Letter: Bellissimo Is Not Santamaria

No, Mark Bellissimo cannot and should not be compared to our estimable western communities leader Jess Santamaria.

In a recent letter to the editor (Bellissimo Accusation Was Unfair, Nov. 30), Victor Connor extols Mark Bellissimo’s philanthropy, which is estimable, but sadly, he then makes excuses for Bellissimo’s cavalier attitude toward building before permitting, and innumerable building code violations — the most by any developer in Wellington, I believe — and he then proceeds to blame our village government and staff for the self-inflicted “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.” Of course, there are also his unfulfilled promises/agreements with the village concerning road improvements.

Connor then proceeds to equate Bellissimo’s accomplishments to that of Jess Santamaria, local builder, philanthropist and recent county commissioner.

We are all entitled to opinions, but not our own facts. Santamaria has been a public servant. Bellissimo only serves himself. Santamaria fought corruption in Palm Beach County, and effectively, I might add. Bellissimo just brought big money (close to a million dollars) into Wellington’s election process, bringing the shadow of bought elections to Wellington — the kind that we abhor in our state and federal elections.

We created the Equestrian Preserve Area to “preserve” the quality of the equestrian community, but recently I heard of a ploy to try to take out of the preserve (on paper only) areas that could then be rezoned and developed. To me, this reeks of perfidy, and an underhanded attempt to circumvent the original preserve intent.

The irony of all this is that Bellissimo forced the entire Wellington citizenry to get involved to pass a referendum to disallow Bellissimo from overcommercialization and his pet project a hotel in the preserve.

More irony, indeed, it was the equestrian community that rebelled against Bellissimo’s overreaching and spoke vociferously and clearly against overcommercialization and a hotel in their midst, not the government.

I offer Bellissimo my best wishes in developing his horse community in North Carolina. Their building codes and enforcement are considerably less stringent than ours, and I hope that he plans sufficient roadways, parking and removal of horse waste, which has plagued Wellington.

We were/are too built-out for Bellissimo’s grandiose plans. We had to/have to protect our preserve and our quality of life, and we did.

Horses are noble creatures and have served mankind for centuries. Surely we can repay them with the best life possible, inclusive of sufficient fields/pastures, time to be herd animals and the ability to kick up their heels on a cool wintry morning.

We should always beware that most developers think only of profits, whilst we the citizenry think mostly of quality of life. Somewhere in the middle, we can find common ground when both sides are honorable. Bellissimo has taught us well. Caveat emptor.

George Unger, Wellington