After nearly 15 hours of debate and deliberation over the status of the approved master plan governing the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center, members of the Wellington Village Council decided unanimously not to rehear the item.
Council members found that there had been no deliberate omission of information by the applicant, Wellington Equestrian Partners, when the item came before the former council last October.
“We have to find whether there was a deliberate error,” Vice Mayor Howard Coates said. “We are obligated to go by what the evidence states.”
The council met Tuesday morning to determine whether there was any misrepresentation during last year’s discussion of a master plan amendment for the Country Place PUD, of which the show grounds is a part.
Discussion went on until almost midnight, with both sides arguing over two key points. The first was whether the applicant deliberately omitted parts of the site’s history — chief among them a 2001 suspension of development on the site.
The other point of contention was whether master plan amendments approved by Wellington after 2001 lifted that suspension.
Land planning engineer Michael Sexton, agent for the applicant, testified that the omission of the history had been an error on his part. “No one asked me to delete or omit anything,” he told council members.
Sexton said he’d not heard that there was an issue until long after the master plan had been approved. Furthermore, he said he believed that subsequent master plan amendment designating the site as commercial recreation lifted the suspension. “It was approved by council,” Sexton said. “It met all the conditions for the suspension to be lifted.”
Wellington Equestrian Partners Attorney Dan Rosenbaum said that there had not been any evidence of intent to deceive council. “I don’t see how anyone could find any evidence from tonight’s hearing unless they believe [Sexton] to be a complete pathological liar,” he said.
Though council members all agreed that the information omitted should have been in the application, Coates said it was their legal responsibility to determine if there was fraudulent misrepresentation.
To prove deceitful intent, he said, there would have to be evidence that the applicant had a desire to mislead the village and that the decision would rely on the omitted information.
“There is simply no evidence of that,” Coates said, “because the village knew about the suspension.”
Coates motioned to rule that council had found no evidence of deliberate misrepresentation. Councilman Matt Willhite seconded the motion, and the vote carried unanimously.
Look for an extended version of this story in this week’s Town-Crier.