At its Tuesday, Dec. 10 meeting, the Wellington Village Council approved the repeal, replacement and recodification of the village’s Land Development Regulations in their entirety, plus an annual measure that they’d like not to revisit — the seasonal permit for horse shows at Equestrian Village.
The four-year project to rewrite the LDRs has been a team effort that involved eliminating duplicate, contradictory and irrelevant information, and creating a log of changes that will, going forward, provide a roadmap of all modifications made to the document, complete with the rationale behind the changes. This way, future users have a history of the changes.
Planning, Zoning & Building Director Bob Basehart and Development Review Coordinator Cory Cramer submitted the final document, which is one-third its original size.
The council had already held public hearings on all of the 10 chapters, except six and three. Six is a placeholder for future needs so the numbers don’t change should it be added later. Three is definitions, acronyms or abbreviations used in the document. This section went to the council before it was reviewed by the Planning, Zoning & Adjustment Board, which was scheduled to review the item Wednesday, Dec. 11. It was not expected there would be any significant changes, so the order of approval was reversed to save a month. Any changes can be made before the final reading and adoption of the entire recodified LDRs at the council meeting Jan. 20, 2020.
“Let’s be clear here,” Councilman John McGovern said. “No requirements were added or taken away.”
Village Manager Paul Schofield said that the regulations are streamlined for anyone who needed to use it. The volume of paper has been reduced by two-thirds. He explained that everything is in there once, with no duplications. “It is all published in one place,” Schofield said, adding that village staff made sure that everything is consistent with Wellington’s comprehensive plan.
Vice Mayor Michael Napoleone congratulated the staff on the years-long effort.
“You took 1,200 pages down to 300 pages. That is a herculean task. You guys and your team have rewritten the entire code. Thank you for now and the future,” he said.
McGovern agreed, calling it “an historic task.”
“In 2015, this council, this team, said this could be done better,” he said, explaining that the village then had a reputation as a hard place to do business, with regulations that were unclear, inconsistent and hard to follow.
McGovern said that the council could be judged by this as a potential signature accomplishment.
Councilwoman Tanya Siskind summed it up pointing to the existing volume in an oversized binder and the comparatively thin copy of the rewrite. “The visual says it all,” she said.
In other business:
• The first of two annual measures was to update the comprehensive plan for the capital improvements for the next five years and also update the school district’s capital improvements with figures supplied by it. Schofield explained that the council is statutorily required to transmit the budget to the state. “This is simply a reporting item,” he said.
• The second perennial was never intended to be an annual item, but the Equestrian Village site — home of the Adequan Global Dressage Festival — currently operates on a seasonal permit that must be approved each year until required upgrades to Pierson Road have been made. Once the upgrades are made, the site will have a permanent permit.
However, the roadwork — at one time projected to be a $1 million improvement expenditure — has been delayed for various reasons since 2012.
Florida law allows that anytime an emergency is declared by the governor’s office for a specific area, the owner of a property can request an automatic development order extension simply by notifying the village.
Due to on-going litigation over the site, this opportunity has been invoked every year for the past seven, as the governor’s office has protected citizens from hurricane damage that potentially threatened the area.
“The village was never a party in this litigation,” said Village Attorney Laurie Cohen, adding, “This is perfectly legal and is their right.”
It is a case of the village having a golden goose that lays golden eggs but hasn’t cleaned up after itself like it agreed to. Engineer Michael Sexton, representing owner Wellington Equestrian Partners and Managing Partner Mark Bellissimo, assured the council that this should be the final extension.
“My understanding is that all of the appeals have been exhausted and the time to go to the supreme court has passed,” he said referring to the ongoing litigation.
“It’s finally over,” McGovern verified.
“This [ruling] is a final decision,” Cohen agreed.
McGovern asked if hurricanes Irma or Dorian had caused a delay. “Did the opioid epidemic cause a delay?” he asked, noting another of the governor’s declared Palm Beach County emergencies.
Sexton said they had not.
“On behalf of the residents, I want to say that there is a difference between what you are allowed to do and what you should do,” McGovern said. “I am deeply hopeful that we will not need to have this discussion again next year.”
“There are drainage issues with that area as well,” Mayor Anne Gerwig added.
Schofield explained that the village’s plan is to add a turning lane to Pierson Road and South Shore Blvd. with culverts to improve drainage, and that the owner would pay the cost estimate of their requirements, and the village would handle the project under a single contract.
With renewed optimism, the council approved the application under the same conditions as previously. On the application, there are two less dates in December, and it was noted that there have been no complaints from the public.
“We all realize this is going to be a team effort,” said Gerwig, who advised residents not to expect miracles. “I don’t want anyone to think that event traffic will receive a huge relief. I don’t want them to think there is a panacea in this action.”
“It will help,” McGovern added.