Wellington Zoners Refuse Paddock Park Horse Appeal

The Wellington Municipal Complex.

Wellington Planning, Zoning & Adjustment Board denied an administrative appeal Wednesday, Dec. 13 brought by the owner of a residential parcel in the Paddock Park Phase I subdivision regarding whether horses can be kept on the property.

At issue was an administrative determination by Wellington’s Planning, Zoning & Building Department staff regarding property owned by Kelly Jacobs at 14785 Haymarket Court in the Paddock Park I subdivision.

Jacobs sought to keep horses on the property, but village officials ruled that horses are not allowed. Jacobs, represented by former Wellington Village Attorney Jeffrey Kurtz, appealed the ruling.

Kurtz originally wanted a postponement of the agenda item until the January meeting, but the board voted unanimously to deny the postponement request. The board’s rationale was based on the village code, which calls for a written request for postponement to be filed at least five days prior to the meeting.

The appeal was based on four items in the staff report prepared by Planning, Zoning & Building Director Bob Basehart.

Kurtz argued that Paddock Park I’s plat and covenant agreements allowed horses to be boarded there. He further argued that Palm Beach County permitted horses on Paddock Park properties before the village was incorporated.

Kurtz also pointed out that Wellington permitted horses to live in Paddock Park I up until 2002, which is when the Equestrian Preserve Area (EPA) and Equestrian Overlay Zoning District (EOZD) were created and added to village’s comprehensive plan.

“There has been no change through an ordinance that’s in place,” Kurtz said. “There has been no change that staff or the village has pointed to.”

The change he was referring to is a specific law that clearly reversed allowing horses in Paddock Park I.

Basehart’s response to the appeal was grounded in the fact that both Palm Beach County and Wellington were improperly interpreting their codes and regulations prior to 2002.

He also emphasized that Palm Beach County and Wellington are the government entities that regulate the property.

“Zoning is a police power that cannot be delegated, so the plat and covenants do not supersede the village’s regulation,” Basehart said.

He also pointed out that any property owner in Paddock Park I who was boarding horses prior to 2002 could continue to do so as long as the equestrian presence was uninterrupted.

When the EPA and the EZOD were created in 2002, Paddock Park I was specifically left out of the boundaries at the request of the majority of its residents. Its sister development, Paddock Park Phase 2, was included in the preserve and allows equestrian uses.

Furthermore, as noted in the staff report, the Wellington Village Council considered a petition initiated by several property owners in 2009 to allow equestrian use and structures in Paddock Park I. However, the council declined, based on overwhelming opposition by residents of the Paddock Park I community.

Basehart testified that he found no record of a permit for that property other than the house and driveway. He also provided chronological aerial photographs of the property that showed no evidence of a stable being present on the property prior to February 2016.

Furthermore, he noted, the property had been owned by Wells Fargo bank for eleven months after a foreclosure, prior to Jacobs purchasing the property. Therefore, it was proof that any prior equestrian presence had been interrupted, Basehart said.

The discussion was also centered on the fact that Palm Beach County animal control ordinances call for providing a shelter for any animals housed on the property, and for horses, this means stable stalls, which are permanent structures that require permits to be built.

Planning & Zoning Manager David Flinchum also testified about conversations he had with Jacobs’ mother, Marysue Jacobs, where he informed her — both before and after Jacobs purchased the property — that it was not zoned to have horses living there.

“You have not heard anything that contradicts Mr. Basehart’s original opinion, and that is clear, rational and logical,” current Village Attorney Laurie Cohen told the board.

After Kurtz and Cohen completed their presentations, cross examinations and closing statements, the board voted unanimously to deny the appeal.