Wellington Zoning Board Supports New Hedge Height Rules

In an effort to create a homogeneous and aesthetically pleasing look along village roadways, Wellington’s Planning, Zoning & Adjustment Board agreed last week to amend some of the previously established hedge heights to accommodate the desire for higher height maximums.

Wellington planner Kelly Ferraiolo presented an ordinance at the Jan. 7 meeting that was created with the Architectural Review Board. “The ARB recommended height limitations based on the size of the property,” she explained. “Previous limitations were based on land use designation.”

The staff proposal was that for properties less than a quarter of an acre, the maximum hedge height was to remain at 6 feet. For properties greater than an acre, the recommendation was to increase the hedge height from 8 feet to 10 feet.

Along a major thoroughfare, hedge height was recommended to increase from 10 feet to 12 feet. Ornamental features are allowed an additional 2 feet in height, but rather than being limited to 25 percent of the length of the hedge, ornamental features were decreased to 20 percent of the length of the hedge.

According to diagrams shown to the board, many Wellington communities vary in lot sizes, with some less and some more than a quarter of an acre, resulting in inconsistent maximum hedge heights.

Board members discussed the need for larger hedges, but also focused on the need for maintenance, trimming and healthy shrubbery. Though higher hedges allows for increased privacy and noise reduction, they only work if they are well maintained.

The board discussed the enforceability of hedge height, and whether increasing the maximum height would increase aesthetics in Wellington. If the hedges are not healthy or overgrown, larger hedges could defeat the intended purpose.

“This sounds like an enforcement issue,” Board Member George Unger said, explaining that taller hedges become thinner, with less leaves, adding that ficus whitefly has also been a problem.

Board Member Michael Drahos requested the addition of language stating that hedge height can be increased if it is maintained. “We’re looking at this now, and if we can add language to help the aesthetic feel of Wellington, we should take the opportunity,” he said.

Board Member Kenneth Kopp was unhappy with the creation of jagged hedges.

“Clearly, this is about Wellington aesthetics,” he said. “When we define the various allowable hedge heights in such definitive terms, a quarter of an acre or less, a quarter acre to an acre, there are a lot of areas that are mixed… You could have a neighbor that has 0.24 acres, they have to have 6-foot hedges, then their neighbor has 0.26 acres and could have a 9-foot hedge and so on and so forth. It’s not very homogenous. I would recommend we revisit the cutoff to make the picture more homogeneous within neighborhoods or regions within Wellington so you don’t have staggered, broken sight lines.”

Ferraiolo pointed out that what Kopp mentioned is how things are now, with the lines drawn based on acreage. Planning & Development Services Director Tim Stillings agreed.

“There’s been some sentiment that the heights we have today are too low,” Stillings said.

His suggestion, based on a graph shown to the board, was that the difference be split. “You either pick eight or nine for both and just go with that,” Stillings said.

The final recommendations, which the board passed in a 5-0 decision, was that properties with zero lot lines would have a maximum hedge height of 6 feet. Properties that range in size anywhere beyond a zero lot line up to one acre have a maximum height of 9 feet. Lots that are greater than an acre are able to have hedges that are up to 10 feet high, while lots that are along major thoroughfares have a maximum height of 12 feet.