The Wellington Village Council approved a resolution Tuesday authorizing a memorandum of agreement with the Florida Department of Agriculture that will enable joint enrollment in the village’s and the state’s voluntary policies regarding equine best management practices (BMPs).
According to the village staff report, Wellington and the South Florida Water Management District have an existing memorandum of understanding requiring the adoption and implementation of agricultural BMPs, along with other measures to reduce phosphorus discharge from Wellington’s stormwater management system.
The Florida Department of Agriculture’s agricultural BMPs substantially comply with the SFWMD agreement, and horse farm owners have the option of utilizing either BMP program.
Village Manager Paul Schofield said equestrian BMPs have been an issue for Wellington since incorporation, and under state rules, the primary responsibility for equestrian BMPs rests within the Florida Department of Agriculture.
“They have a voluntary BMP program,” Schofield said. “We have been working with the Florida Department of Agriculture on making sure our rules and theirs were the same and that you could do one-stop permitting.”
The agreement memorandum will allow the village to issue the voluntary state permit jointly with the village’s permit.
“When we went through and compared the regulations, they are nearly identical,” he said. “There are some things in the state rules that can be a little more stringent than ours. Our regulations on covering manure bins, you can do it by covering it with a tarp. The state’s regulation is a bit more stringent.”
The state also has an annual monitoring and testing requirement, and will also provide some farm management practices. The village is in the process of conforming its regulations with the state’s, Schofield said.
“One of the benefits to village residents is that we will agree in all cases to process under their timelines, which are 30 days,” he said.
The initial 10 applications will be processed by the Florida Department of Agriculture, and the village will maintain good communication with the state agency to assure that both entities employ a single set of rules with no conflicts between municipal and state regulations.
Schofield added that village staff will do outreach to residents to make them aware that the service is available, including a presentation to the Wellington Equestrian Preserve Committee.
Wellington Projects Manager Mike O’Dell stressed that both programs are voluntary.
“You can opt for village assistance through our BMPs and submit through that process, or you can submit through the [state] program,” O’Dell said. “Either way, you’ll meet the requirements for best management practices.”
He added that integrating with the state program offers advantages for horse farm owners to work with the state agency regarding their farm management operations, which the village does not offer.
“They can reduce fertilizer activities through soil conservation on their properties,” O’Dell said. “They can also reduce some of their costs associated with management and maintenance of their farm properties by utilizing some of the programs that they have, so there are advantages.”
O’Dell added that approving the memorandum of agreement will enable village residents to apply for BMPs that are approved by both the village and the state.
“We think this is going to be a good program for the community and will allow the farmers to improve their operations,” he said.
Councilman Michael Napoleone made a motion to approve the resolution, which carried 5-0.
In other business, the council approved a resolution accepting a matching $200,000 Land & Water Conservation Fund grant from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for the village’s Dorchester Park project.
Village Manager Paul Schofield explained that Director of Administrative & Financial Services Tanya Quickel had applied for a grant for the construction of an observation platform at the lakeside park, located off of Big Blue Trace.
“I do appreciate the work they have done getting grants,” Schofield said.
Quickel said in addition to the observation deck, the improvements will include a picnic facility, a waterfront multipurpose trail, landscaping and a playground renovation.
Mayor Anne Gerwig added that the observation deck will enable people to fish in the lake. “Having kids growing up here, one of my favorite things to see was the kid with the fishing pole walking down the street to the canal,” she said.
Vice Mayor John McGovern made a motion to approve the resolution, which carried 5-0.