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Frank's Plantation

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But that seems to have been forgotten by Veltri and the city. During the last five years, the area has been invaded by huge retail developments, and Veltri allowed that to happen.

For buyers of computer equipment, Plantation Acres is now the place to go; within a few square miles, the neighborhood has a Best Buy, a Gateway computer center, a CompUSA, and a Circuit City, all geared to service residents, not of Plantation Acres, but of all Broward County. It's also the apparent religious capital of the county with eight churches, bringing with them traffic and plenty of parking lot pavement placed in the heart of the rural neighborhoods.

So much for "convenience needs."
"Do we need four computer megastores there? No way," says long-time Plantation Acres resident and activist Eileen Parente. "I have a telescope, a big telescope, and there's so much light pollution now you can't see the stars anymore. You used to be able to see the stars."

Parente brings up just one of the simple -- and certainly profound -- impacts of huge developments besieging a wannabe rural community. The neighborhood is also contending with noise and a lot of traffic, which makes it impossible for the equestrian residents to ride their horses on many of the roads (an amenity the city also promised to protect).

In addition to the computer stores, there is a massive Pep Boys automotive store, a regional Michael's store, a giant Petsmart, and a Party Supermarket in the special zoning district. All bring in traffic from around the county; none of them is the least bit "rural" in nature. All were fought against by the Plantation Acres Land and Homeowners Association, even as Allsworth -- who represented the business interests of many of the stores -- got the city council and Veltri to go along with their construction. "We tried as hard as we could to keep them out, but the city just kept letting them in," says Nick Perris, vice president of the homeowners association.

Veltri did nothing to stop the stores from moving in, and when he had a chance to veto the Pep Boys store, he didn't do it. He says he wasn't about to fight the developments, because doing so would have led to lawsuits by the developers. "If I could have done it, I wouldn't have had anything but an ice cream parlor out there," Veltri says. "But the law supports the owner of the land. It was zoned commercial."

Statements like that -- when Veltri speaks as if the area were never given special protection -- infuriate some Plantation Acres residents. Veltri seems truly not to know that his own ordinances state flat out that the Acres should have been protected from big, regional developments.

"It was a special district in only one concept is my understanding, and that is that it allowed animals out there," Veltri says. "That didn't have anything to do with businesses. You can't swing the law."

"Fred Peters, I believe in my heart, if he were alive today, would come in and beat the fuck out of Frank and everyone else who ruined his city," says Councilman Hillier.

While that contention may be doubtful (at least in the literal sense), Hillier says he's certain of it. He won his council seat with votes from both Plantation Acres, where he lives, and the east, where State Road 7 has been deteriorating for some two decades. Plantation has made numerous plans over the years to revitalize the area, but under Veltri's rule little has been done. Veltri says that is because business owners wouldn't put up their share.

"I kept thinking the city was going to do something," says Charles Cannon, a community activist who lives and works on the east side of Plantation. "There were always new plans and ideas. It never did. Veltri and his developer friends were always more interested in doing things for the west."

With these problems Plantation is hardly the model of growth it was meant to be. As development begins to cover western Palm Beach County -- an area that Gulfstream said 26 years ago would "inevitably" become connected to the urban grid rooted in Miami -- some there are hoping the same mistakes won't be repeated. If there must be growth, they say, let it be strictly controlled and planned, so that people will have decent yards and space to breathe when it's done.

"I'm afraid this area is going to look like Plantation in a very few years," said former Palm Beach County commissioner Ken Adams in a Sun-Sentinel article. "It's six-lane intersections with traffic waiting two changes of the light."

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Journalist Bob Norman has been raking the muck of South Florida for the past 25 years. His work has led to criminal cases against corrupt politicians, the ouster of bad judges from the bench, and has garnered dozens of state, regional, and national awards.
Contact: Bob Norman

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