Minto West: Sprawling Into The Everglades Spirals Taxpayer Deficits

Minto West Development, the latest battle in the ongoing “Browardization” of Palm Beach County proposes to plunk down intense residential/commercial onto a 3,800 acre orange grove. 

The folks who already live out there ride horses down unpaved streets.  The Palm Beach County land use plan currently allows about 3,000 homes to be constructed; however, Minto West, like most Florida developers, wants more density.

The developer initially asked for an upzoning to 6,500 units and 1.4 million square feet of commercial space—more than double the current allowed density.  A hue and cry arose from residents who don’t want their rural ambiance to be swallowed in a sea of urbanization.  In the face of community anger Minto West has revised its proposal to a new density of 4,549 houses and 2.1 million square feet of commercial.

Revised Minto West Map

Unlike many Florida counties, Palm Beach County has impact fees paid by the developer to offset the costs of new development.  They average about $10,400 per new single family residence.  Most of the impact fee is for roads–$7,280.56 per single family house.  If Minto builds only single family houses, the impact fees will be $47,309,600.  These fees will almost offset the one-time road cost, but impact fees don’t cover ongoing sprawl charges.  Impact fees are often negotiated downward by the developer; so it’s important to ask what they actually are for Minto West.

This is a good opportunity to apply the sprawl calculator.   Let’s run the numbers:

Added Sprawl costs for the new development (residential only):

Annual Costs

Type of Cost

At Build-out for 4549 houses

Per house

How computed & comments




[# houses X .7 children per house* X $10,754 per student]




[# houses X  $271 per house for fire service]




[# houses X $365 per house for police]

Est’d property tax paid



At the County average of $275,000 per house.  Est’d property taxes shown for illustrative purposes only.  Their taxes do not all apply against costs of services.

Subtotal Annual Cost Deficit



Paid by all taxpayers in the county outside the neighborhood.

One time cost





Road costs [# houses X  $9,316 per house] are one time only, not including maintenance

Impact fee



Stated Palm Beach Road Impact Fee, often negotiated down, ask what is the actual amount

One Time Road Cost Deficit



* Florida statewide average; 2010 census

How do impact fees fit in? The school, fire and police impact fee is a partial offset for one year—the initial year after construction, and is paid incrementally, as each contingent of houses is built.

Impact Fee

At Build-out for 4549 houses

Per House


Schools, Fire, Police



Stated Palm Beach School, Fire, Police Impact Fee, often negotiated down, ask for the actual amount.

If Minto West is approved to build 4,549 houses, the Price of Sprawl Calculator computes that the road cost to Palm Beach County is $9.25 million (not including maintenance) net after estimated impact fees to the county taxpayers.    At build-out Minto West’s annual sprawl charge to taxpayers for schools, police and fire will be $25.0 million.

Please note we are excluding costs for many of those amenities we associate with the traditional American middle class community such as parks, libraries, and athletic fields.  Also not included are costs of water, sewer, and waste management—all services provided at taxpayer expense.

The median property tax on a house in Palm Beach County is $2,679.00 based on the average home value of $275,000.  Unless each house sells for about $800,000, a significant sprawl deficit will accumulate very quickly and grow year after year.  This charge will be the taxpayers’ burden.

Crunch the numbers, ask the questions and focus the discussion on the costs to YOU the taxpayer.  Why should taxpayers pay for sprawl they don’t want?

3 thoughts on “Minto West: Sprawling Into The Everglades Spirals Taxpayer Deficits

  1. Pingback: Could DC Add Bike Lanes to Its Traffic Circles? |

  2. So the cost of this “sprawl” is all about the schools? Interesting. “Sprawl” is usually a pejorative term, contrasted with things like density, infill development, walkable neighborhoods, etc. But your analysis seems to imply that the main ongoing cost of this development will be the schooling costs, and it seems like those costs would be similar even if the development were not “sprawl” but were dense, walkable, downtown neighborhoods. Is this right? Is your analysis really against ANY development? (I ask as someone who’s interested in having denser and more walkable neighborhoods, because I like them better. In my own neighborhood (somewhat urban), I’ve argued at community meetings for allowing more density–i wonder how the school costs figures in…)

    • All costs that are related to infrastructure and services for a new sprawl development are higher than if the development happened as urban infill. The costs depicted on are averages where in town development is at the lower end of the spectrum and sprawl is higher.

      School costs are a prominent cost, and the costs depicted on the website are not the only ones. But if devlelopment is infill, much of the existing infrastructure already there can be used.

      The least cost effective development is in outlying areas where no infrastructure exists, such that any costs to service the new development not already negotiated up front w the developer are born by taxpayers of the whole county.

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