Wellington residents unhappy with plans for apartments, commercial space near homes

WELLINGTON, Fla. - A several-year-old proposal to build townhouses and offices on an undeveloped rectangle of land bordering the Versailles community has been replaced with plans for apartments and commercial space - and on a far more intense scale than originally designed.

Wellington Parc, on the west side of State Road 7 about 1 mile south of Forest Hill Boulevard, would have 158 rental units and 65,000 square feet of office space on 16 acres.

The original project, formerly known as Wellington Pointe, had been approved in 2006 for 92 townhouses and 31,830 square feet of office space. It didn't have any commercial space.

"The increases here are just too large," Versailles resident Mike Grassi said. "If this development goes through as proposed, it's going to have a tremendous negative impact not only on the quality of life there but also on the home values."

Grassi, whose property is adjacent to Wellington Parc, bought his home two years ago based on the developer's original plans.

"That wasn't upsetting to me at all," Grassi said. "That was somewhat consistent with the nature of our community. We purchased our home based on that."

The Versailles Homeowner's Association, representing 450 homes, is fighting the project, which will border about 40 homes.

"A lot of these people put their life savings into these homes," association president Sal Van Casteren said. "This is another case of the builder who wants to come in and bulldoze for maximum profit."

When Wellington Parc owners - WPI, LLC and SB Wellington, LLC - submitted their original plans, Wellington's comprehensive plan allowed residential density in mixed-use projects to be calculated differently from how it can be calculated now. In 2006, the owners could have had up to 115 homes, though they asked for fewer. In 2008 the comprehensive plan, which dictates land-use guidelines, changed allowing for up to 158 homes.

It's unclear why the developers changed the project from owned to rental units, or why they shifted from office to commercial space and doubled the amount. Eleanor Halperin, a lawyer representing the developer, declined a call to discuss the new proposal.

The village's planning and zoning board is scheduled to consider the new application Sept. 5. The board had expected to hear the proposal this month, but developers requested it be postponed so they could address Wellington staff recommendations.

About 50 Versailles residents, along with a lawyer representing their homeowner association, turned up for the May 2 hearing and were dismayed with its delay.

Village staff has recommended that the apartment buildings reach no higher than three stories and are at least 100 feet from the western property line. Also, none of the structures within 100 feet of the western property line can be taller than 25 feet, staff recommended.

Wellington Parc, in conjunction with two other projects, Wellington Charter School and Palomino Executive Park, would warrant a traffic light at the intersection of State Road 7 and Palomino Drive, according to a Wellington staff report.

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