Wellington Equestrian Committee Back After Summer Hiatus

Wellington’s Equestrian Preserve Committee met Wednesday, Sept. 1 with an agenda to hear a proposal changing the configuration of stabling in the Winding Trails neighborhood, a comparison of the local equestrian venues with the HITS facility in Ocala and an update on the issues surrounding horse manure.

“It has been a few months since we met,” Committee Chair Jane Cleveland said at the start of the meeting. “I hope everyone’s had a good summer… business just seems to get bigger and bigger.”

Part of the change to Winding Trails has already been approved by the Wellington Village Council. In addition to hearing the more limited item specifically before the committee, Cleveland wanted an update on the overall change.

“Winding Trails went to the council without us, so I thought we should at least hear a report on it and what was approved by the council,” Cleveland said regarding the development along Aero Club Drive and Greenbriar Blvd. “It has nine lots with many restrictions on how many stalls, how the barn can be configured, with setbacks and other restrictions. They have been slow to sell, so this was a new buyer with a new plan.”

Originally an executive golf course, the property has been subdivided into nine parcels for residential equestrian, limiting the number of horses and prohibiting more than 10 stalls per lot. A potential buyer is interested in joining two lots and building a single barn to accommodate 20 stalls. Such a unity of title amalgamation is only possible with properties not surrounded by water in the overall parcel, and a second set of two lots does meet that criterion. The total number of horses permitted within Winding Trails would remain at 90, as the original plans permitted.

Staff explained that there is a hierarchy of documents, starting with the comprehensive plan, then the land development regulations, then any homeowners’ association restrictive covenants, which can be more restrictive than the village’s code but not less. In order to make village regulations match Winding Trails’ restrictive covenants, the changes were adopted.

Committee Member Haakon Gangnes wondered if the discussion was like “putting the cart before the horse.”

“If we don’t like it, is it too late?” he asked.

However, the members of the committee did not have a significant problem with the very specific issue affecting only one property owner.

Moving on to other topics, Cleveland noted that during the summer, an ownership change was announced for the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center, with European-based Global Equestrian Group now taking a lead role in the facility.

“Obviously, some changes are coming our way,” she said. “I want to ask staff officially, ‘Have you gotten any requests regarding shows?’”

Assistant Planning, Zoning & Building Director Mike O’Dell said no changes have been requested as of yet. “There is no petition before us,” he said.

Cleveland said that she suspects there will eventually be changes that will be requested regarding horse shows at the PBIEC facility. However, many of the rumors running around in the equestrian community have no basis in current reality, she said.

Village staff presented a summary of the pros and cons of the Marion County equestrian facility HITS Ocala and was asked to present another at the committee’s next meeting that includes the new World Equestrian Center facility in Ocala as well, drawing comparisons of the overall product offerings of the Ocala/Marion County area and Wellington’s facilities.

Next, the committee turned to the perennial issue of horse manure. O’Dell gave an overview of the current situation and future plans of private enterprise vendors, who have been stepping up to provide waste removal service since the sugar fields stopped accepting the materials.

“Each horse generates approximately nine tons of waste per year, and the annual tipping fees are $135. These fees have increased, as the Solid Waste Authority showed it was not breaking even,” said O’Dell, who expects continued increases, which will draw more private industry into the equation. “The Solid Waste Authority should not be thought of as an end user, but as a user of last resort. We should continue to try and divert the manure to other places. We need to work on something more regional.”

Matt Griswold was a guest of the committee, who presented a product his company is introducing in the area that is made from miscanthus grass to use as bedding material. His product and several others were discussed.

“There is no single silver bullet,” O’Dell said. “It’s going to be lots of small answers that combine together with the private sector.”

Gangnes was concerned that reports seemed dire at the last few meetings, but now things seem to be working themselves out.

“Things are better than when we met last year because a lot of people have been busy over the summer working on this problem,” Cleveland explained.

O’Dell agreed, yet he expressed some concerns about the coming season.

“Many in the private sector are realizing that the government is not going to solve this problem,” he said. “There has been a significant change in the industry and how the haulers are working as professional businesses, and they are on the front lines of solving the problem.”

Gangnes was interested in exploring the Solid Waste Authority as a potential solution. He wanted to know what bargaining chips they had to compel the Solid Waste Authority to offer more help.

“The Solid Waste Authority has been subsidizing the industry for some time, and that is over,” O’Dell said. “The clock has run down on asking for help. It’s up to the private sector.”

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