An attempt to remove the prohibition against permanent covered arenas in Wellington’s Winding Trails development took up nearly two hours of a virtual Wellington Village Council on Tuesday, July 14.
While all council members eventually voted for the measure “to move it forward,” several took the opportunity to scold village staff and stated that their support would not be forthcoming should numerous questions not be satisfactorily addressed by the second public hearing.
Developer Patricia Holloway spoke for Winding Trails, also known as Subarea F of the Equestrian Overlay Zoning District. The nine-lot community of equestrian estates was approved in 2017 near the northeast corner of Aero Club Drive and Greenbriar Blvd.
The lots were sliced out of a defunct golf course and approved as the new Subarea F of the EOZD. It is a non-contiguous section of the EOZD. Each lot is just under 5 acres, including ponds and water features. The buildable area of the lots range from 2.43 to 4.45 acres. No more than 20 percent can be covered by a permanent roof of a principal structure. No tents or temporary roofs are permitted.
Holloway said the roof of a covered arena must match the materials of the house and had a photographic example of such a structure. Even the lot with the smallest buildable area can accommodate a dressage arena, which measures 70 feet by 160 feet.
Village staff explained that the ordinance would amend Wellington’s Land Development Regulations to allow the covered arenas in Subarea F, as they are in other areas of the EOZD, and make setbacks consistent throughout, at 10 feet from other properties in the development.
The applicant volunteered the restriction on covered arenas in 2017, although Holloway did not recall exactly why — only that such covered arenas were not considered popular at the time.
However, Winding Trails has generated interest among dressage enthusiasts, and covered arenas are a coveted amenity in dressage circles.
Wellington’s Equestrian Preserve Committee and Planning, Zoning & Adjustment Board each reviewed the measure, passing it along with a recommendation to approve.
Councilman Michael Drahos was upset that residents of the neighboring developments were not notified about the change. Planning, Zoning & Building Director Tim Stillings said that no mailers were sent to residents of Lakefield South or the Aero Club because it is not a zoning change.
Mayor Anne Gerwig said that the first hearing is also part of the notification. “What we are doing now is part of the process of notifying,” she said, adding that public notice was done as required by law.
Yet Gerwig also wanted to be sure that area residents were OK with the change. “We have to accommodate the community, not one developer,” she said.
Pushing the Zoom software past its limits with quick crosstalk over one another, the council peppered staff with questions, twisted around and ask more questions, probing for specific answers they were not getting, and offering admonishments and warnings that the change would not pass its final reading without changes.
“Were covered arenas widely wanted three years ago?” Vice Mayor Tanya Siskind asked.
“What is the need to [even] have the setback changed?” Drahos asked. “This development was a model for outreach [to neighboring communities in 2017]. We are woefully short of that tonight… This application needs a lot of work. Staff needs to roll up their sleeves and ask hard questions.”
Gerwig was worried about a clause that such arenas might not need a permit.
Village Attorney Laurie Cohen seemed to say that was the purview of the homeowners’ association. “HOA documents discuss rentals of stalls to non-residents,” she said. “I didn’t see anything that says any structure built on the property needs a permit.”
Councilman John McGovern wanted to know why the setbacks were established differently in the area in the first place and why they want to change it now. “I am sure the applicant isn’t interested in making Wellington’s Land Development Regulations consistent,” he said rhetorically.
Councilman Michael Napoleone was concerned about the roofline. “Just how high can the roof be? Not the average, not the beam. The highest part a person will see driving by,” he asked.
Everyone seemed to offer a guess. “Theoretically, it could be 42 feet high,” Village Manager Paul Schofield said.
“I don’t know if the neighbors appreciate how these arenas are going to look, how much impact they are going to have on the neighborhood,” Napoleone replied.
All the members wanted to see renderings of what the covered arenas would look like. Holloway said she would see what she could do to get some renderings.
“Nothing that passes tonight obligates anyone that this will happen,” Schofield said, noting that passage of the item only leads to more discussion at a meeting in September or later.
All council members asked for changes to the ordinance. Some were not happy that the change was being made without the benefit of in-person meetings.
“I don’t see myself voting for this in a Zoom meeting,” McGovern said.