The battle over the use of the Equestrian Village property could be settled next week with the Wellington Village Council expected to discuss a settlement offer to curb its legal woes.
A discussion of the issue is on the agenda for the council’s Tuesday, May 28 meeting, Village Attorney Laurie Cohen told the Town-Crier this week.
The settlement offer could halt two lawsuits filed last year by Wellington Equestrian Partners (WEP), who run the Global Dressage Festival held at Equestrian Village during the winter show season.
“What’s going to be discussed [at the meeting] is a way to resolve these matters,” Cohen said.
At the site of the old Palm Beach Polo stadium at the corner of South Shore Blvd. and Pierson Road, the Equestrian Village site was originally envisioned to have commercial elements and a hotel. However, the only portion of the site that has been constructed is the existing dressage facility.
In May of last year, a newly seated council majority voted to revoke two measures that were approved by the former council: the property’s master plan and conditional use approvals.
WEP Managing Partner Mark Bellissimo filed the lawsuits after the revocations of the existing permits, which had allowed a show facility on the property and year-round use. An attempt was made last year by Bellissimo to settle the issue, but council members ultimately rejected his proposal and the issue moved forward in court.
The decision caused concern for the 2013 dressage season in Wellington, even launching an advocacy group to urge the council to approve use of the facility for the season.
Ultimately, council members and WEP came to an agreement to allow activity on the site for a certain number of show dates.
“They were allowed to use the property for certain dates,” Cohen said. “But that expired at the end of April.”
The fate of the site’s permanent purpose and design is still being contested in court. If a settlement is reached next week, the property could be used year-round as originally intended.
Bellissimo noted that the temporary permit granted by council members last year does not allow use of the venue for summer shows.
“This economy is not able to make use of [the property] as a summer venue, using the largest covered riding surface in the state,” he said. “It could bring hundreds of horses from all over the state to this community for horse shows.”
Bellissimo said he hopes to see the council’s decision reversed.
“[We] believe that the council should restore the revocation of the venue’s approvals,” Bellissimo said.
Cohen noted that a settlement offer was discussed in a closed session with council members, but could not provide details.
“We’ve had some dialogue, and hopefully this can move in a positive direction,” she said. “It’s a discussion that needs to be had. Hopefully it will be a two-way conversation.”
At the meeting, Bellissimo and his representatives will have a chance to talk to council members about resolving things.
Bellissimo said he hopes to come to a consensus.
“We believe it is in the best interest of all involved to stop the litigation and move forward as a community,” he said.