Council Wants More Cross Access Between SR 7 Developments

Members of the Wellington Village Council approved a plat last week for the Wellington Parc community but cautioned developers that they want to see connectivity between nearby developments.

Wellington Parc is a roughly 16-acre site on the west side of State Road 7, south of Palomino Park. The new plat would allow for 92 residential lots and one large commercial lot.

Though it was not before them, council members were primarily concerned about a lack of connectivity with Palomino Park, where a planned traffic light will be installed to mitigate traffic in the area.

Right now, the cross access is tied to the commercial portion of the development, which is slated to be constructed after the residential portion.

Councilman John Greene pointed out that cross access to Palomino Park was a requirement in the property’s original master plan.

“If we’re going to have 92 homes in that development, it could be a problem [if they can’t access the traffic light],” he said. “It goes back to people doing what is expected, and that’s to develop this cross access.”

But Wellington staff said the council could approve the plat without waiving the requirement for the access point.

“I don’t believe we are, in any way, giving up our ability to require that cross-connection [by approving the plat],” Village Manager Paul Schofield said.

Councilman Matt Willhite pointed out that the access is dependent on the commercial development. “What obligation do they have to even develop the commercial aspect?” he asked.

Village Engineer Bill Riebe said it was driven by the market and need, but pointed out that the council had recently approved a change from office space to medical office space.

Willhite noted that there remains a risk the commercial portion would never be built.

“They may never build it,” he said. “Then we will never get that cross access and we will have 92 homeowners unable to use the safest way for them to come out of their home and go north.”

Riebe said that was a risk, and Willhite asked whether they could require cross access before the commercial portion is developed.

Councilwoman Anne Gerwig, however, said building the connection between the properties wouldn’t be useful if there was no road to connect it.

“They will put it in with the commercial portion, because that’s where it’s going to connect,” she said. “If we said to them that they have to build the connector now, it would require them to build part of the [commercial portion]. If we made them build the crossing but not a connector road, then we would have a bridge to nowhere.”

Willhite said he thought residents would want to be able to use the traffic light. “I can only think residents will want to connect to the traffic light rather than coming out on [SR 7], which is eight lanes now, and having to make a U-turn to go north,” he said.

He noted the point of the light was to make crossing SR 7 safer, especially with new development in the area.

“I don’t want the village on the hook later because we didn’t hold the developer accountable,” Willhite said. “I’d like to have the ‘bridge to nowhere’ created for the future cross access for the residents. I have no certainty the developer will build it. My goal is to make this safer for residents.”

Willhite said the issue arose because Palomino Park wants to be reimbursed for building the roundabout that would connect to Wellington Parc once the cross access is built.

Greene asked whether the property owners would be able to get rid of the requirement for cross access, and Riebe said it was up to the council.

“The only way access can be removed is by the vote of the council,” he said.

Greene was concerned about the traffic, noting that drivers would have to travel all the way down near Lake Worth Road to make a U-turn to go north.

But surveyor David Linley said the site had received traffic approvals.

“They were able to get county approval just using the driveway on the southeast portion of the property,” Linley said. “At that time, there was no guarantee the traffic signal was going to exist. We wanted to make sure it could operate even without the signal.”

Ultimately, Vice Mayor Howard Coates said he felt the plat as proposed was acceptable, but cautioned developers that he wanted to see the cross access granted.

“It’s not just a matter of building it,” he said. “It’s a matter of building it and having the right to use it.”

Coates asked what would happen if Palomino Park didn’t want to provide cross access. Riebe said it was a condition of its master plan.

“They absolutely have to provide cross access,” he said. “They have done their part. The only thing Wellington Parc has to do is pony up their share of the money and sign the access agreement. That cross access has to be granted.”

Village Attorney Laurie Cohen said the goal is for both property owners to enter into an agreement, but noted that Wellington Parc does not have to sign the agreement Palomino Park put forward.

“We have no ability to force them to sign this access agreement,” she said. “The best we can do is to… place the condition on the commercial parcel.”

Willhite suggested the two property owners come together to negotiate an access agreement.

Schofield said that although there was no condition that Wellington Parc sign the access agreement, the village could withhold building permits or other necessary approvals until an agreement is reached.

Gerwig pointed out that the issue was not before the council. “This has nothing to do with the plat,” she said. “All of that would be figured out at the next stage.”

But Schofield said it was important that both property owners understand the council’s desire to have that access.

“There is no flexibility on the requirement of that cross access actually existing,” he said. “I believe what you have accomplished tonight is that you have conveyed, at minimum, that they must sit down and work out an agreement to provide that access.”

Greene asked whether they could tie a condition of approval to the plat, but Cohen didn’t recommend it.

“I suggest you approve it without conditions,” she said.

Schofield suggested that the council direct staff to put the condition on the land development permit for the commercial portion to require the access before building permits will be issued.

Coates made a motion to approve the plat without conditions, and Gerwig made a motion to direct staff to require the access before building permits can be issued. Both motions passed unanimously.