Wellington Zoners Narrowly Support New Assisted Living Facility

Wellington’s Planning, Zoning & Adjustment Board approved a permit for a new Type 2A Congregate Living Facility for senior citizens on Wednesday, Sept. 8 after a two-hour discussion. Facing opposition from neighbors, the board was divided on the proposal, which passed 4-3.

Also on the agenda, the board approved a stables modification for the Winding Trails neighborhood, an updated zoning map, and a new ordinance on hedges, walls and fences.

The conditional use permit was for Valerie’s Place, a Type 2A CLF in a modified structure that is both sides of a duplex located at 12450 Guilford Way that will turn the garages into bedrooms. With the three existing bedrooms in each duplex, this will create an eight-bedroom facility of private and semi-private rooms to house up to 11 residents over 65 years of age.

The facility needed conditional use approval for one less drop off/loading zone space and a reduction in the required 500 feet to the nearest single-family residence to 280 feet, including other duplexes, a roadway and a canal. Village staff said that the applicant meets all other requirements and found the proposal to be consistent with Wellington regulations, with the exception of the two issues brought forth.

The applicant submitted a parking demand study, which indicated that the proposed parking would be adequate. Staff reported that it has received no parking-related complaints from similar facilities that received approval for a reduction in required parking spaces. The residents are not permitted to have cars, and the visiting hours are held by appointment.

Land planner Jon Schmidt, the agent for the applicant, said there is a high demand for aging in place within the Wellington community, particularly living situations with a home feel, separate from an institutionalized facility. His staff reported that rates range from some $2,500 per month to more than $4,000 per month for the private rooms with private baths.

While staff assured board members that the facility was compatible with the village’s comprehensive plan, Board Member Salvatore Van Casteren did not like the idea. “I have a concern about this operation,” he said. “I have a concern about this business being in a residential neighborhood.”

Vice Chair Jeffrey Robbert was concerned about parking in a residential area, as the home would now have eight spaces in a row, which doesn’t look very residential, whereas the surrounding duplexes have garages with driveways of two spaces per side. There are 12 entrances for a total of 24 spaces on the street across from the facility.

Board Member John Bowers was also concerned about changing the parking construct for the entire neighborhood by having eight spots in a row. However, staff verified that an individual property owner could have a driveway the same size without any additional approval.

Several nearby residents attended the meeting to speak against the proposal.

“The house that you’re proposing to make into a facility is exactly two houses down and across the street from my home, a piece of property I bought 37 years ago,” Vanessa Roach said. “I don’t think I would’ve bought my house if I had known about these changes to the neighborhood.”

She was concerned about the parking situation, and also that the facility could become a drug rehab center.

Village Attorney Laurie Cohen clarified that the conditional use was specifically for a congregate living facility for seniors aged 65 and older, and not for residents fighting drug problems.

Nearby resident David Mueller was worried about holidays and the number of people within the facility, the expense of the CLF, the parking and the amount of trash it would produce. Other speakers were concerned that it would decrease the value of the properties on the street. Other issues raised were drainage due to the larger parking area, the noise of ambulances at night, elderly people wandering the streets, inadequate code compliance currently and more.

Board Member Adam Rabin asked if there were other choices that could be developed from homes in the area instead of this one.

“Many of us recognize the need for this type of facility, but we also recognize that it’s very hard to find the right place to put it where it can be developed and be economically feasible,” he said.

Cohen pointed out that village staff had recommended that the petitioner met the village’s criteria, and the board had heard staff and the applicant’s presentations. They must then decide if any of the residents’ comments overturned the presentation evidence.

“Your decision has to be based on the petition before you and the evidence that you have heard during the hearing,” she said.

A motion was first heard to deny the project, which failed. A motion to approve the project then passed 4-3 along the same lines.

Bowers noted that the final decision rests with the Wellington Village Council. He invited the concerned residents to attend the council meeting to make their opposition known before the final decision is made.

In other business:

• A restrictive covenant to allow a larger than previously approved barn in the Winding Trails development was discussed and approved.

Bowers had concerns about the scale of a 20-stall barn and the setbacks because of the numerous lakes in the area. He was also concerned about the traffic impact of the additional horses because of the eight rental stalls.

Staff remarked that essentially all this is doing is allowing the owner to build one structure with 20 stalls instead of two structures with 10 stalls each.

After verifying that everyone within the community area had been notified about the change, the measure passed 5-1.

• Wellington’s official zoning map, now illustrated with color codes and with clarified abbreviations in the legend, was reviewed. It is consistent with the newly adopted comprehensive plan and land development regulations and was adopted unanimously.

The first map was adopted in 2007 and has been amended only on a case-by-case basis. In 2019, the LDRs underwent a major cleanup, and then the new map was developed. The clarified and simplified abbreviations do not give any entitlements or add any restrictions for the properties based on the name changes.

• A new code regarding walls, fences and hedges set to take effect in 2028 was heard and approved unanimously. It is to facilitate maintaining a consistent appearance along thoroughfares and throughout the village with consistent fencing and eight-foot hedges.

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