Wellington Zoners Discuss Comp Plan Elements But Postpone Golf Course Discussion

Wellington’s Planning, Zoning & Adjustment Board heard a presentation from village staff Tuesday, Nov. 17 on three elements of Wellington’s comprehensive plan and approved all three after deleting the mention of golf course redevelopment. This will be addressed at another meeting.

Planning, Zoning & Building Director Tim Stillings explained that his staff will be bringing two or three of the 10 elements of the comp plan at a time so as not to overwhelm the board. The three reviewed at the November meeting were Community Partnerships, Land Use & Community Design and Capital Improvements.

Stillings said that the Wellington Village Council is planning to update the comp plan while retaining its structure and framework.

“It is being freshened up by making some changes that will take us into the next 10 to 20 years,” he said. “The comp plan sets out the goals, objectives and policies, and the land development regulations (LDRs) are how we get there. The comp plan is the aspirational foundation.”

The first and last elements were recommended for approval with little comment or questioning. The Land Use & Community Design element, however, elicited a discussion that took up the bulk of the two-hour meeting.

“This section is designed to protect existing neighborhoods and guide future development,” Stillings said.

He continued that village staff has tried to simplify the language and make it briefer and more user-friendly, with subheads, so it is easier to find the information one is looking for without having to read everything.

“We made some changes to the names of categories and combined some,” Stillings said.

He explained that an incentive point system, that has not been determined yet, will establish benefits based upon amenities, such as open spaces and childcare, that the community might need or want.

PZA Board Chair Elizabeth Mariaca suggested that open space and increasing the tree canopy might be a requirement on all projects to receive an incentive.

Village Attorney Laurie Cohen warned that these issues must take property rights into consideration.

“If the surrounding area has changed, and the property owner is not permitted to make a change, that could be actionable as a taking of property rights,” she said.

The board made several minor changes and rewording of some sentences, but the focus seemed to be on what to say about golf courses that may need redevelopment — a highly controversial issue in Wellington.

Board Member Maureen Martinez asked a number of questions about golf courses.

“I don’t mean to be so focused on golf courses, but I don’t believe plans of what to do with them belong here,” she said, asking if the topic could go somewhere else in the comp plan or perhaps in the LDRs.

Stillings said that the village had seven golf courses, and three of them have closed. The village studied whether or not it was viable to make any of them municipal facilities and it had determined that it was not viable.

“Over the next 20 years, the trend is that we will have others closing,” said Stillings, who explained that it was for this reason that staff felt it was appropriate to address the issue in the comp plan.

As the discussion brought up more questions than it answered, Stilling suggested removing the page that mentioned golf courses from consideration at the present time so the board could recommend the bulk of the three elements forward to the council. The board could hold a separate discussion about golf course redevelopment at another meeting.

The next Planning, Zoning & Adjustment Board meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 9.