The Wellington Village Council is about to enter dangerous territory. At a special hearing this coming Tuesday, July 17, council members will decide whether to revisit changes to the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center property approved last October by the former council. Wellington is taking the unprecedented action of holding a specific hearing to see if information was intentionally left out of last year’s master plan amendment for the Country Place PUD, of which the show grounds are a part. If so, council members could decide to revisit the amendment and possibly reverse the ruling.
This action takes the current council well beyond the controversial Equestrian Village project, which divided the community and the current council majority campaigned against, to issues surrounding the PBIEC, which other than a handful of high-level equestrians who have disagreements amongst themselves as to how the shows should be run, is not something that Wellington residents in general have concerns about.
This sets a very dangerous precedent of future councils going back and redoing what previous councils have done. By opening the door to revisiting land use and zoning decisions made by past councils, this action by the current council raises the question of, what’s next? How far back will the council go to erase decisions in the past they don’t like?
Unfortunately, there’s more at stake regarding Wellington’s future than just the political aspect. As Vice Mayor Howard Coates pointed out before casting a dissenting vote at this week’s meeting, the council’s decision regarding dressage at Equestrian Village could jeopardize the village’s relationship with the equestrian industry. We understand that elections have consequences, and that the three council members who won this past March did what they said they would do. But after the unpopular commercial/hotel aspects of the Equestrian Village were eliminated, the council didn’t stop there, but went on to attack the part most people liked — the dressage element. The question now is, again, what next?
The basis for the council’s special hearing on the Country Place PUD is that a 10-year-old master plan decision was left out of the application detailing the site’s history. It’s a line that has also been left out of several other changes to the PUD over the past decade. Should everyone who built in that area or made improvements to their properties over the past decade have to worry that the council might come for them next? This is the problem with taking such unprecedented action for a specific purpose — when you open up Pandora’s Box, you have no control over what comes next.
Many people are concerned about the future of Wellington, and right now they have every right to be. If changing rules and regulations were as easy as pressing the Undo key on a computer, they wouldn’t hold much weight in the first place.