Tuesday’s Wellington Village Council decision not to re-open last year’s changes to the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center master plan can either be a turning point between the community’s warring factions and the start of a healing process, or just a momentary cessation of hostilities. Let’s hope it’s the former, because civility and compromise is what the Wellington community really needs.
Following a 15-hour hearing Tuesday, the council decided not to re-examine a decision last October by the former council to approve a new master plan governing the show grounds. And unlike most of the recent council votes regarding equestrian issues, this was a unanimous decision. Tuesday’s vote was a small but hopeful step forward as the community gets back to the task of healing the wounds caused by a vicious municipal election season.
Last week, we voiced our concerns regarding what might happen should the council choose to go down the path of rehearing old items. Not only would it have set a dangerous precedent, but it would have invited additional legal challenges that would cost the village financially and prolong the fracturing of the community.
After seven or eight months of red-hot rhetoric that saw the community broken into two camps with very little room for compromise, there were glimmers of compromise at Tuesday’s hearing. The council stood back from the precipice.
However, we realize that things might have gone differently had the council found the “smoking gun” some in the community insisted was there. Because there was no deliberate omission of information on the part of Wellington Equestrian Partners, the matter was laid to rest. However, there was foreshadowing of battles to come. For example, as Councilman Matt Willhite pointed out, the council still has site plan approval authority, and there are parts of the site plan that could still have a rough time getting through the current council, mainly some of the roadway improvements and connections.
Tuesday’s decision was a possible turning point. It offers a chance to start the healing process, binding up of the community’s wounds and trying to bring the people back together. It’s up to the people in the middle — the Wellington Village Council — to make this happen, not the red-hot voices arguing from both sidelines. They were elected to lead, and whatever the outcome is, they’re the ones who set the agenda. We just hope the two sides can iron out their differences and get things moving forward for the good of everyone in the community.