ROYAL PALM BEACH, FL (WFLX) - Taking their land for free.
That is what a Royal Palm Beach neighborhood said a developer is in the process of doing in order to construct a new shopping complex.
On one side of Pioneer Road sits the Westwoods neighborhood, a quiet complex of houses tucked in just east of State Road 441. On the other side of the street sits a 1,000 foot buffer the neighborhood owns to keep the peace.
Residents now fear they could lose their slice of paradise because of eminent domain. "It's a way of life. It's our heart and soul. It's peace. It's serenity. It's why we came to Palm Beach County," said Don Armsey, a resident.
Armsey said the Homeowners Association bought the land decades ago to protect the neighborhood. Now, a commercial developer wants to snatch it up to create an access point for a new shopping center. "So what he wants to do is just seize our property, just take it from us and make it one big giant road. More concrete. More traffic lights," said Armsey.
The developer wants to obtain the land using eminent domain, citing "public safety" as the reason it could impact the entire South Florida community.
"It's 2013. There's commercial development up and down 441 and Wellington. And while I understand they're trying to protect their 41 homes in the community,it's inevitable that commercial development is going to happen along this corridor," said Jared Weiner of Pebb Enterprises.
Weiner said he needs the strips of land to prevent congestion and car accidents. If he does not get the buffer land, he said it will not stop the project.
"The parcel will go as is. There's a proposed shopping center on the site. However it would be dangerous," said Weiner.
Armsey and the rest of the concerned neighborhood contest they were in the area first, it is their land to sell or keep and that the issues the developer is facing is not their problem. "You've got enough money; you have tenants. You don't need this, but we do. We need it more than you do," said Armsey.
A decision is set to be made at a December 3rd Palm Beach County Commission meeting. The neighborhood plans to start a petition to stop the developer from acquiring the land.