Wellington Village Council approved a resolution last week designed to accommodate the possible relocation of a sports training academy backed by professional football player Jon Bostic to Village Park, near other athletic facilities, including a new aquatics center.
The council approved the item on Tuesday, Jan. 16, opening the door to a move of the planned public-private partnership sports venture known as Wellington Athletics from Wellington’s Community Park land on South Shore Blvd. that formerly housed the original Wellington Boys & Girls Club.
Neighboring property owners at the original site expressed concerns, including increased traffic and glare from tall field lights, and offered contributions to facilitate the switch, Village Manager Jim Barnes said. The amounts of those donations were not specified because they have not been finalized, he said.
“I think it’s a win-win,” said Mayor Anne Gerwig, who supports the project but has previously raised concerns about traffic at the South Shore Blvd. site.
Gerwig said she hopes Wellington will wind up with open-play recreation areas at the old site, and ultimately a more suitable home for the Bostic project, even if it faces delays and additional costs associated with the change.
The resolution was a late addition to the agenda. It affirms support for the Wellington Athletics facility to relocate to Village Park, aided by a monetary donation from the Mallet Hill Property Owners’ Association Inc. and Southfields of Palm Beach Polo & Country Club Homeowners’ Association Inc. The amount of the donation is “to be determined and sufficient to defray the additional costs associated with relocating the proposed recreational facility.”
In turn, according to the resolution, the Wellington council “hereby limits the property known as Wellington Community Park to park uses that support or enhance Wellington’s parks and recreation system, such as open space and/or unlighted multipurpose/ball fields, outdoor basketball courts, pathways, as well as support facilities including parking and restrooms.”
The property will continue to be open to the public for recreation purposes, the document affirms. While tall field lights will be prohibited, parking lot lighting, site lighting and basketball court lighting will still be allowed.
The village approved an agreement with Wellington Athletics LLC in 2022 to combine private and public investment in the project. Bostic, a Wellington native who played for the University of Florida before a 10-year NFL career, is listed as the LLC’s manager in corporate records.
At its original location, the academy was projected to use 23,859 square feet of general fitness space and specialty training space, 5,650 square feet of cheer and gymnastics space, 8,582 square feet of indoor batting cages, and seven indoor basketball courts and 13 volleyball courts.
According to this month’s resolution, Wellington Athletics supports the change of location. One possibility for a landing spot is close to the proposed aquatics complex near Village Park’s 120th Avenue South entrance.
Other council action concerned land that the village owns around the Mall at Wellington Green.
The village expects to hear by Feb. 5 a more detailed offer from the Related Companies to develop the village’s K-Park parcel south of the mall. Council members decided to wait for more on that alongside an existing offer from the Ward family, developers of the nearby Trader Joe’s plaza and other properties, to buy the 66 acres for $54 million.
On K-Park, the council heard from residents disappointed that the village seemed to be giving up on ideas like a park or botanical garden that won considerable support in community meetings stretching back the better part of a decade.
“You guys were elected to be the gatekeepers of Wellington, and it just seems like the key has been lost and the gate has been thrown open, and the developers are starting to rush in,” resident Cheri Coates said.
She called the undeveloped village-owned land at State Road 7 and Stribling Way one of the “last jewels left in Wellington,” adding, “I would think long and hard before you approve any kind of sale to cement over it.”
A council with several members leaving the dais in a matter of weeks finds itself grappling with a string of projects in spaces that have been sources of debate and controversy for years.
“There’s nothing that says anything is going to happen here at all,” Councilman John McGovern said. “This could go the way of all the discussions we’ve had on K-Park for the last eight or more years.”
Vice Mayor Michael Napoleone agreed. “That’s why we haven’t done anything on K-Park, because there hasn’t been anything compelling to do on K-Park that made sense from a public-use standpoint or an economic standpoint,” he said.
Meanwhile, there have been developments with another parcel the village owns west of the mall.
The council voted not to proceed with further “letter of interest” inquiries for companies to buy or develop the 10 acres known as Wellington Green Park while the village pursues an agreement with a potential purchaser.
Village Attorney Laurie Cohen said a proposed settlement agreement is expected to come before the council in February involving the sale of the parcel at 2175 Wellington Green Drive. Public comment would be heard at that time, she said. She mentioned original mall area developer Brefrank as a party in the talks.
Brefrank Enterprises LLC was involved with one of six groups that submitted revised proposals in September, village records show. At the time, its application included offers of $11 million to build 220 residential units or $15 million for 300 units, with notes referring to the possible relocation of soccer fields.
In other business:
- The council recognized Wellington High School junior Aldyn Borrello for being named a National Cyber Scholarship Foundation Scholar with honors for 2023. After passing an exam that provided certification in cybersecurity technologies, Borrello was one of 838 students honored nationally and the only one from Palm Beach County.
- The council heard a proposal from PalmTran, the county’s public transportation service, to eliminate its Route 52 bus serving the Mall at Wellington Green and other areas of Wellington and Royal Palm Beach and replace it with vouchers for on-demand ride services such as Uber, Lyft and taxi services. For trips within 2.5 miles, eligible customers would make a $2 co-pay and receive an $8 voucher. The customer would pay the balance for longer trips. The plan, which involves changes to routes with financially less efficient ridership around the county, requires approval from Palm Beach County Commission but could go into effect as early as May.
- The council approved the final reading of a plan to toughen village enforcement options for problems with noise, parking or other issues at short-term property rentals, typically less than 30 days.
- The council approved a resolution to co-name Birkdale Drive as Thomas M. Wenham Memorial Blvd. in honor of Wellington’s first elected mayor, who died in December 2022. It does not affect existing street addresses but places secondary street signs along the route.