What do residents in the equestrian community in Wellington, Fla., think about seasonal RV parks?
Not in our backyard, they told the Wellington Village Council at its Aug. 23 meeting.
And the council agreed, Fort Lauderdale’s the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported
Up for discussion was an ordinance that would have allowed a commercial RV park in the Wellington Equestrian Preserve during the winter season, along with residential RVs in certain areas.
Wellington holds the largest horse show in the world from the last week in January to the middle of March.
The ordinance was voted down by the council, which was divided in a 2-3 vote with Vice Mayor Matt Willhite, Mayor Pro Tem Dr. Carmine Priore and Councilman Howard Coates opposed.
Councilwoman Anne Gerwig said she supported the ordinance because she did not want to restrict personal property use within the village.
Coates voiced concerns that the ordinance was being made to benefit one property owner, pointing out that a petition to stop the ordinance had been signed by many residents who own 50-acre parcels that would qualify for a park.
“I am concerned, especially when the only support comes from the property owner that we’re alleged to be drawing an ordinance for,” he said.
Village staff recommended approval of RV parks meant to complement and promote existing equestrian venues. Parks would be allowed in the area south of Pierson Road and west of 120th Avenue South.
Planning and Zoning manager David Flinchum told the council and residents at the meeting that currently property managed by Equestrian Sport Productions is temporarily approved for recreational vehicles. The approval would expire this fall.
Ordinance Would Have Set Standards
The proposed ordinance would have required parcels approved for an RV park to include a permanent equestrian venue, to be at least 50 acres and have a 35-foot buffer. It also permitted a maximum of two RVs per acre and would only allow on-site participants, competitors, grooms and spectators to use the park.
During discussion some of the dozen speakers were concerned with how an equestrian venue was defined. The definition staff used included entertainment in the definition.
“A venue does not include entertainment,” resident Carol Coleman said. “Entertainment does not exist in the United States Equestrian Federation rules. A stadium or an arena does not have anything to do with entertainment. This is for a horse show arena. It has nothing to do with entertainment, although it may be entertaining.”
Wade Byrd, representing the International Polo Club Palm Beach, also had problems with how the venue was defined and said the council should keep the existing ordinance.
Flinchum said the parks would be a conditional use and would need to appear for approval before the Equestrian Preserve Committee, the Planning, Zoning and Adjustment Board and the Wellington Village Council.
“It doesn’t mean that it’s guaranteed. Each project has to come forward. The RVs have to have an attachment to an arena or venue,” Gerwig said.
Flinchum explained in regard to residential RVs that the proposed ordinance would allow one recreational vehicle for temporary use on properties of more than 5 acres. These properties would need to be located west of 120th Avenue South and south of Lake Worth Road; it also included the Palm Beach Point community.
“The plan is to give some regulation to these already-existing uses,” he said. “We have also been contacted by a couple of residents who expressed the need to have an RV during the equestrian season. A lot of them have grooms who need to be in close proximity to the stables.”
The ordinance proposed that the RV on site would have to be owned by either the property owner or the occupant, it would have to abide by setback regulations and there would be a limit of one vehicle per property.
“It would make it easier for us to monitor them,” he said. “There were occupied RVs this year illegally.”
Michael Stone, president of Equestrian Sport Productions, showed his support of the ordinance. He said that the residents were misunderstanding the proposal.
He also noted that the RV parks have to be attached to an equestrian venue, which is common practice for other areas with an equestrian industry.
“There are currently RVs on the former Littlewood show grounds,” Stone said in regards to residents’ concerns about RV parks bringing crime into the community. “They have been there for years, and we have no crime.”
He said crime is created by illegal RV parks.
Wellington is world-famous for equestrian and polo events. It is host to both the Winter Equestrian Festival and the National Horse Show. In addition, it is one of the top polo destinations in the world attracting the world’s most accomplished polo players. The village is also known for its dedicated equestrian community