Even though I read the Town-Crier and watch the local news daily, I was somehow not informed of the major vote to be held at the Wellington Village Council meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 27. It was just by chance that I happened to be telling a friend who is currently looking to relocate about the Wellington Gardens project. Luckily, I saw their web site mention the meeting (date, time and location). I navigated to the Village of Wellington’s web site and found it confusing and difficult to even read the details. Fortunately, this attempt at holding a quick and quiet meeting spread by word of mouth among those who truly care about the community they live in.
As a prior HOA president, I was shocked when I saw more than 350 residents, shoulder to shoulder and elbow to elbow, standing room only, and some even sitting on the floor for the almost five-hour-long meeting. Never have I witnessed so many people from so many different backgrounds, ages, life experiences and residing in several different areas all speak in favor of the same project. I recall hearing a chief of police, student, stay-at-home mom, doctor, engineer, attorney and various other professions speak. Even the former mayor of Wellington spoke (and received a standing ovation when he concluded).
How an approximate 750-unit apartment complex was even up for consideration is embarrassing and shameful. I didn’t hear one single person speak in favor of this project other than our own village council. To that note, it was interesting that I sent an e-mail detailing my frustration and disappointment to our council members, and the only person who took the time to respond was Councilwoman Anne Gerwig. What is ironic is Councilwoman Gerwig was technically not allowed to vote on this project due to a potential conflict of interest. I’ll admit that at least Mayor Bob Margolis and Vice Mayor John Greene can clearly agree to disagree with each other and at least remain professional while doing so. Although I have my doubts with Mayor Margolis because at times he spoke in favor of open land and parks, yet was in favor of an approximate 750-unit apartment complex. This seems to be a huge contradiction.
The same professionalism and respect could not be said for Councilman Matt Willhite. I was in shock how rude, condescending and unprofessional he was during the meeting with residents who elected him. It appeared he only wanted to listen to himself speak, and he misspoke about what the developer and several residents said earlier. It was clear Councilman Willhite was talking down to residents. I surely hope Floridians are paying attention come voting time.
In summary, this council displayed a clear disregard for what the community wanted. I cannot help but to question personal motivations, by having a meeting they certainly did a good job at not advertising, to cover such a major vote; a vote that truly affects the future of Wellington. While no project was perfect, Wellington Gardens would bring jobs, money and entertainment to Wellington, as well as keep jobs, money and entertainment in Wellington. Residents are tired of driving a half hour north, south and east to what we have a chance at having locally. I urge the residents of Wellington to stay informed and remain involved. It appears we might have very well had this council vote in support of the apartment complex project had it not been for the blatant disgust and disapproval by so many residents at the Jan. 27 meeting.
PS: Councilman Willhite, I reside in the Grand Isles community and saw neighbors from Grand Isles and the Isles at the meeting. Shame on you to suggest that only the neighboring communities were vocal at the meeting.
Rich Best, Wellington