Wellington Zoning Board Supports New Senior Living Facility

The Wellington Municipal Complex.

Wellington’s Planning, Zoning & Adjustment Board approved a new congregate living facility in the community on Wednesday, Dec. 9 before reviewing several elements of the village’s comprehensive plan, which is undergoing a major update.

Hibiscus Palace is a new senior living facility proposed for a .34-acre site located at 13931 Morning Glory Drive at the corner of Greenview Shores Blvd. It requires a conditional use approval to operate as a Type 2(B) CLF.

Senior Planner Damian Newell said that the facility could have a maximum of 21 residents.

“The applicant will be doing interior and exterior modifications, adding windows and fire alarms and sprinklers, and a generator for backup power,” Newell said.

The site meets the minimum standards for the required number of parking spaces, but the code calls for the facility to be 500 feet from the nearest single-family home, and the building is only 400 feet away from a single-family home across the street. The facility requires village approval for the shorter distance.

Traffic is not expected to be a significant issue. Newell said that the residents are not allowed to have cars, the staff carpools and they stagger the visiting hours.

Applicant Guy Yiftach said that this would be the fifth location in Palm Beach County, they have been in business for more than five years and they have never had a parking problem.

“I think it’s great that you have a generator, but if there was an emergency where you have to have other people there, where do they park?” Board Member Ron Herman asked.

“We take parking very seriously, and we have ample space all the time,” Yiftach replied. “If there was an emergency where we had to have more cars, we would just have someone move their car and block in another staff member’s car.”

Only two residents commented on the matter. One was concerned about parking near the busy corner and the other that it was currently a safe neighborhood, and that might be impacted by the facility.

Newell reaffirmed that the minimum age of residents is 65 years old and that the facility meets the minimum parking requirements. He showed an aerial view of the parking lot revealing that it is large enough to accommodate more cars than what are marked as spaces. Newell said that there would be no need to resort to parking along the street, which is not permitted.

The motion passed 4-2 with Herman and Board Member Maureen Martinez dissenting. It now goes to the Wellington Village Council for approval.

Planning, Zoning & Building Director Tim Stillings was up next with an eraser and ample patience to write when getting the board’s input for the housing and neighborhoods element and the public facilities element of Wellington’s comp plan update.

The plan is required by Florida Statutes. It provides the principles, guidelines, standards and strategies for the future economic, social, physical, environmental and fiscal development of the area over the next 10 to 20 years.

“We are bringing the supplements to you in installments to give you time to digest them and comment on the plan that will go before the council to be approved,” said Stillings, who has been making the rounds to several village boards and committees with the elements that relate to each of their areas of interest.

Stillings said that the guidelines for the provision of housing for all current and anticipated future residences are based on data and analysis of housing needs and projections. “The Village of Wellington has no substandard housing,” he noted.

Martinez asked about golf course redevelopment. “What type of residential units would there be on such a property?” she asked.

“It would be on a case-by-case basis and would have to be compatible with the existing neighborhoods,” Stillings replied.

Martinez was not comfortable with the topic being included in the comp plan.

“I don’t see why we are specifically mentioning golf course redevelopment,” she said. “Wouldn’t that be the same as it would be to redevelop any land?”

Stillings replied that golf courses are a form of development.

“While the golf course might not be active, it is considered to have been developed,” he said.

This led to a lengthy discussion of land, infill development and golf courses.

“Infill development is when you have development all around the property in question,” Stillings said.

The board worked hard to get the wording perfect, spending a fair amount of time on extensive discussions about such things as the difference between the words “vacant” and “infill,” or if one encompasses the other.

“I’m concerned that the plan seems to give a greenlight to the development of golf courses,” Board Member Adam Rabin said.

Stillings said that any golf course project would need to go through multiple rounds of public hearings.

“I don’t want to get into the weeds on specifics and details,” he cautioned. “Golf courses are zoned commercial recreational, which is a golf course and nothing else. They would have to go through a master plan change to develop anything else.”

The board came up with a list of changes to the housing and neighborhoods element.

“There has to be consensus among the board for each of the changes, or the board would have to vote on each specific change if there was not agreement,” Village Attorney Laurie Cohen said.

Martinez motioned that the ordinance be adopted with the specific changes, which she enumerated, that were agreed to by consensus. The motion passed unanimously.

The public facilities element went faster.

“It is currently referred to as the infrastructure element and includes sanitary sewer, drainage, transportation, public buildings, internet availability and related items,” Stillings said.

There was a discussion about adding more lighting to streets and pathways for safety considerations, and it was added to the plan.

“The situation is that the village pays to install and maintain the lighting, but it belongs to FPL,” Stillings said. “I have never seen them deny approval to place lighting.”

With the addition of the lighting objective, that element was also approved unanimously.