Wellington Council Concerned About Protecting Brand

During the Tuesday, April 25 meeting of the Wellington Village Council, the concept of village branding was discussed, with council members asking their attorney and manager what can be done to stop people from co-opting Wellington’s name.

Over the years, a number of developers and businesses have advertised themselves as part of Wellington, even if they weren’t technically in the incorporated boundaries of the village — much to the chagrin of community leaders.

“There is a true benefit of being part of this community,” Mayor Anne Gerwig said. “I think that all of us would be a good example of that. We do understand what makes us different, and that is why our brand is so strong.”

Wellington is known for its amenities, schools, high property values and equestrian community, she noted. Nearby developers have for many years capitalized on that for their marketing, which council members felt is misleading.

Gerwig said that it is most likely harming potential buyers, who are seeking to move to Wellington, but buy in a community advertised as part of Wellington when it is not truthfully a part of the Village of Wellington.

At issue Tuesday was Arden, a new development west of Wellington being developed by Freehold Communities. It is outside Wellington’s boundaries but has included the Wellington location in its marketing campaigns.

“I’ve been being approached by a lot of residents in the community, and among social media discussion relative to the Arden development to our north and to our west, and their usage of Wellington and saying that they’re in Wellington,” Vice Mayor John McGovern said. “For purposes of the record, it’s absolutely clear that they’re not in Wellington in any way.”

Village Manager Paul Schofield said that this has been a concern in the past and will likely continue.

“We have never found a way that we could successfully stop a developer from using Wellington,” Schofield said. “They’re not using our logos; they’re not using our trademarks. They’re just saying Wellington services or saying they’re in Wellington.”

Gerwig said that the development lies within the 33470 zip code, primarily associated with Loxahatchee.

Village Attorney Laurie Cohen said that there is limited recourse that the village can take against developers claiming to be in Wellington.

“We can send a demand letter, but I don’t know that we would have a cause of action for injunctive relief, which is really what would prohibit them from using the village’s name,” Cohen said. “We are a municipality, and I don’t know that there is anything that precludes someone from using the name without a logo or without any slogan within their advertising material… It would be difficult to show how it is damaging the village.”

At the request of the council, Cohen agreed to explore the options that the village has to manage what private developers are doing with the use of Wellington’s name and other aspects of its image.

“I think there is some argument to be made that there is harm,” Councilman Michael Drahos said. “There are businesses, too, that try and call themselves businesses in Wellington. It is a growing concern that people are trying to… grab onto our brand without really having the ability to do that.”

In other business:

• The council approved a project to make improvements to the C-11 and C-15 canals. Assistant Village Manager Jim Barnes explained what the project entails.
“Basically, it’s two parts of the project. One is reviewing a crossing on Wellington Trace and the C-15 canal. We’re going to be reviewing that and evaluating it to determine if we need to upsize the current culvert that’s there,” Barnes said. “The other part of the project is the C-11, to actually put a culvert in that location to be able to connect an existing bridle trail. That component of the project is partially funded with a State of Florida grant for $200,000.”
It is a matching grant, so the remaining balance of the project will be funded using money earmarked for trail improvements, repair and maintenance by the village annually, Barnes said.

Councilman Michael Napoleone made a motion to approve the agreement with Mock, Roos & Associates to provide engineering consulting services for both the C-11 and C-15 canal culvert crossings and bridle trail improvements. The motion was seconded by Drahos and passed 4-0 with Gerwig recusing herself.

• The council approved an ordinance amending the “Definitions” and “Property Maintenance Standards” sections of the village code.

“This is the second reading of what is essentially a cleanup ordinance,” Cohen explained. “It removes certain definitions from that section of the code, which are duplicative and are found elsewhere in our code, and it also clarifies that the property owner is responsible for all of the maintenance that is required under our code, unless it is otherwise stated in our code. That is something we’ve always enforced, but it just needed to be clarified.”

There were no comments from the public at a required public hearing on the topic, and the ordinance passed unanimously.