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February 3, 2012

Wellington Continues Debate On Equestrian Village

The development of an “Equestrian Village” on the old Polo Stadium grounds in Wellington, Fla., continued to be a contentious issue this week during what became the longest running government meeting in Wellington history to approve the new dressage grounds and commercial facility within the village’s equestrian preserve.

Beginning on Jan. 31 and ending after 20 hours of meeting over three days, the village was split on whether or not to approve commercial designation and land use changes that would move the project forward.

Since last fall, when construction began on the Global Dressage Festival by Mark Bellissimo and Michael Stone’s Wellington Equestrian Partners, the equestrian community in Wellington has been divided over a proposed commercial development planned to accompany the new Global Dressage Festival at the corner of South Shore and Pierson Roads.

Once again, it was standing room only at Wellington City Hall on Tuesday night, as the Equestrian Village Master Plan amendments were debated and voted upon by the council. Residents holding signs and wearing red “No Equestrian Village” shirts stood outside the building and packed into city hall as the meeting began, demonstrating a growth in the group against the commercial development.

The members of Equestrian Sport Productions, a subsidiary of WEP, hoped to move the changes forward to a further review by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity and other state agencies. But they were met with strong resistance.

Lawyers representing the Jacobs family and residents of the Palm Beach Polo and Country Club, which faces the Global Dressage Festival property, spoke in front of the council to argue that the development lacked proper research and planning. Without compatibility analysis to determine the affects of such a development, they argued that any decision by the council would be premature.

Further semantics surrounding the access point amendments drew out the length of the proceedings and instigated ongoing arguments that gave the meeting a courtroom feel.

By Thursday, the commercial arena designation and access point proposals had been approved. ESP compromised on the height of the hotel, agreeing to reduce its height to 58 feet from an original 66. Another issue has been the proximity of permanent barns less than 200 feet from homes in the Palm Beach Polo and Country Club Polo Island development. ESP agreed to build three barns instead of the original four. The site will also be limited to 3,500 permanent seats, although they can apply for temporary seating for large events.

Those concessions allowed ESP’s proposal to move on to the next step, albeit on a split vote. 

The state of Florida will now examine the project before a final land-use hearing is scheduled for this spring. The developers still have zoning and conditional use requirements to meet, but as of now, ESP’s Global Dressage Festival and accompanying development have completed another step in changing the face of Wellington.

The first show of the Global Dressage Festival is taking place this weekend, Feb. 2-5.

 
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