Equestrian Committee Meets With Wellington Manager To Smooth Over Differences

Wellington Village Manager Jim Barnes attended the Wednesday, March 3 meeting of the Equestrian Preserve Committee in an effort to make peace between committee members and village planning staff.

However, the meeting opened with a warning about a dangerous threat to Wellington’s equestrian community.

Committee Chair Jane Cleveland noted the sobering news about equine herpes virus, also known as EHV-1.

“There is a very serious outbreak of herpes virus in Spain. All the horse shows in Europe are canceled, and today there was a case in Ocala. There are no cases in Wellington yet,” she stressed.

Cleveland asked Barnes about the village notifying residents about updates.

Barnes said the state has handled previous outbreaks, but that the village could put out some type of general advisory.

EHV-1 is contagious and spread by direct horse-to-horse contact via the respiratory tract through nasal secretions or indirectly through contaminated surfaces. Wellington’s equestrian venues have put out announcements asking all barns to make sure that safety protocols are in place and that all horses are properly vaccinated.

When it came to the business of the meeting, Barnes said that he was at the meeting to use his 18 years of experience with the village to smooth over some disagreements between the committee and the village’s planning staff over the equestrian element in Wellington’s comp plan.

“There are issues of concern that caused the baby to get thrown out with the bathwater,” he said.

Barnes reiterated the three remaining issues, including the use of the word “exurban,” expansion of roadways and commercial development in the Equestrian Preserve Area.

As an olive branch, he said that the controversial word “exurban” would be stricken from the document.

“We will find some other planning jargon. It’s just not worth it,” Barnes told the committee, which has argued against the use of “exurban” for several months.

Committee Member Haakon Gangnes wanted additional assurances. “Is there any way it could get back in?” he asked.

Everything we do is in public, and it would have to go through your committee,” Barnes replied.

Cleveland declared the change a major victory for the board. “This means they want our input, and they have heard us,” she said.

Recognizing that some roadways will need to be expanded, the committee turned to thoughts of staggered lengths of time for traffic lights based upon the time of day and traffic volume, adding additional crossing zones, perhaps mid-block with additional traffic signals.

The committee seemed particularly worried about children riding ponies and golf carts trying to cross the road without an adequate amount of time. These issues came up several times.

Barnes explained that such timing decisions are often determined by the county.

Cleveland asked why the planned turning lanes into the equestrian facility were not completed yet. They were not happy to find out that facility owners were using the emergencies declared by the governor’s office to extend their time limit to fix the roads.

Regarding commercial properties, Barnes said that areas already zoned for commercial have rights that cannot be removed.

“You guys do not have denial power,” Barnes said regarding commercially zoned property that has been in effect since before the village was incorporated. “You are talking about things that have already been decided long ago. What you say tonight will not change that.”