Editor’s note: Former Wellington Village Councilman Al Paglia read the following letter to the council on Monday, Oct. 7. A copy was sent to the Town-Crier for publication.
Dear Village Council:
I am here tonight to review with you the Wellington comp plan amendment for specifically the Axis apartment complex on the Ring Road erected several years ago by Brefrank in partnership with Richard Schechter, a longtime equestrian here in town and general contractor.
I can remember when I was on the council in 1998, a wonderful family firm who owned the land in front of our village — over 400 acres — presented a petition to us for a beautiful mall. After many workshops, the Ring Road and mall with five anchors were put up with 10 pods around the entire property on our corner of Forest Hill and State Road 7 to provide our growing community with not only large department stores, but 125 boutique shops at the mall, restaurants, supermarkets, medical practices and high-end apartment units. Presently, a much-needed senior living complex is under construction, which serves a great need in our village.
As our village continued to grow, hotels were put up to serve our growing community, as well as our equestrian industry, which brings an economic life to us that Oliver and Roger Wellington never imagined.
The proposal before us now for the Axis apartment complex expansion fills a great need. The original complex was filled to capacity very quickly. This petition for an additional approximately 185 units makes good sense. Not only does it increase our tax base with middle/upper value units, but it provides for aging seniors and young families to stay in town with a beautiful apartment near the mall.
The argument that wetlands are sorely needed is valid, but since our Planning, Zoning & Adjustment Board has approved the petition, I propose we carefully evaluate our current open spaces in town to recover and move them from golf course/recreation and agricultural designations into wetlands, which will allow this petition for additional units to move forward.
Our village has two large open tracts of land available for this idea.
Open tract number 1: I would like to see the council review the 65 acres which was part of the original Palm Beach Polo golf course, now abandoned on the north side of Forest Hill between The 12 Fairway (South Shore 2A) and Pine Valley (Eastwood area).
While I was on the council from 1998 to 2002, our parks and recreation director proposed we purchase the land and make it a passive park with entry from the library or what is now Elbridge Gale Elementary School, and create a beautiful park/nature preserve for all to enjoy. This is similar to what Pinellas County has done, which is called the Pinellas Trail. Ours could be the Wellington Path, a jogging trail and walking path for residents to see stations with descriptions of native plant life highlighting the birds, fish in the ponds and small lakes, and small animals that are part of the 65-acre landscape. We could consider a method to fund the purchase as we did back when I served, asking the voters to approve a small increase to negotiate with owner Glenn Straub through a general obligation bond issue for residents to approve.
Open tract number 2: Our K-Park site on State Road 7 (62 acres) can also be reserved as a park similar to our Village Park or Tiger Shark Cove, which would serve our newer parts of town.
In closing, I wish to thank our Mayor Anne Gerwig and fellow council members for keeping our village in the “Top 100 Places to Live” in America and keeping alive the dream that Roger and Oliver Wellington envisioned so many years ago.
Al Paglia, Wellington