The History of COBWRA
In 1981 and before…the area known as West Boynton was home to cattle, snakes, and wildlife of all kinds. Only the adventurous would venture west of Congress Avenue, which was thought to be the end of civilization. Military Trail was a dirt road used to service the area farms and nurseries, since its elevation above the swamp land kept it dry during the rainy season.
In the 1970s there was a hot debate about extending 2nd Avenue (now known as Boynton Beach Boulevard) west to the Turnpike and building an interchange. Twenty-second Street (now known as Gateway Boulevard) and Woolbright Road both ended at Congress Avenue. Lawrence Road was a narrow dirt lane with orange groves, which have all disappeared. Cows once grazed where the Fountains Plaza now stands. Ocean Avenue, with only two lanes, was the main east-west road, and Jog Road south ended at Lantana Road. Past President Al Miller rode dirt bikes in the area where Jog Road later extended southward. Congress Avenue had only two lanes and ended in Delray Beach.
The 1980 census showed a population of 11,311 for West Boynton. By 1990, the population almost tripled to 30,344 people. In 2000, the population had more than doubled to 73,631 people. The Coalition of Boynton West Residential Associations is the vision of one man, Dr. Richard Carrington, who retired to Florida in 1979. He and his wife purchased a home in Greentree Villas, on Boynton Beach Boulevard, east of Military Trail, in an area considered the “country.” One day, he and his wife, Doris, went for a walk in the “country,” going west toward Military Trail. As they crossed the single-lane dirt road, they noticed a banner across Military Trail announcing the coming of a new shopping center that included a K-Mart. Dr. Carrington went to the county offices to learn more about the shopping center. As he was pouring over the records, he became aware of the urban sprawl that was happening to the West Boynton area and across all of Palm Beach County. He decided to do something about it. He called a group of his friends from other associations and asked, “What can we do about what’s happening to the quality of life in our neighborhood?” He suggested they meet and consider joining forces. Their first meeting was held in the Greentree Villas office on June 9, 1981, where they decided to hold another meeting and invite more associations to join them.
At the next meeting, in the Mirror Lakes clubhouse on July 15, 1981, a decision was made to form a coalition. Dr. Carrington was elected to serve as president and spokesperson. They set the annual dues at $25 per community. At the third meeting on July 23, 1981, in the Greentree Villas clubhouse, the Coalition elected its first officers and set up committees on Zoning and Permits, Water Management, Law Enforcement, Environmental Control, Roads and Streets, and Liaison with the City of Boynton Beach.
At its August 1981 meeting, the Coalition had its first invited speaker: Mr. Robert Basehart, Executive Director of Palm Beach County Planning, Zoning & Building. At that same meeting, the Coalition decided to speak out against a huge new airport the county had proposed for the area west of the Turnpike between Clint Moore Road and NW 2nd Avenue (now Boynton Beach Boulevard.) The Coalition added first and second alternates to the draft Bylaws and adopted the Bylaws at the September 1981 meeting. By that time, membership had grown to 12 communities. The first County Commissioner to address the Coalition was Commissioner Norman Gregory, which took place at the October 1981 meeting.
For the first few years, the organization referred to itself as “The Coalition.” At a County Commission meeting, Dr. Carrington made his point about the quality of life in the West Boynton area and convinced the Commission to disapprove a just-presented petition. Commissioner Dennis Kohler, blurted out, “COBWRA has struck again!,” and from that day forward, the coalition has been known as COBWRA. The rest of the story is now history—and what a history it has been! Dr. Carrington set a lofty goal: to strive for the best quality of life for West Boynton’s residents. COBWRA never lost sight of that goal under the leadership of all of the presidents following Dr. Carrington. From the beginning, COBWRA adopted a firm policy against endorsement of any candidate for public office or any political party. All Coalition positions taken on issues are based on a non-partisan approach.
In 1991, COBWRA asked the county to help prepare a master development plan for West Boynton. The plan was developed in concert with Palm Beach County Planning, Zoning & Building together with representatives from the City of Boynton Beach. The result was the 102-page document known as the West Boynton Area Community Plan. Adopted both by the City of Boynton Beach and the Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners in 1995, the plan has served as the blueprint for development in the West Boynton area. The plan is supplemented by the addition of the Boynton Beach Turnpike Corridor Plan, written in 1996, and revised in 2003. It includes design guidelines and standards for commercial development. Both plans are models for the county and for the state.
COBWRA works with its county officials, state legislators, and state and local agencies. COBWRA attends and speaks at meetings of the County Commission, the Zoning Commission, the Planning Commission (formerly the Land Use Advisory Board), and others. COBWRA delegates serve on many county committees including the Planning Commission and the Land Development Regulation Advisory Board (LDRAB), which reviews codes and ordinances. COBWRA helped a LDRAB subcommittee write the Big Box Ordinance for the exterior and landscaping of the Super Target on Hagen Ranch Road and Boynton Beach Boulevard. Delegates and alternates also serve on the Library Board, on the Links of Boynton Beach Golf Advisory Board, the Consumer Hearing Board, Palm Beach County Historical Commission, and the Adult Immunization Committee. In education, COBWRA has representatives on the School Advisory Boundary and School Construction Oversight Committees, and the School Board Tax Commission.
COBWRA was also among the first to endorse the Palm Meadows Training Facility, and today it is one of our jewels. Many COBWRA volunteers helped out at Palm Meadows when it became a shelter for Hurricane Katrina refugees. COBWRA helped defeat the Bullet Train; supported Medicare reimbursements for county residents on a par with Broward and Miami-Dade counties; supported attainable housing for teachers, firefighters, and others in the workforce; lobbied for landscaping with irrigation along our major roads; and established a program offering flu shots in clubhouses. There is much left to be done including reform of community and homeowners insurance laws, a new library and park in the Ag Reserve, a state park for South County, protecting communities from bad condominium and HOA laws, and finishing the new Canyon Town Center at Lyons Road and Boynton Beach Boulevard. COBWRA works closely with the West Boca Community Council and the Alliance of Delray Residential Associations as a South County Community Partnership with over 300,000 residents.
COBWRA has fulfilled Dr. Carrington’s legacy and will continue to do so.