Farrell West Plan For Homes At Palm Beach Polo Gets Council OK

A site plan showing the 27 luxury homes included in the Farrell West project.

Unanimous votes from the Wellington Village Council on Tuesday, July 11 represent a big step toward resolving the future of a nearly 23-acre parcel many of the community’s more than 60,000 residents pass daily.

It means a go-ahead signal for the Farrell West project on land west of the entrance to the landmark Palm Beach Polo community.

The plan is to build 27 high-end homes and two parks accessible to Palm Beach Polo residents southwest of Forest Hill Blvd. and Polo Club Road.

Farrell Building Co., based in Bridgehampton, N.Y., agreed to a host of landscaping adjustments since the council offered preliminary approval for required land-use changes in May.

A prime issue has been whether to change the land’s designation from recreational to residential, on a former golf course parcel variously used over more than two decades as a polo field and, sometimes controversially, as an adult soccer venue. Along the way, that involved complaints about parking, sanitation and licensing for food and beverage sales.

The company considered council members’ suggestions and met repeatedly with neighbors, particularly those in the “golf cottages” south of the project.

“You made a huge effort to work with the golf-cottage residents,” Vice Mayor Michael Napoleone noted. “You can’t make everybody happy, but I think you’ve made a lot of people happier.”

Among the landscaping changes: Moving a planned wall back three feet from Forest Hill Blvd. and planting 31 trees outside the wall. For many village residents, that is the public view they see.

These were initially proposed as all royal palms but, after discussions with the council, could include perhaps a dozen trees of another palm variety seen as adding a “wow” factor.

Also new is a four-foot berm, topped by a four-foot hedge, along the project’s southern border. That proposal came after multiple meetings with golf-cottage neighbors, who have expressed concerns about views and green space.

Farrell agreed to shrink the lot sizes on a dozen homes to expand the landscaping border with the golf cottages, company representative Michael Sanchez said.

“It allowed eight feet of additional buffer on the south side,” Sanchez explained.

Proposed landscaping on both the north and south borders includes multiple layers of trees, bushes and other features.

Andrew Carduner, president of the Palm Beach Polo Property Owners’ Association, said his board voted 8-0 in favor of the plan.

Members of a board representing golf-cottage residents in particular have opposed changing the property’s designation from recreational to residential, said that board’s treasurer, Juliet Hubbard.

“We like to think of this as our polo field out back,” she said.

But she and other residents have met several times with Farrell officials to try to make the best of the project if it happens, she said.

Those discussions were set to continue for at least two more weeks, with Farrell pledging to accommodate what residents want where possible. One company offer has been to transplant a number of mature trees from elsewhere on the property to beef up the buffer, though the two sides were looking into particulars, like the survival rate of such trees and where best to put them.

Not everything has quite been ironed out yet. For example, the project depends on completion of a land deal with the property’s current owner, Palm Beach Polo Inc., and a lien issue must be cleared up first to give clear title, an attorney representing Farrell said.

The council verified before the approval vote that while another developer could try to take over the Farrell West project, it would need to be done to the explicit and extensive approval conditions, and any changes would need to come back for approval.

Still, the council nod constitutes an important development toward determining what happens next. The proposal got better in the eyes of council members during the last month or more.

“I think it’s a dramatic improvement,” Councilman John McGovern said.