Letter: Beware Dangers Of Development

At the February meeting of the Wellington Seniors Club, we were privileged to hear candidates up for Wellington election this March present their views and respond to questions previously posed by club members.

It was interesting to see very real differences, especially between the two mayoral candidates, Bob Margolis and Anne Gerwig. Mr. Margolis noted that Wellington is largely built out, and opposes more hotels and condos in the village. He also stated that we need to get politics out of equestrian discussions. I guess Ms. Gerwig doesn’t feel the same way, as her campaign reports (go to the village web site and see for yourself) show several thousand dollars in contributions from Mark and Katherine Bellissimo. Additionally, Gerwig and council candidate Michael Drahos apparently support an “entertainment district” in Wellington. Let’s ask Jupiter how well that is working out for them. Ms. Gerwig justified this by saying entertainment now is too far to drive. Guess she thinks the 30 to 40 minutes to Kravis and Clematis is a burden.

Unfortunately, it’s a fact of life that all candidates will receive campaign contributions, often from someone wanting something in return. But a significant amount of Ms. Gerwig’s money is apparently from equestrian interests: Blue Marlin Farms, Diamante Farms, Diamante Farms Dressage, horse trainer Arlene Page and equestrian Kevin Kane are reported as among her contributors. However, as Mr. Margolis pointed out, 90 percent of Wellington residents are not equestrians (I have not verified his figure). When you vote in March — and please do vote — ask yourself where Ms. Gerwig’s loyalties might lie. And, to be fair, I’d also like to know more about money Mr. Margolis received from DNC Travel Hospitality, DNC Parks & Resorts, the Daytona Beach Kennel Club and the Jacobs family.

I have had multiple brief discussions with Ms. Gerwig. She is a good woman, and I believe she thinks her heart is in the right place. She has worked hard for Wellington. But I came away from the seniors meeting thinking Mr. Margolis and John Greene were the better choices for Wellington as a whole, and not just special equestrian interests.

The mayor and council we elect this March is particularly relevant, as we risk losing more green space. Recently, Mark Bellissimo and Wellington Equestrian Partners purchased the Wanderers Club. Late last year, the unused executive Wanderers Club course was purchased by real estate agent and developer Jim Ward. (Interestingly this does not appear to have been made public, at least not in the Town-Crier, until after Bellissimo’s purchase.) Anyone besides me think this may be a cooperative venture? Clearly, Mr. Ward did not spend (reportedly) $1 million to keep the property as a failed golf course. Sadly, the village had an opportunity to buy this property but declined, unwilling to meet John Goodman’s terms. (They were only $300,000 apart, and I’d guess they spent more on legal fees haggling over equestrian issues and on civility assessment for our council.)

For either golf course to be developed, it will require a zoning change, and that is where the new council comes in. Granted, Wellington, in general, has never met a developer it didn’t like, but ask who will work harder to keep the land as “green” as possible, and who will permit ranchettes, a boutique hotel, bungalows, stables and manure? Both courses abut Lakefield South, an unpretentious development of villas and single-family homes largely owned by seniors. Unbridled development will bring crime, noise, traffic and a decline in property values to this stable, well-kept community with homes dating back to at least 1991.

When you go to the polls, think about this: the Wellington logo used to be a stand of trees. Now it’s a horse’s head. I certainly acknowledge the economic benefit equestrian interests bring, and very much support them in their place. And some of the equestrian entities do fine charitable work. But enough is enough already.

Pat Keeler, Wellington