The Wellington Village Council on Tuesday postponed approval of a variance for a veterinary clinic at the Binks Commercial Center at Binks Forest Drive and Bent Creek Road until it can get answers about how an entrance planned on Binks Forest Drive will be funded.
Councilman Michael Napoleone recused himself because his law firm does work for the Wantman Group, which is the engineer on the project.
Planning, Zoning & Building Director Bob Basehart said the request is for a conditional use permit to build a 3,600-square-foot veterinary clinic on the 0.73-acre lot 9 at the back of the Binks commercial project, including a new access and turn lane to Binks Forest Drive at the applicant’s expense.
Basehart said the condition for the applicant to pay was mitigated by a provision that if Wellington can find funding, the applicant would be eligible for reimbursement of up to 90 percent of the cost of the entrance and turn lane.
The 90 percent solution came from a suggestion by Wellington traffic consultant Andrea Troutman that the amount of traffic generation would account for about 10 percent of the project’s traffic.
Basehart said that each lot is eligible for a 3,600-square-foot building on each of the 15 lots, including four lots acquired by the Home Away From Home daycare center and preschool at the northwest corner of the commercial center. The daycare center has developed three of its four lots. One other office building and a dental office also occupy the site.
The existing entrance to the center is to the north on Bent Creek Road, just east of Binks Forest Drive.
The Planning, Zoning & Adjustment Board recommended approval on Oct. 17 based on 10 conditions, including that the applicant build the new entrance prior to obtaining a certificate of occupancy, but if the village obtains funding within five years of construction, the applicant would be eligible for reimbursement of up to 90 percent of the cost.
“The situation is that the project is a vested project,” Basehart said. “All 15 lots were approved, and they were platted. The project was based on that use mix and that square footage. What has happened is that since then, one user in particular, the daycare center, has gotten approval, and frankly, the amount of traffic that the daycare center generates is more than the sum total that will ever be generated from the balance of the lots on the project.”
Basehart said that having the remaining lots be assessed to share the cost of the entrance had been discussed, but since the lots are vested, they cannot be required to do that unless they request something they are not already entitled to. The estimated cost of the entrance and turn lane is about $80,000.
Jennifer Vale, agent for the project, approached the center’s property owners’ association asking it to contribute, but they declined, Basehart said.
The potential for additional money to build the entrance would be from applications that come in over the next five years to have a use that is not now on the property.
Mayor Anne Gerwig was concerned that placing that condition on future developers has the potential of suppressing development until the five-year period is over. “It puts us in an odd condition,” she said.
Councilman Michael Drahos asked whether the applicant wanted the additional entrance, which would also benefit traffic patterns at the daycare center, and Vale said they are not opposed to it.
“We understand that it’s a reliever for school traffic,” Vale said. “The big thing is we do not have the burden of having to pay for the entire construction improvements. They could live with it or without it, but they understand where the underlying concerns are, for the relief of the school traffic. We feel that to put the entire burden of these improvements on this applicant is unfair.”
Gerwig said that the second access should have been built from the beginning.
“Just one way in and out, especially with busy traffic, is not a good idea, but to put it all on one user when they’re 10 percent of the trips, we’re all struggling with that as far as the impact,” she said.
Vice Mayor John McGovern said that the council had discussed the daycare center building the entrance as part of its expansion back in May 2015, but it never came about.
“I think everyone thought they were going to expand, that they were going to do the connection, and that by this time we would not be here discussing this,” McGovern said. “Yet none of that has happened.”
Vale, whose company also represents the daycare center, said they were eager to move forward with the expansion at the time, but she did not know why they had not pursued the project further. She added that the veterinarian and daycare center had not met to discuss sharing the cost.
Troutman said that the veterinary office would not generate a lot of trips, but it would increase congestion and does warrant a turn lane at Bent Creek Lane, but there is not sufficient length there.
“The answer is to build the new access point to relieve congestion at that one access point,” she said, adding that the construction engineer had determined that a turn lane on Binks Forest Drive was feasible, and that a turn lane was needed due to the traffic speed on Binks Forest Drive.
Gerwig noted that the village could not share the cost of the entrance because the charter limits its ability to use public funds for private development.
Village Attorney Laurie Cohen said the situation is similar to one at Palomino Park on State Road 7, where a condition was placed on them to build an access point to neighboring Wellington Parc, but the village failed to put the same condition on Wellington Parc.
“They could not agree on the financial responsibility of each party and ultimately it just never got built,” Cohen said.
Veterinarian Mike Russo, who was applying for the variance, said he did not understand why the total burden of the entrance should fall on him as the next applicant in line for development.
“Why would you penalize the next person trying to go in?” he said, explaining that he and his partner are currently in a 1,300-square-foot office in Wellington that they are outgrowing, and they have no desire to go outside of Wellington. “We’re willing to take on the responsibility. It just doesn’t make any sense.”
Drahos asked whether the village could build the turn lane and assess the owners as they develop, and Cohen said she was concerned that it meant the village participating in a private development. However, she said she would research the question.
Drahos made a motion to postpone the decision to Jan. 10, which carried 4-0.