Wellington’s newly configured Equestrian Preserve Committee set priorities at its meeting Wednesday that included a controversial proposal for regulations to control some aspects of properties with agricultural exemptions.
Working from the 71-page Equestrian Action Plan that had been passed out at a previous meeting, the committee set out a schedule to address different phases.
Committee Chair Jane Cleveland said she was impressed with the plan but wanted to organize meetings so that the committee addresses different aspects of the plan separately to improve efficiency.
One aspect of the plan drew attention to an exemption that the report suggests would call into question the standards by which buildings are constructed, which could lead to difficulty in maintaining a “world-class” standard.
Cleveland said she wanted to define what “world-class” venue means, and village staff’s plan of action to address that.
“To me there’s two parts to ‘world-class,’” she said. “There’s the Wellington, municipal part of world class and the management of the residential farm areas, and then there’s the venues.”
Cleveland said she thought all the venue operators should be invited to talk about how they feel about the plan and what it takes to be world-class.
“I don’t run a horse show business,” she said. “We all go to shows, and we all know what we like in shows, but horse shows are a complex business, and it would be interesting to know from them what it takes to be world-class.”
Committee Vice Chair Dr. Kristy Lund, the only returning committee member, said the previous committee had met with all of them.
“Most of what we talked about was what Wellington can do to make your life easier,” Lund said. “A lot that came out was permitting, having to produce special use permits every single year and why it’s so difficult to do that.”
Lund said people who took a survey were enthusiastic about equestrian trail development, but that wasn’t high on the plan.
“I thought the trails were high on the list, and I sort of see them lost,” Lund said. “I’d like to see them in phase one.”
Lund added that she was disappointed that an equestrian overpass had been pushed to phase three.
“That’s part of the trail system and making everything move easier,” she said. “I just thought that some of the priorities were a little bit off compared to what we’ve talked about in the past. I would shift some things around and go back to the survey to see what’s most important.”
Committee Member Doug Hundt had similar concerns about priorities.
“After spending time going through this, I have basically the same questions that Kristy had,” Hundt said. “The information is all there, but what do we do with it? Where do we start? I’m hoping that’s why we’re here. We’re going to prioritize some of these things.”
He agreed that some parts of the plan should be moved up.
“The roads and the overpass would definitely be something that I think needs to be prioritized,” Hundt said. “That’s a huge project, and to me that’s one of the first things that needs to get going. It can’t be done overnight.”
Committee Member Dr. Rachel Eidelman agreed with prioritization and preparing a list to get things done one by one. “Tackle that first thing, and get it done,” she said.
Committee Member Robert Bushey agreed that the document would be impossible to address all at once.
“We need to pick out the most important one, two, three at the most, items and try and get them solved,” Bushey said. “We’ll never get through all of that in one two-hour meeting a month.”
Board Member Carol Cohen agreed with Lund’s priorities.
“Traffic and flow is the most important thing,” Cohen said. “We need to take those issues, get them going, put them at the first of the list and just make some decisions.”
Wellington Projects Manager Mike O’Dell said the plan had been posted on the village web site and about 300 e-mails sent to interested people.
“First and foremost, we have labeled this as a draft document, and that’s purposely done because we would like for you all to read it and give us your input,” O’Dell said.
He added that the information was collected over a period of time.
“The time that this was started back in around 2012 and 2013, if you think back to those time frames, the community was in great divide, so some of the information that we have, some of the survey information, could be skewed based on what was happening in the community then,” O’Dell said, adding that priorities could be rearranged and things could be brought up that committee members thought had been missed.
O’Dell explained that the committee had developed milestones included in the plan to serve as a measureable goal, and suggested starting there in a discussion of priorities.
“We can go back to the milestones, and if some of those items need to have greater, in-depth discussion, staff can provide you more information,” he said.
One of the first items is to develop an economic development strategy.
“One of the important factors that I hope we’ve highlighted in the booklet was that we have an issue associated with the agricultural classification,” he said. “It’s an agricultural classification that allows tax reductions based on your agricultural lands.”
O’Dell said that it is understandably looked upon as a tax paid to all ad valorem taxing agencies, but on the other hand is the amount of economic impact the horse industry has on the area. He added that staff has also become concerned about construction exemptions that have been allowed under state agricultural exemptions.
He added that economic studies done on the equestrian industry had been conducted for the county, and not Wellington per se.
“We’ve never been able to quantify what it means for Wellington,” O’Dell said.