Citing concerns about encroachment on green space in the Wellington Equestrian Preserve, members of the Wellington Village Council voted 3-1 on Tuesday to reject a proposal that would have allowed a home on a field attached to the Equestrian Club community off Lake Worth Road.
Planning & Zoning Manager David Flinchum told the council that the proposal would change the 5.1-acre parcel to a single-family home with equestrian uses, similar to homes west of the property.
Originally it was designated as a community equestrian workout area for the homes, called “ranchettes.”
Councilman Matt Willhite said that the property was meant to offset the clustered housing in the Equestrian Club. “I think this is more infringement on green space,” he said. “This was set aside because there was cluster housing in the neighborhood. I think this is just a push to add additional housing into what was supposed to be green space.”
The project was built before regulations were enacted preventing clustered housing in the Wellington Equestrian Preserve, Willhite noted.
“We have to deal with what we have,” he said. “I think this is open space that was set aside for those residential lots to utilize. I think it would take that away from these homes.”
Mayor Bob Margolis asked whether approval of the item would set a precedent. Flinchum said it would not.
“These would be handled on a case-by-case basis,” Flinchum said. “And it would have to be on surplus space.”
John Metzger, agent for the property owner, Grand Prix Farms, said that the change would actually benefit the equestrian area. He said that the property was not intended to be open space for the community. “It’s intended to be an expansion of equestrian use in the ranchettes,” he said.
Metzger said that the owners on the ranchette properties do not board their horses in community barns but, rather, have barns on their property with stalls that they can rent out to those in the development.
Councilwoman Anne Gerwig asked whether any equestrians in the community were renting out stalls, and Flinchum said there weren’t any.
Willhite said he was concerned that residents in the Equestrian Club do not have a place to keep horses, despite being billed as an equestrian community.
“Maybe it was the marketing tool at the time to call it an equestrian area,” he said. “It’s not an equestrian neighborhood if the residents have nowhere to keep their horses.”
Metzger said that changing this parcel would provide another stable for people to board their horses.
“There are stables for rent within the community,” he said. “It’s just that no one in the community has any desire to lease them.”
But Willhite pointed out that future residents might.
“If someone’s daughter decided she wanted a pony,” he said, “there’s not an opportunity for them. This should have been open space for the neighborhood.”
But Metzger said that wasn’t the purpose of the property.
“There was never an obligation for the developer to build any facility,” he said. “It was envisioned for use in the ranchette section. The developer agreed that if anything was ever built on it, residents in the eastern section would be able to use it only upon payment of rent or membership fees.”
Councilman John Greene said that when the community was being marketed, the idea was to allow residents to have their horses in the community.
“I specifically recall there being an area for residents to keep horses if they chose,” he said. “I don’t know where that changed, but it was certainly marketed that way.”
But Metzger said that residents living along the bridle trail could have a stable.
“The residents, if they wanted to have a stable and a horse,” he said, “could have one and utilize the trail.”
Gerwig said that the issue might be in the name “Equestrian Club.”
“I live in Paddock Park,” she said. “I have an acre and a quarter, and I’m not allowed to have a horse.”
Gerwig made a motion to approve the master plan amendment, but it died for lack of a second. Willhite then made a motion to deny the item, which was seconded by Greene.
The denial passed 3-1 with Gerwig opposed. Vice Mayor Howard Coates recused himself from the discussion due to a possible conflict of interest.