Housing Rules Threaten Magna's Florida Training Center

Current regulations in Palm Beach County could threaten Magna Entertainment's plans for a large South Florida training center because of the inclusion of housing for up to 500 grooms, according to a report in the Palm Beach Post.

The training center, to be located on 480 acres of threatened farmland in the Agricultural Reserve west of Boynton Beach, was purchased by Magna for $22 million. It is designed to replace a significant portion of the stable area of Gulfstream Park, also owned by Magna, when a major renovation project at the Hallandale track begins as early as 2002.

Magna wants to build apartments ranging in size from 250 to 500 square feet, the Post reported, but county commissioner Burt Aaronson was quoted at a Dec. 19 meeting as saying, "We're supposed to be keeping as much housing out of the Ag Reserve as we can."

The land has been used most recently to grow vegetables. Magna hopes to build a 1 1/8-mile dirt track, two turf courses, and stalls for up to 1,800 horses.

Magna attorney Jim Brindell told commissioners Magna Entertainment "isn't a development company."

According to the Post, current regulations allow just one dwelling per acre in the Agricultural Reserve. Commissioner Mary McCarty said she favored changing the rules to accommodate a project like the Magna training center. "I'm for anything with horses," she was quoted as saying. "It's big, big business."

Aaronson reminded fellow commissioners that in 1999 "people taxed themselves $100 million to keep density out and agriculture in. I don't want to ruin the reserve, and I don't want to ruin public confidence in us."