Wellington residents voiced their opinion and the village council listened late into the night.
Overwhelming opposition against allowing golf courses to open up to all sports, without a special permit, was rejected early Tuesday morning after a nearly eight-hour meeting.
First, council struck down a proposition in the Palm Beach Polo Golf and Country Club just before midnight. Polo West then amended their proposal to include just equine sports only, which was rejected.
After nearly 8 hours of Wellington council meeting, it is over. Both props to change land use on golf courses have failed. Both unanimous by council.
A win for the people.
— Andrew Lofholm (@AndrewLofholm) December 12, 2017
The propositions would have also allowed access roads to be built in the Palm Beach Polo Golf and Country Club and Polo West to connect main roads to the fields inside the communities.
The meeting lasted nearly eight hours. It ended just before 3 a.m. Tuesday. WPTV was the only television station at the meeting.
Clad in red, the public opposition crowd spilled over into back rooms, hallways and even the lobby at village hall to watch the proceedings as it was standing room only inside council chambers. Many spoke publicly, addressing council.
Their concerns included safety, dropping property values, and a change in lifestyle.
The lawyer representing the developer said change was needed because the golf courses weren’t profitable.
Attorney Alexander Domb represents the developer Glenn Straub and released this statement Tuesday on behalf of Mr. Straub:
"Over the course of the past eight months, at a cost of over $50,000, Palm Beach Polo did everything it could to work with the Village of Wellington in order to come up with a long range plan to provide access to some of its landlocked properties and to expand the utilization of no longer functioning golf courses in order to maintain the green space in Wellington. The Wellington planning and zoning staff agreed with us and recommended approval of 95% of the requests contained in our two applications. Palm Beach Polo owns a considerable amount of the remaining undeveloped property in the Western Communities," said Domb.
In addition, Palm Beach Polo did everything that it could to point out that it was entitled to be able to access its properties from main roads.
Everyone in this process worked hard to achieve a goal, and in the end we were pleased to have participated in the process. We now have a better understanding of the potential future use of our property. We believe in the equestrian industry in Wellington, and have done everything possible to promote it on all of our properties, and will continue to do so.
Unfortunately, even though we had the Village planning and zoning staff recommending approval of our plans, at the end of the day this is a political process, and sometimes the law gets lost in a room filled with a hundred residents who believe that they have an absolute right to have a view of a golf course in their backyard in perpetuity.
Polo believes that it is entitled to access for ingress and egress to the property known as the North Course from Forest Hill Boulevard, and may have to seek the enforcement of this right through the courts.
"With respect to golf uses, anyone who said last night that golf is not a declining sport, or leisure pass time in this country was being disingenuous. The number of golf club members, the number of golf rounds played, and the number of new players is down around the country," said Domb. "As a result of last nights votes, we will have to change our direction in order to increase golf revenues by opening our golf course properties to the public to increase play, with no reservations."