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.