About 40 Wellington residents interested in equestrian issues answered survey questions Monday in a town hall meeting hosted by the village to gather information about the future of the Equestrian Preserve Area (EPA).
Wellington Projects Manager Mike O’Dell, who led the meeting, pointed out that comment cards were available for attendees to fill out, in addition to a prepared survey and the opportunity to comment at the end of the presentation. Those attending were given remote transmitters to record their survey responses.
O’Dell showed a brief video on the history of the equestrian overlay, which explained that the preserve has about 1,600 units of mostly 5- to 10-acre lots, and that in 1972 the county designated much of the area as estate properties or ranchettes in its comprehensive plan.
The equestrian overlay makes up about 8,200 acres, or 37 percent, of Wellington’s total 22,000 acres. In the late 1990s, the area saw a dramatic increase in equestrian activities, which placed more development pressure on the area.
The evolution from ranchettes to high-end equestrian properties created areas of higher intensity, and as of 2014, the area was about 80 percent built out. The area has stalls for about 8,200 horses, with temporary stalls for about 3,000 more.
O’Dell said the equestrian industry has a significant impact on the village, and the Wellington Village Council has directed staff to work toward the creation of an equestrian master plan.
The first set of survey questions was regarding roadways.
The first question pointed out that the current comp plan limits roads in the Equestrian Preserve Area to two lanes. Asked whether that requirement should be applied to roads near current and future venues, 58 percent responded “yes” and 42 percent said “no.”
Asked if the two-lane limit should be re-evaluated or reconsidered on a case-by-case basis for collecting roads and arterials such as South Shore Blvd. and Lake Worth Road, the response was 74 percent “yes” and 26 percent “no.”
Asked whether speed humps similar to those on Pierson Road east of South Shore Blvd. should be included in all future roadways, the response was 56 percent “yes” and 44 percent “no.”
Asked if improvements in the EPA should be financed through special assessments, 34 percent said “yes” and 66 percent said “no.”
Current policies on paving dirt roads provide for doing so at the request and approval of a majority of the property owners abutting the roadway. Asked whether Wellington should revisit this, 63 percent said “yes” and 37 percent said “no.”
Asked if the discussion should be decided in an EPA referendum, the response was 50-50.
The next section was on bridle paths.
O’Dell said that for most of the 67 miles of current bridle path easements, roads and canals are the primary use, and only 5 miles are dedicated bridle paths. He pointed out that the council recently adopted an equestrian circulation plan that gives residents the opportunity to provide input, including equestrian roadway crossings.
“Others have argued that safer crossings are needed,” he said, including elevated crossings for major thoroughfares such as South Shore Blvd.
Asked whether elevated horse crossings should be built over major roadways or intersections, the response was 63 percent “yes” and 37 percent “no.”
In a multi-choice question, people were asked which intersection should be the highest priority, and 62 percent said South Shore Blvd. at Pierson Road. Other responses included 11 percent for South Shore at Lake Worth Road, 8 percent for South Shore Blvd. near the fire station and 19 percent “other.”
Asked if funding of elevated horse crossings should be the sole responsibility of the equestrian community, the response was 24 percent “yes” and 76 percent “no.”
Asked whether there should be separate paved pedestrian/bike/golf paths from bridle paths, the response was 73 percent “yes” and 27 percent “no.”
Asked if trail improvements are needed, the response was 81 percent “yes” and 19 percent “no.”
In a multiple choice question, respondents were asked what the No. 1 priority should be to improve the trail system. The highest response was connectivity with 36 percent, followed by footing with 22 percent, road crossings with 17 percent, roadway separation with three-rail fencing with 14 percent, signage with 8 percent and elevated crossings with 3 percent.
On infrastructure issues, participants were asked if a multi-year program should be prepared to extend potable water into the EPA, and the response was 83 percent “yes” and 17 percent “no.”
Asked if a high-speed optic or Internet cable system should be a requirement in the EPA, the response was 57 percent “yes” and 43 percent “no.”
The next section was on equestrian venues.
Participants were asked if the master plan should anticipate more venues in the future, the response was 70 percent “yes” and 30 percent “no.”
Asked whether the public should finance and build an enclosed climate-controlled multipurpose arena, the response was 30 percent “yes” and 70 percent “no.”
Asked if a multipurpose arena should be located in the EPA, the response was 38 percent “yes” and 62 percent “no.”
Asked if the private sector should provide such an arena, the response was 53 percent “yes” and 48 percent “no.”
Regarding commercial hotel locations, O’Dell pointed out that there are only three in the area.
Asked if the equestrian master plan should identify suitable locations for a hotel within the EPA, the response was 45 percent “yes” to 55 percent “no.”
Regarding the EPA boundaries, the survey asked if they should be expanded, and the response was 58 percent in favor and 42 percent against.
On equestrian overlay rules and regulations, participants were asked if equestrian events should be regulated by limiting the size and intensity, and 72 percent were in favor and 28 percent against.
Current regulations require a property in the EPA less than 5 acres have a home in order for a barn to be allowed. Asked if that should be maintained, the response was 64 percent in favor and 36 percent against.
Current regulations limit properties less than 10 acres to one barn. Asked if this should this should be maintained, the response was 54 percent “yes” and 46 percent “no.”
Asked if an RV area should be created in the EPA, 35 percent said “yes” and 65 percent said “no.”
In a multiple-choice question, participants were asked if use of RVs should be limited to one’s property, and the choices were tied at 33 percent for “yes, but limited to acreage,” and “yes, one per property,” followed by 28 percent “no limit, set back from property lines and screened from view,” and 6 percent “no limit.”
Asked if there should be limits on the number of stalls per acre in the EPA, the response was 78 percent in favor and 22 percent opposed.
Asked if all properties in the EPA should have a limitation on horses per acre, the response was 69 percent in favor and 31 percent opposed.