Owners of the Equestrian Village site can open its Pierson Road access as early as this weekend, but must hire additional Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office deputies to help ease traffic and horse crossings, the Wellington Village Council decided Tuesday.
The vote to amend the special-use permit for the site to allow access by trailers and competitors was unanimous.
Wellington Equestrian Partners, the entity that owns the dressage site on the corner of South Shore Blvd. and Pierson Road, will have to pay the deputies to be stationed at the site for two hours before and after each event, when the Pierson Road access is open. The stipulation will remain until show promoters install a flashing yellow signaled beacon that will allow riders to cross the street safely.
“I want to do what’s right for this community, for the equestrian industry and, most importantly, for the safety of the people using Pierson Road,” said Councilman John Greene, who suggested the stipulation.
When council members agreed to a settlement offer last month to quell the lawsuits that have plagued Wellington, they agreed to let show promoters request the ability to use the Pierson Road site access so long as certain conditions were met in the land development regulations that were passed in July.
Representatives from Wellington Equestrian Partners filed a request to amend the special-use permit for the equestrian season to be able to use the access. Under the previous permit, the access point could be used only by emergency vehicles.
“The council indicated to the applicant that if they were to come forward with a request to amend the special-use permit, they would eliminate that condition,” Planning & Development Services Director Tim Stillings said.
As one of the conditions of approval for the special-use permit, “striping, flashing amber lights and signage [are] required to identify the horse crossing on Pierson Road,” according to a Wellington staff report.
But the flashing lights have not been installed, Stillings said. “The discussion [at Monday’s agenda review meeting was] that this permit would not be effective until that’s complete,” he said.
The issue is pressing, Stillings said, because an event is scheduled for this weekend at the site.
Councilman Matt Willhite said he thought the requirements should be met before the site could be used for shows.
“I would be OK with allowing this special-use permit to take effect upon completion and installation of the flashing light,” he said. “It allows them to use [the Pierson Road access] for shows, but with the caveat that they have to install this before they can use it.”
Councilwoman Anne Gerwig asked whether any other conditions remained. “Is this the only one?” she asked.
Village Engineer Bill Riebe said it was the only item not completed. He noted that there are signs and striping set up, but not the lights required by the village.
“The [required] lights are different than the amber flashing lights that are there now,” Riebe explained. “They are significantly larger and operate on a push button.”
Riebe said it is important to have lights that correspond to a button, rather than lights that flash all the time.
“It diminishes the importance of the lights if they are flashing all the time,” Riebe said. “When someone comes up to the crossing and pushes the button, you want motorists to know that the lights mean someone will be crossing.”
Because the location of the horse crossing could be moved if a turning lane is approved on Pierson Road in the future, Riebe said the lights are an “interim solution.”
Dan Rosenbaum, attorney for Wellington Equestrian Partners, said the conditions specified amber flashing lights, not signalized lights. Further, he said the master plan amendment also required only amber flashing lights and stipulated that the horse crossing be complete by Dec. 31, 2014.
“When we install this in your right of way, it becomes a fixture,” he said. “When you’re talking about the signalization of this, you’re talking about a computer that has to hook up to the left-turn lane; it has to have a trigger. It’s very complicated. That product is in the range of $30,000 to $40,000.”
But Riebe refuted those claims. “This was discussed at length,” he said, showing council members e-mails in which he instructed company representatives about the specific lights. “This is a really simple thing. We intentionally specified amber beacon lights that were solar-powered. The applicant’s agent was aware of that.”
Riebe said he also shared the list of materials the developers needed to buy.
“This is just a normal amber flashing beacon assembly that you find everywhere in the U.S.,” Riebe said. “Instead of there being a child on the sign, there’s a horse. It has an additional push button that is higher up so a person riding a horse can push it. We have them all over the Village of Wellington.”
He noted that because the beacons are solar, they could be reused when the horse crossing is moved.
“I don’t know why this is a $30,000 to $40,000 deal,” Riebe said. “We’re not yet at that stage with this crossing.”
He said it shouldn’t be an issue to purchase and install them. “We’ll take them out there and show them exactly what to buy and hold their hand,” Riebe said.
Council members asked whether a safe and acceptable solution would be to have monitors assist riders in crossing the street until the proper amber beacons were installed. Riebe said it is an option, but not a permanent solution.
“As long as they give documentation and note that this will be installed by the end of this December, I’m comfortable putting a monitor out there to warn people of that crossing,” he said.
Greene said he was frustrated that old issues seemed to be re-emerging, noting that the current special-use permit was technically not valid if the conditions had not been met.
“There’s an event scheduled for this weekend without a valid special-use permit in place,” he said. “Once again, this council is being put in the position where we have to make decisions that, no matter what we do, will make us the bad guys.”
He was concerned that a monitor at the crossing might not do the job properly. “I don’t want our staff to have to monitor the monitor,” Greene said. “What I would like to see happen, because I think it’s important for safety, is to have PBSO deputies out there.”
He made a motion to require two PBSO deputies at Pierson Road two hours before and after events to monitor traffic and help horses cross. Greene also included a provision where Wellington could pull the bond posted on the site if the beacons were not installed to Riebe’s satisfaction by a certain date.
Gerwig asked whether Greene was suggesting two deputies in addition to the two already required on South Shore Blvd. He said he was.
Because of the holidays, village staff suggested giving the applicant until Jan. 10 to comply. The council is set to meet Tuesday, Jan. 14, when council members could vote to pull the bond if necessary.
Willhite, however, added to the motion that the bond should be pulled automatically if the applicant fails to install the beacons on time. The motion passed unanimously.
Above: The Van Kampen Arena at the Equestrian Village site.