Wellington Will Amend Code Regulating Business Hours

Some local businesses may be staying open longer if members of the Wellington Village Council approve a planned ordinance allowing them to operate until 2 or 3 a.m. so long as their activities are indoors.

“If the activities are inside and not affecting anyone, we recommend that you allow for the additional hours,” Village Manager Paul Schofield said. “We think you should limit outside activity.”

Changes to the village’s prescribed hours of operations would affect a handful of businesses that are 300 feet or less away from homes.

At a council workshop meeting Monday, Schofield explained that Wellington typically treats businesses nestled between housing communities differently from those on the boundaries of the community.

“There are two different sets of rules,” he said. “One’s for businesses [near homes] and others for those in the State Road 7 corridor. We need to look to make sure our residents are appropriately protected.”

Last month, businesses within 300 feet of homes received letters that they were out of compliance with Wellington’s 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. hours of operation, prompting the Wellington Chamber of Commerce to request that the council reconsider the existing ordinance.

Long Range Planning Director Tim Stillings told council members that many of these businesses were operating under the village’s hours for alcohol sales, which are permitted until 2 a.m. Monday through Thursday and 3 a.m. Friday through Sunday.
“There are 13 businesses that are in operation now that were impacted,” he said. “For some it’s not a big deal. For others — particularly the restaurants that are open later, the movie theater and some of the 24-hour establishments — it’s a bit of an issue for them right now.”

But Stillings noted that while several businesses are operating outside of the approved time frame, few had generated noise-related complaints. “For the most part, [they] have not had any noise violations as far back as the code records indicate,” he said.

Schofield noted that Wellington has mostly enforced hours of operation on a complaint basis.

“Most of the time frames existed prior to incorporation,” he said. “They really haven’t been a problem. We’ve been doing enforcement on a complaint basis. In most cases, owners have been pretty responsive in dealing with them.”

Schofield also pointed out that businesses such as accountants or other professional services can be open late with people working inside the office but not seeing clients.

Councilman Matt Willhite said he knew Ultima Fitness had received at least one complaint for an early-morning outdoor boot camp. Stillings said that issue had been resolved quickly.

“Taking those things into account, the initial staff recommendation would be to suspend the hours of restriction for indoor activity and fall back to the other codes that we have for alcohol sales, noise and other similar operating codes,” he said. “Then we would suggest restricting outdoor activity from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.”

Stillings said that the village would have to make exceptions for gas stations, drive-through restaurants and other uses that council members could specify. However, he stressed that outdoor uses still would have to comply with the village’s noise ordinance.

Councilwoman Anne Gerwig said she was concerned about banning all outdoor uses, noting that people cannot smoke inside restaurants.

“I don’t smoke, but a lot of people do,” she said. “I don’t want it so they can’t go have a late-night dinner because they smoke.”

But Schofield said it would be relatively easy to limit outdoor entertainment and service while still allowing smoking. “That’s a relatively simple policy direction to implement.”

He said the village’s staff is comfortable extending the hours. “Some people are very concerned about making sure businesses [in central Wellington] are not put at a competitive disadvantage,” Schofield said.

Schofield said that if the council agrees, village staff members will write preliminary language and bring it back for discussion.

“It will still have to go through the process,” he said. “Some of the businesses are in the [Wellington Equestrian Preserve], so this will have to go before the Equestrian Preserve Committee, the Planning, Zoning & Adjustment Board and come to two hearings in front of you. It will be about four months from the day we get the go-ahead with the ordinance.”

Council members largely agreed with the staff recommendation but said they wanted another chance to discuss the language and get more information. Schofield said there would be another workshop and another attempt to draft policies for businesses such as gas stations and other 24-hour establishments.

In the meantime, he said, Wellington will not enforce the hours of operation.

“We will continue to enforce our noise standards, but we are not enforcing the hours of operation,” Schofield said.