Blueways Plan Encourages Rec Use Of Wellington’s Waterways

Sunset on Lake Wellington. Photo by Julie Unger

The Village of Wellington is working on a plan that would open up its waterways to more residents for recreational activities. This so-called Blueways Master Plan was presented to the Planning, Zoning & Adjustment Board on Wednesday, Oct. 19 and the Parks & Recreation Advisory Board on Tuesday, Oct. 25. Both boards gave it their stamp of approval.

At the PZA Board meeting, Assistant Planning, Zoning & Building Director Michael O’Dell explained that Blueways is the first step in a process designed to make improvements to the village’s overall recreational uses. He introduced planner Christian Santa, who explained the concept.

Initially, Blueways is focused on the lake system in central Wellington — Lake Greenview Shores and Lake Wellington, along with the seven canals that flow in and out of them and seven public parks associated with them. This includes the village’s boat ramp and docks.

Together, this represents 160 acres of recreational water area. Currently, 982 residences have direct access to the lakes, which are used for electric motor boating, paddle vessels and catch-and-release sport fishing.

The goal of the Blueways plan is to create a connection between all the lakes and canals to improve recreational enjoyment by residents. It identifies necessary improvements and also aids in stormwater management.

A key project associated with the Blueways plan is to connect the two major lakes by building a bridge on Big Blue Trace over the C-15 Canal. This would allow pontoon boats and paddle vessels to traverse between the two lakes. Currently, there is a culvert that allows water to flow between the lakes, but vessels cannot move between them.

There is also a plan to install several box culverts to allow more residents access to the lakes through kayaks and canoes.

“It is a matter of bringing some attention to the fact that we are trying to expand this recreational use,” O’Dell said, adding that once the Blueways plan is approved, the village can seek out grant dollars from the state and other funding sources to help with the proposed projects.

PZA Board Chair Jeffrey Robbert asked about a timeline for the projects associated with the Blueways plan. O’Dell said the work is at least several years out, depending upon capital improvement dollars. The bridge on Big Blue Trace will likely be done as part of other improvements planned for the roadway.

A number of residents who live on the two lakes attended the meeting. All public comments were in favor of the plan.

Jeff Master, a resident of Meadowbreeze Drive, is excited that more people will have access to Lake Wellington.

“We think this will be great,” he said. “It is such a joy, and I would hate to deny people who are that close to also have that enjoyment.”

Jack Brownson lives on Lake Wellington and organizes the annual holiday boat parade there.

“We have a fantastic boater community on our lake,” he said. “While this would be great for our lake, it is even better for the people on Lake Greenview. They can come over and be part of all the festivities that happen at the Wellington Community Center.”

PZA Board Member Tracy Ciucci was impressed by the spirit of inclusivity expressed by the residents. “This is allowing access between like-minded communities for enjoyment between both of these lakes,” she said. “To hear the Lake Wellington people say that they would love to include the Lake Greenview Shores people in what they do really embodies the spirit of Wellington.”

A motion to approve the Blueways plan passed unanimously.

In other business, the PZA Board also approved a zoning text amendment regarding cell towers.

Senior Planner Damian Newell said that the zoning text amendment began with a direction from the Wellington Village Council to find ways to improve cell service in the community.

He noted that increased use of smart technology requires more cell towers on public property, as well as small cells in public rights of way.

Currently, available cell tower areas are limited, separation requirements from residential areas and large setbacks are a challenge, as is the cumbersome approval process.

The text amendment includes a proposed map of approved places for future cell towers, largely built around public property owned by the village. This will provide a number of pre-approved locations for future towers, which will streamline the process and hopefully attract more carriers. The changes also streamline the approval process for towers on private property.

“We are approaching the directive from the council on multiple levels,” Planning, Zoning & Building Director Tim Stillings said.

That includes marketing village properties to cell carriers to come in and provide a lease payment to the village. Towers on village property will now only require a site plan process. Private property owners could come through as a conditional use process. Stillings noted that large setbacks are still required in residential areas.

Part of this is due to the public’s changing attitude on cell towers. Two decades ago, when towers were proposed, the response from the community was negative. Stillings said that now, the community is more supportive of additional towers, since cellular communications are no longer considered a luxury, but a requirement of day-to-day life.

The proposed zoning text amendment passed unanimously.