Wellington Board Rejects SR 7 Signs, OKs Eight-Foot Hedges

It was a case of asking for much more than you expected to get, but not accepting a lower offer soon enough. The major Lotis development’s signage program was first on the agenda at Wellington’s Architectural Review Board meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 18, and the development received a bit of a surprise after an hour when it walked away with no frontage signs approved at all.

The 64-acre development is on the west side of State Road 7, north of Forest Hill Blvd. The developer asked for signage deviations, including several more than the code permits. It wanted them bigger, and it wanted them closer together.

The ARB voted unanimously not to approve any signs on SR 7 at all. However, it was a procedural measure to allow the developer to go back to the drawing board with a more conciliatory state of mind for the requests.

The board usually tries to work with applicants during meetings, when possible, but such a task was deemed unworkable, as going through each sign individually for the large development would take all night.

Senior Planner Damien Newell said staff recommended the deviations because the property is relatively narrow, some 800 feet, when other parcels are up to 25 percent longer. Because the large, deep parcel is relatively narrow along the SR 7 major thoroughfare, and will contain a number of mixed-used businesses that in fairness would be permitted signage if located in another development, village staff had attempted to whittle down the original wish list to something palatable to both sides.

Newell said that his staff had been working with the applicant for months to get the request down to this number of signs being presented for review.

“I have a problem with all the signs on State Road 7,” Board Member Tom Wenham said. “Inside, those are fine.”

That was also consensus of the board, and all the interior sign deviations were approved unanimously.

When it came specifically to the signage on SR 7, the consensus of the board was that the Lotis request was far more than a deviation, and rather an overhaul of the entire sign code.

The board does not have a meeting scheduled in September but agreed to try and schedule one should the applicant be ready to present updated signage plans at that time, so as not to have to wait until October to move forward on the development’s signage.

In other business:

• Green Village Dental Care on Forest Hill Blvd. near the Mall at Wellington Green fared much better asking for signage much more in line with what the previous tenant in its space had received approval for. The location was formerly an Applebee’s restaurant, then later a Mellow Mushroom restaurant. Its request for signage passed unanimously with little discussion.

• A several-times-delayed zoning text amendment was next on the agenda for the Land Development Regulations to create a uniform appearance in the zoning text amendments for fences, walls and hedges.

There were a number of questions regarding this major overhaul, which will allow five different types of planting materials to be used for hedges, setting a uniform height of eight feet throughout the village for hedge height.

Currently, they may be from six to 10 feet tall. This was the first discussion of this measure, slated to take effect in 2028.

At present, there are 1,247 private fences, walls and hedges along thoroughfares in Wellington, with somewhere around 160 code enforcement cases per year, many of them involving hedges hanging out over the walkway.

One question involved thoroughfares that are defined as collector roads and minor arterial roads.

“There is a burden on the residents to change out plant material that is perfectly fine, so staff endeavored to make currently approved plants remain acceptable, giving five choices and setting implementation of enforcement seven years in the future,” Assistant Planning, Zoning & Building Director Michael O’Dell said.