"...In this rare and endangered place known as Loxahatchee Groves, we are free to pursue our dreams without worry that our actions will infringe upon our neighbors' rights. In this odd and precious niche, we pass the days feeling very safe and watching our children playing and fishing on our road sides..."
Loxahatchee Groves Neighborhood Plan
Welcome to the Town of Loxahatchee Groves....
....unique, eclectic, self-reliant, and everything in between.
There are no identical tract houses here, no golf courses, chain restaurants or other hallmarks of suburban southern Florida. Even the name, from a Seminole word meaning Turtle Creek, stands out from its more conventional neighbors, Royal Palm Beach and Wellington.
People in Loxahatchee Groves, nonconformist themselves, like their privacy and get plenty of it, even though their county, Palm Beach, is one of the busiest urban centers in Florida. Here, a quick ride from the clogged coast, are inhospitable dirt roads, no streetlights and large residential lots with room for nurseries, horse farms, a nudist colony, a goat-cheese dairy and an exotic-animal preserve.
Loxahatchee Groves is bounded on the east by Royal Palm Beach, on the south by Wellington and on the west and north by The Acreage. It has an area of approximately 12.5 square miles (32.4 km2) and an estimated population of more than 3,000.
How did it all get started.....
Founded in 1917, Loxahatchee Groves is the oldest of the western communities. The area is made up of 7,867 acres & gets its name from both an Indian dialect translation meaning “turtle creek” [Loxahatchee] and the acres of citrus groves that occupied the land prior to settlement. 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 was here until he passed away 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 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 Loxahatchee, was eventually sold to New Orleans-based Southern States Land and Timber Company on July 19, 1902, at the bargain price of 25 cents/acre.
Shortly after the sale, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers started work on the West Palm Beach (C-51) Canal, opening it for travel in February 1917. As the West Palm Beach branch sales manager for Southern States Land, Bensel yearned to build a community along the route of the new waterway. The result of his dream — Loxahatchee Groves — was established in 1917.
Surveying of canals, including “D” Canal, which extended approximately four miles north from what would eventually become State Road 80, began in May 1917. shortly thereafter, nearly 30 miles of canals and roads were constructed, all running parallel, with possible future roads to developments outside of the Groves.
In August of that same year, Southern States Land engineer T.G. Thorgesen and his wife moved to the area. Though it took him nearly three years to complete, finishing it on March 8, 1920, Thorgesen constructed the first topographical survey map of Loxahatchee Groves. In local lore, he completed the map by supposedly walking the entire area.
Development continued in the Groves leading to the building of a dairy farm on “D” Road north of State Road 80 and a one-room school in the area of Valencia Drive and Orange Avenue.
Five years later a drainage district, now called the Loxahatchee Groves Water Control District, was chartered in 1925 under Florida Statute 298. Supervisors of the district — at the time there were three, rather than the current five — were elected by landowners based on the one-acre-one-vote rule with proxies accepted, a practice which still remains today. The responsibility of the drainage district was to reclaim flooded lands by draining off water, provide water control during rainstorms, and assist with the road maintenance on the dirt roads.
Along with the drainage district, came several other important services provided by Bensel, including a post office, a single pump gas station, and a tiny grocery store. All of this was located on State Road 80 near “D” Road, an area that is still the “commercial hub” of the largely rural community.
Platting land in 10-acre and 20-acre tracts, with three acres dedicated exclusively to orange, grapefruit, and tangerine trees, Loxahatchee Groves residents began to realize the agricultural opportunity. The area received another boost when the 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 held the only telephone in Loxahatchee Groves. The fruit was shipped north via a small railroad that was built at State Road 80 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 State Road 80 to draw water form the West Palm Beach Canal for irrigation and other purposes. Electricity soon followed.
Things remained somewhat stagnant over the course of the next 25 years, but the out-of-the-way “utopia” would not last unchanged as the end of the 1950s neared and the 1960s began. The rural lifestyle started to change, partly due to the introduction of a new neighbor — Royal Palm Beach.
Loxahatchee Groves was sold in 1958 to Loxahatchee Investments, a subsidiary of Food Fair Grocery Corporation. One year later, the Village of Royal Palm Beach was chartered by the same company. That community developed quickly compared to Loxahatchee Groves.
In 1960, the area was basically divided into two areas, offering different lifestyles. The two Loxahatchee Groves communities were separated by Collecting Canal. The area to the north offered multi-acre homes with more privacy and the opportunity for farming. In comparison, the area to the south was called “downtown Loxahatchee” and had smaller lots with a post office and stores within walking distance. In 1960, there were perhaps 30 to 35 families living north of Collecting Canal.
At this point, 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 price of $9,000 for a 10-acre lot. After Lefcourt, RPB Colony marketed Loxahatchee Groves in five-acre tracts north of Collecting Canal for $3,750. By this time, the drainage district had been taken over by Royal Palm Beach Colony due to the huge proxy votes they held.
Ellie Hope, a long-time 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.
She also remembers just how rural life used to be. “The place was very simple. 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 their were houses up to ‘C’ Road,” Hope explained. There was a MacArthur Dairy that delivered products.”
The ruralness of the area also brought the threat of natural disasters. In addition to two hurricanes in 1964 and 1965, a large fire in May 1965 destroyed nearly 500 acres. As the 1970s began, there was a new kind of threat — development. There were little rules governing how land was zoned and many builders took advantage, said Hope.
Hope writes 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.”
To help handle the concerns of the residents of Loxahatchee, the Landowners’ Association (now known as the Loxahatchee Groves Landowners’ Association) was organized in 1969.
With the beginning of the 1980s came the population boom in both Royal Palm Beach and Wellington. That was followed by The Acreage in the late 1980s and early 1990s. This put Loxahatchee Groves in a rather precarious position as the community struggles to maintain a rural lifestyle as surrounding neighbors are destined for growth.
Where we are today.....
As a result of a strong incorporation effort from 2003-2006, the Town of Loxahatchee Groves became Palm Beach County’s newest municipality with it's incorporation on November 1, 2006. The Town joins as the 38th municipality in Palm Beach County. The first election to serve on the Town Council was held on March 13, 2007. The Town Council consists of 5 Council members led by a Mayor and Vice Mayor.
As a Town, the residents and landowners have gained great advantages that were not available as an unincoporated community. The Town now has the ability to control and have a meaningful voice in determining the future use of the undeveloped properties within the historic boundaries. This was the key issue that drove the incorporation initiative. The efforts and strides the Town has taken to support the removal of the E-Road/140th Thoroughfare is a shining example of what an incorporated Town can achieve. The Town now has control over the revenues that is brought back into our community. For the current fiscal year, 2008-2009, the Town will bring over $1.1 Million in revenue back to the community. The millage rate of 1.5000 is the same as it was for the previous year. This is a great accomplishment because of the decline in the overall ad-valorem to be received by the Town. The net surplus in revenue to the Town (after you take out the Loxahatchee Groves property taxes) is over $710,000.
The Town Council is continuing to lay the foundation for the future. By implementing a "Government Lite and Contract form of Government" the Town has been able to deliver services to the community in an efficient and cost effective manner. A Strategic Vision was adopted in July 2008 and its first Comprehensive Plan was approved by the Florida Department of Communities Affairs and is awaiting final adoption. One of the most important issues to the residents and landowners is the future of our roads. This is why the Town has completed the Master Road, Equestrian and Greenway Trail Plan (M.R.E.G.). The Town is required to plan the future road-way system as a part of the Comprehensive Plan.
As you can see, the Town Council has achieved a great deal for this community in its short history. These are just some of the many highlights and accomplishments it has completed since March 2007. As an incorporated Town, it has the power to preserve its rural character, plan for the future and deliver the most efficient and effective services to the residents and landowners of the Town of Loxahatchee Groves. With the the leadership of the Town Council and the community's active participation, this Town will continue to be a proud place everyone can call home.
Click here for a historical timeline for the Town of Loxahatchee Groves