Wellington Boards Will Weigh In On Pathway Plans

Members of the Wellington Village Council this week asked the Equestrian Preserve Committee to weigh in on a proposed bridle trail and multi-use path that would give riders, walkers and bikers a path to and from the Wellington Environmental Preserve.

In a 4-0 vote Tuesday — the third vote taken on the issue — council members agreed to send the issue to the committee for input.

It will also go before the Public Safety Committee.

Councilwoman Anne Gerwig did not take part in the vote due to a business relationship with the Palm Beach Point Homeowners’ Association.

Though the council was asked to approve a contract with Rosso Site Development Inc. to construct the path, along with a culvert and crossing, council members opted not to award the contract until the committees have a chance to weigh in.

“I think this is one of those cases where there are more options that haven’t been discussed,” Vice Mayor John Greene said.

In 2012, the village approved a bridle trail and multi-use path that would run from the Wellington Environmental Preserve, along Flying Cow Road and the C-23 Canal, eventually ending at Palm Beach Point Blvd. and connecting into Wellington’s existing bridle trails.

However, representatives from the Palm Beach Point Homeowners’ Association have expressed concern about the proposed crossing at Palm Beach Point Blvd., leading staff to offer three different locations for the crossing, either 55 feet, 120 feet or 520 feet north of the community’s gate house.

The HOA is requesting the crossing be furthest from the gate house, Village Engineer Bill Riebe said.

“There will be an eight-foot-wide multi-use path, as well as a grass bridle path, which will be about 12 to 15 feet wide,” Riebe said.

The portion of the multi-purpose path along Flying Cow Road would not be constructed until 2015, using Florida Department of Transportation grant funds. However, Wellington would still construct the bridle path.

The cost would be between $575,000 and $723,000, depending on where the council decided to place the crossing.

Riebe said the most important part of the project would be the culvert, which is part of Wellington’s drainage improvement plan. “I’d like to get that started now,” he said. “That canal is really important for us.”

Several residents spoke during public comment, with most asking the council to put the paths further from the community’s gate house.

“We welcome the connectivity in Wellington,” HOA President Eileen Yarbrough said. “Our number one priority here is rider and horse safety.”

She said the first two options, which put the path closer to the gate house, also break through a median that Wellington required the community build.

“There was not adequate line of sight for cars entering,” she said. “That line of sight is obstructed by the guard house. It’s even worse because of waiting traffic coming into the community.”

Yarbrough said that because of sight issues, it’s important both cars and riders are given more space to see so there is not an accident.

Resident Martin Freedman said the issue should go before the Equestrian Preserve Committee.

“Has this gone before the EPC?” he asked. “It’s an equestrian issue. Even though they are an advisory board, I think it should have been brought to their attention.”

Staff said it had not.

HOA Treasurer Russell Finsness said that Palm Beach Point has seen a large building boom recently, leading to enhanced investment in the community. He said Wellington should spend a bit more to place the bridle trail in a preferred location.

“None of it has cost Wellington one penny,” he said. “This project is not in Palm Beach Point. It would be wonderful for us if you can look at the grand scheme of things. If you look at the big picture, Wellington is coming out on top.”

Though some council members were prepared to choose one of the options, they could not agree where to put the crossing.

Greene was concerned that riders, walkers and bikers wouldn’t use the crossings if they were out of the way.

“I don’t think people will go out of their way if there’s a more efficient way of crossing,” he said. “I like the third option [at 520 feet] because I think it satisfies the people who have spoken out. But I understand this could create another issue. If the crossing isn’t in a place where people cross, it’s not going to solve anything.”

Village Manager Paul Schofield noted that staff was recommending option two, with the crossing 120 feet from the guard house and in a more convenient place to cross.

Greene said he believed there might be more options. He suggested building only the culvert for now, since that was the more pressing need.

But Riebe said all the paths could be built, with a crossing point decided on later.

“All of the other components could be built,” he said. “We just wouldn’t do the physical crossing of Palm Beach Point Blvd.”

Riebe noted that the issue at hand is to award a contract, and the contractor is expecting a job larger than just a culvert.

Greene agreed and made a motion to move forward with the paths and culvert, but hold off on the crossing. That motion died for lack of second.

Councilman Howard Coates then made a motion to approve the third option at 520 feet from the guard house. Mayor Bob Margolis seconded, but the measure failed 2-2.

“I guess, then, I’ll make a motion to send this to the Equestrian Preserve Committee,” Coates said, later amending the motion to include the Public Safety Committee. That motion passed unanimously.