The Equestrian Preserve in Wellington

Written by Betsy LaBelle - In Dressage - Thursday, December 28, 2017

The Village of Wellington’s municipality vision has made a difference in many people’s lives in allowing its residents to train their horses into becoming world-class athletes. The Equestrian Preserve’s land use zoning and planning guidelines continue to enrich equestrian sports such as polo, eventing, hunter/showjumping and dressage during a 12-week winter competition series. Horses within Wellington make their riders’ Olympic dreams come true time and time again.

Because a third of the land has been designated equestrian, meaning building permits equal one residence every 2 to 10 acres instead of residential 1 acre per residential building, it’s easy to paint a picture that the equestrians have been given more unfairly. The truth is that all are equal in the yearly taxes for land and buildings and in fact the equestrians bring in money for the overall health of the entire community. The equestrian community brings an impact to quality of life that residents may not know about. The horse industry requires more land for the horses to thrive. One acre just isn’t enough.

A Massive Population Growth in the last 20 years

From the time of its incorporation, its population has grown from 25,530 residents to a late 2017 projection of 61,775 residents. The clear picture is that the Village of Wellington, with its 28,960 total acres, includes a 9,200-acre Equestrian Preserve formed 22 years ago and incorporated in 1995.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau in 2014, Wellington is the most populous village within the state of Florida and the fifth largest municipality in Palm Beach County. In 2010, it was named as one of the “Top 100 Best Places to Live” by Money Magazine. It also a community to where the world’s best competitive equestrians move to train and prepare for worldwide events like the Olympics and World Equestrian Games.

As a home rule municipality, where its residents are able to pass laws through the Village Council, as long as they obey federal and state constitutions, The Village of Wellington formally adopted a Charter upon incorporation and its codes and ordinances of guidelines in 1995. The Charter established municipal services such as a police force, fire department, assessors and the ability to acquire property, borrow money and issue bonds, as well as formed the expansive Equestrian Preserve.

Wellington is Reaching Land Buildout

Wellington’s planning department also includes their Land Development Regulations (LDR), originally the Palm Beach County’s LDR and has in the past twenty years amended it as the population has grown and properties built. The LDR establishes subdivisions, landscaping, zoning code guidelines, parking ordinances and more.

Wellington, like any other village or municipality, can go through the rigorous process of amending its LDR every so many years with approval of its planning departments, public hearings and a vote by the Village Council.  When ordinances over the years become amended and finalized over the years, it becomes time to consolidate all those amendments into a clear code. The current amendments to Wellington’s LDR are now in the process of being approved with a hopeful completion in early 2018.

The Community and the Equestrian Preserve – Good Government

Zoning is the public regulation of land use. Local governments including villages, towns, cities and counties adopt zoning to control types of uses and the bulk, density and dimension of those uses. Through zoning, the government tells residents what they can and cannot do with their land, setting boundaries to keep all land values rising and which directly affects one’s building. Zoning regulations broadly categorize uses as residential, commercial and industrial; within these there are subcategories such as single family detached homes, duplexes, two family homes, zero lot-line homes, etc.

The Village of Wellington’s Equestrian Preserve is comprised of five different sections. The largest section, has different residential zoning requirements than a standard housing development. It allocates ten acres for each residence to accommodate horses. In 2002, the Equestrian Overlay Zoning District (EOZD) was created, defining zoning codes for building houses and stables and covering the development, maintenance, preservation protection and enhancement of the Equestrian Preservation Areas and the necessary rural equestrian lifestyle. Plus, the Village planned a trail system throughout the Equestrian Preserve for equestrians to keep their horses fit and prepared for whatever goals they may have, including recreational riding, competitions or tournaments. 

Jane Cleveland, the Chair of the Equestrian Committee for the Village of Wellington said, “We are working on a new economic impact study for the Village of Wellington to see how much money the equestrian industry brings into our smaller community, which has never been done. The former impact studies were all done for the larger Palm Beach County. It’s important because the industry is a thriving one that brings in lots of dollars. The industry and its economic impact bring benefits to all of the residents of Wellington and the equestrians very much appreciate living in the community as well. The Equestrian Planning Committee is focused on planning to ensure that the industry and equestrian community are stable and thriving for many years to come.” 

Now twenty years later, the land is almost completely built out of the planning set in the 1990s Charter and Land Development Regulations (LDR). Due to that build out, the stress on the planning board is at an all-time peak. Residents want things as they have always been given which before now included a great place for land development and growth. There is a push to paint an unclear picture and for people to take sides. The truth is, Wellington has reached the end of its land buying boom. Now it’s maintenance. And this is where the passion pushes full-force at the Village of Wellington Council Meetings.