A decades-old veterinarian clinic that wants to turn some stalls into offices has received its first nod from a village advisory board.
The proposal, which wouldn’t be final until the village council says so, would make Palm Beach Equine Clinic a conforming use at its plot on Pierson Road.
That means it can make other changes to its building and erect a new one if the current one burns down or a hurricane topples it — things the clinic can’t do now because it technically isn’t a permitted use where it sits.
That’s because it was built before Wellington incorporated. Nonconforming uses can’t be altered or expand.
The rub over the zoning text amendment, as the proposed change is called, was that it could draw more vet clinics to residential areas in part of Wellington’s equestrian preserve.
“We cannot support an expansion of commercial uses within residential pods,” said Janna Lhota, an attorney for Victoria McCullough, whose farm is in the area.
McCullough fully supports Palm Beach Equine’s expansion and sees no problem with the clinic’s location. But it doesn’t makes sense to institute a change for hundreds of acres when only a few acres — the clinic’s land — need to be addressed, Lhota said.
What makes the most sense, McCullough, another resident and staff have said, is making a land-use change for the underlying property to align it with what it’s long been used for.
But Dr. Scott Swerdlin, Palm Beach Equine’s president, said council members don’t seem to be favor of that. Plus, it appears that applying for the land-use change, a rather cumbersome process requiring state review, would cost tens of thousands of dollars.
Another suggestion, a variance for the clinic, won’t work because variances can’t be requested for nonconforming properties.
The Equestrian Preserve Committee last week recommended approving the change. Now it heads to the Planning Zoning and Adjustment Board on Sept. 9.