Accused killer clown arrest, Irma damage: Wellington’s top 5 stories of 2017

1. Accused killer clown arrested: The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office on Sept. 27 made an arrest in the 1990 slaying of Marlene Warren at her Aero Club home by a person dressed as a clown.

Investigators say the person in the clown costume on May 26, 1990, was Sheila Keen Warren, 54, who was arrested in Virginia and charged with the crime. Marlene Warren’s son and his friends were present at the time of the shooting. They told deputies that when Marlene Warren answered the door, a clown handed her flowers and a balloon before shooting her and fleeing the house.

Keen Warren married Michael Warren, Marlene Warren’s widower, in 2002. The couple ran a restaurant together in Tennessee and Keen Warren owned a home just across the border in Virginia. PBSO cold-case detectives said a new DNA analysis spurred the arrest after 27 years, making national headlines.

Since the arrest, the incident has been featured on ABC’s “20/20” and other national news programs. In November, Keen Warren waived her right to a speedy trial.

2. Hurricane Irma damages roofs and fences and leaves behind debris: While Palm Beach County largely was spared the worst of Hurricane Irma, Wellington and the western communities still sustained a pretty heavy blow. Structural damage mostly consisted of dislodged roof tiles and toppled fences.

In some places, damage was more severe. A townhome unit in Wellington’s French Quarter neighborhood saw two corners clipped off its roof. In the Eastwood neighborhood, the wind sheared a screen enclosure off the back of one house, flipping pieces of it into the front yard.

When the storm passed, trees and tree limbs were left on the ground. Mountains of debris formed along roadways. The cleanup took weeks and cost millions of dollars.

3. Growth continues as two new developments open: The massive growth expected in the western communities over the next decade continued to materialize with the grand openings of two developments: Arden, in unincorporated Loxahatchee, and Westlake.

Once built out, Arden will have 2,000 homes, a working farm, a lake and miles of trails. Developer Freehold Communities had the grand opening for Arden in April.

Westlake, which is Palm Beach County’s newest municipality, had its grand opening in late October. Thousands of people flocked to the sales center off Seminole Pratt Whitney Road to check out the model homes and view plans of the amenities that will be offered.

The 3,800-acre project has not been without controversy. Some residents of The Acreage are concerned the new city is out of character with its surroundings. They also say it will bring more traffic to an already congested area. But Minto, the developer behind Westlake, has said benefits outweigh those concerns, with 2.2 million square feet of non-residential space planned.

4. Fatal crash spurs discussion on drunk driving and underage drinking: About 11:30 p.m. Nov. 25, 19-year-old Dana McWilliams of Connecticut lost control of her Chevy Camaro while speeding south on South Shore Boulevard north of Lake Worth Road, according to a PBSO report. McWilliams and her front-seat passenger, 21-year-old Christian Kennedy of Iowa, were killed in the crash. Another passenger, 24-year-old Elaine O’Halloran of Wellington, was critically injured.

McWilliams and Kennedy both were promising equestrian talents, their friends have told The Post. And though the PBSO report did not mention alcohol as a factor in the crash, people across Wellington have been quick to respond. From free-ride-home programs to a roundtable discussion on how to prevent DUI and underage drinking, the crash is poised to effect a change in culture.

5. Golf course proposals draw public outcry: Developer Glenn Straub’s proposals for his golf courses at Palm Beach Polo Golf and Country Club and Polo West drew hundreds of public comments at three public meetings. Straub had proposed changing the use on the golf courses to allow field and equine sports. He also requested several new access points at Palm Beach Polo and one new access point at Polo West.

The public comments helped push each of the three meetings — the plans went first to the Equestrian Preserve Committee, then the Planning, Zoning and Adjustments Board, then the village council — into multiple hours. About 400 written or spoken public comments were made at the Dec. 11 village council meeting, which ended at 3 a.m.

The plans were denied by the council, with each unanimous vote drawing applause from the residents in attendance.

Three things to watch in 2018

1. Medical marijuana dispensaries in Wellington: Wellington’s village council will have its second hearing in early 2018 of a proposed ordinance that would allow medical marijuana dispensaries in Wellington with some restrictions.

Because counties and municipalities are required to treat dispensaries no differently than pharmacies, the new rule would require medical marijuana dispensaries and pharmacies to be a minimum of 10,000 square feet and not allowed within 1,000 feet of a primary school. One pharmacy or dispensary would be allowed per retail development, with the exception of pharmacies in grocery stores.

The size, number and distance restrictions would be waived for pharmacies or dispensaries along State Road 7 in standalone buildings or in plazas with frontage on that road.

2. Wellington elections. If recent years are any indication, the 2018 municipal elections in Wellington could draw major supporters — and major donations. Two seats are up for election: Seat 2, currently occupied by Councilwoman Tanya Siskind, who will face challenger Frank Ferrano; and Seat 3, occupied by Vice Mayor John McGovern who will face opponent Bart Novack. The election is March 13.

3. Southern Boulevard construction. State and local efforts kick off next year to transform Southern Boulevard to handle the amount of traffic expected within the next decade. The road will be widened from the entrance to Arden, west of Lion Country Safari, to Forest Hill/Crestwood boulevards. The intersection of Southern and Sansbury’s Way also will see improvements to help handle the already-heavy load of traffic it sees each day. The widening work tentatively is scheduled to begin in the summer, with the intersection work tentatively set to start later in the year.

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