The question of what to do with a parcel of golf course land dormant for more than two decades near the entrance to Wellington’s iconic Palm Beach Polo community moved one step closer to a possible resolution this week.
A plan to put 27 luxury homes on part of the defunct golf course in a project known as Farrell West won an initial 5-0 vote from the council on Tuesday, May 30, despite objections from some neighbors that it eliminates views and green space. A second vote, likely at a June meeting, is still required for the plan to move ahead.
A number of residents adjoining the 23-acre parcel, several of whom live in what are known as “golf cottages” on its southern edge, have dissented from support expressed by the president of Palm Beach Polo and Country Club Property Owners’ Association.
“The green space we have there is one of the last ones we have left in Palm Beach Polo,” resident Andrea Neves said. “I think it’s a nice project, don’t get me wrong, but I think it’s in the wrong place.”
Andrew Carduner, president of the POA, said he thinks the proposed development is consistent with community goals.
“You may hear dissent tonight, and you have before, but that’s how democracy works,” he said.
In past years, the property has generated complaints about activities including adult soccer games, haphazard parking, and unlicensed food and beverage concessions.
Farrell Building Co., based in Bridgehampton, N.Y., proposes to buy the property, pending village approval for its plans. It wants to build 27 homes, two parks accessible to all Palm Beach Polo residents, an expanded pond and drainage system, and enhanced landscaping on all sides.
Residents of the golf cottages admitted they sometimes had problems with how the land was used in recent years, but questioned whether it still might be better to leave it as land designated for recreational use.
The builders, however, are asking the village to change the land use designation to allow residential development there, and they frame it as ending an extended limbo of illegal or disputed uses.
Farrell representative Michael Sanchez said that his company is bringing upscale homes with often three to four layers of trees, bushes, fencing or walls serving as a buffer, including at least 105 feet separating them from the nearest golf cottages.
“This is the third lowest density in all of Palm Beach Polo,” Sanchez said. “This is an opportunity to put some finality on this property and improve the look and feel of this area.”
Company representatives said they are making arrangements for construction traffic to come through an entrance that does not jam the main community gate.
Other questions remain, such as whether a proposed fence is needed between the new homes and the golf cottages. That could block access to sidewalks and parks. Farrell representatives said they are open to doing what people want on that issue.
“I think this is a satisfactory product,” said Councilman John McGovern, who called Palm Beach Polo a “crown jewel” of the village. “I think it can be better with more consultation between the developer and the golf cottages.”
Councilman Michael Drahos urged Farrell to pay special attention to landscaping along a planned wall south of Forest Hill Blvd. and west of Polo Club Road. He explained how that is a main drag for Wellington residents and their primary window on an important space in the village.
“Every one of our 60,000 residents are going to have some exposure to this. If you put up some kind of ugly concrete wall, it’s going to look like a prison,” he said.
Sanchez said the kind of trees and plants available are limited a bit by utility easements, but Farrell was prepared to commit to several layers of grasses, bushes, and trees on either side of the wall. Additional details on that were promised by the item’s second reading.
In other business, the council agreed to proceed with letters seeking ideas from any interested developers concerning a 10-acre site Wellington owns near the Mall at Wellington Green known as Wellington Green Park. Fine-tuning of the wording of those letters will be worked out over the next couple of weeks.
The council also heard a brief update from the group called Project Lighthouse that has proposed an 1,800-seat performing arts theater with 480 residential units in six stories, plus retail and office space at Wellington Green Park.
Council members previously expressed concerns about the proposed residential density and how the project might cover expected operating losses at the arts center. Project Lighthouse officials brought some updated plans to the May 30 meeting, and the council agreed to continue discussing the proposal with the group as it continues refining its plans, perhaps now in potential competition with other development groups.