Wellington Equestrian Partners has recently announced that we are withdrawing from all settlement discussions with the Village of Wellington regarding ongoing litigation. WEP is in the process of filing several lawsuits against the village. We cited two primary reasons for these actions.
First, after full consideration, a Palm Beach County appellate court denied the two Jacobs appeals on the equestrian portion of the Equestrian Village project. These denials affirmed both the compatibility and the development approval process for the project. Over the past months, WEP has provided the village a very clear and simple path to resolve the issues amicably and inexpensively.
The proposal was simple: reverse the revocations, let us operate the equestrian projects that have been built, and WEP will drop all current and forego any future lawsuits related to the revocation issues. This path allowed the newly elected council members (the “Jacobs slate” of Margolis, Greene and Willhite) to satisfy their stated campaign commitments to support the equestrian elements of the project. We believed a settlement would provide great benefits to the village. First, it would diffuse an increasingly costly and divisive situation that is growing worse. Second, it would ensure the continued success of the equestrian community, which benefits all Wellington residents. Third, it would have significantly reduced legal expenses to the taxpayers of Wellington — all with little or no impact on the Jacobs’ rights to pursue their personal agenda and their litigation.
Inexplicably, instead of making a decision, the Jacobs slate repeatedly rejected WEP’s settlement overtures and chose to continue their stalling tactics, which would have the effect of putting the Equestrian Village at risk of once again losing next year’s summer and fall seasons. Given the recent front-page Palm Beach Post exposé (http://tinyurl.com/aawljy6) that discusses potentially unethical activity by Mayor Bob Margolis, it is now more apparent why he backed off from settlement discussions. Ultimately, the Jacobs slate chose to protect a few wealthy landowners’ and political supporters’ interests over the interests of the citizens and taxpayers of Wellington. In our opinion, the Jacobs’ interests, who spent over $500,000 getting their slate elected (typical village campaigns spend approximately $20,000 per candidate), are continuing to pursue a “scorched earth” approach to the Wellington equestrian community under the guise of preservation. This approach is alienating residents, both equestrian and non-equestrians, as well as the world’s top riders within all disciplines who have been flocking to Wellington. Unfortunately, the Wellington taxpayers will ultimately pick up the tab.
WEP does not believe the Jacobs slate, which comprises the majority of the council, will change their position. Therefore, we will not waste further time pursing a settlement while the village is preoccupied with stalling the settlement process, postponing the inevitable, and in our view, protecting a few political supporters (Neil Hirsch, Victoria McCullough and certain members of the Jacobs family). This community should be asking the fundamental question: “Why would certain members of the council refuse such a beneficial and simple offer that would end extensive village expenditures on lawyers and village staff time to support the litigation?”
Which leads us to the second reason. We believe that the revocations of the lawfully approved development rights were illegal and are part of a concerted effort by the Jacobs slate to take away WEP’s property rights as landowners, which WEP believes are core constitutional rights. Recently uncovered information leads us to believe that the circumstances, payments and what appears to WEP to be inducements made days prior to key votes to certain council members participating in the vote to revoke WEP’s property rights were inappropriate and unlawful. The Jacobs slate within the council are pursuing anti-business and unlawful tactics, and WEP will not let it stand.
So we are clear, we believe that council members Howard Coates and Anne Gerwig have continued to look out for the best interests of Wellington. Unfortunately, it is WEP’s opinion that the Jacobs slate will continue to put the best interests of the certain Jacobs family members, Neil Hirsch and Victoria McCullough ahead of village and county residents and taxpayers. The village has already spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal expenses and staff time fighting on behalf of these interests, and WEP believes those numbers will balloon to well over $1 million during the next 12 months. Of course, all of this is money that could be spent on village improvements and meaningful investments in our community.
WEP believes in Wellington’s future and has invested more than $200 million in support of our vision. We will do what it takes to protect this very significant investment and will exhaust all remedies to make sure that those responsible will be held accountable for their actions. It is our goal to continue to invest in the Wellington, bring together the equestrian and non-equestrian worlds, expand Wellington’s economy and create much-needed jobs. We are confident that justice will prevail.
Mark Bellissimo, Managing Partner
Wellington Equestrian Partners