Wellington Delays Decision On 42 Homes Behind Church

The plan for the 42-home development with the proposed access point from 120th Avenue South.

The Wellington Village Council approved one step and delayed another on Tuesday, June 25 when considering a developer’s plan to build 42 new homes just south of Lake Worth Road, as neighbors questioned what is being done to make a narrow 120th Avenue South better able to handle increased traffic.

The council unanimously approved a comprehensive plan amendment to change the future land use designation of the 22.54 acres from community facilities to residential.

Builder Pulte Home Company LLC has arranged to buy the land from the Catholic Diocese of Palm Beach. It sits near St. Therese De Lisieux Catholic Church, about 800 feet south of the intersection of Lake Worth Road and 120th Avenue South. It was previously reserved for a future daycare center, school or other community use.

After debate was extended to 11:30 p.m., the council voted 4-1 to postpone to Aug. 13 master-plan amendments that would clear the way for high-end homes proposed by Pulte. Councilwoman Tanya Siskind dissented. The land is part of the Orange Point Planned Unit Development and is adjacent to the existing Isles at Wellington neighborhood.

Several council members wanted more information on future intersection improvements before giving the go-ahead for more homes in the area.

“I don’t see the harm in waiting until we know what we’re doing with this intersection,” Councilwoman Amanda Silvestri said about 120th’s connection with Lake Worth Road, where possible improvements are under discussion but not yet budgeted.

“I just can’t in good conscience do it tonight,” agreed Councilwoman Maria Antuña, who like Silvestri joined the council earlier this year. “I think this needs to have further discussion.”

Traffic projections seemed to vary considerably, depending on who was talking or interpreting the research, from a mild four percent increase of peak traffic on 120th to a virtual doubling when the project was combined with other ventures expected along the corridor.

Mayor Michael Napoleone said he did not see traffic concerns as a necessary roadblock.

“I think it’s something we need to be mindful of as we’re going forward and looking at how we can improve 120th, as well as other roads that have challenges, but I don’t think the 42 homes proposed for this, even with the exit onto 120th, is going to cause the downfall we’re being told it will cause,” Napoleone said.

Other members said they wrestled with the question of what is likely to be different after a delay, but in the end, a majority agreed to postpone.

Council members heard details about options for a roundabout at 120th and Lake Worth Road that are not yet consolidated into the village budget. A roundabout is designed to avoid back-ups at traffic lights by routing traffic around a central island at an intersection.

A four-entry roundabout would be priced at about $2 million, according to Village Engineer Jonathan Reinsvold. A fancier five-entry plan, splitting traffic on the western side into two conduits, carries a tag of about $4 million, he added.

Representatives for the builder offered a contribution for road improvements, but not nearly enough to cover the roundabout costs.

The proposed development would seek access to 120th Avenue South as the main entry for its vehicular traffic. Other options to route traffic carry complications involving the cooperation of other landowners.

Developers made the case that this won’t overburden 120th.

“Forty-two homes adds one car every three minutes in peak traffic,” said Brian Terry with Insite Studio, a company working with the builders.

In addition, developers proposed a pedestrian walkway to the north involving improvements over a canal area.

Homes would stand one or two stories tall and encompass 4,000 to 5,000 square feet, builders said. They sought permission to expand patios, pools and outbuildings to a slightly larger percentage of the lot than is allowed under the standard code.

During the course of the meeting, builders said they were willing to limit homes to one story in a handful of cases where lots back up to neighbors who felt uncomfortable with someone looking straight through to their upper-story bedrooms. Landscape buffers do not always block such views.

Some neighbors said the problem isn’t just one intersection, but the bigger picture for 120th, which has a narrow two lanes and is hemmed in by slim shoulders and a canal for much of its length.

As it is, big horse trailers with side mirrors pass by each other with uneasy clearance, said Maureen Brennan, an equestrian speaking for neighbors in the area.

Impatient car drivers behind horse trailers sometimes take risks to get around them, she said.

Brennan argued that though the proposed development is not in the formal Equestrian Preserve Area, it affects a road that is important to the EPA, closely tied to the whole village’s identity and prosperity.

“It’s about to be infiltrated and compromised by the development,” Brennan said.

She and others pointed out that the 120th corridor will also host an influx of traffic connected to new aquatic and athletic centers at Village Park, and potentially a new school on land controlled by the School District of Palm Beach County.

A separate proposal to put 27 homes on 10 acres at the northeast corner of 50th Street South and 120th Avenue South was also on the agenda but was postponed for consideration until August, at the request of the would-be builders.

That applicant, SIWBG2 LLC, wants a land-use change from commercial equestrian to residential. The property has no sidewalk connections to the rest of Wellington at this point, which was an issue when that project was last discussed.