- Kristina Webb Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Palm Beach County’s newest city earlier this week gave the OK to a plan that paves the way for its first new non-residential development: a freestanding emergency department run by Wellington Regional Medical Center.
The Westlake City Council on Monday night voted 4-0 with one council member absent to approve a site plan for the facility, which will be the first of its kind in the western communities.
The emergency department will be nearly 11,000 square feet and sit on the southeast corner of Seminole Pratt Whitney Road and Persimmon Boulevard, south of the existing Grove Market Shopping Center. Its address will be 16400 Persimmon Blvd.
Minto Communities, which owns most of the land in Westlake, will sell the 5.66-acre plot on which the emergency department will sit to Wellington Regional parent company Universal Health Services Inc.
“This is our first significant non-residential project to date at Westlake and the first major expansion of Wellington Regional Medical Center outside of its current campus,” Minto Vice President John Carter said in a news release. “In the early stages of our community development for Westlake, we have started the process of creating essential services for our future residents and those who already live in the surrounding communities.”
Carter added that The Acreage and surrounding area is the only part of Palm Beach County that is not within a 10- to 15-minute drive of emergency facilities.
The facility is expected to open later this year, Wellington Regional said in a news release. It will provide around-the-clock emergency care seven days a week.
“We are honored and excited to be the first non-residential development in the Westlake community,” said Wellington Regional CEO Robbin Lee. “By expanding our emergency services, we can better meet the needs of our growing community and provide access to emergency care where it is needed.”
The young city’s history has been controversial. Minto initially pitched the project as a 4,500-home master-planned community on 3,800 acres in the midst of The Acreage. The project, known as Minto West, was given the OK by county commissioners in October 2014. That approved plan includes 2.2 million square feet of non-residential space, including restaurants, retail, schools and a university.
Minto West faced significant opposition from surrounding residents who said the project did not fit with the rural character of their neighborhoods. But Minto representatives argued the project could bring much-needed services to the area. Minto VP Carter in early 2016 said the development would be “the new downtown of central Palm Beach County” with $1 billion of economic impact over the next two decades.
In June 2016, five people voted to incorporate Westlake, making it Palm Beach County’s 39th municipality. Within weeks, it was facing challenges to its incorporation, including a request from County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay for Gov. Rick Scott’s office to investigate the process.
The city now is in the process of developing its comprehensive plan, the set of rules that will govern how growth and development will occur in Westlake. And while officials at a recent Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council meeting balked at the plan, saying it opens the door for massive growth, Westlake city attorney Pam Booker said she was tired of hearing about the past.
“I would like for them to deal with us as the city that we are,” she said.