The Wellington Village Council agreed Tuesday to support the development of a dental technology academic building on Palm Beach State College’s new Loxahatchee Groves campus.
The idea for the building has been in the works for about 10 years, said Dr. Maria Vallejo, who is provost for the PBSC campuses in Loxahatchee Groves and Belle Glade, as well as vice president for growth and expansion at the college.
Vice Mayor John McGovern said he would like to see the dental program operated locally.
“I’ve been approached by several members of the community, including some local dentists, wanting to talk about the importance of having the dental technology building here, and I guess it was my understanding that was the long-term plan for the campus,” McGovern said. “Is that not the case?”
Vallejo said it was not.
“We were never told exactly what would go into that campus,” she said. “We were told that when we built out, which is our 20-year plan, there would be about 12 buildings. But, we were never told what exactly we would have on the campus.”
Vallejo said the focus on technology and health was only recently brought into the mix of discussion over the past two years.
McGovern suggested that Wellington help rally support for having the dental program based locally.
“We should e-mail or write to [PBSC President Ava Parker], because I definitely think that would be an excellent thing to place [on the Loxahatchee Groves campus] due to its location both within the county and serving our farther west communities, but also with all the development that’s coming in that area,” McGovern said. “I think it would be well-suited to be placed there, and that’s what local dentists have also said to me.”
The decision of where to locate the dental health and technology learning facility is up to Parker, along with support from the board of trustees, Vallejo said.
“They will accept her decision as the president,” Vallejo said. “It’s not something that the trustees want to get involved in. They want her to do the research. They want her to talk to folks and get the feedback that is going to be supported by the community.”
Councilwoman Tanya Siskind asked about the costs of the proposed academic building.
“The building will probably cost closer to $20 [million],” Vallejo said.
Siskind asked about ways the council could further support the effort to bring the building to the Loxahatchee Groves campus.
“I would certainly be interested in having it out here, and I think it would be really beneficial to the community,” Siskind said.
Vallejo noted that the construction of the future academic building could be more effective at the Loxahatchee Groves location, rather than the older, more established campuses.
“It also would not disrupt the program, because if you’re building a building, you have to tear down what you have. I would never want to have the students be on hold for a year or two until a new building is built,” Vallejo said. “So, it’s easier to build a building on a different site, and then just have those students as soon as they’re ready to move forward into that new site. I know with Lake Worth, we’re kind of tight in terms of space. So, we would have to tear down to build.”
Mayor Anne Gerwig supported the idea of having the dental program locally, but noted a potential conflict of interest for herself due to her engineering firm’s involvement in the development of the campus.
“We actually did the civil work on the Loxahatchee Groves campus,” she said. “I’m not sure if I could sign the letter of support. I’ll have to talk to my ethics officer over here. But, in fact I would invite everyone to come and see that campus. It is beautiful. I just visited it for the first time a few months ago. When you go all the way up to the third floor, there is almost a glass tower. They call it the treehouse, and it looks almost down Flying Cow Road. You can kind of see your way to our environmental preserve.”
McGovern asked about the timeframe for the new facility.
“I think [Parker is] going to need to make that decision within the next few weeks or month at the most, because we need to start moving on the planning stages,” Vallejo said. “Since she has to go back to Tallahassee in September, she needs to have an idea of what exactly are we doing with this.”
Councilman Michael Napoleone made a motion to draft a letter of support for moving the dental and technology facility to the Loxahatchee Groves campus, to be signed by either the mayor or the vice mayor. The motion passed 4-0 with Gerwig abstaining.
In other business:
• The council approved the first reading of ordinance for a drive-through zoning text amendment.
“The way it reads today, drive-through facilities of any kind are prohibited from facing a public roadway,” Director of Growth Management Bob Basehart said. “That limitation causes a lot of problems in the design of centers for onsite circulation and parking and pedestrian access, pedestrian circulation.”
The change opens up the chance to allow more leeway for businesses to have access to drive-through technology with their facilities in Wellington.
“We think that providing an alternative where you could face the street with proper buffering and mitigation to prevent visual impact to the adjacent street is a good solution,” Basehart said. “There are a lot of uses that are starting to take advantage of drive-through technology to improve customer service and efficiency.”
McGovern made a motion to approve the first reading of the ordinance, which passed unanimously.
• The council approved a request by Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher to change the qualifying dates for the upcoming 2018 municipal election. Previously, qualifying for the election ballot opened in late January and closed in the middle of February. For the 2018 election, the qualifying period will open at noon on Dec. 5, 2017 and close at noon on Dec. 19, 2017. The election will still be held on Tuesday, March 13, 2018.
“I think it’s designed to help the supervisor maximize voter turnout, which I think is something we all want — to make sure that any people who want to vote are able to vote,” Napoleone said. “Especially if they’re voting by mail, getting the ballots and making sure they get out in time.”
Napoleone made a motion to approve the request by Bucher to change the qualifying dates. The motion passed 4-1 with Councilman Michael Drahos opposed.
“I hate to throw a wrench into this, but I also would not want this council to be accused of being insensitive. These dates fall within the Hanukkah holiday,” Drahos said. “That is, Dec. 12 through Dec. 20. I’m sure the supervisor of elections considered that when she made this proposal to us.”
• The council approved a number of resolutions adopting the budgets and assessment rates for the Acme Improvement District, Wellington Solid Waste Collection and the Saddle Trail Park Neighborhood Improvement District, including resolutions adopting budgets for the Lake Wellington Professional Centre and the village’s water and wastewater utility. All five resolutions passed unanimously. The council also approved appointing Gerwig as the official authorized representative to certify the non-ad valorem assessment rolls.