Council Leaning Toward Related’s K-Park Proposal

A possible private K-12 school is back in the discussion on 66 acres owned by the Village of Wellington known as K-Park, possibly paired with a mixed-use development from the Related Companies, led by Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross.

Meeting Tuesday, Feb. 13, the Wellington Village Council heard a presentation from Related for possibly 500 residential units and up to 120,000 square feet of retail space, along with trails and parks. A private school is doing its due diligence about the potential to occupy about half the property south of the Mall at Wellington Green, company representatives said.

The school was not identified, but it is not North London Collegiate School, which had earlier discussions with Wellington, according to Related officials.

At the same meeting, the council took action on other village-owned land on a different side of the mall area. By a 4-1 vote, the council approved a settlement agreement for the $11 million sale of 10 acres behind the Hampton Inn to original mall developer Brefrank Inc., with development rights for 220 residential units.

Village approval for specific building plans on the site is not guaranteed, but the deal could ultimately involve the settling of litigation along with arrangements to maintain wetland areas, officials said.

Ideas for what to do with the 10 acres known as Wellington Green Park have ranged from an arts center with apartments and offices to keeping it for soccer fields.

Speaking at the meeting, resident Mark Offerman asked, “Why would you give up 10 acres of park land that you have?”

Vice Mayor Michael Napoleone said the property is not a park in the sense of a pristine natural area.

“This parcel of land has not a single tree on it,” he said. “It’s a parking lot, a port-a-potty and three plots of grass that are being used for soccer.”

The $11 million sale price is more than the appraised value of $5.7 million, he said.

The village will get money to improve sports fields at Wellington’s Palm Beach Central High School, he added.

Councilman Michael Drahos said he would love a performing art center, but a previous plan for that involved more development density than is contemplated now.

Mayor Anne Gerwig, who cast the dissenting vote, said she still preferred a greater effort to pursue a public purpose, such as a performing arts center.

As for K-Park, some residents have continued to ask what happened to notions such as a park or botanical garden, expressed at forums going back nearly a decade.

Drahos said conditions have changed somewhat as the village is slated to get, under a recently approved equestrian development plan, a centrally located park of 55 acres off Forest Hill Blvd., near the Wellington branch library.

K-Park sits by busy State Road 7, Councilman John McGovern noted.

A big question now is what happens to competing offers. Developers led by the Ward family, W&W VIII LLC, offered $54 million to buy K-Park late last year.

Drahos contended it was unfair to keep the Wards investing time and money in the project if Related seemed to be generating the most interest at this stage. “We need to tell staff clearly which direction we want to go in,” he said.

“We have the possibility of having a world-class private school in our community,” McGovern said.

In a village noted for giving rare municipal grants to its public schools, education remains essential to its brand, he said.

Still, the council was not unified on a motion to instruct staff to emphasize negotiations with Related. It passed 3-2, with Napoleone and Gerwig dissenting.

“I don’t want to cut off all my options,” Napoleone said.

In other business:

  • A 5-0 vote on second reading approved legal and administrative steps to make possible an annexation of more than 250 acres into the village north of Southern Blvd. near Seminole Pratt Whitney Road. It will require more than 50 percent of qualifying electors to vote yes on a March ballot.
  • By a 3-2 vote, the council approved $10,000 to join other municipalities in a proposed legal challenge to a state law that requires municipal officials to file more stringent financial disclosures, known as Form 6. The suit could seek an injunction that, if successful, might relieve plaintiffs of having to file the tougher form. Gerwig and Napoleone dissented.
  • The council approved a slate of revisions 5-0 to Wellington’s rules for short-term vacation rentals, generally meaning fewer than 30 days at a time. The second-reading vote marks the latest bid to give Wellington tougher enforcement options for problems with parking, noise and other issues when people rent out homes.