Letter: Unger: Don’t Give In To ‘Greedy Developer’

I have been living in Wellington for over 20 years and have witnessed the development of a very successful equestrian element during that time. Enter Mark Bellissimo, and all I have seen is lawsuits (by him), almost a dozen I recently heard, violations on his properties, alleged construction without permits, missed deadlines and a surfeit of complaints by Mr. Bellissimo, his firm Wellington Equestrian Partners, the Wellington Chamber of Commerce and others, denigrating our council and our village as “anti-business.”

First of all, we are discussing something like one percent of the village, so the exaggeration is wholly untrue. We’ve had numerous stores being built (half a dozen restaurants, too) only recently, the medical complex at Wellington Regional Medical Center is growing, approximately seven large rental/condo buildings at the mall, new residential communities are being built, and we seem to be doing better than much of Palm Beach County and even the state. Does that sound anti-business? The Wellington Chamber needs to get the facts before crying wolf.

One development in an area reserved for equestrians is not anti-business. In fact, I would suggest, as one of the founders prior to incorporation, that we never wanted or planned for commercial development, large hotels, etc. in the Equestrian Preserve. In fact, the Wellington visioning conference expressly stated that keeping the communities as they were as a prime concern, for we foresaw greedy developers in our future!

To illustrate Mr. Bellissimo’s tack, his way of doing business and his wrong headedness, one only need visit his recent quotes outlined in another newspaper:

After someone removed a “red-tag” (not unlike a red light), tagged by the village for safety concerns, or as I heard but couldn’t verify, the red tag was covered by a VIP sign, from one of his sites, it was then used for a few days despite the village “denial of usage.”

Mr. Bellissimo at first “initially denied that any work occurred without permits,” then he ameliorated that with “misunderstandings…” Then there was “Were mistakes made? Probably,” and we are now to believe him? He then declined to name the contractor, yet as the property owner, the contractor becomes “his agent,” building as Bellissimo plans. Contractors know what a “red flag” means, but does Bellissimo?

Bellissimo then states, “We’re going to put a process in next year, to make sure this doesn’t happen.” How many years has he been here? That horse left the barn long ago, and now he wants to close that door.

This is typical. First denial, then “it’s possible,” then “yeah, we did it (but it wasn’t me).” Is this some schoolyard playground, where one kid can’t play nicely and blames everybody else because indeed he cannot play nicely and conform to minimum rules?

Wellington equestrians thrived long before WEP came along and will do so long after they are gone. It is the interim that hurts our village. Endless attacks on our council and public statements to the press that Wellington is not business-friendly, as well as numerous lawsuits, doesn’t help the Wellington Chamber as a whole, its reputation or our village. Curious that it emanates from one source and the friends of the developer who stand to profit from trying to cover the preserve clean, open areas with commercialism and an obtrusive (too high) hotel. Hardly about equestrians — more likely about developer greed!

On the one hand, this developer whines that he is being treated unfairly, while simultaneously he apparently ignores village codes and operates under his own whims, ignoring red flags that anyone and everyone, most especially a contractor, knows could be criminal in nature and possibly a safety concern.

To our elected officials, I say, continue to protect us, do not allow over-commercialization of the equestrian area, but allow that which helps it grow in a reasonable fashion, for one could say, they are the jewel of our village. Mr. Bellissimo may have some good ideas, but they must fit into our idea of what befits it, not hodgepodge commercialization.

George Unger


  1. Oh yes – as to “hodgepodge commercialzation”, Bellissimo attempted to build a new stadium and commercial project RIGHT WHERE THE ORIGINAL STADIUM AND COMMERCIAL PROJECT WAS,THAT GAVE BIRTH TO THE ENTIRE EQUESTRIAN INDUSTRY IN WELLINGTON.

    Building on the site of the original Palm Beach Polo Stadium is not hodgepodge commericialization. It is rebuildiing what has been torn down due to age and use. The stadium was falling apart when it was finally torn down.

    The PBP Stadium was the centerpiece of polo in it’s heyday in Wellington. If you were here 20 years ago, then you remember the Sunday traffic was down South Shore for miles. The “Will Call” box was almost at Forest Hlll Blvd!

    Taking an aging, decrepid, worn our, neglected building at the corner of South Shore and Pierson befits the equestrian community. Tearing it down as Margolis, Greene & Wilhite propose is degrading Wellington.

    Just which one are you for?

    • VConnor, you’re mixing apples and oranges. No one would have had a problem rebuilding the old Polo stadium. It’s the attempt to build the “Rockefeller Center” of Wellington on that site, which is already not suitable for major development, out of character, and which it is not zoned for. If you’re being honest here, you’re saying you think what is built there is enough? If so, i think almost everyone would agree to that and we could all move on.

      • Keep up. The Rockerfeller Center proposal was withdrawn nine months ago. The proposal for the last nine months has been to have barns and a competitive equestrian venue, kind of exactly like the show barns, and spectator stands , just like Palm Beach Polo was. Only now the competitors are dressage riders instead of polo players and the site can be used longer than just Jan. to April.
        Try and keep current.

  2. Mr. Unger, as you say “get your facts straight before”, you may want to apply that advice to yourself. First of all, the Council attempted to prohibit other restaurants from the same hours as The Players Club because Courncilman Greene was sleeping at Neil Hirsch’s, taking cash from Hirsch and partners, and taking paid vacations as well. After it was exposed by the Chamber, they Village then tried to extort $3000 from any business who applied for late hours.

    The owner of The Grille later spoke before Council and said “if I knew what I had to go through to open another restaurant in Wellington, I never would have started it. This will be my last one in Wellington.”

    There were comments made in a number of Palm Beach Post stories (the Chamber certainly doesnt control the Post) about what is happening in Wellington and how anti-business they city is getting a reputation for.

    Mayor Margolis’s campaign battle cry was “We’re a bedroom community, We don’t need new business.”

    And as for the growth in the medical indusry, that is happening IN SPITE of the current Council. Margolis has openly declared to all that the Medical Arts District concept is dead. One block of land wont sell, so he declared the whole idea DOA. Thats a leadership failure.

    If every leader allowed the first block or conflict to stop a project, there wouldnt be a single project completed anywhere.

    When a Council attempts to retroactively cancel an approved and built structure for poliltical reasons, as they tried to do with the Equestrian Village, that sends a cold chill down any business looking to come to town. If they do it to them, what stops them from doing it to me? The result is business looks elsewhere.

    You’ve lived here for 20 years and I don’t ever recall you being :”for” anything. The only comments you ever make are against something.We’re trying to strengthen and improve on all of Wellington.

    I moved here in 1979 – 33 years ago specifically for the horse community and have been involved with Wellington events for 33 years. The current management of ESP is the best the show ever had. I live 1 mile outside the Wellington city limit in “unincorporated Palm Beach County.” My “city” is Wellington.

    Bellissimo’s biggest crime was he built strutures fast, sometimes faster than permits could be issued. Compare that to city leaders openly taking cash, paid vacations, meals, and lodging from people with business before them.

    You tell me which is better – to have someone building and improving faster than buracracy can move, or polticans on the take?

    I am shocked that your advice to Councilmen taking cash and bounty is to continue doing that. At some point your personal political view has to draw the line at bought and paid for politicans.

    • Just a note to V Connor….

      You see Mr Bellissimo’s penchant for building prior to permitting as an honorable thing, and defend the steamrolling techniques, the grandiose dreams.

      I live here year round, and strongly resent the number of hours it requires for taxpayer funded Village personnel to keep up with Bellissimo’s whims and lawsuits, and the time it takes for inspectors and planners to review, and correct, and address his sometimes ridiculous vision.

      I resent that our Village is being forced to constantly deal with this man, a hero to the privileged equestrian community. He and his entourage believe that Wellington can be bought and sold; they have no regard for the ordinary public citizen, and are actively pursuing the disenfranchisement of voters by overturning or nullifying a verified election.

      Oh, by the way, unless I’m mistaken, the owner of “The Grille” has since opened another restaurant, in the periphery of the Mall. Ho hum….

  3. I have to agree with you. The only thing the “hotel” i.e private condos will do is take money out of the rental community and put it back into the rich pockets. They say it will bring jobs to Wellington? Show me where.The contruction co. will not hire only wellington residents or just palm beach county. This whole idea of the hotel, shopping and dressage area will only keep the equestrian money between them selves. If this private condo goes through then our fellow Wellington residents will loose tons of money by not renting out there homes for the season. I live right next to the show grounds and I love it. Only bad thing is the traffic light.

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