Wellington Council Updates Village Traffic Standards

Wellington will have a little more control over traffic issues after the Wellington Village Council voted last week to update the village’s traffic performance standards.

In a unanimous vote, council members approved changes to update the code to industry standards and make it more “Wellington-centric.”

Planning & Development Services Director Tim Stillings explained at the March 25 meeting that currently, the code relies on many of the county’s standards and is outdated.

“The main goal of this is to make it more of a Wellington-oriented code, and to make modifications based on the industry standards,” he said.

Wellington Traffic Engineer Andrea Troutman agreed, noting that the codes often reference Palm Beach County and unincorporated lands, a vestige from pre-incorporation days.

“We wanted some Wellington-specific standards,” she said. “We are removing the county references. This means any new development would have to meet county standards and Wellington standards.”

Wellington’s traffic has been of concern in the past, with council members pushing for increased control to quell traffic woes.

“One of the issues the council raised at meetings was that we should address more than just peak hours,” Troutman said. “So we’re providing an ability for Wellington to request additional hours to be analyzed. It could be on the weekend or during off-peak hours. It’s now dependent on Wellington to request this for specific projects that may have different impacts.”

Another change would require developers to address traffic impacts caused not just at their own site, but anywhere in Wellington.

“The project has to come in, show where it will have significant impacts anywhere in Wellington, and would have to address that,” Troutman explained. “Your impacts are what you need to address, not just a radius.”

One of the biggest problems in Wellington, Troutman said, is bottlenecks at intersections. The changes in standards would require a study of intersections close to capacity before a project is approved.

“Intersections are the issue in Wellington, as opposed to roadway links,” she said. “We would look at the signal timing and phasing, and do a more detailed analysis of the intersection.”

Vice Mayor Howard Coates asked whether the changes would affect the existing rights of property owners.

“Is there anything in these changes that would adversely impact private property owners’ rights that exist today if this passes?” he asked.

Troutman said nothing would. “If someone has an approved development order, this does not impact them,” she said. “They can move ahead with their development. If they want to come back in and increase development, they would have to meet these standards.”

Stillings agreed, noting that the changes would also not affect projects currently under consideration.

Councilwoman Anne Gerwig asked for further explanation about what determines “peak hours” for a roadway.

“My understanding is it used to be during a certain time of the day,” she said. “But now, you’re suggesting it’s whenever the peak hour is for the roadway.”

Troutman said most roads are busiest during the week between 6 and 9 a.m. and 4 and 7 p.m. “Typically, that is the highest volume occurring,” she said. “But we’re now suggesting a third time period can be requested by Wellington. It could be noon if we feel that’s the peak for that specific project, or perhaps we feel Saturday would be more critical.”

Councilman Matt Willhite said he was pleased that Wellington will be making developers address impacts across the village, not just directly around their site.

“I think showing the overall impact to the village is a beneficial thing,” he said. “It’s a regional issue.”

One of Wellington’s biggest traffic concerns has been its equestrian venues, which dump a high level of cars onto the road during major events. Coates asked whether that is something taken into consideration.

“Whenever you have anything of a spectator nature, you’re going to have those periods where the road is backed up,” he said. “Especially when the show is starting and people are coming in, and when it lets out. Being a lay person, I would think that when I can’t move my car… that something is amiss here. It seems there always has to be some give and take when there are events.”

Troutman said that would fall under site operational issues, which are separate from concurrency.

Coates then asked whether Wellington determined if the peak usage for the venues met traffic performance standards. Troutman said it had not yet been determined.

“We are doing counts on Saturdays at Pierson [Road] and South Shore [Blvd.], Pierson and 120th [Avenue South], Fairlane Farms [Road] and Stribling [Way], and then the two intersections on Lake Worth [Road],” she said. “I have not gotten the data back yet.”

Village Manager Paul Schofield noted that if a project does not meet the traffic performance standards, Wellington’s comprehensive plan requires the developer be given an opportunity to mitigate the issue.

“With the Equestrian Village site, they were required to build turn lanes to meet traffic performance standards,” he said. “The fact that you’re changing the standards here, it means you may be doing more mitigation.”

Willhite made a motion to approve the changes, which passed unanimously.