Decisions on two controversial items that could affect the future of Wellington’s equestrian community were postponed at Tuesday’s meeting of the Wellington Village Council.
Council members were set to hear arguments concerning the commercial equestrian arena designation at the controversial Equestrian Village development (artistic rendering shown above). However, that was before an attorney for property owner Wellington Equestrian Partners pointed out that the village did not provide proper notice for the meeting.
The second item postponed was a discussion by the council on when to place a referendum on the ballot that could change Wellington’s charter to require a unanimous council vote for changes to land development regulations on properties in or around the Wellington Equestrian Preserve.
Representatives for the petitioners, Preserve Wellington Inc., requested a delay on the discussion until the organization can decide whether or not to withdraw the petition.
Council members initially postponed a decision on whether to rescind approval for Equestrian Village’s commercial equestrian arena in May.
Director of Growth Management Bob Basehart explained that because the master plan on the site was rescinded at the last meeting, and because property owners failed to plat the site by March 31, the commercial equestrian designation should be rescinded.
“That plat cannot be approved now at all because the master plan amendment was revoked,” he said. “Staff believes that the appropriate action for this would be to revoke the approval… for the commercial equestrian arena.”
Vice Mayor Howard Coates asked whether there was any other property in Wellington with a compatibility determination without a master plan.
Basehart said that the only other property with a commercial equestrian arena is the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center. “That is subject to the Country Place PUD master plan,” he said.
Coates asked whether there is a requirement in Wellington’s code that a compatibility determination have a master plan plat.
Basehart said that it is required, which prompted Coates to ask why council members were hearing the item if there is only one possible option.
“If what you’re saying is correct, that you have to have a master plan in place to have a compatibility determination, then how can this council move any way but that the compatibility determination should be revoked?” he asked.
Basehart noted that the property still has a master plan. “What was revoked was the amendment to the master plan,” he said. “That puts the master plan back to the state before that application.”
Coates asked if the previous master plan could sustain a commercial equestrian arena.
Basehart said it could not. “My position would be no,” he said. “The reason that the master plan amendment application was made was because what the applicant wanted to do wasn’t consistent with the established master plan. It designated the property a polo and tennis facility. Additionally, there were a couple of access points that needed to be added so the property could function as intended.”
Discussion of the item was cut short when Dan Rosenbaum, attorney for Wellington Equestrian Partners, notified the council that the meeting had not been properly noticed. “You haven’t complied with the notice requirement,” he said.
Rosenbaum said that village code requires that the property owner in question be notified of staff’s recommendation to the council; however, that recommendation changed in light of the master plan revocation.
“Staff’s recommendation, which was noticed on May 2 and received on May 7, was to approve this item — to extend the condition,” Rosenbaum said. “That recommendation has now changed to rescinding or revoking the condition. But we never received notice of that.”
Village Attorney Jeff Kurtz said that in light of that information, the council should continue the item to its July 10 meeting to provide time for notice.
Council members voted unanimously to postpone the item until then.
The council also voted to table discussion on the referendum until July while petitioners decide whether to move forward with the measure.
The question that petitioners requested be put before voters was, “Shall the charter of the Village of Wellington be amended to require that amendments to the village’s land development regulations which increase height, density, intensity, floor area ratio or lot coverage on property located within, abutting or contiguous to the Equestrian Overlay Zoning District require approval by five affirmative votes of the [Wellington] Village Council?”
Petitioners gathered 4,741 signatures, 3,978 of which were found to be qualified electors in Wellington. Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher and Village Clerk Awilda Rodriguez reviewed the signatures and certified that the petitioners had met the criteria necessary to hold the referendum.
Council members were supposed to decide whether to put the question to voters on the primary or general election ballot, or whether to hold a special election.
But attorney John Shubin with Preserve Wellington Inc. requested the item be tabled. “The proponents of this charter amendment have been having internal discussion as to whether or not we still wish to move forward,” he said.
Coates asked when the organization would be ready to discuss the item. Shubin requested it be moved to July 10.
Rodriguez noted that the matter is time-sensitive. “The supervisor of elections has requested we let her know if we want this on the November ballot as soon as possible,” she said.
But Kurtz said July 10 would meet the necessary timing.
Councilwoman Anne Gerwig asked whether the petitioners were allowed to withdraw the petition once it has been turned in. Kurtz said they could.
Council members voted unanimously to table the item.