Special Hearing Reverses P.B. Polo Site Plan Change

Members of Wellington’s Planning, Zoning & Adjustment Board triggered a rehearing of the Blue Cypress site plan amendment after members agreed Wednesday that there had been misrepresentation on the most recent site plan.

After nearly 10 hours of discussion over two meetings, board members agreed that the applicant, Palm Beach Polo Holdings Inc., had misrepresented the ownership of the 29.15 acres under the site plan when it was approved in February 2011.

For the second time in Wellington history, the village launched a 1.5.15 hearing — a procedure that allows the board to determine whether there was fraud or misrepresentation in an application.

Board members met first for more than four hours on Wednesday, Oct. 6 to discuss the item. The meeting was continued until Wednesday, Nov. 7, where it lasted late into the evening.

According to the staff report, owner Glenn Straub had sold a 3.24-acre parcel of the land (labeled “Tract A”) to Chukker Holdings Inc., owned by Neil Hirsch. However, this was not reflected on the application.

“The owner’s certification for the application was Mr. Glenn Straub, President, Palm Beach Polo Holdings Inc.,” the staff report read. “No other owner consents were provided.”

The issue came to a head because the site plan change altered the frontage that Tract A had on Blue Cypress Lane from more than 1,000 feet to 200 feet.

“Since the road relocation materially impacts the future ability to subdivide the property into three independent lots as is allowed in accordance with the approved master plan, [Hirsch’s] consent should and would have been required if the ownership interest had been disclosed,” the staff report continued.

But Larry Zink, attorney for Palm Beach Polo Holdings, said that at a pre-application conference on the item, representatives for Palm Beach Polo Holdings Inc. divulged that the property had been sold.

Zink put consultant Mike Nelson, engineer Ray White of Simmons & White and Palm Beach Polo Holdings Vice President Don Langdon on the stand to testify that at a meeting on Oct. 7, 2010, Hirsch’s ownership of the property was discussed.

“It was not mentioned that Mr. Hirsch’s consent would be required,” Zink said.

But Wellington’s Planning & Zoning Manager David Flinchum and Project Manager Olga Prieto said they had no recollection of that conversation when they took the stand.

During his closing statements, Zink said that Palm Beach Polo Holdings had been forthright, noting that White had notes from the meeting suggesting the conversation had taken place.

“You cannot have a misrepresentation if the listener has knowledge of the facts,” he said. “In this case, we have more than that.”

But board members largely agreed that misrepresentation had occurred on the actual application.

Board Member Marcia Radosevich said that none of the formal documents mentioned Hirsch or Chukker Holdings as an owner.

“In fact, in the site plan applications, Palm Beach Polo is represented as the owners,” she said. “In the pre-application conference, whatever is said or done there is not legally binding. My understanding is that it is an informational meeting. I consider that irrelevant.”

Radosevich said, as she understood it, it is the applicant’s burden to complete the site plan amendment application accurately.

“It is not the village’s burden,” she said. “In this case, that was not done. I don’t know what the intention was, but I know what misrepresentation is. What seems quite concrete to me is the misrepresentation of ownership.”

Board Member Mike Drahos said that though he did not question that the ownership was discussed at the pre-application hearing, he had to focus on whether there was a misrepresentation on the application itself.

“Our instructions are very clear,” he said. “I don’t see how I can, in good conscience, come to the conclusion that there was not a misrepresentation made.”

Board Member Elizabeth Mariaca made a motion to find that misrepresentation had been made on the application, which passed 5-0 with Board Chair Craig Bachove and Board Member Paul Adams absent.

The item will now face a rehearing before the village’s Developmental Review Committee.