The Wellington Village Council expressed guarded optimism Tuesday, Nov. 26 that the six-month saga regarding an incorrectly built CVS Pharmacy building in the Wellington Town Square shopping plaza will soon be coming to an end.
Work on the structure deemed to be unsafe by village experts has been on hold since last spring, but the site will show activity starting Dec. 3 when the entire building is scheduled to be demolished and removed.
Wellington Building Official Jacek Tomasik updated the council, explaining that Wellington had received an application for a permit from the property owner for a voluntary removal of the structure, and that he had received a letter from CVS officials confirming that the demolition will occur starting next week. He related that they are past the point where they have any appeals left.
Tomasik said the demolition contractor is experienced in the area and that this is a small job for them. Their work will not occur during events in the village and should be finished before the Sunday, Dec. 8 parade that goes down Forest Hill Blvd., not far from the construction site.
“They know it is in the middle of our town,” Tomasik said. “There will be no dust at the parade.”
The foundation of the structure is sound, while other parts of the building were not built according to plan and buckled when the roof was poured.
“The foundation can be saved so long as it doesn’t get damaged during demolition,” Tomasik said.
The village has retained a structural engineer to monitor the project to ensure this fresh start is built according to regulations and plans. The structural engineer will ensure any damage to the foundation is repaired or if a replacement is necessary.
“Once the owner of the property got involved, things began to happen,” said Village Manager Paul Schofield, who commented that the owner wants to restore public faith in the project.
Mayor Anne Gerwig didn’t like the idea of the same contractor building the new building, despite there being a new engineer of record. She said that the contractor wasn’t very responsible the first time when the building wasn’t built according to the approved plan.
Gerwig was also concerned that the plan may have deficiencies that could affect other buildings if the deficiencies were not repaired or corrected.
“We will do what the law allows and requires,” Schofield said. “We have gone as far as we can go according to the state.”
Vice Mayor Michael Napoleone instructed staff to alert the council to any future problems. “Please inform us so we are in the loop,” he said.
Some residents were dismayed that the building is being constructed in the first place. However, it didn’t require any special zoning approval.
“This council is powerless to prevent it,” Napoleone explained. “They are in compliance.”
Schofield agreed. “Building the structure is a right they have had for nearly 30 years,” he explained.
Gerwig was also concerned that the lighting from the CVS would be a nuisance to surrounding residents.
“If that glass lights up with neon, the neighbors are going to be all over the phones,” she said. “We have been very accommodating… Can we ask that they try to have as little impact as possible?”
Schofield said that the Architectural Review Board has already approved the elevations, and if the same ones are used, no further approval is necessary.
During council reports, Councilman John McGovern, brought up the subject of the traffic and parking problems surrounding the major lacrosse tournament held last weekend at the International Polo Club Palm Beach and Village Park.
“At 7 a.m. Saturday morning, we had an absolute and unmitigated disaster on our hands,” agreed Schofield, pointing out that there were things that could and should have been done and that modifications to procedures have been made to prevent such occurrences from happening in the future.
The permit was for a field hockey event hosting 8,000 to 10,000 players, which the village has accommodated before. Turnout for the lacrosse tournament was higher, and they all had to be at the same place at the same time.
“There were 3,600 trips in a two-hour period,” Schofield said. “They should have absolutely had the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office directing traffic.”
He continued that the event was not sponsored by the village and that the organizers were overwhelmed with contract staffing who didn’t know how to handle the crowd and grossly deficient traffic and parking plans.
Village staff had to treat the event as an emergency in the realm of a hurricane to respond quickly to the needs of the event.
“Our operational people should and will be involved in the future,” Schofield said. “The hot air balloon fest coming up this weekend will not have these kinds of problems.”
Council members questioned further, wanting to make sure there would not be a repeat.
McGovern and other council members agreed that any event that goes on in Wellington reflects on the village.
“We are preparing a bill for all this,” Schofield said. “To the people impacted by the event, you have my profound apologies. I guarantee it will not happen again.
The next meeting of the Wellington Village Council will be held Tuesday, Dec. 10 at 7 p.m.