it. Electricity ran from F to D Road, and there were houses up to C Road. There was a MacArthur Dairy that delivered products.” The primitiveness of the area also brought the threat of natural disasters. Hurricanes struck in

1 97 9 — T h e L ox a h a t c h e e Sub-Drainage District becomes the Loxahatchee Groves Water Control District. Along with the name change, the D Road property is purchased.

old schoolhouse, which closed in 1965, is moved to Loxahatchee Groves Park, where it is vandalized and abused before being moved to Yesteryear Village.

1982 — A post office is built next to Palms West Plaza. 1983 to 1984 — Okeechobee Blvd. is paved from Folsom to Seminole Pratt Whitney roads. July 1984 — Loxahatchee Groves Park opens on Southern Blvd. between E and F roads. 1986 — Loxahatchee Groves Elementary School opens. The

January 1986 — Palms West Hospital is dedicated. June 4, 1996 — The Loxahatchee Groves Neighborhood Plan is sent to Palm Beach County. 2003 to 2006 — The Committee to Incorporate Loxahatchee Groves works to get a referendum vote on whether to incorporate Loxahatchee Groves. The bill passes the Florida Legislature in spring 2006.

“Chief Loxahatchee” (circa 1979) greets visitors at Gary’s Western Midway on Southern Blvd.

Southern States Land & Timber Company built a sawmill on South C Road in the early 1900s. It provided wood for the first houses built in Loxahatchee Groves.

1964 and 1965, and a wildfire in May 1965 destroyed nearly 500 acres. As the 1970s began, there was a new kind of threat — development. There were few rules governing zoning, and many builders took advantage, recalled Hope. Hope wrote in her book Loxahatchee Groves’ Yesteryears: “During the years when Florida investors thought native trees were nuisances to be converted to lumber, and standing water and marshes were a waste of land, a deed was a license to do just about anything to one’s property.” The 1980s saw population booms in nearby Royal Palm Beach and Wellington, followed by a similar boom in The Acreage in the early 1990s. This put Loxahatchee Groves in the rather precarious position of trying to stay small and rural in the face of surrounding growth. The Loxahatchee Groves Landowners’ Association fought hard to maintain the community’s

rural character. Over the years, it managed to ward off annexation, including getting an “all or nothing” bill passed in Tallahassee. The measure was aimed at blocking piecemeal development by requiring any outside entity to annex all 7,867 acres of Loxahatchee Groves, not just the most advantageous parcels. To further protect itself, the LGLA helped organize an incorporation committee to study the possibility of becoming a municipality and establishing home rule. Fundraisers were held to offset the expenses of the process. Starting in 2005, the Committee to Incorporate Loxahatchee Groves took its cause to Tallahassee, lobbying the Florida Legislature to pass an incorporation charter. After two years of trying, the bill passed in spring 2006. Later that year, Loxahatchee Groves residents voted 458-370 to incorporate. In March 2007, the community’s first council election was held.

When the new council met later that month, Dave Browning was selected as the town’s first mayor. In celebration of the town’s incorporation and the community’s 90th anniversary, the LGLA organized a parade along Okeechobee Blvd. Jamie Titcomb, then executive director of the Palm Beach County League of Cities and now the current town manager, presided over that first council meeting on March 29, 2007, where Browning was joined on the dais by Dave Autrey, Marge Herzog, Dr. Bill Louda and Dennis Lipp. But the thrill of incorporation was soon eclipsed by the reality of self-governance. Disharmony with the Loxahatchee Groves Water Control District prevailed as four of the original council members who supported the incorporation effort were soon replaced by new council members supported by factions that favored the LGWCD. Former LGWCD Supervisor Ron Jarriel

June 23, 2006 — Gov. Jeb Bush signs the incorporation bill.

School. Dave Browning is named the first mayor.

Oct. 10, 2006 — Loxahatchee Groves residents approve incorporation: 458 yes votes, 370 no.

March 31, 2007 — A parade is held on Okeechobee Blvd. to celebrate the new town and the 90th anniversary of the community.

Feb. 27, 2017 — Palm Beach State College’s long-anticipated fifth campus officially opens on a 75-acre site on Southern Blvd. bringing higher education to the community.

March 13, 2007 — The Town of Loxahatchee Groves holds its first election with two candidates running for each of the five council seats. The winners are Dave Autrey, Dave Browning, Marge Herzog, Dennis Lipp and Dr. Bill Louda. March 29, 2007 — The Loxahatchee Groves Town Council holds a swearing-in ceremony at Loxahatchee Groves Elementary

May 2016 —Town officials move into the new town hall at Southern Blvd. and F Road. The town bought the former Central Palm Beach County Chamber of Commerce building for $460,000. August 2016 — Loxahatchee Groves Commons, a new shopping plaza at the intersection of B Road and Southern Blvd., opens to the public.

June 25, 2018 — A referendum is approved to make the Loxahatchee Groves Water Control District dependent to the town. January 2019 — Jaime Titcomb is hired as the new town manager. March 2019 — Dave Browning retires after 12 years as mayor. The council decides to rotate the appointed, ceremonial position in the future.

1980 - 2020 • TOWN-CRIER 40TH ANNIVERSARY SOUVENIR MAGAZINE • PAGE 33

grapefruit and tangerine trees, Loxahatchee Groves residents began to realize the agricultural opportunity. The area received another boost when a citrus project spearheaded by Bensel’s brother Tom K. Bensel was initiated, leading to the planting of another 56,000 trees. The agricultural industry continued to boom throughout the next 10 years, leading to an increase in workers and the building of additional facilities, including a fruit packing house, which had the only telephone in Loxahatchee Groves. The fruit was shipped north via a small railroad that was built at Southern Blvd. and what is now Interstate 95. While the first year saw 20,000 boxes shipped, the annual output eventually increased to 100,000 boxes. Aiding in this growth was the first water pump built in 1935. It was installed at D Road and Southern Blvd. to draw water from the West Palm Beach Canal for irrigation and other purposes. Electricity soon followed. By the late 1950s, the secluded agricultural-based lifestyle started to change, partly due to the introduction of a new neighbor — the Village of Royal Palm Beach. Loxahatchee Groves was sold in 1958 to Loxahatchee Investments, a subsidiary of the Food Fair Grocery Corporation. One year later, the Village of Royal Palm Beach was chartered by the same company. Under its master developer, Royal Palm Beach Colony Inc., the village developed quickly compared to Loxahatchee Groves. In 1960, the area was basically divided into two areas offering very different lifestyles. The two Loxahatchee Groves communities were separated by Collecting Ca-


Loxahatchee Groves

HISTORY

was elected in 2009, replacing Autrey. He remained on the dais until 2018, when he was narrowly unseated by Councilwoman Phillis Maniglia. Lipp served a one-year initial term and was re-elected for a three-year term until he was unseated in 2011 by Tom Goltzené, who was supported by LGWCD factions. He served until March 2017, when he lost his seat to former LGWCD Supervisor Dave DeMarois, who served one term

and lost in 2020 to Herzog for her return to the dais after a 11-year hiatus. Herzog had been unseated in 2009 after an initial two-year term by Ryan Liang, from a local farming family, who was supported by the LGWCD. Liang won three terms — including a bitterly contested race in 2015 against Keith Harris that included accusations of absentee ballot fraud — and served until March 2018 when he chose not to run again.

He was replaced by Realtor and longtime resident Joyce Batcheler, who was unopposed but resigned abruptly in November 2018. Her seat was filled by former LGWCD Supervisor Anita Kane, who was appointed to the council in December 2018. Kane lost a bid for re-election in February 2019 to current Mayor Lisa El-Ramey. In 2010, Louda stepped down and Jim Rockett, also supported by LGWCD factions, replaced him unopposed. Rockett served until

Southern States Land & Timber Company bought up land along the new canal, later offering it for sale in wholesale tracts.

March 2016, when he was replaced by Todd McLendon, who was on the dais until March 2019, when he lost to Councilwoman Laura Danowski, a former LGWCD supervisor. Former Mayor Dave Browning remained the modicum of stability during turbulent times and was chosen by the council as mayor for 12 years until he decided not to run again in 2019. He was replaced by Councilman Robert Shorr. After Browning’s long run as mayor, the

Ten cottages were constructed on Temple Drive in the early 1900s for employees of the Southern States sawmill.

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council decided to spread around the largely ceremonial, appointed honor, first to Shorr in 2019, and then to El-Ramey in 2020. Before the town incorporated, Browning served 11 years on the LGWCD board. As such, Browning presided during frequent clashes with the then-independent LGWCD. Those clashes subsided when the LGWCD became dependent to the town in June 2018 after a referendum approved the transition in a proxy vote based on acreage of 2,988 to 872. The vote came just a year after the LGWCD celebrated the centennial of its creation. Six different town managers have occupied that position in 14 years, including Titcomb, the current manager, whose contract was renewed in February for three more years after his hiring in January 2019. His predecessors were Dr. Irv Rosenbaum and his associate Matthew Lippman, Frank Spence, Mark Kutney and Bill Underwood. Kutney and Underwood were each employed by Underwood Management Services Group when the town used

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PAGE 34 • TOWN-CRIER 40TH ANNIVERSARY SOUVENIR MAGAZINE • 1980 - 2020

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an unusual contract manager form of government. Each of the managers tried to administer the community during recurrent bouts of disharmony between the town and the LGWCD, which controlled maintenance of canals and roads, under supervisors who heeded residents’ warnings to keep property assessments

low. This resulted in roads that became fairly deteriorated — an expensive issue that the town inherited when the LGWCD finally became dependent to the town. Road maintenance continues to be a hot-button topic in the town. In May 2016, the town moved into its new town hall at Southern Blvd. and F Road. The town

A ribbon cutting marks the opening of the new Loxahatchee Groves campus of Palm Beach State College on Feb. 27, 2017.

bought the former Central Palm Beach County Chamber of Commerce building for $460,000, which was more than $100,000 under its appraised value. The council had met previously in the LGWCD office on D Road and used rented office space in the Palms West Plaza. After years of planning and debate, Palm Beach State College’s long-anticipated fifth campus officially opened on Feb. 27, 2017 at the 75-acre former Simon property site on Southern Blvd. It was PBSC’s first campus constructed in more than 30 years, bringing high-quality, affordable education to the west-central areas of the county. Alongside it, Loxahatchee Groves Commons was built at the northwest corner of Southern Blvd. and B Road, anchored by a Publix grocery store, marking the commercialization of Southern Blvd., as planned in the town’s charter. In November 2018, the council approved development plans for the nearby Groves Town Center on the northeast corner of Southern Blvd. and B Road. But a glitch in the charter also

The inaugural Loxahatchee Groves Town Council is sworn in at a ceremony on March 29, 2007: (L-R) Councilman Dave Autrey, Mayor David Browning, Vice Mayor Marge Herzog, Councilman Dr. Bill Louda and Councilman Dennis Lipp.

allowed unwanted commercialization on Okeechobee Blvd. with the litigated approval of the Day family property at Okeechobee Blvd. and Folsom Road, which led to an overhaul of the town’s uniform land development codes still underway and the proposed creation of an overlay for Okeechobee Blvd. still under discussion. The Town of Loxahatchee Groves today remains a unique community that provides a life-

style that cannot be found elsewhere in the area. Nevertheless, it faces a number of ongoing challenges: dirt roads vs. paved roads, nursery owners vs. full-time residents, what types of commercial uses and where, equestrians vs. non-equestrians and how to pay for services residents often say they want. Yet through it all, the community has remained a rural enclave surrounded by a sea of development.

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Acreage/Indian Trail

HISTORY

The Acreage: A Unique Community With Elements Of Rural And Suburban Living

BY RON BUKLEY

BASED ON TOWN-CRIER ARCHIVES AND HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS

PAGE 36 • TOWN-CRIER 40TH ANNIVERSARY SOUVENIR MAGAZINE • 1980 - 2020

The Acreage and the overlaying Indian Trail Improvement District encompass about 110 square miles of unincorporated Palm Beach County. ITID’s boundaries contain about 17,000 residential lots of about 1.25 acres each, making it a unique lifestyle mix including some elements of rural living and some elements of suburban living. The population of the area is estimated at between 40,000 and 50,000.

The Acreage came to be in the 1960s when developer Royal Palm Beach Colony began selling off oversized lots to wide-eyed northerners, promising a beautiful, inexpensive place to retire. The price was low because there were few roads, poor drainage and no amenities. While many people bought homes in the company’s primary development of Royal Palm Beach, a great number bought lots in The Acreage, thinking they would be ready to build on when they retired. The Indian Trail Water Control District, created by the Florida Legislature in 1957, was headed

by RPB Colony CEO Herb Kaplan, who served as president of the Indian Trail Board of Supervisors from 1965 until his death in 1990. The initial purpose of the district was to manage developable lots, as well as oversee nearby citrus groves and sugar cane production. RPB Colony was established in 1961 by Food Fair grocery chain owner Sam Friedland, who bought the Indian Trail Ranch in the late 1950s, hoping to turn it into a profitable orange grove. Friedland planned to vertically integrate his supermarket by owning the grove, but two killer frosts in the mid-1960s caused considerable crop damage and production problems. RPB Colony sold its groves to national growers, including Callery-Judge, a blueberry grower from Vermont that became one of the area’s largest orange groves. But even after selling land to orange grove companies, thousands of acres remained. RPB Colony needed a way to attract out-of-state buyers, so it decided on a plan to sell to future retirees — contrary to the South Florida mentality of marketing toward immediate retirees. The pitch was to buy cheap land now that could be built on years down the road. In the late 1960s, RPB Colony broke up “The Acreage” into 1.25-acre agricultural-residential parcels to sell as ranchettes. The company laid out a site plan, put in

Acreage/Indian Trail TIMELINE

Late 1950s — Food Fair grocery chain owner Sam Friedland buys the Indian Trail Ranch.

1957 — The Florida Legislature votes to approve the creation of the Indian Trail Water Control District. 1960s — The Acreage starts to form when developer Royal Palm Beach Colony begins selling 1.25-acre agricultural-residential parcels to future retirees. 1964 — Callery-Judge Grove begins operations. 1965 — RPB Colony CEO Herb Kaplan takes over as president of the Indian Trail Board of Supervi-

sors, serving in that post until his death in 1990. 1967 — Lion Country Safari opens west of The Acreage. 1973 — New Palm Beach County development rules complicate RPB Colony’s plans. 1976 — Builder Alan Black begins developing Royal Ascot Estates. 1978 — Acreage residents create the Pioneer Unit of Development (PUD), the first Acreage property owners’ association, formed to make the land more buildable. First areas allowed to develop are those immediately north of Royal Palm Beach.

roadways and canals, and plotted out the lots. Since Palm Beach County had few rules governing land development until 1973, RPB Colony presented its plans to the state and soon began sales. Up until the mid-1970s, The Acreage was uninhabitable swampland. While buyers were led to believe they could build homes on their property, the fine print said otherwise. RPB Colony’s advertising campaign only implied a future Acreage full of homes, which was the only way they could sell lots to so many unsuspecting people, some of whom had purchased their lots sight unseen. Property owners tried unsuccessfully to get building permits from the county, which denied permits because there was no approved drainage plan. As a result, the first homes were built unit by unit after property owners were granted variances. Prior to 1980, the only houses were in Units 1, 3, 12 and 14, all located immediately north of the Village of Royal Palm Beach. These were the only units with drainage improvements either in place or planned. The South Florida Water Management District defined an area as “buildable” when an engineer certified that the roadways were built to a sufficient elevation and that the most basic drainage components were in place. However, these standards were minimal.

1980 — An agreement is reached between Indian Trail, the South Florida Water Management District, the Health Department and Palm Beach County to get the road elevations high enough for septic tanks. This resulted in the M-1 and M-2 drainage plans, which allowed more homes to be built. 1980s — A contest is held among residents to name the developing area. More than 60 new names are suggested, but the overwhelming result is to keep “The Acreage.” 1982 — RPB Colony sells its drainage rights to the Village of Royal Palm Beach, which limited Indian Trail’s drainage rights. With the help of the PUD, more lots become

The Acreage as a community was conceived by Royal Palm Beach Colony CEO Herb Kaplan (left), who served as president of the Indian Trail Board of Supervisors from 1965 until his death in 1990, and Chairman Irv Cowan (right).

This put a great deal of pressure on Indian Trail as demands for buildable property continued to roll in. Rules concerning septic tanks and their relationship to the 100-year flood elevations were the most difficult to resolve. In 1978, after the first wave of homes were built, Acreage

residents created the Pioneer Unit of Development (PUD), the first Acreage property owners’ association, formed to make the land more buildable. In 1980, an agreement was made between Indian Trail, the SFWMD, the Health Department and Palm Beach County to get the road

certified, bringing more residents.

Water Control District becomes the Indian Trail Improvement District, which launches a park-building program.

1983 — The Acreage Landowners’ Association is formed to assume the PUD’s role, as well as to help build The Acreage as a community. 1992 — Public schools arrive with the opening of Acreage Pines Elementary School. 1995 — The ALA develops the Acreage Neighborhood Plan, intended to be a guideline for development in the community. 1997 — Western Pines Middle School and Golden Grove Elementary School open. Late 1990s — The Indian Trail

2001 — Frontier Elementary School opens. 2002 — ITID switches from a peracre method of voting to a one-person, one-vote open election. The number of supervisors is reduced from seven to five. 2002 — ITID’s first attempt to study incorporation results in a board election won by anti-incorporation candidates, ending the effort. 2003 — The Scripps Research Institute announces plans to expand


maintain roadways that were once trails of grass. While road maintenance and drainage had become Indian Trail’s main concerns, a growing population created the demand for a parks and recreation program. The Indian Trail Water Control District responded by seeking additional powers from the state to build and operate recreational facilities and became the Indian Trail Improvement District (ITID). In the mid-1990s, ITID floated a special recreation assessment and launched an ambitious park program that today has grown into a system of nine parks. This includes Acreage Community Park on 140th Avenue North, which is undergoing a major expansion project expected to be complete in 2020 after a decade-long process involving the leasing of land from the county and debate among district supervisors, some of whom objected to the park’s expansion. The 75-acre Samuel Friedland Park was completed by the county just west of The Acreage on Hamlin Blvd. in 2007. While The Acreage is the largest and most well-known of the communities, it is not the only residential community served by ITID. Several smaller communities are also part of ITID, among them Royal Ascot Estates, west of Loxahatchee Groves. Located along Seminole Pratt Whitney Road between Southern Blvd. and Sycamore Drive, it features streets named for some of the world’s leading horse racing stadiums. Royal Ascot Estates was developed by builder Alan Black starting in 1976. In the early days, students from

to Palm Beach County, initially selecting the 1,900-acre Mecca Farms site bordering The Acreage. The county and state sinks more than $150 million to buy the land and begin construction before environmental lawsuits bring the project to a halt. Scripps subsequently turns its attention to its present site in Jupiter.

Her parents become safe riding advocates.

2004 — Pierce Hammock Elementary School and Osceola Creek Middle School open. 2005 — Seminole Ridge High School opens. 2006 — 12-year-old rider Nicole Hornstein dies after being thrown from a horse in The Acreage.

2007 — The 75-acre Samuel Friedland Park is completed by Palm Beach County just west of The Acreage on Hamlin Blvd. 2007 — The Palm Beach County Commission rejects Callery-Judge’s plan to develop 10,000 homes and 3.8 million square feet of commercial use. 2009 — Gov. Charlie Crist visits the newly named Nicole Hornstein Equestrian Park to sign Nicole’s Law, which adds helmet requirements for riders 16 and under. 2009 — A county-funded exten-

(Left) Early on, home sites in The Acreage were marketed to employees at nearby Pratt & Whitney. (Right) Arthur Desser (left) of Lefcourt Realty and property owner Sam Friedland (right) of the Food Fair grocery chain began the development of both Royal Palm Beach and The Acreage. Friedland had bought the Indian Trail Ranch in the late 1950s.

The Acreage were bused all over the county to public schools. Local schools began to arrive in 1992 with the opening of Acreage Pines Elementary School. In 1997, Western Pines Middle School opened, along with Golden Grove Elementary School. Frontier Elementary School opened to serve the western areas in 2001. In 2004, Pierce Hammock Elementary School opened serving the northern portions of The Acreage, and Osceola Creek Middle School opened serving the western areas. Seminole Ridge High School opened on Seminole Pratt Whitney Road in August 2005. When the community was young, developers were in complete control of the Indian Trail board. It wasn’t until the late 1980s that residents got their first representative on the board. Eventually, resident-elected supervisors gained a majority on the sev-

en-member board, and by the late 1990s, large landowners held only one seat. Then, in 2002, the format switched from a per-acre method of voting to a one-person, one-vote open election. At the same time, the number of supervisors was reduced from seven to five. In 1983, the Acreage Landowners’ Association was formed to help support The Acreage as a thriving community. In 1995, the ALA developed the Acreage Neighborhood Plan, intended to be a guideline for development in the community. It was formally received by the Palm Beach County Commission in 1996. The plan provided for a uniform method of development on the mostly 1.25acre lots, with conditions for road development, drainage, septic and wells, which a majority of residents are still on. The county largely adhered to the plan, which called for rural-style development

that allowed for agrarian, livestock and equestrian uses. The plan did not, however, account for large developments beginning to go up nearby. The Acreage Neighborhood Plan also provided for the future incorporation of The Acreage as a municipality, which has been studied at least three times over the past 20 years. ITID’s first attempt to study incorporation, in 2002, resulted in an election that swept in a majority of anti-incorporation supervisors, ending the effort. In 2003, the Scripps Research Institute, based in La Jolla, Calif., announced it would expand its operations to Palm Beach County and initially selected the 1,900acre Mecca Farms site bordering The Acreage, where the State of Florida, with support from the Palm Beach County Commission, sunk more than $150 million to buy the land and begin construc-

sion of State Road 7 opens from Okeechobee Blvd. to Persimmon Blvd. It is extended to 60th Street North in 2014. Plans to continue the road to Northlake Blvd. have been delayed ever since.

3,800 acres to Minto, which gets Palm Beach County approval in 2014 to develop up to 4,500 residential units and 2.2 million square feet of non-residential use. The project is later named Westlake.

connect The Acreage with the Beeline Highway.

2010 — The discovery of a socalled “cancer cluster” in The Acreage generates national attention. 2012 — Tropical Storm Isaac dumps 18 inches of rain on The Acreage in a 48-hour period. 2013 — The county sells the Mecca Farms property to the South Florida Water Management District for $26 million. 2013 — Callery-Judge sells its

2014 — The SFWMD begins work on half of the Corbett levee. 2016 — Palm Beach County and the SFWMD work out a land trade for 150 acres of the Mecca land for a shooting range, which opens in 2020. 2016 — Palm Beach County approves a land deal with the SFWMD to reroute the Seminole Pratt Whitney Road extension to

2016 — The City of Westlake incorporates as a municipality. 2019 — The Palm Beach Transportation Planning Agency deletes the SR 7 extension from its longrange transportation plan, reversing itself two months later. It is the latest move in a decades-long saga to connect SR 7 to Northlake Blvd. 2019 — ITID submits a local bill to enable an incorporation study. It dies in a subcommittee during the 2020 session in Tallahassee. ITID may consider submitting it again next year.

1980 - 2020 • TOWN-CRIER 40TH ANNIVERSARY SOUVENIR MAGAZINE • PAGE 37

elevations high enough for septic tanks. This resulted in the M-1 and M-2 drainage plans, which allowed more homes to be built. The 120-acre M-1 and 720-acre M-2 reservoirs created at the time were sufficient for a normal rainy season but would be no match for a 100-year storm, which would likely cause flooding. In the 1980s, a contest was held among residents to name the developing area, and more than 60 new names were suggested — but the overwhelming result was to remain The Acreage. Overall, Indian Trail maintains roads and drainage canals covering approximately 25,000 acres. While the majority of The Acreage had become buildable by the late 1980s, it wasn’t until about 1990 that major drainage improvements were made, specifically regarding pump stations and the creation of the M-1 and M-2 impoundments. At about this time, Indian Trail, which receives no state gas tax or other revenue for roads or drainage, initiated a bond issue to pave some roads. The R-1 and R-2 Road Paving Plans put asphalt on Royal Palm Beach, Orange Grove, Persimmon, Sunset, Avocado, Orange and Coconut boulevards. While creating efficient roadways posed a challenge, the biggest problem has always been drainage. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the area’s population exploded with an influx of new residents moving deeper and deeper into the northern and western areas of The Acreage — areas to which Indian Trail had been draining its stormwater until that point. Now the district had to drain both these areas, as well as


Acreage/Indian Trail

HISTORY

tion. That effort, however, was cut short due to lawsuits from environmental organizations, and Scripps subsequently turned its attention to its present site in Jupiter. The county wound up selling the Mecca property in 2013 to the SFWMD for $26 million. The SFWMD plans to build a water storage and treatment area there intended to help restore the Loxahatchee River. The Mecca Farms land has also figured into several other Acreage issues. In 2016, the county and the SFWMD worked out a land trade for 150 acres of the Mecca site, and the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission broke ground for a large-scale shooting range, which opened this year. Also in 2016, the county approved a land deal with the SFWMD to reroute the Seminole Pratt Whitney Road extension to connect The Acreage with the Beeline highway, which originally ran between the J.W. Corbett Wildlife Management Area and the Mecca

site. It was rerouted to run east of Mecca, resolving one of several long-contended routes in and out of The Acreage. The Mecca saga also led to the long-running “water wars,” where the county ultimately gained easement rights to run water lines in The Acreage, whose residents still rely predominantly on wells and septic tanks. The question of easement rights came to a head when ITID actually began developing its own water utility, and other entities — the Village of Royal Palm Beach, the City of West Palm Beach, Palm Beach County and the Seminole Improvement District — courted ITID in hopes of becoming its potable water provider. The county eventually won utility rights in The Acreage, although its original intent was to get water to the now-defunct Scripps site at Mecca. In its rush to develop the Mecca site for Scripps, the county began laying water pipe to the site without consulting ITID. ITID sued the county, and

in 2008 reached a settlement. An interlocal agreement was signed under which ITID ceded its water utility rights to the county, which had already bought Royal Palm Beach’s competing utility. In 2009, Gov. Charlie Crist visited the Nicole Hornstein Equestrian Park, formerly Hamlin Equestrian Park, in The Acreage to sign Nicole’s Law, which requires all riders 16 and under to wear a helmet while riding on public roads, rights-of-way and while taking riding lessons. Hornstein died in 2006 at age 12 after being thrown from her horse, and a public campaign ensued to enact the law, led by her parents, Gary and Monique Hornstein. In 2010, the discovery of a so-called “cancer cluster” in The Acreage led to widespread publicity, including a visit by environmental crusader Erin Brockovich, who gained national notoriety from her involvement in a large lawsuit in California against Pacific Gas & Electric, and a subse-

quent movie that centered on her. The families of Acreage cancer patients filed lawsuits. While a study confirmed that there was a somewhat elevated rate of certain cancers in the community, the numbers involved in the study were fairly small and a cause was never determined, although much blame was cast. A Garden of Hope memory park was dedicated in the new Acreage Community Park expansion, founded by Tracie Newfield, the mother of Jessica Newfield, who was diagnosed with brain cancer and has since recovered. Tropical Storm Isaac in 2012 wasn’t a strong storm, but it was a wet storm, dumping 18 inches of rain on The Acreage in a 48hour period. The storm left roads, driveways and yards in the community underwater for more than a week, partially due to restrictions on ITID’s ability to quickly draw down water due to its limited drainage rights. Fortunately, few if any homes were damaged by water

due to their required raised construction on pads, although some septic fields were compromised. The phenomenon, however, left many residents frustrated and angry at having been stranded in their homes if they did not have high-water vehicles. Since then, ITID has been aggressively working toward finding additional water storage and drainage rights. Isaac also threatened to breach the levee protecting The Acreage from the J.W. Corbett Wildlife Management Area. The state eventually agreed to fund half the estimated cost of $8 million to reinforce the levee, and the SFWMD began work in 2014. But funding for the other half, which has risen to $5.7 million, remains unallocated. Discussion of incorporation has always generated strong opinion on both sides of the issue and no doubt will in the future. Proponents argue that incorporation will entitle The Acreage to state revenue sharing funds and greater

PAGE 38 • TOWN-CRIER 40TH ANNIVERSARY SOUVENIR MAGAZINE • 1980 - 2020

Fast-Growing Westlake Quickly Takes Shape

Nearly everyone in the western communities has an opinion on Westlake, which today is rising quickly on land that was once an orange grove surrounded by The Acreage. Some say it represents the future of the area, some think the hype is overblown and some see it as the end of the semi-rural lifestyle many in the area covet. No matter your opinion, it is probably the most important single development built in central Palm Beach County since Wellington in the 1970s. While Westlake is new, the idea of Westlake is not. It was 1964 when Callery-Judge Grove began its operations on the 3,800-acre site. While it remained in citrus for more than 40 years, there were quiet discussions about future residential development back in the 1990s, which was when Callery-Judge provided the land now occupied by Western Pines Middle School and Golden Grove Elementary School, both of which opened in 1997. When the school district came calling again, Callery-Judge provided the land for Seminole Ridge High School, which opened in 2005. By then, the citrus industry had waned in South Florida and Callery-Judge was openly talking up its development plans. However, its initial proposal included a bit of overreach. In 2007, the Palm

Beach County Commission rejected Callery-Judge’s plan to develop 10,000 homes with 3.8 million square feet of commercial use. However, that was not the end of the story. The Florida Legislature later passed the Agricultural Enclave Act, which made it easier for parcels surrounded by development to get approvals to build. It did not give Callery-Judge everything it wanted, but it offered a powerful tool when negotiating with Palm Beach County. In 2013, Callery-Judge sold its 3,800 acres to Minto, which got county approval in 2014 to develop up to 4,500 residential units and 2.2 million square feet of non-residential use. The project was later named Westlake. Then, after disagreements with the county over the pace of building approvals, Minto engineered the incorporation of the nearly uninhabited land — there were five total voters — to create the City of Westlake. There are way more than five voters now. Home sales in Westlake continue to beat projections, as Minto has sold more than 640 single-family homes since opening in October 2017. A census report last year showed that Westlake is the fastest growing city in Florida. Much of the community is being built by Minto itself. “We were extremely pleased with the success

of our first two neighborhoods — The Hammocks, which is sold out, and The Meadows, which is more than 80 percent sold out. We anticipate this incredible momentum to continue with The Groves,” said Mike Belmont, president of Minto Communities USA, earlier this year when announcing the opening of Westlake’s third residential neighborhood. There are several other residential projects included, such as Cresswind by Kolter Homes, which will be a 55-plus community. As home sales remain brisk,

so does the pace of non-residential development. In addition to a recent fire station opening, Christ Fellowship Church has started building an 800-seat worship center. Construction is also scheduled to begin on a new 7-Eleven gas station and convenience store, and Florida Power & Light has completed a 400-acre solar energy center. Last year, Wellington Regional Medical Center opened a new stand-alone emergency room and, a few months later acquired an adjoining 35 acres for a future medical campus.

An entrance sign welcomes people to Westlake.

The current site plan of the growing Westlake community.


local authority, while opponents say incorporation will only create another layer of government capable of levying taxes on the community. After an Acreage incorporation effort led by a community group in 2017 didn’t advance the issue, the ITID board renewed an incorporation study in 2019. This time, it’s part of an effort to gain political strength in countering the impact of communities going up around the area. ITID submitted a local bill to enable the board to study incorporation, but the bill died in subcommittee during the 2020 legislative session. ITID may consider putting it forward again next year. Today, The Acreage is approaching buildout, with less than 1,000 lots remaining to develop. It remains a unique mix of modern suburbia and quiet rural living, although growth in surrounding communities threatens to disrupt that lifestyle. The master-planned City of Westlake approved by Palm Beach County in 2014 is being developed on 3,800 acres of former citrus

grove that Callery-Judge sold to Minto in 2013. The builder is developing up to 4,500 residential units and up to 2.2 million square feet of non-residential use. In 2016, the county approved a 4,000-home community by GL Homes on its 4,500-acre site in the western part of the Acreage, which remains unbuilt. GL Homes offered to become an activated unit in ITID and offered 640 acres to be used as a stormwater retention area, an inviting offer for a district with major drainage issues and revenue challenges. The nearby 1,288-acre Iota Carol project, surrounded by the GL Homes property, requested up to 1,030 homes but was rejected by the Palm Beach County Commission in a reversal from previous development approvals in the area. The developer later received approval to build a solar farm on the southern half of the property. Avenir, under development to the north as part of Palm Beach Gardens, as well as West Palm Beach communities to the east, pose future challenges on Northlake Blvd. Dealing with traffic and in-

frastructure has long been a key issue, and it will remain so in the future. ITID has enacted a traffic calming program currently in the experimental stage with funding from the Florida Department of Transportation intended to cut down on an unusually high accident rate in The Acreage and discourage cut-through traffic into neighborhoods. Yet communities to the east, which are extensions of the City of West Palm Beach, have been antagonistic to roadway improvements that would benefit their neighbors to the west. In the latest chapter in a decades-long fight over the extension of State Road 7 to Northlake Blvd., the Palm Beach Transportation Planning Agency in February 2020 reinstated the long-planned extension — a project that has been strongly supported by ITID for decades and opposed by West Palm Beach — to its long-range transportation plan after being abruptly removed at its meeting in December 2019. The SR 7 extension, which remains tied up in court, would complete a connection from Okeechobee Blvd.

The Town-Crier covered the long-awaited opening of Seminole Ridge High School in August 2005, including the traffic woes that accompanied it. Traffic on Seminole Pratt Whitney Road has been a recurring issue in the area, including today with the ongoing development of Westlake.

to Northlake Blvd. The partially complete extension currently puts SR 7 traffic onto Persimmon Blvd. and 60th Street North. The extension saga exemplifies the rivalry between residents of The Acreage, and the western commu-

nities in general, with the coastal communities over limited funding available to support infrastructure work, and The Acreage and ITID remain hamstrung with limited political clout to be at the table when decisions are made.

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Town-Crier Newspaper 40th Anniversary Souvenir Magazine  

Join us as we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Town-Crier newspaper with a look back at the history of our newspaper, as well as the hi...

Town-Crier Newspaper 40th Anniversary Souvenir Magazine  

Join us as we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Town-Crier newspaper with a look back at the history of our newspaper, as well as the hi...