After months of debate, Wellington’s Planning, Zoning & Adjustment Board agreed Wednesday to recommend an ordinance governing hours of operation for some businesses in the village.
At present, businesses located within 300 feet of homes may be open only from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., while businesses outside of that distance are not limited to such hours.
Last year, some business owners said they were at a disadvantage because of the code. At the request of the Wellington Village Council, village staff looked into the issue and proposed a solution in December to the zoning board that would lift the restriction on hours of operation for indoor activities, instead using code enforcement to govern noise or other issues.
But board members rejected that proposal, asking instead for more stringent codes. They struck down a second proposal in January with similar concerns and appointed Board Member Mike Drahos to work with village staff to come up with a solution.
The proposed rules would allow staff to handle requests for extended hours, Long Range Planning Director Tim Stillings said.
“The proposal is to establish a new permit for extended hours of operation,” he said. “Instead of requesting a conditional-use approval, which would go through PZAB and the council, it would be an administrative permit.”
The new rules would also extend hours for all businesses within 300 feet of residences one hour in each direction — 5 a.m. to 12 a.m.
The changes came from discussion not only among staff and Drahos, but also local business groups and business owners.
Stillings stressed that permit holders would still have to follow village rules otherwise but would be granted the privilege of being open later.
“They wouldn’t be exempt from noise ordinances or any of the other performance measures in the code,” he said. “We wanted to be clear, because a special permit for an event is exempt from those conditions.”
The growth management director would be responsible for approving the permits and could impose conditions of approval on individual businesses, Stillings said. “Any appeals would come before the PZAB,” he said.
But Board Member Marcia Radosevich thought there should be two levels of approval for the applications. “I think someone else, maybe the village manager, should have to sign off on it,” she said.
Stillings suggested the director of operations, who oversees the planning department.
The process would also be simpler and less expensive than in the past, he said. “It would be a simple application of two pages,” Stillings said. “And we’d recommend a fee of $500, which is the same as our other special-use permit fees.”
In comparison, he said, businesses previously had to pay $3,000 for a conditional-use permit.
The changes also include consequences for those found in violation.
“If a business is found by a special magistrate to be guilty of a code violation that was associated with the hours of operation, the permit would be suspended immediately,” Stillings said. “It would then go to the council for reinstatement or revocation.”
Stillings noted that revocation would only be for the extended hours, not for any other permits or permissions. “We wouldn’t want to shut the business down,” he said. “We’d just want to take away the privilege of having extended hours.”
Board Chairman Craig Bachove was concerned that there was no warning system in place. However, Stillings said violators would go through the normal code process.
“We do courtesy notices when someone is out of compliance,” he said. “There would be a process before they come before the magistrate.”
Businesses would not be able to transfer the permit, meaning new owners would have to go through the same process.
There will also be opportunity for the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office to make recommendations for conditions. “Being a public safety concern, having them review the request and give their recommendations on it would be a critical component,” Stillings said.
Radosevich asked if the PBSO recommendations would be imposed at the discretion of staff, or whether they would be binding. “I don’t want to see an application live or die by their recommendations,” she said.
Stillings said they would be a recommendation only.
Additionally, the rules define a business activity, providing leeway for things like stocking shelves and other internal activities once the doors are shut to the public.
Radosevich asked whether a business could be approved to operate 24 hours.
“Potentially,” Stillings said.
Drahos pointed out that the board was attempting to find a middle ground. “We started with a bare-bones, no-limit ordinance,” he said. “And we said we had to protect our residents. I think this is the middle ground that will let businesses be competitive and operate how they want, but yet there is a provision in place which will allow residents protection if a business violates this privilege.”
Board Member Carol Coleman made a motion to recommend the ordinance, which passed unanimously. It now heads to the council for approval.
Kudos to Mr. Drahos for taking personal time to find a compromise on this sticky matter.
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