In 2014, the Village of Wellington will continue to carve out its identity as it sees progress on key projects and completion on others. Wellington also will continue to make drainage and landscaping improvements.
Looking toward the new year, Village Manager Paul Schofield expects to see the vision for Wellington’s future take shape, especially in its town center.
“We have some really interesting things coming up,” he said. “One of the things we have tried to do is create a better sense of identity in the village.”
This month, Schofield said he expects the Wellington Village Council to award the contract for the rebuilding of the Wellington Community Center, as well as the Wellington Tennis Center, which council members voted to move to 15 acres off Lyons Road.
“The Wellington Amphitheater is immensely popular, and many nights it’s hard to find a parking space,” Schofield said. “We have drawn residents into the center of town, but there isn’t a lot of space to accommodate everyone.”
He said the decision to move the tennis center will free up room for more community activities.
“We’ve owned those 15 acres for many years,” he said. “The land has been sitting vacant for at least the last decade. It’s a good use of the space. It will open up room to get people into the village center.”
The village also closed on its latest addition to the town center, acquiring the Lake Wellington Professional Centre as of Dec. 31. The village paid $5 million for the business center, which houses many local companies.
“We’re going to be doing things with that site as a business incubator,” Schofield said. “We paid $5 million for the property, and then one of the things [former owner] Ken Adams said he would do was donate $1 million back to the village for public purposes. We have received that donation.”
The village would have to run the site at its current revenue stream for eight to 10 years to recoup the cost of the property, but could choose to use the site to expand its municipal complex.
Wellington will also see its few remaining empty sites on State Road 7 begin to take shape. Plans for the SR 7 corridor include a new traffic light at Palomino Drive, the development of Wellington Parc, the construction of the Wellington Charter School and possibly a decision on the village’s K-Park property.
Last year, Wellington finalized plans to pay for a traffic light at Palomino Drive to support increased traffic that will be caused by the Wellington Charter School.
“I believe you will see its construction,” Schofield said. “We’ve begun to get the money for it, and it’s in our schedule of improvements.”
Additionally, Schofield said he expected construction of the charter school to begin this year.
The village could have a decision on the K-Park property as early as this month. Wellington purchased the land a decade ago and has struggled with what to do with the site since.
Last year, the village agreed to exclusively consider the Palm Beach Horse Park project for the site, extending the agreement through January.
“I think we’ll have a decision on K-Park in January,” Schofield said. “The project is being reviewed now and being put on the schedule to go before the council.”
Schofield said residents can also expect to see more drainage improvements. After Tropical Storm Isaac, which saw street flooding throughout much of the western communities, Wellington approved a multi-phase drainage program.
“It’s a 12- to 14-year construction program that involves widening the canals and elevating roadways, as well as adding more pumps,” he said.
Parts of Forest Hill Blvd. and South Shore Blvd. will be elevated.
“When Tropical Storm Isaac came through, we just couldn’t move water,” Schofield said. “The first part of the project is to add additional storage with some canal widening. We’ll then be elevating some parts of Forest Hill that were under water, as well as South Shore, which went underwater Monday [during the storm], and we couldn’t get it clear until Thursday or Friday. We came out of Isaac with a lot of knowledge of where we needed improvements.”
Residents can also expect to see some road and landscaping improvements. “In some of the places where the landscaping on the roadways hasn’t worked as well, we’re looking to do some programs there,” he said.
The village also will be expanding its trail system. Schofield noted that Wellington will build additional pathways along Flying Cow Road from the Wellington Environmental Preserve to Southern Blvd. “It will tie into the Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail,” he said.
Equestrians in the Rustic Ranches community will also get more trails leading to the environmental preserve, he said.
Schofield said Wellington is seeing a strong recovery from the economic crash, and he expects to see a continued uptick.
“One of the things that is nice about Wellington today is that we have seemed to turn the corner from the economic downturn,” he said. “The housing market is up. People are investing in their homes at greater rates. There has been an explosion in equestrian properties.”
It is also an election year in Wellington. Councilwoman Anne Gerwig and Vice Mayor Howard Coates could face re-election challenges. No opponents had filed to run against them at press time, but considering the contentious 2012 election, it’s likely that much of the beginning of 2014 will be consumed by politics leading up to the March 11 vote.