Neighbors Unhappy With SR 7 Development Plans

Wellington’s Planning, Zoning & Adjustment Board voted Wednesday to postpone discussion on several measures that would allow for more development on a vacant property on the west side of State Road 7, north of the Versailles community.

Despite protests from the more than 50 residents of Versailles in attendance, board members voted 5-1 to postpone the item.

The proposed changes included amendments to the land use and zoning designations and master plan for the 15.83-acre site that would allow for 66 additional rental units and 33,000 additional square feet of commercial space.

According to a staff report, the Wellington Village Council approved a mixed-use designation for the property in 2006, with 92 townhouses and 32,000 square feet of commercial space.

The changes requested by owners WPI LLC and SB Wellington LLC ask for a total of 158 multi-family rental units and 65,000 square feet of combined commercial and office space.

Eleanor Halperin, attorney for the applicant, requested the postponement because she had not been able to discuss conditions of approval with Wellington staff.

“We didn’t receive the conditions of approval until Thursday at 5:30 p.m.,” she said. “Wellington is closed Friday. We haven’t had a chance to go over them with staff. We are not prepared to address the conditions of approval to move forward this evening.”

Board members asked if she could discuss the item, but Halperin said that she was the only representative of the applicant in attendance.

But Sal Van Casteren, president of the Versailles Homeowners’ Association, was opposed to moving the meeting.

“I spent a tremendous amount of my community’s money and time to organize us to be ready tonight,” he said. “At the last minute, for this board to grant them an extension based on information they should have been prepared with, would not be proper.”

PZA Board Member Mike Drahos, who disclosed that he has an offer on a home in Versailles but was told it is not a conflict of interest, asked whether the amount of dwelling units was going to change.

“Is any part of that going to change?” he asked. “I believe that is the basis of Versailles’ objection.”

Halperin said it was not going to change.

“Then aren’t we delaying the inevitable?” Drahos asked.

But PZA Board Chair Carmine Priore III cautioned that he did not want to jump to conclusions at what the concerns from either side would be if they were not hearing the item tonight.

“Without hearing both sides,” he said, “I would prefer we not get into that level of detail.”

Planning & Zoning Manager David Flinchum noted that the item had already been postponed once because staff recommended denial due to a lack of information and concern about some of the conditions.

“We have made a lot of progress in the past month,” he said.

Priore asked whether staff had discussed its conditions of approval with the applicant before last week. Halperin said that they had not. Flinchum explained that the conditions were fairly standard because there were not a lot of details of the project known.

“You have to prepare for the unknown,” he said. “With more information, we’re getting more comfortable with the proposed commercial parcels. We’re trying to prepare for the most intensive types of activities.”

PZA Board Member Elizabeth Mariaca asked when the applicant last met with members of the Versailles community.

“It was months and months ago,” Halperin said. “We have reached out to them, but were unable to schedule a meeting.”

PZA Board Vice Chair Craig Bachove asked if Versailles was aware of changes to the proposal.

Van Casteren told the board that his community was aware of the changes and did not support the plan.

“We are fully aware of what the new plan is,” he said. “The reason why we have not met with the applicant is because under no circumstances whatsoever would my community agree to this new proposal. We will not meet with her unless the proposal of this apartment complex is completely removed.”

Van Casteren said he felt that the applicant was showing disrespect to the community and the board.

“She has come here with no one,” he said, “just coming here by herself and telling you that this isn’t going to happen. That is disrespectful to this board and to my entire community.”

During board discussion, Bachove said that he would like the opportunity to hear a fully prepared proposal to best evaluate the changes.

“This is a very difficult decision for everyone,” he said. “Everyone has taken their time to be here. I understand that. I understand both sides. I would like to see an opportunity for both sides to get together again to make amends and make this project viable.”

Mariaca agreed. “As a homeowner, I sincerely appreciate how you feel about this project being built,” she told the crowd. “But I don’t think it would be fair to any party to make a decision based on an application that does not fully address all the conditions for approval.”

Priore acknowledged residents’ commitment to come out and speak on the matter but said he wanted to hear accurate information. “It’s important to understand that in order to make the best decision, all the information needs to be correct,” he said.

Drahos made a motion to deny the request for a postponement, but it failed for lack of a second. Mariaca then made a motion to approve the request with the condition that the applicant incur the cost to re-advertise the new meeting.

Initially, the meeting was going to be delayed 30 days, prompting complaints from residents who noted that many people would be on vacation over the summer.

The board voted 5-1 with Drahos opposed to postpone the item to Wednesday, Sept. 5.