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October 25, 2013

Equestrian Village Expansion Still Mired In Controversy

The proposed expansion and year-round use permit for Equestrian Sport Productions’ Equestrian Village, host of the Adequan Global Dressage Festival, remains uncertain after an Oct. 24 village council meeting in Wellington, Fla. Two days after they’d met to discuss and then tabled the same topic, the council members’ meeting again ended with many questions still hanging in the air.

The council did approve some proposed plans for the facility on Pierson Road and South Shore Boulevard, but with conditions that ESP CEO Mark Bellissimo said could be dealbreakers.

ESP’s master plan amendment to the Equestrian Village was approved unanimously during the council meeting, and ESP agreed to leave their exhibitor entrance in its current location on Pierson Road, instead of moving it further east as they’d requested. But council members threw a fly into the ointment by failing to approve a new left turn lane at that entrance. The city’s traffic engineer deemed the turn lane “essential” for safety purposes, and ESP has offered to pay for its construction in full, but council members chose to table its implementation and instead request a study over the next year to determine its necessity.

The turn lane is now one of the smallest but most tangible sticking points of a much larger ongoing battle between ESP and the Jeremy Jacobs family, whose Deeridge estate is located just east down Pierson Rd. from the Equestrian Village. The Jacobs family has worked to block development of the facility since its inception, expressing unrelenting concerns about the environmental impact and potential traffic; they’ve blocked creation of a sidewalk and have also fought to have speed bumps built on the public road.

And they’ve spared no expense to make sure Wellington’s village council is comprised of individuals who are sympathetic to their cause. In March, Boston Magazine calculated that Jacobs “led the charge on” more than $625,000 in political donations to influence the village election, resulting in a majority of pro-Jacobs members on the council.

“You’re not fighting this [on the ground of safety]; everyone is saying it’s safer [to have a turn lane], and one family doesn’t believe so, so we’re going to ‘compromise’?” Bellissimo told the council. “That’s not compromise; that’s appeasement. We will not, in the spirit of safety, compromise our community because one family doesn’t want a left turn into the property.”

So instead of agreeing to the condition of a necessity study, Bellissimo and his lawyer, Dan Rosenbaum, walked away, essentially tabling the subject yet again until the next meeting, Nov. 12.

“We do have a very good safety record here. The reason is because we do have a level of discipline,” Bellissimo continued. “It’s incumbent upon me as a fiduciary of my organization to make sure I mitigate safety [issues].”

Rosenbaum also underscored that the turn lane is an essential component of the entire construction plan the council approved.

“Everything was engineered around that turn lane,” he said. “If there’s not going to be a lane there, everything we had in the land development permit needs to be changed.”

Calls to the Jacobs’ family’s lawyers went unanswered as of Friday evening.

Shows for 2014 Adequan Global Dressage Festival have already been approved with a special use permit and will not be affected.

 

Editor’s note: The Bellissimo family owns The Chronicle of the Horse LLC, and Mark serves as its publisher.

 
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