Using the threat of a dying horse show, Mark Bellissimo and his team of Wellington Lifestyle Partners scored a win with the Wellington Village Council on 16 November 2023.
"The fear of Wellington losing its equestrian industry pushed Village Council members to give tentative approval late Thursday to Mark Bellissimo’s plan to build two luxury golf communities in the equestrian preserve," the Palm Beach Post published.
This time Bellissimo's team played the tune "Save the Horse Show" and used the threat that the venues in Myakka City (TerraNova) and Ocala (World Equestrian Center) would take over from Wellington.
4 - 1 in Favour
Despite Belissimo having a track record of failed promises and failed show grounds (Tryon World Equestrian Center, Colorado Horse Park), Wellington's Village Council voted 4-1 in favour of continuing negotiations with Wellington Lifestyle Partners. The projects, however, still need to go up for a second and final vote scheduled for January.
The projects would require Wellington to do something it never has done before: remove land, in this case 96 acres, from the 9,000-acre preserve voters created in 2000 and allow a developer to build on it.
The councilman who voted against, Michael Napoleone (vice mayor of Wellington), said he didn’t know enough details about the promised new show grounds to agree to removing the 96 acres.
The Palm Beach Post posted, "scores of village residents who spoke at meetings this week, however, say the projects would set a dangerous precedent for land to come out of the preserve and would dramatically transform the equine-based area. The one thing they all agree on is that the privately-owned venues where competitions for the Winter Equestrian Festival are held need major improvements."
Leonard Feiwus, an attorney representing multiple families from the equestrian preserve, said his clients and the residents who showed up the meeting wearing “Vote No” shirts felt betrayed by most of the council members.
“It’s gone from the original concept of trading land in the preserve to get a better horse show,” Feiwus said. “Now it’s about giving up 96 acres in the preserve and two residential (communities) in the preserve to get a park that has nothing to do with horses outside of the preserve.”
The Big Takeaways
The big takeaways from those three days of meetings were:
1) The new showgrounds only exist in proposal form at this point. They are not part of Bellissimo’s application to build The Wellington communities, and the council will not act on it in January
2) Michael Stone confirmed that Waterland wants its investment money back and is selling Global Equestrian Group (GEG - Helgstrand). GEG owns the (majority share of the) horse show. Just five months ago GEG was the sole interested party in buying the expanded land to build and improved the show; now GEG is out.
3) Wellington demands a Disclosure of Ownership Interests of the owners of the LLCs (most of them are named Far Niente LLC) that are being managed by Wellington Lifestyle Partners. So far it is known that Rusty Holzer (husband of dressage rider Ashley Holzer) is a big landowner in the group. WLP is owned by a group of investors (Jeff Skoll, Alex and Julie Lourie, Lisa Lourie (SpyCoast Farm), Mark Bellissimo and family, Roger Smith and family, Marsha Dammerman, Howard Dvorkis, Jennifer Mercer) that includes Nexus (owned by Tavistock) a majority partner and Mark Bellissimo. The disclosure forms, promised on Thursday, still have not been provided.
4) WLP creates a quid pro quo/leverage situation that only if the land is rezoned for the golf community it will consider taking over the horse show from GEG. Dressage will move to the the new land south of the show jumping venue as the land of Global will be developed for homes.
Source: Palm Beach Post
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