Wellington Council OKs Permit For Horse Events At Polo West

The Wellington Village Council on Tuesday approved a special use permit for the Polo West Golf Club to run as many as 51 equestrian events over the next several months, although some residents of homes west of the club on Sunderland Avenue objected to the horse trailer parking arrangement in a field behind their homes.

Growth Management Director Bob Basehart said the application is by Gary Fellers to allow equestrian events on 7 acres commonly known as the clubhouse and arena area of the total 150-acre property at Polo West, located at 2470 Greenview Cove Drive, starting last Wednesday through July.

“The applicant is committed to limiting events to two evenings during the week with hours of operation limited, and two events on weekends with hours of operation limitations,” Basehart said, adding that village staff recommended approval, subject to 21 conditions.

Since the package went out, Basehart said, the village has received a few letters or e-mails with concerns, including photos of the trailer parking from a resident’s backyard.

Vice Mayor John McGovern called attention to a letter dated Tuesday from the Polo West Estates Homeowners’ Association stating concerns about the application, although at the agenda review the day before, it was said that the HOA had no objections.

“The letter that is before you literally came in at 5 o’clock this afternoon,” Basehart said.

McGovern also pointed out that the letter was only signed “Polo West HOA,” with no signature.

Jennifer Vail, agent for the applicant, said she had not seen the letter under discussion and could not comment on it.

Mayor Anne Gerwig said that the letter indicated that homeowners had not been notified of the plan, but Senior Planner Cory Lynn Cramer said letters had been sent to homeowners within 500 feet of the arena complex, and signs and legal ads had been posted.

Fellers said that the application had been submitted to allow equestrian events to supplement the golf and equestrian uses of the adjoining property.

“It was set up to do family-friendly equestrian that would complement the more serious international events going on in the other venues,” he said, adding that the events would include western, arena polo and jumping. “It’s designed to support the clubhouse and clubhouse activities and community activities.”

Fellers hopes to bring the camaraderie of lower-level competitions.

“We envision Polo West as being that kind of old-time Wellington. When it started, there was much more camaraderie where everybody joined and went to the club after, and had a beer together,” he said. “We want to celebrate that kind of competitiveness, competition, friendship and community.”

Fellers said there would probably be fewer than 51 events, but he appreciated staff giving them the flexibility of scheduling.

He added that trailers had been rerouted to enter and leave the parking area away from the homeowners’ property rather than use an easement that runs along the canal behind the homes.

The letter from the HOA had indicated concern that the intensity of use would increase more at the property, which includes a clubhouse and restaurant.

Councilman Michael Drahos asked Fellers what his future plans are.

“The vision is for it to be a clubhouse/restaurant to support the activities there and the community,” Fellers said. “The restaurant business is a tough business, and the idea with the events is that it is something that provides entertainment and activity to bring people in to use the restaurant facility.”

Fellers, who read the letter of objection that evening along with council members, said he was surprised because he had been in contact with the HOA, which had no objections previously.

“We invited all the Polo West Estates residents to the clubhouse last Friday just to meet them and answer any questions,” he said. “There’s a lot of misinformation, and we have scheduled another meeting this Friday to sit down and share some of the vision points that we shared with you folks a year or so ago.”

Fellers added that the last meeting had been attended by about 30 people, who were all supportive except for one person.

Gerwig asked about complaints of loud music and hours of operation, and Basehart said those would be strictly enforced.

The letter also raised concerns about a future rezoning for the facility, but Gerwig pointed out that the application before them was only for a special use permit.

During public comment, several people spoke in favor of the programming, but some Polo West Estates residents whose homes are behind the horse trailer parking area spoke against it.

Angela Lacy of Sunderland Avenue, who is secretary of the Polo West Estates HOA, said she had attended the meetings set up by Fellers.

“I think the problem lies, I’m going to speak for myself, in the continually changing direction that they want to take Polo West,” Lacy said. “I’ve heard from them directly that this is just the first phase of the horse barns, the equine homes and those kinds of things. For us, it’s kind of a slippery slope. We’re afraid of what’s to come. We’ve seen Winding Trails. We’ve seen all these kinds of things going on on defunct golf courses.”

After additional discussion, Gerwig said she would vote for the application because it is only a temporary permit. Councilman John McGovern made a motion to approve the application, which carried 5-0.