Wellington Could Reconsider PBIEC Master Plan

The Wellington Village Council will determine this month whether to revisit changes to the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center property approved last October by the former council.

Current council members will hold a special public hearing at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, July 17 at the Wellington Municipal Complex 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.

But the owners of the show grounds have branded the hearing a “witch hunt” that could hamper economic growth.

The controversial amendment, approved last October, made several changes to the site, including the realignment of Equestrian Club Drive, the platting of Gene Mische Way and providing additional access points for Grand Prix Farms South, Gene Mische Way and from the planned Lake Worth Road extension through Peacock Pond.

“The master plan needed to be amended because it still showed Equestrian Club Drive aligned as it was before,” Director of Growth Management Bob Basehart told the Town-Crier on Tuesday. “And Gene Mische Way was physically there, but it was not on the master plan.”

A second item — a compatibility determination approved along with the master plan amendment — enabled the property to host the shows on a permanent basis, rather than by annual permit, Basehart said. The measure classified the site as a “commercial equestrian arena.”

Wellington Mayor Bob Margolis said that concern over the approvals stemmed from a 2001 resolution suspending development on the site, leading some council members to question whether the changes should have been approved at all.

Though he was not on the council last October, Margolis said that there is a concern over whether the suspension was revoked automatically when a new master plan was approved.

“It depends on whom you talk to,” he explained. “Some believe that the suspension had to be revoked before [the council] could vote on a master plan. Staff’s position was that it was revoked by approving the master plan.”

The hearing, referred to as a “5.1.15 hearing” after the provision in the code that permits it, will be held to decide whether there was misrepresentation on the application to the village, Basehart said.

“The provision says that if there is evidence that there may have been fraud or deceit, or information purposefully left out of an application, the council can revisit that application,” he said. “They can choose to reapprove it, approve it with modifications or revoke the original approval.”

In the case of the master plan amendment for the Country Place PUD, Margolis said information about the 2001 suspension of development had been left out of the application.

“Whether that was a misrepresentation on the applicant’s part, or on staff’s part, that’s what the hearing is about,” he said.

Wellington Equestrian Partners Managing Partner Mark Bellissimo told the Town-Crier that he was disappointed in the council’s decision to pursue the matter.

“It is extremely disappointing that the newly elected members of the village council continue to take actions that will hamper the economic growth and the future of Wellington,” he said. “In my opinion, instead of focusing on the numerous great opportunities for all of Wellington, they have chosen an ominous path of pursuing a witch hunt based on unfounded allegations of an improper permitting process, which will cost the village millions of dollars of unnecessary legal fees and consumption of thousands of hours of valuable village staff time.”

Basehart said this type of hearing could be brought about by staff or by council members. In this case, he said, council members were concerned that information had been omitted, adding that the council can call a hearing to investigate, but this time asked a consultant to examine the files and produce a report.

Wellington hired Russell Scott, a planner who once lived in the village but now works in Orlando, to review the facts.

Margolis said he wanted an independent viewpoint. “Staff is very close to this and will likely be called as witnesses,” he said. “I wanted an independent set of eyes guiding us through this process.”

In his review, released this month, Scott looked at the history of the PUD, including the suspension of development and subsequent master plan amendment approvals.

He noted that the 2001 resolution suspending development states that the suspension would be lifted if and when the council approved a new master plan. Scott also pointed out, however, that although several master plan amendments have been approved since then, the council never took action to officially revoke or address the suspension.

Master plan amendments listed in the review include a 2008 amendment to plat Southfields Phase II, located on the northeast corner of South Shore Blvd. and Lake Worth Road, as well as two other properties since 2008.

In the conclusion of his findings, Scott notes that other master plan amendments received approval without noting the 2001 suspension of the development order.

“It is clear,” he wrote, “that with the exception of [one application], no application submitted to the village for consideration of a master plan amendment for the Wellington Country Place PUD has completely and accurately documented the full history of county commission or village council actions. This includes applications to approve or modify the master plan, development order amendments or granting or denying extensions.”

But Scott still recommended that the village conduct the hearing “to determine whether there is evidence that the application [in question] contains misrepresentation, fraud, deceit or a deliberate error of omission.”

Basehart said that council members could review the evidence presented to them and decide whether to revisit the application. If they decide to revisit and revoke the application, Basehart said it could affect the road realignment and compatibility determination.

“The realignment could possibly be revoked, and the road would have to be put back as it was,” he said.

The commercial arena designation could also be modified. “It can’t exist as it is approved without the master plan amendment, but it could still survive with modifications,” Basehart said. “It would have to be revisited.”

Margolis said that no matter the results, he hopes everyone will approach the hearing with an open mind.

“This has never been done before,” he said. “It’s going to be a learning experience for everyone concerned. I’m hoping it will be an open-minded, independent process on all sides.”

But Bellissimo is worried that it could lead down a road that would be disastrous for Wellington’s economy.

“The end result will be a loss of job opportunities, a reduction in tax revenue and lost income for local businesses,” he said. “It must be left to one’s imagination as to why [council members] would conduct themselves this way.”


Above: The Palm Beach International Equestrian Center.


  1. I voted for Greene, Willhite and Margolis to stop the extra height hotel and the horse/rider/traffic safety issues at South Shore Blvd. and Pierson Rd, but I want the Equestrian Village to go forward and to keep the equestrian venues here in Wellington.

    The divisiveness on this council is not good for Wellington. There are numerous lawsuits that have been filed against the Village and Wellington taxpayers will be picking up the tab to defend the Village. There is also no leadership on the council. The Mayor needs to stop audience members from talking out and interrupting council members when they are speaking and needs to stop other council members from attacking each other. LEAD FOR GOD’S SAKE!

    I can also remember a council member and his family who taped a political video ad at an equestrian site at Pierson and 120th Ave. Who owns that property and what was the position of that individual regarding equestrian matters?

    There are loyalties to those who contribute and support your campaign. Special interests.

    Work together and reunite this community. Be leaders!

    • Village Staffer should be elected Mayor!

      We have new corruption in Wellington. Jacobs spends hundreds of thousands to get them elected and they in turn spend our money on lawsuits to make Jacobs happy.

      Margolis = Corruption
      Willhite = Malfeasance
      Greene = Misfeasance

  2. It is time for a recall effort against Margolis, Greene and Willhite. Dangerous for wellington.

  3. This council is out of control and will bankrupt all of us. it is time to stop the divisiveness.

    I guess the World Equetrian Games are out of the question.

    Sad sad sad.

  4. I get a permit and build my home… My neighbor doesn’t like me and is polically connected… A year later he gets the village to hire a lawyer to find out if my building permit had errors or omissions… So of course the lawyer finds something he claims is a deliberate omission… So now I have to hire a lawyer.

    Wellington has become scary.

  5. I hope the residents of Wellington wake up and become aware of what has happened to their village government. Basically it is no longer their government because it has been acquired by the Jeremy Jacobs family. Councilman Howard Coates was correct when he said that the Jacobs’ council majority was undertaking a “scorched earth” approach as Jacobs’ “pawns” to do for Jacobs what he (Jacobs) was attempting to do through the courts – and the people of Wellington will suffer.

    Now Mayor Bob Margolis and Council members Matt Willhite and John Greene are on a course to reimburse Jeremy Jacobs with taxpayer money the $600,000 Jacobs spent to get them elected. The initial budget of $250,000 for hiring an attorney to wage an unprecedented assault on actions of the previous council, on behalf of Jacobs, is just the beginning. The direct cost of funding the multiple lawsuits being initiated by the Village will easily run into the millions – not including potential damages.

    The three aforementioned council members spend a good deal of time in city hall often talking among themselves. It is obvious they are talking village business in violation of the sunshine law.

    And I feel for Wellington. We had a reputation as a great place to live with an exemplary local government that helped make that happen. No longer.

    Taxes will be going up, businesses will be leaving and foreclosures will escalate because this council is aggressively opposed to economic and fiscal growth and especially growth in the equestrian industry. They are trying to dismantle the growth that has occurred as well as prevent new projects by reversing approvals of previous councils. All on behalf of what’s euphemistically called “The Pierson Interest”. Stated simply, the “Pierson Interest” does not want people coming to his village and using his road.

    It is that simple.

  6. I can’t believe what this council is doing. We elected them because they said they were going to be transparent and they were against the hotel. They are in lockstep (in violation of sunshine law) and as Councilman Coates said they are doing the work of the “Pierson Road interest” and we all know who that is.

    People need to watch the meetings and see what we have elected.

  7. This council is leading the village down a dangerous path. Our future will be decided by the courts after $millions are spent.

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