Wellington Zoning Board Approves Bridle Trail Map Ordinance

Wellington’s Planning, Zoning & Adjustment Board unanimously recommended approval last week of an ordinance to adopt a bridle trail map into the equestrian element of the village’s comprehensive plan.

At the Oct. 1 meeting, Wellington Projects Manager Mike O’Dell presented an update to the equestrian trail circulation map currently in the comp plan. “This is the map that is within the comp plan that we’re utilizing right now,” he said.

O’Dell explained that he was asking the board to adopt a bridle trail map that has been in existence for some time but has never been formally adopted.

“It provides definitions to the actual trail itself and the connectivity within the systems. It also provides clarity to circulation, accessibility and it defines each of the trails,” O’Dell said, noting that rights of way for bridle paths continue to be a major topic of discussion. “Work continues to secure rights of way and easements within the community.”

It also comes up in negotiations with developers, who could question the validity of a map that has not been formally adopted by the Wellington Village Council.

“We show different things that have been going on, but this map has been made a little more specific, and it details more of the things that we want to accomplish and why we want to accomplish them,” O’Dell said. “So, when a specific landowner says, ‘You want X number of feet in front of my property, where does it go and what does it do?’ — this map provides a little more detail to that.”

O’Dell said trail development will continue while the equestrian master plan is reviewed.

The Equestrian Preserve Committee recommended approval 4-1 to adopt the plan and will be looking at the plan in greater detail during its upcoming review of the equestrian master plan. That process will take 18 to 24 months.

“While we’re doing that, we can continue to see development activities going on, so we continue to work with landowners to obtain easements and/or rights of way that will support this plan,” O’Dell said. “Because we are limited within our road rights of way, canal rights of way and general easement areas, we are pretty much limited as to where this can go. There may be some improvements that they may make, but we expect that to be somewhat minor in nature compared to what we have right now.”

Board Member Kenneth Kopp asked whether the trail map presupposes that the negotiations with the owners for easements and rights of way are successful.

“This is truly not reflective of the current trail structure because you haven’t totally worked it out with the landowners?” he asked.

O’Dell said the plan was developed in 2004 by consultant CH2M Hill and has been in existence in the master plan since 2009.

“There is an overall master plan that was developed in 2004,” he said. “CH2M Hill was commissioned by the village to do that. Out of CH2M Hill came the map that you’re looking at now. This plan has been in effect, and we have been utilizing it and referring to it, and we have been actually building off of it through our capital improvement program since that time. We have been budgeting dollars on a yearly basis for maintenance and capital improvement based on this particular plan.”

O’Dell explained that there are pieces of the trail plan that are owned and maintained by individual landowners.

“An example to that would be the Pierson Road bridle path,” O’Dell said. “You’ll see that it’s the yellow trail and in front of Grand Prix Village, which we have been working with now for a couple of years. They have a bridle path in front of their property. We have been working with the five landowners there to either obtain right of way and/or easements, and we continue to work with other landowners along that section as well.”

He added that the village has worked out an agreement with Dr. Scott Swerdlin of the Palm Beach Equine Clinic and are working on an agreement with Deeridge Farm.

“Pieces of this are coming together, and that’s why we’re asking you to move forward with this,” O’Dell said.

The trails on the map are blocked out in different colors, and Board Member Michael Drahos asked about the significance of the colors. O’Dell said that at one point, the colors were used to identify the sections.

“When you went out on the trails you would actually see stanchions in the ground that say, red trail, green trail, yellow trail, so it gives them marking to the trail itself,” O’Dell said.

Board Chair Carol Coleman said it could be for safety reasons, because many riders use cell phones, and if they fall or have some other type of emergency, they could identify where they were.

O’Dell said his staff would be working with the Equestrian Preserve Committee in the coming months to resolve problems such as road crossings, including Forest Hill Blvd. and Big Blue Trace.

“Those cross major arteries, and we have to look at how we will physically be able to do that if we’re going to continue those pathways within those corridors,” O’Dell said. “That’s something that the Equestrian Preserve Committee will be evaluating, and we’ll be working with residents, landowners and homeowners’ associations that are affected by those trails as well.”

Coleman asked whether there is a connection to Palm Beach Little Ranches, and O’Dell said there are connections via the green trail and purple trail, and he has been working with them to develop an overall program. “Right now, in concept, we have put together a program,” O’Dell said. “We need to put some price tags together, and we will work out some details.”

Coleman asked whether a rider in Little Ranches could actually ride into Wellington proper, and O’Dell said he has heard from Little Ranches residents that they do actually ride the green trail across Forest Hill Blvd., as well as the purple trail into southern Wellington.

“I have had conversations with people who are looking forward to continuing those connections,” O’Dell said.

Kopp made a motion to accept the ordinance, which carried 6-0.