The Agricultural (AG) Reserve and COBWRA
What is the Ag Reserve?
Palm Beach County leads the state in agricultural sales and is among the top ten largest agricultural counties in the United States. Palm Beach County is the largest agricultural county east of the Mississippi River. The total economic impact of agriculture is over $2.6 billion. Between 9,000 and 12,000 workers are employed with wages reaching some $340 million. Palm Beach County leads the nation in the production of sugarcane, bell peppers and fresh sweet corn. It leads the state in the production of rice, lettuce, radishes, Chinese vegetables, specialty leaf lettuce and celery. There are two main agricultural areas: the muck soil of the Everglade Agricultural area in western Palm Beach County and the sandy soil of the Ag Reserve.
Ag Reserve and the Palm Beach County Comprehensive Plan
The Board of County Commissioners created the Ag Reserve as part of the Palm Beach County Comprehensive Plan. Approved agricultural uses include: row crops, equestrian, packing plants, farm markets, and support facilities for agriculture such as farm equipment services and feed stores. The Palm Beach County Ag Reserve is unique because it is the closest agricultural area to the Gulf Stream and in over 60 years, it has never suffered a hard freeze. This makes Palm Beach County’s Ag Reserve the nation’s main supplier of winter vegetables. The land is valuable for agriculture since up to four crops per year can be realized. The sandy soil is perfect for bell peppers, Chinese vegetables, lettuce, sweet corn, celery and radishes.
People are often confused by the terms Ag Reserve and Ag Preserve:
- Ag Reserve: Refers to the area bounded by the Turnpike on the east, Clint Moore Road on the South, the Arthur Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge on the West and a zigzag line between Hypoluxo Road and Boynton Beach Blvd. on the North. The Ag Reserve area is 21,981 acres. The Ag Reserve was created to preserve agriculture, wetlands and open space.
- Ag Preserve: This is the designation for parcels within the Ag Reserve set aside to be preserved exclusively forever for agricultural uses and these parcels have no development rights. There are 6,058 acres set aside for preservation. There are two types of Preserve areas within the Ag Reserve. Each has its own rules for land use:
County Owned preserve areas purchased with $100,000,000 in funds approved by the Public Bond issue of 1999. The county purchased 2,570 acres with these funds as forever preserve for agricultural uses. Development is not possible and these lands are rented to farmers. The rental proceeds are used to maintain environmentally sensitive lands. Some of the Bond funds were also used to purchase environmentally sensitive lands in other parts of the county.
Preserve areas set aside by developers as part of the 60% preserve – 40% development rule in the Ag Reserve. There are also a few developments utilizing the 80% preserve – 20% development rule. Development includes residential PUDs (Planned Unit Developments) and two commercial TMDs (Traditional Marketplace Developments) at the intersections of Lyons Road and Boynton Beach Blvd. and Atlantic Avenue. Development of these preserve areas is not possible under current rules. Most of these lands are owned by the developers and rented to farmers.
COBWRA has always supported the Agriculture Reserve and considers it to be a very important part of the COBWRA service area. COBWRA remains active today with a committee monitoring proposed changes to the Ag Reserve Master Plan and the Growth Management Committee reviews all proposed developments in the Ag Reserve.
You can see the Ag Reserve Master Plan online at: http://www.pbcgov.com/pzb/planning/publications/Ag_Reserve_Master_Plan.pdf.
You can find a map of the Ag Reserve showing the areas of Preserve parcels and areas developed as well as parcels approved for future development at: http://www.pbcgov.com/pzb/Planning/ag_reserve/AGR_Small_Map.pdf.
For a history and more complete explanation of the Ag Reserve, go to: http://www.pbcgov.com/pzb/planning/ARG_workshop/index.htm
Adopted – September 2014