Wellington Finalizes Slimmed Down Land Development Rules

The Wellington Municipal Complex.

A multi-year effort to make Wellington’s Land Development Regulations more user friendly resulted in the original LDRs of some 1,200 pages being repealed and replaced in its entirety by a svelte, new 285-page document at a meeting of the Wellington Village Council on Monday, Jan. 13.

The public hearing fielded one comment that the new regulations bypassed Wellington’s Equestrian Preserve Committee.

Village Manager Paul Schofield explained that there are no changes to Wellington’s equestrian policies in the new document.

“The equestrian committee was never the final decision-maker,” he said. “They were, as they have always been, advisors. There are no land use changes.”

Councilman John McGovern praised the new and improved document.

“Reduced by more than 900 pages with no change in substance. It is a hallmark project and achievement,” he said, thanking village staff for their work.

Wellington’s Planning, Zoning & Building Director Bob Basehart said that unlike its predecessor, the new LDRs have no inconsistencies with the comprehensive plan and creates no new non-conformities and no new entitlements.

Despite pointing out a typo on the random page she turned to, Mayor Anne Gerwig was impressed. “It is very good. Take that back to your staff,” she told Basehart.

Schofield said that typographical errors are inevitable and can and will be fixed as found.

Two other public hearings produced no public to hear, and the measures also passed unanimously with little or no comments or disagreements.

One was related to cell phone service rights-of-way.

“There are only minor changes to make us compliant with the state,” Village Attorney Laurie Cohen said before the measure was approved.

The second was the final reading of a legally required housekeeping measure updating the five-year capital improvement element schedule and the relevant portions of the School District of Palm Beach County capital improvement schedule.

In other business:

• During time for public comment, 23-year resident and 26-year teacher at Wellington High School Scott Zucker recommended that the Peaceful Waters Sanctuary boardwalk replacement be done in stages so as not to necessitate closing the entire area during its renovation.

The sanctuary, located at the back end of Wellington’s Village Park, is a favorite for birding enthusiasts, both locally and throughout the region.

Zucker cited that each local visitor spends about $40 on a day’s outing that includes a visit to the park, while out-of-town visitors spend upward of $110 for the excursion. He estimated some 500 visitors per week and came up with a $1 million per year economic impact on Wellington due to visitation of the soon to be temporarily closed sanctuary.

Schofield questioned the number of visitors being anywhere near that high but explained that the filtration area is for the benefit of Wellington’s nearby wastewater treatment facility and that the boardwalk is a recreational amenity that is an addendum to the primary use of the area.

He said that to do the rehabilitation in other than a single phase would add more than $400,000 to the project and would still be unsafe for visitors to be in a construction area during the work. “It is a risk management issue,” said Schofield, assuring the council that the work would be done quickly and be minimally invasive.

“In a way, we are victims of our own success,” McGovern said, referring to adding the recreational aspect to what is part of the water utility.

Gerwig agreed. “We have really gone out of our way to be great environmental partners,” she said.

The council decided by consensus, at the suggestion of Gerwig, that signage be placed at Peaceful Waters telling visitors about the nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas Everglades Habitat, which offers similar nature watching opportunities.

• During council reports, several members took the opportunity to congratulate Gerwig, Vice Mayor Michael Napoleone and Councilman Michael Drahos for being reelected without opposition. It was pointed out that not having the election saved the village some $75,000 that will remain in the general fund.

Gerwig noted that neighboring communities such as Royal Palm Beach also had canceled elections due to a lack of challengers. She further noted that there were only two audience members present at the meeting.

“I hope it is that we are that great at this, but I would encourage the public to get involved and to engage,” she said.

Gerwig also spoke about the increasing urgency to develop a long-term plan to deal with horse manure in the village, while McGovern wanted to see improvements in solid waste pickup.

Drahos ratcheted up the passion with comments about his anger at seeing advertising posters in the Mall at Wellington Green purchased by an advertiser promoting “Ocala 2021” as a future equestrian venue.

“If the leadership of the mall is going to ask me to take a leap of faith on their future,” he said referring to plans seeking approval to redevelop parts of the mall into other uses, “I want to ask them, ‘If you are fully invested in Wellington, why would you promote another city, and if not, why are you not fully invested with Wellington.’”

Drahos went on to say that he would like to meet with representatives of the mall to discuss having the posters taken down immediately.

The next meeting of the Wellington Village Council will be Tuesday, Jan. 28. The first meeting in February, scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 11, was canceled by consensus due to a lack of business items on the agenda.