The Wellington Village Council approved the purchase of right of way on South Shore Blvd. from Windsome Farms for $180,000 Tuesday as part of a $1.9 million road improvement project from Lake Worth Road to 50th Street South.
The purchase was part of the overall raising of the road, which was under as much as 2 feet of water during flooding from Tropical Storm Isaac.
Village Engineer Bill Riebe explained that the 1.5 acre purchase gives additional right of way in order to build the project, and includes attorney fees and closing costs. The appraised value of the land is $110,000 an acre.
The purchase will enable a bridle trail to be moved from the east side of the road to the west side between 50th Street and Indian Mound Road. The bridle trail will be 11 feet wide.
“It’ll be a straight shot all the way up. Once you get to 50th, the traffic diminishes and you can walk on either side of the road,” Riebe said, adding that 50th Street will have a designated crossing.
Councilman Matt Willhite said the change makes sense because there are fewer driveways on the west side.
Willhite asked whether a bicycle path will be included, and Riebe said there would not be enough room to allow for that.
“The issue is between Indian Mound and north to Lake Worth. We were not able to get additional right of way, so there’s no ability to put in bicycle lanes or a multi-use path,” Riebe said. “The way the road is designed, we can add those in the future when we get the necessary right of way.”
Riebe said that there is enough room for a multi-use path in a portion of the project, but it was not included because it would end abruptly at Indian Mound Road.
Willhite said he would prefer to install whatever portions of a bike path they could during the project, but Riebe said the remaining portion of the multi-use path between Indian Mound Road and Lake Worth Road could remain undeveloped indefinitely without the necessary right of way.
“From an engineering standpoint, it’s a little strange to have these bike paths that start and stop and don’t connect to anything,” Riebe said.
Willhite also asked about provisions for drainage, and Riebe said that there will be ditches on the east and west sides of the road, and the improvement will have a swale and a 48-inch pipe to connect all the properties on the east side.
“All of the properties, wherever they drain today, will drain to the same location,” Riebe said.
Vice Mayor John Greene asked if there was any discussion about the owner dedicating the easement, rather than selling it, and Riebe said they were not willing to do that.
“It’s their right and it’s their land, and I’m not trying to make them look like they’re trying to capitalize on an opportunity to sell a piece of land that has no real use in terms of their property,” Greene said. “But I would hope that landowners recognize when we talk about connectivity and maybe would look at the big picture sometimes and understand how it does have a huge impact on the community.”
Greene explained that much of the value of the land is tied to Wellington’s equestrian infrastructure.
“The value of these properties is significant because of what we are able to provide as a community,” he said. “The equestrian industry, and everything associated with it, is what’s driving these values to what they are.”
Greene appealed to other landowners to recognize the value and safety factors of community projects and willingly participate. “I support this because it’s important, but it would be nice if we got more cooperation that way,” he said.
Riebe said that the village had offered the other property owners fair market value, but there was no interest.
Councilwoman Anne Gerwig asked about the overall scope of the project, and Riebe said the total cost was $1.882 million.
“We’re still below [budget],” he said. “Right now we have a budget for this of about $2.4 million, so we’re coming below the budget amount.”
Gerwig pointed out that the primary purpose of the project is to raise the grade of the roadway.
“That’s the significant part of the project,” Riebe agreed. “We went through multiple designs on this. We started out when we had problems from Tropical Storm Isaac. We need to raise the roadway because there were some portions where the road was 14.2, 14.4 feet. It’s supposed to be at least 16 feet. During Isaac, we saw [water levels at] 16.7, 16.5, so we had areas where it was one or two feet underwater. This will correct that.”
Greene made a motion to approve the purchase, which carried 5-0.
The council also approved the award of the project to Rosso Site Development, which was the low bidder. Greene made a motion to approve the contract, which also carried unanimously.