Zoners OK Wellington Green Map Corrections Despite Concerns Over ‘Conservation’ Wording

Wellington’s Planning, Zoning & Adjustment Board approved an amendment to the future land use map of Wellington’s comprehensive plan on Wednesday, Feb. 10 to modify the land use designations and a development order covering parcels at the Wellington Green development, including the mall and its many outparcels.

While village staff insists that the items are merely a housekeeping measure, the word “conservation” is being removed from a map illustration, which brought out a number of residents to oppose the item.

Village staff explained that the applicant had noticed an inconsistency in the comp plan map. The comp plan is the guiding document, and the map depicts what the comp plan explains. For this stated reason, the applicant removed its own applications for changes back in 2019 right before a council meeting that would have taken up the matter, planning to resubmit them when the inconsistency they discovered was clarified and corrected.

During the ensuing year, Wellington staff met with Jennifer Vale with WGI, agent for the applicant, which is the Wellington Green Master Property Owners Association. They reviewed meeting minutes and documentation and came to the conclusion that the map was illustrated incorrectly. The ordinance presented with their recommendation for approval is exclusively to correct what could be described as an error that should not have been made.

The map, they said, erroneously shows an area that is wetlands as colored green with the word “conservation” noted on it.

Development Review Coordinator Cory Cramer explained that the ordinance does not give or take away any development rights. “It is just correcting a mistake in the illustration,” she said. “That is all that is being considered tonight.”

Cramer explained that whether or not the applicant or any future owner has designs on seeking changes to the property’s zoning and then developing it is totally irrelevant for the purposes of evidence about the ordinances under consideration.

Dozens of residents and members of environmental organizations made well-reasoned, articulate and heartfelt pleas to keep the map as it is with the “conservation” notation.

Many stated that they did not trust the applicant not to be trying to develop the “green” area. Several board members told the audience that they appreciated their points of view, but that the ordinance did not change anything but a map error.

The master plan tells what the owner can do on that piece of property, and the map had a mistake on it, Cramer explained.

She continued that this change would make the map correct.

“Only the master plan sets up the entitlements, and the master plan reads correctly. The map was colored incorrectly. Any limitations that are on the master plan remain in place,” Cramer said.

Village Attorney Laurie Cohen supported staff on the issue. “It is an error because there was no application or direction given to staff to modify the land use for those two parcels in question,” she said.

Cramer explained that the ordinances now go to the Wellington Village Council for the first of two public hearings. It then goes to Tallahassee before it returns for a second and final reading. Public input will be welcome at those meetings.

Cohen explained that the board’s task is to make its decision based solely upon evidence, and that includes staff testimony, documentation and public input, if any of it is deemed evidence and not opinion.

The two motions passed unanimously. The items are scheduled to go before the council on Tuesday, March 9.