Wellington Preparing To Annex Panther Run Elementary School

While most people assume that Panther Run Elementary School is part of the Village of Wellington, it is not — it is in unincorporated Palm Beach County. However, that’s an issue that Wellington is working on with the School District of Palm Beach County to rectify.

The annexation of Panther Run was the only topic discussed at Wellington’s Planning, Zoning & Adjustment Board meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 16. On the agenda were three items related to Panther Run.

The first was an annexation application for the 20-acre school site. Then there was a comprehensive plan amendment to assign a designation of “community facilities” to the site on the village’s land use map. Finally, there was a rezoning from Palm Beach County’s “agricultural residential” (AR) zoning to Wellington’s “community facilities” zoning.

All three items were approved unanimously among the four board members present.

The school is located on the north side of Lake Worth Road just east of the village’s current boundary and about two-thirds of a mile west of State Road 7.

Robert Basehart of the village’s Planning, Zoning & Building Department presented the items, with assistance from Kris Garrison of the school district, who was attending via Zoom.

Basehart explained that the triangular slice of land was deeded to Palm Beach County by the original developer of the Wycliffe neighborhood in 1987. In 1990, the county deeded the property to the school district, which built the school in 1991. It has long been considered a Wellington-area school, since it serves students in the southeastern parts of the community. About 80 percent of the students attending Panther Run live in Wellington.

“There is no intent from the school board to redevelop the site or do anything else with it. It will continue as an elementary school,” Basehart said, noting that the village does all that it can to support and improve the educational value of the schools in Wellington.

One example of that is the Keely Spinelli grants that are given out each year. Panther Run is part of that program, even though it has not technically been in the village.

“We appreciate the school board for making these applications,” Basehart said. “Panther Run has functionally been a Wellington school ever since Wellington incorporated in 1996, but now it will be not only functionally but technically part of the community.”

He added that the school site has always been listed on Wellington’s future annexation area, which is part of the village’s comprehensive plan. It will be designated “community facilities” on the future land use map and the zoning map. This will actually provide more protection against any future redevelopment.

Garrison noted that the school board approved pursuing annexation of Panther Run into Wellington at a meeting in October.

“I just want to emphasize that the school district has enjoyed a strong partnership with Wellington,” she said. “That has also been evidenced by the recent collaboration at Wellington High School with the sports complex. We are proud to be joining the village officially.”

During public comment, Howard Gross of the Manchester Lakes neighborhood, which abuts the area in Wycliffe, was concerned about what else might be built there. The school district and the village confirmed that the site will be used exclusively for a school in the foreseeable future, and the new zoning would limit the site to government uses only.

Board Member John Bowers was glad to see the annexation coming forward.

“We do have that Keely Spinelli grant,” he said. “Wellington does give out a total of $400,000 each year to local schools here. All of them are currently in the Village of Wellington, with this being the exception.”

Board Member Ron Herman said that he was surprised when he found out that Panther Run was not officially part of the village.

“I believe that most people already believe that Panther Run is in the village,” he said.

The board members asked if the annexation would change anything else about the property, such as traffic enforcement.

Basehart said that the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office district in Wellington has already been monitoring traffic at Panther Run, and it is served by a Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue station in Wellington. “Really, nothing is changing,” he said. “It is already in the Acme Improvement District. They buy their water and sewer services from Wellington for this school. Their drainage goes into the Acme drainage system. And the police and fire are covered by Wellington.”

The three items, including the annexation, comprehensive plan amendment and rezoning, were approved 4-0.