LETTER: Proposed Wellington Equestrian Projects Would Be Setting A Dangerous Precedent

Editor’s note: The following opinion piece is in response to the opinion piece “Proposed Projects Enhance Wellington’s ‘Equestrian Lifestyle Community’” by Katherine Kaneb, published in the July 28 issue.

After reading an opinion piece in this publication, I was motivated to write my own. Ms. Kaneb was an interested party at the [Planning, Zoning & Adjustment Board] hearing, with a farm adjacent to the south parcel. She wrote in support of granting Mr. [Mark] Bellisimo his requested zoning and land use changes. She neglects to mention that she is the ex-wife of Mr. Bellisimo and the mother of the applicant, Paige Bellisimo. She was under contract to sell her farm when she portrayed herself as an interested party and has subsequently closed on her farm for just shy of $22,000,000.

Also never mentioned is the concept of precedent. If this petition is successful, land is removed from the preserve and other land’s density is dramatically changed, what is to stop others from applying for the same? We have thousands of acres in the preserve that are owned by developers, LLCs, groups and individuals, all that would stand to increase the value of their parcels with density and zoning alterations. Many would say there are entities lying in wait for a precedent to be set.

The promise of a new showgrounds is the bait here. Right now, the schematics for that ignore the South Florida Water Management District permit that Mr. Bellissimo was granted years ago (based on the residential use zoning). Staff at the Village of Wellington has also apparently ignored it. But the fact is, the land the show would like to expand on has a prohibition on building and has two huge retention ponds already in place. The fantasy grounds? No Water Retention. It is a fantasy that will not likely ever become reality.

Also being danced around is funding. The horse show is a for-profit business. If they need to raise money to build out, likely they will increase entry fees. Fees are already incredibly high, and if fees go higher, I fear that people will stop coming to Wellington and instead seek out other winter events. I am not talking about the international riders who come to compete for significant prize money. I am talking about the juniors, the children with their families, and the adult amateurs. The people who purchase homes. Those groups make up the vast majority of competitors at the show. If entry fees are increased, some of those people will seek another winter venue, which will, in turn, decrease our property values due to supply and demand. This is exactly the opposite of what residents should want.

Mr. Bellissimo purchased the land decades ago and knew exactly what the restrictions were. Now he wants to make as much money as possible by selling the land to developers, who will only buy if the density is changed. Bottom line, this is a self-serving application, and it is all about money. Money that will go directly into the developers’ pockets at the expense of the Village of Wellington.

Lauren Brody, Wellington