Wellington Zoners OK Changes To Binks Townhomes

Wellington’s Planning, Zoning & Adjustment Board last week unanimously approved a master plan amendment and other requests for Binks Pointe, a 90-home townhouse community planned for a 15-acre parcel that was previously part of the Binks Forest Golf Course.

Controversial at the time, the decision to allow the 90 multi-family, multi-level townhouses dates back to an agreement in 2004 that led to the renovation and reopening of the Binks Forest Golf Course, which had closed in 2002 and fell into disrepair. The 90 homes will sit on land that was once the golf course’s driving range, known as Pod L.

Pod L is a 15.27-acre piece of land with a .26-acre parcel preserve, known as Parcel V, contained within it.

At the Aug. 6 meeting, Jennifer Vail of Land Design South, agent for the developer, requested that Parcel V be incorporated into Pod L. With this change, the site owner would be able to reconfigure the project’s layout and keep the preserve area a preserve. In order to reduce building setbacks, Vail requested to designate the land as Optional Residential (OR) and have it be re-plated.

The reconfiguration of the space would allow for 379 parking spaces, exceeding the minimum number of 222, and would allow for a more attractive layout, Vail said.

Vail presented the amendments, plans and requests, including a request to extend the phasing schedule for building permits. Previously, the deadline for permit issuance was Dec. 31, 2014. At the meeting, it was extended to Dec. 31, 2018.

Another complication was the village’s requirement of a path along the west side of Flying Cow Road. Vail requested a modification to the language of the requirement, and the village agreed to negotiate with the various property owners involved.

“We believed we had an agreement for access to use the golf cart path for the access trail,” applicant Mike Smolak explained. “We have agreed, we still agree, to construct it and to maintain it, but we just don’t own the property. I believe it would behoove the village to talk to the golf course owner.”

The concerns of residents attending the meeting spanned from the potential of the preserve becoming parking space, rental restrictions, landscaping, sustaining property values, overcrowding at local schools, traffic issues, safety, the pathway along Flying Cow Road and the future of the golf course.

PZA Board Chair Carol Coleman said that her concern was about rental restrictions, parking and traffic, but noted that there is nothing that can be done about issues with the golf course, since the townhouse parcel and the golf course are now under separate ownership.

Board Member Michael Drahos expressed concerns with the suggestion of turn lanes for the community.

Vail explained that the drawings include a left turn lane and right turn lane, as proposed, but their need will be evaluated after a traffic study has been completed.

Board Member Kenneth Kopp noted that while some residents opposed the entire project, that was decided years ago and is not the issue currently before the board.

“The task at hand is really about voting for the increase in the acreage, including Parcel V and Pod L, and vice versa, it’s not really about the project at large,” Koop said. “That’s going to happen one way or the other based on previous council decisions. So, whether you like it or not, the 90 homes are going to be developed. The issues about traffic, the issues about the school crowding, that’s going to happen anyway.”

Kopp did not have an issue with the specific changes presented by the applicant. “I see no problem with that. I think it was well presented. The product looks good,” he said. “I like the idea of going from three stories to two stories, and the reorientation makes sense to me.”

Board Member Elizabeth Mariaca thanked the community residents who came to speak, but also felt that the plan changes, as presented, would be an improvement.

“I do like the plan. I think it looks like a very good product,’ she said. “I believe this is a better option than the previous condos.”

Board Member Paul Adams noted that the $330,000 price tag is attractive for investors, but his vote is for home ownership and not rental units.

“To have investors buying it and renting it out is not appealing,” he stressed. “I’d like to see young families there, with children who want to go to Binks and don’t have cars yet.”

While Vail pointed out that rental restrictions will be considered, Adams wanted something more concrete.

“How do we have some sort of relief so that we don’t have a bunch of investors buying it?” he asked. “At that price point, it’s kind of attractive to investors.”

Adams said that he did not feel comfortable approving the master plan without rental restrictions. After further discussion, the propery owners agreed to add them.

When Board Member George Unger asked how long the restriction would be, Vail said it would be for one year.

After a brief discussion of other restrictions added by village staff, the master plan changes were approved unanimously.