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Planning and Zoning Board and Town Council Have Not Yet Approved Commercial Development
Written by: Courtesy of Client Client:Wellington Equestrian Preservation Alliance Release Date:2011-12-27
Wellington, FL – December 27, 2011 – Before an audience packed with equestrian enthusiasts, Wellington's Equestrian Preserve Committee recommended that Wellington allow a controversial commercial development on the property where Prince Charles once played polo.
The committee, an advisory board for equestrian-related issues, recommended that the Wellington Council approve a 100-room, 200,000-square foot hotel and about 100,000 square feet of retail as part of a new dressage complex - the most sweeping changes to the equestrian area in its history.
And next week, the city's Planning and Zoning board will consider the project at its Jan. 4 meeting. The hearing before the Planning and Zoning committee is the next of several legally required steps before the project is approved.
Mark Bellissimo’s Wellington Equestrian Partners proposes what he calls Equestrian Village, a hotel-retail complex adjoining six dressage arenas, a covered arena and stabling on about 56 acres at the northeast corner of South Shore Boulevard and Pierson Road. Peter Brandt’s White Birch farm, an additional 37 acres east of the corner property, is included in the request for a commercial recreation designation.
As more people become aware of the proposed project and as earthwork continues for the competition rings, it’s drawing more controversy than what appeared at the first meeting in mid-December. Homeowners surrounding the property inside Palm Beach Polo and Country Club are concerned about the impacts of hundreds of stalls near their homes, and real estate professionals have told them they can anticipate diminished property values of between 20 and 50 percent from the impacts, including smell, noise and lights.
Wellington’s Equestrian Preserve Area does not allow for such intense commercial uses, so Wellington’s leaders would have to change several layers of land use rules to fully approve the project. However, because equestrian activities can take place within the equestrian area, Wellington Equestrian Partners has been given a conditional use permit to hold dressage shows on the property this season, and earth moving equipment continues to push dirt around the property for the competition rings.
Wellington Equestrian Partners has just over a month to prepare the property for top level dressage competitions and get it approved by the United Stated Equestrian Federation.
The schedule of dressage competitions has been approved for the existing venue – Palm Beach International Equestrian Center – not the new facility, said Eva Salomon, Managing Director and Chef d’Equipe for Dressage. Salomon is part of the inspection committee who must do a site visit and recommend to the USEF executive committee whether the new facility is suitable for national and international competitions.
“What has been approved is approval for the existing venue,” she said this week. “If they want to move it to the new facility they will have to get it inspected and approved.”
While everyone speaking before the Equestrian Preserve Committee said they favored a facility for dressage, which never has been featured at Palm Beach International Equestrian Center, the commercial portions of the project are controversial.
The Wellington Equestrian Preservation Alliance, a long-time voice for protecting Wellington’s equestrian areas, has re-emerged and vowed to fight the commercial intrusion into the equestrian area.
“Where we are drawing the line is the unprecedented commercial that goes along with this,” said Mat Forrest, Executive Director of the Alliance.
The Equestrian Preserve Area was created as part of Wellington’s comprehensive land use plan with a focus on open space, low-density development and 2-lane roads – all necessary to protect the equestrian way of life, equestrians have said.
“A project like this, I don’t believe, was ever envisioned when Wellington adopted its comprehensive plan and equestrian element,” said Wellington Planning and Zoning Manager David Flinchum.
He warned the committee that there are eight commercial recreation areas within the Equestrian Preserve, and such commercial uses would apply to all of them.
The committee wrestled with the height of the hotel, proposed as a tiered, 5-story structure topping out at 66 feet high. Committee member Michael Whitlow stressed that he favored the dressage portion, but objected to the commercial. Committee Chair Dr. Scott Swerdlin stepped off the dais after the project presentation, acknowledging he has a conflict and did not vote. His practice, Palm Beach Equine, is the veterinarian for Wellington Equestrian Partners.
To see the proposed site plan please visit: http://www.ci.wellington.fl.us/images/stories/departments/Planning_Zoning/Projects/Equestrian_Village/November%2023%202011%20DRC%20Submittal/Preliminary%20Site%20Plan%2011-23-11.pdf