Wellington Council Approves Master Plan For Lotis Development On SR 7

The Wellington Municipal Complex.

The Wellington Village Council granted a series of approvals Tuesday, Dec. 8 to the Lotis Wellington project on State Road 7. The Lotis discussion took up the bulk of the three-hour meeting.

The four-parcel property includes three that were approved for mixed use in 2006 for a larger project, and one parcel that was purchased by the property owner in 2016 and more recently annexed into the village. That parcel already received its first hearing on the new zoning.

The four parcels are located on the west wide of SR 7 about one-half mile north of Forest Hill Blvd., directly abutting Wellington Regional Medical Center. The medical complex parking lot will provide access to the site.

The four parcels encompass more than 64 acres, of which some 28 acres will be a lake that is being enlarged and sculpted to remove a dangerous drop-off at its edge. The lake will also be surrounded by a walking and biking path and greenway.

Comments by residents of the nearby Black Diamond community seemed to show there is some confusion about where the property is located. The Lotis Wellington development is on a former sand quarry that has a 49-acre privately held parcel of wetland area that is between Black Diamond and the Lotis development. None of the future land use regulations, rezoning or master plan amendments relate to the parcel that abuts Black Diamond.

Nonetheless, the developer has agreed to put a fence around the property on the west side and the north side to further separate the developments. Should the neighbors want it, a gate will be placed into the development on the west side to allow entry to the greenway and path.

The future land use and the rezoning for mixed use were covered initially by Planning, Zoning & Building Director Tim Stillings, presenting the proposal as recommended for approval. In almost every case, the requested criteria were less than what the village allows.

This was followed by a presentation from Brian Terry of Insite Studio Inc., agent for the applicant, Lotis Wellington LLC, and John Markey, the owner and developer. Since the land use and rezoning were the second public hearings on the topic, the applicant focused on the master plan, which only requires one hearing.

“This has been a group effort [with staff] to come up with the project at this community, and we have discussed the master plan for the conditional usage of the property,” said Terry, who apologized for what he called “an overly thorough presentation of the project.”

“We are bringing forward a project of higher quality and value to the community than what was originally approved in 2006,” Terry said.

He noted that the previous mix-use project sat undeveloped until its permits expired. Those permits are no longer available, but the Florida Department of Transportation permit for a traffic signal was able to be legally resurrected and is an approved part of the plan.

Terry noted that the property has very little undisturbed land.

“It is a fully impacted piece of property. There is no habitat on the property,” he explained, describing some Cypress dome wetlands that are being preserved as part of the recreation area on the northwest side of the lake. “All the wetlands on the property have been mitigated.”

The expanded lake is designed to control additional runoff from the development within its own borders. It includes the walkway all the way around the lake that totals 1.3 miles, along with a dog park that is open to the public.

The entire project will allow a mixed-use consisting of approximately 49,000 square feet of restaurant and retail, 2,500 square feet of a financial institution with a drive-through along SR 7, 40,000 square feet of medical offices, 16,700 square feet of professional/general office, a congregate living facility, an independent living facility, 191 multi-family rental units, a daycare facility for children, and 28 acres of open space including the lake, dog park and greenway.

The congregate living facility is a type three with 150 independent living units and 110 assisted living beds, and the daycare facility is for up to 210 children.

A variance was necessary for having 103 fewer parking spaces than the required 1,600. That was mostly due to the congregate living facility, which is expected to need 1.35 parking places per bed as compared to the 2.25 parking spaces in the standards. The residential area and the CLF will each be separated by fencing to keep cars and pedestrians segregated from those areas.

While Black Diamond residents raised concerns about water volume and possible runoff, Village Manager Paul Schofield said that the development, with its larger lake plan, will need to meet Wellington’s requirements and the South Florida Water Management District’s requirements before they can get building permits. It was also pointed out that the commercial aspects of the development were required to be finished before a certificate of occupancy could be applied for on the residential portion.

Other public comments included concerns over the height of the buildings of three and four stories. It was pointed out that there is more than 100 feet of landscaping and green area between those buildings and neighbors.

Village officials noted that privacy for the Black Diamond community was addressed by fencing and landscaping. The impact on schools was addressed with fees and age limitations.

“I want to point out you’ve been working with staff for a very long time, and you have taken their direction very well,” Mayor Anne Gerwig said after seeing all the renderings. “It is growing on me.”

Councilman Michael Napoleone said that it is a well-crafted mixed-use project.

“I understand that every project is going to create more traffic, but I think you minimize some of the intensity that you could’ve asked for here, and I thank you for that,” he said.

Councilman Michael Drahos noted that he doesn’t usually like mixed-use projects. “I thought it was a very intelligently designed project that has a lot of thought that went into it,” he said. “At the end of the day, there is always resistance, but this one is well thought out. We’re on a 64-acre piece of property and 28 acres is lake and greenway.”

Councilman John McGovern agreed that it is was a well-designed development. “I think this is a good project that is been made better by working with staff,” he said.

Vice Mayor Tanya Siskind also had praise for Lotis. “I like this project also. I like the green space,” she said, stressing that the number of residential units is well under the number permitted by village code.

During the meeting, Markey, the owner, stipulated that the dog park would be maintained by the developer and that cameras would be placed within the park that would be viewed by security.

The Lotis Wellington project approvals passed unanimously with the conditions added by staff in its recommendations.

In other business:

• The council approved a text amendment to repeal and replace the Capital Improvements Element of Wellington’s Comprehensive Plan and to adopt the Five-Year Capital Improvements Plan.

Stillings explained that this is required by law and includes the optional elements, such as the Equestrian Preserve Area that is unique to the community.

“The first portion of the comprehensive plan that has been making its way through committees for their input was presented to the council for a first reading,” Stillings said.

The comp plan is the macro view of where the village plans to go in the next 10 to 20 years.

“To update the process, we are taking bite-size chunks to all the committees for the portions that are relevant to them,” Stillings said. “The Capital Improvements Element addresses the services and facilities that the village provides directly and anticipates such services and facilities that will be required by future demand, and it also provides effective and timely construction and funding.”

Overall, the comp plan will be revised and reorganized in its goals, objectives and policies, giving it a new look, Stillings said.

“It definitely looks fresher,” Gerwig said. “I like the look and the way this is presented.”

• The council also approved a housekeeping measure adopting the Florida Building Code Seventh Edition (2020) that is required by state law about every three years to keep the village code consistent with that of the state. The only changes permitted by the law are local administrative requirements, which allow for the tailoring of conditions specific to Wellington.

Building Official Jacek Tomasik explained the few changes made between the editions. “We have the latest and greatest of the codes by adopting the newest codes,” he said. “This brings the village up-to-date with the State of Florida.”

Drahos took the opportunity to congratulate Tomasik on his 20th anniversary with the village.